Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Point of No Return

This weekend has been full of surprises, and most of them have direct consequences of choices I made.  While I wouldn’t say it has been bad, I definitely wouldn’t say it’s been great either.  I have crossed a few thresholds in my life, and as always with those aspects of life, once you cross it, there is no turning back.  Things will never be the same for better or worse.

If you will permit the analogy, the ripple in the water has begun to move its way outward.

As a result I find myself constantly distracted by my thoughts.  Asking questions in a “what if” fashion.  What if ‘x’ and how would I feel if ‘x’ happened?

My answers startle me.

Which is what leads to this posting.

Is it possible that certain changes that need (yes, need) to happen have to result as a consequence that is out of your control?  I wonder.  As I have gotten older, my ability to jump right into to something has toned down a bit, but there is still an incredibly impulsive part of me.  This impulsiveness, naturally, follows the guidelines “shoot first ask questions later”; however, this is not the best way to live and often will get me into trouble.  That being said, I think sometimes, no matter how much you think about something, you just have to jump into the potentials feet first and see what happens.

For people who like to know everything, and maintain control through that knowledge (such as myself), this is not ideal at all.

I don’t handle unknown well, especially when it directly involves me.

Example:  When/if I ever finish the book I’m working on.  I would wager that my submission of manuscript will look something like a range of emotions from excited to submit, to fear of rejection (which is basically inevitable by the way), to a void of emotions while waiting for feedback, to trepidation as I read that response.   It is all unknown and sometimes stressful.

In the same breath, not being in control can be incredibly freeing.

I’m not sure where I stand on this spectrum.  However, I do know that now that I have crossed these certain points, marks, thresholds, insert your own analogy, I cannot afford to look back thinking how I wish I was back on the other side; what good would it do me anyway?
No I must press on with renewed vigor and compassion.

Of course, that is much easier to say than to do.  It will take getting used to, and I’m terrified.  I feel like I’m clinging to a rope on a suspension bridge, and the only thing I can do is cross or stay in that state forever.

Jumbled musings of a 25 year old I guess.

Grace and Peace.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Why I Am Disciplined and a Christian

It is tough to be disciplined.  Not in the, “I just got grounded because I stayed out past curfew” kind of way but a, “I was going to play with my friends but realized I needed to do my homework first” kind of way.  It is tough to be motivated, to remind yourself every day to do the things that need to be done.  At least, it is difficult for me.

For instance, yesterday I actually disciplined myself to write some more of the story I’ve been working on.  Yes, the number on the right side of this blog is still correct, I’ve been stuck in this spot for a little bit.  Regardless, I sit down and begin to type and I realize that I have absolutely no motivation to write.  I love to write, but I have to have some sort of “feeling” that I don’t really know how to explain to be present if I am going to write something worth reading (fictionally at least).  So, I didn’t push through that battle and instead stopped all together.  I think now, if I had only kept writing anyway, I would have ended up with some pretty awesome elements in the story.

I guess that’s where motivation is commandeered by discipline.  At the point of most resistance, discipline is the foundation that pushes you through.  Motivation will only carry you so far before it proves to be too weak a force.

I have found this to be especially true in the areas of exercise and writing for me, and I think just writing these past few paragraphs has kicked in the motivation to keep at it, and has brought about a new perspective on that area of life.  I digress.

The tricky thing about discipline, and any change that people want to make really, is that it has to happen inwardly before it can happen outwardly.  That is, all changes that are permanent in a person’s life that pertain to the person (habits, personality, beliefs, etc.) start inward and work their way out. 

Example: Two men are trying to quit smoking, one is doing it because he can see the pain it puts his family through every time he lights up another cigarette; the other is doing it because it would be interesting to see what life would be like without the craving.  One man is motivated by a deep need and want, and the other is motivated by curiosity.  In the end, who do you think would be more likely to succeed in their endeavor?  I would wager that the man who did it for his family succeeds and does so willingly, while the man who does it out of curiosity would ultimately give up thinking that knowing an answer isn’t worth all the pain involved.

Now, I cannot say if this is true or not as I have not been in that position.  However, I have seen time and time again, as I am sure you, my readers, have as well, that people who have this deep internal need/want to do or change something are the ones who are successful.  When we internalize these needs and wants they become a part of who we are.  Things that are innate within ourselves will naturally reveal itself in our actions; not that we do it perfectly every time, but there is a consistency involved.  So, to bring this back to my example of writing and exercise earlier.  I exercise and write not because I want to (although I find that oftentimes I do) but because it is who I am.  I am an active and healthy individual who is also an aspiring author. 

It is just who I am.

I am also a Christian.

You see, I have been so inundated by the Christian sub-culture; it is hard to say that I could be anything else.  Except for one thing, there are countless stories of people who have grown up in the church like I have and have left, for various reasons, never to return.  I too have the same capacity, so why do I stay?

Why do I go to church every Sunday?  Listen to “worship music” from time to time? Pray?

I will tell you: it is because it is who I am, and I am in love.  I was not born a Christian; in fact, I spent the first ten years of my time in the Christian culture unwillingly.  I just wanted to do my own thing.  Although, as a ten year old what do you really want?  But, someone captured my heart while I was there, and I have been unable to leave ever since.  I speak, of course, of Jesus.  He is reason I am who I am.  You see, as strange as it may sound, this “invisible deity” has changed my life for the better.  When I was younger I suffered from so many anger problems, even to the point of getting violent and blacking out once.  However, through my relationship with Jesus I no longer suffer from these anger issues, or at least, not nearly as much.  This was not a change I made on my own, and it was not one I even initiated within myself, but just a change that came as a consequence of my regular commune with him.

I guess the important point here is that I am not making changes in my person simply because Christians have this list of rules they need to follow, but rather I make the changes because I am in love with a being that I believe to be the Creator God.  In fact, to think of the moral standard like some list of rules is to misunderstand it.  The standard is no different than obeying the laws placed down by any government; after all, what are our laws if not a moral standard placed on ourselves?  As far as I can tell, the biggest difference comes in this: the Christians’ moral standard comes from something bigger than themselves, while the government’s moral standard comes from within.    

Earlier, I said that changes are made from within, this I still hold true, but the catalyst to this inward change, as a Christian, comes from a force outside of myself, and yet, simultaneously within as well.  This force is both God and my love for him.  Just as I do certain things for my wife because I love her, I also do things for others and for God because I love him.  It is my love for him that leads me to follow the standard, to do everything I can to show love to those around me, and to apologize for those who have not acted as they should under the banner of Christianity.  Seriously, I am sorry that some people treat you like garbage.  If it is any consolation they treat their fellow Christians like dirt too.

It is not who we are meant to be.  It certainly is not who I am.  Who I am is appalled by that, and I believe God is too. 

Grace and Peace

Friday, April 6, 2012

Story of Life

Everyone wants to be part of a story.  At least, that is what I have concluded.  This thought came about on my way to work this past Tuesday as I let my mind wander (as I tend to do on my way to and from work).  In all honesty, I don't know many people who would say they would rather live a boring uneventful life.  How many of you men pretended to be the hero when you were younger?  How many of you women played house or some other form thereof? How often did you rope your boy friends into playing it with you? 

I think the reason for this is because we want to be a part of the story.  There is something exciting about facing adversity (such as an imaginary dragon) and overcoming it (especially if it involves some makeshift weapon). There is something enticing about adventure. There is also something incredibly significant about feeling important and cherished.  This, I believe, is true for all people and not just men or women.  The fact of the matter is that sometimes, ultimately, we want to be the rescuer, and sometimes we want to be the rescued.  After all, it makes for some of the best stories right?  People do not always have to be physically rescued either, sometimes the emotional rescue is just as satisfying (I site the standard 'chick-flick' in this case; the woman is rescued from her terrible circumstances [usually] by some buff and incredibly romantic dude that [sometimes literally] sweeps the woman off her feet).  While I like a good mushy movie from time to time, I have to admit that oftentimes that genre can cause a perverse desire for the impossible.  Let's face it ladies, there is no way you will ever find that perfect guy.  He doesn't exist.  Those movies pervert the excitement of story that we want to be a part of.  Action films are no different, so we are not exempt from the desire of the impossible either.  I think this might be why I, and many people I know, love the movies that hit close to home and feel "real"; or are blatantly different (such as fantasy or animated) because we know it could never really be, so it is just a "nice story".

The thing about story though, is it is full of conflict.  How many people would read a book if all the character did was the same thing he did every day?  No adventure, no excitement, just routine. How boring would that be?  You see my point.  Story has to have a conflict, or the character never grows, and if the character doesn't grow what is the point?  Are we really all that different?  Who does not want to improve an aspect about themselves?  Who does not want to be a part of something that is life and maybe world changing? I know I do, I could give a list of the aspects I would like to improve in myself, and of course I want to constantly be a part of something that is bigger than me.  I want to be a Hero! But, to be a hero, I also need to be rescued.  Rescued from what though? 

Now we are getting to the heart of it.

Every Protagonist has a starting point to their story.  It is an understood concept that the main character(s) of any story had a "life" before the story and will have continued "life" after the story ends.  After all, life is a series of stories skillfully woven together.  Well, the starting point for so many involves a rescue of some sort.  Sometimes it is a literal rescue from a prison, sometimes it is a rescue from mundane, sometimes it is a rescue from themselves, and the list goes on.  How often is the protagonist (and us too really) rescued from something so that they might "live to fight another day"?  That day of course arrives only after time spent in conflict and growth.  After all, you can't overcome any problem if you don't grow, and you can't grow without the experience of the adversity that you are trying to overcome.  This is why, as much as I dislike hard times, I have at least some appreciation for them.  The truth is that the things that tend to cause the most pain in my life are the very things that spur me to become a better man, husband, brother, son, and friend.

Every conflict is a battle, every resolution a victory or defeat, every victory or defeat is a learning experience, and every experience acts as a catalyst to the next cycle of growth. 

Naturally, I wonder how the the concept of story that I love so much, applies to my life.  As I look I can see different conflicts that have brought out a warrior in me in just the past year alone, so then I wondered where did the rescue come from, and I realized that, it came from a sacrifice that happened a couple thousand years ago.

I have made no efforts to hide that I call myself a Christian, and have out-rightly claimed it often, so it should come as no surprise that I would find my rescue in the sacrifice and resurrection of Christ.  But it is true, since Christ captured and romanced my heart I have found a purpose to fight, a reason and cause worth dying for.  I hope it is plain to see that I am not happy with the way many people who claim to be Christian have treated others, but I also cannot deny the changes that have happened in my life due to the freedom from salvation, from being rescued from my sins, my worries, and even my anger (to name a few).  It is also Christ who has mentored me into the man I need to be, that I want to be, because it is who I am.  He is making me a Hero.

Today is Good Friday.  Despite calling it that, it is one of the saddest days in history when you think about what is celebrated in the Christian circles: The Crucifixion of Christ.  The reason it is a good Friday then, is because not only was the crucifixion necessary for salvation from sins, but also promises the resurrection which is celebrated on Easter Sunday.  The resurrection completes the story.  It is reason I can claim freedom.  If Christ did not rise from the grave, then freedom is non existent.  That's a strong claim though, so let me clarify by saying that I can only go off resurrection as I understand it now.  Who knows what revelations will be made in the future?

I'll cross that bridge when I get to it.

Grace and Peace.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Religion of Christianity

This past week the pastor of the church I go to asked the question if Christianity is a religion. A valid question and one that is surprisingly highly debated. I cannot begin to count the amount of times I have heard it said, “Christianity is not a religion, it is a relationship.” I am guilty of using this phrase as well.

I once believed the statement, but after the years I have experienced at college and since graduation. I truly believe that there is something more to Christianity than just its religion. There is experiences I have had that lead to this belief; ones that have meant an intimate connection with a personal God. However, Christianity is still a religion, no matter how much some might want to twist that around.

Definition of Religion:
a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.

the practice of religious beliefs; ritual observance of faith.

I pose a question, how is this not what Christianity does? Does it contain beliefs concerning the universe? Does it involve devotional and ritual observances? What about a moral code? If nothing else, no one can deny that Christianity claims a moral code. By definition alone, Christianity is a religion. One that has created a bad taste in the mouths of those who have encountered it; which is such an unfortunate truth.

The problem is, people within the Christian sub-culture view religion as this mysterious, dark monster that is of the devil. In truth, religion is a neutral thing. A way to define an aspect of life. I have to admit at this point in my post I had to delete a couple of sentences that were full of undertones that implied bitterness and hinted of a rant.

The fact is Christianity has become institutionalized. I guess I should define that too.

An institution is a well-established and structured pattern of behavior or of relationships that is accepted as a fundamental part of a culture. [insert Christianity]

When you think of a Christian, what do you associate with it? Having grown up in that culture my first response is this, church. Church is the place where people go once to twice a week to sing a few songs, listen to some guy (maybe a woman if it's one of those “liberal churches”) talk about the Bible, and then leave. Seriously, I think Christianity as an institution acts more like a cult than what's portrayed in the scriptures. But again, that's a different blog post.

To reiterate at this point, I believe Christianity is a religion.

However, I think there is something more to it than just the religious practices. This is where the experience, intuition, intellect, and discernment/interpretation of those things. That is to say, an individuals approach to religious interpretation.

In my case, the approach would be that of the relationship that is so often spoken of by people within Christianity. The fact of the matter is, much of our faith banks on this idea of a personal and intimate deity. While it might sound crazy, I have had experiences that have led to confirm this belief. The problem with experiences is that they are just that, experiences. I have a high appreciation for experiences and believe that they are incredibly valuable. However, they are also incredibly subjective, which is why they are usually under valued. Still, experiences, at the end of the day, is really all we have. They define our perceptions of reality and they are one of the few things that we can truly call our own.

I guess this is what I'll conclude with because this post is starting to feel broken. Maybe I'll post again on this in the future when my thoughts are a little more coherent.

Grace and Peace