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

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Sinner's Prayer and a small Ramble

I’ve always been fascinated with the construct of the sinner’s prayer.  Initially, it was because I thought it was this magical phrase that somehow convinced a supernatural deity to inhabit my physical heart and save me from the evil powers that I had yet to understand.  But, I got older and began to understand that it wasn’t the words that I said, but how I meant them, and even now I find that my understanding of what the “Sinner’s Prayer” really is.

For those who aren’t familiar with the terminology; in the Christian culture there is this moment when those who wish to join the faith will be led through a series of sentences that culminate in a prayer that usually follows along the lines of acknowledging guilt, believing in Jesus, and confessing the guilt to him, followed by this request that the individual may not really mean at the time which is for Jesus to come into their lives and become their Lord and Savior.  Many people believe that if they say this prayer, then they are saved from the reaches of Hell.

The problem is, many times, they are wrong.

Now let me go ahead and say that I don’t personally have anything against a “Sinner’s Prayer”, and I know many Christians who have had their lives changed since they said the prayer themselves.  However, I would argue that for them it was actually more about their heart condition and not about the words coming out of their mouth.

The sinner’s prayer is not some type of magical formula that you can chant as a mantra over and over again thinking it will buy you a ticket into paradise.  There is no way in this world for a human to be able to physically do anything to earn the salvation they earnestly seek (if you seek it at all).  There is no ministry that can be done enough, no amount of money donated to charities, no amount of praying that can ensure salvation.  To believe that we can enchant a deity with our meager attempts in this short life is laughable at best.

In fact, during the morning service this past week, our youth pastor (who was preaching at the time) put it this way (paraphrased): “Praying a sinner’s prayer thinking it will somehow magically make you good with God even when your life says the opposite… might as well be witchcraft.”

That’s just it though.  I have met so many people, heard so many stories, of individuals who find themselves in this position of believing they are Christians because of a prayer that they said, or acts of service that they do, and how they consider themselves good people (and many of these people I would consider being “good” as well), but never really surrendered the control of their lives over to God.

I know that there are a lot of people out there who would look at that statement and completely shut me off right there.  Everyone has their different reasons, some refuse to think critically, some would believe to think the way I do is to intellectually murder myself, and some just don’t care.

To the ones who feel it is intellectual murder I pose this question:  Why would it be impossible to think critically and still come to the same conclusions?  Over the years so many people have looked at the same evidence and come to vastly different conclusions, so why can’t both be critical thinkers (note that at this point I’m not saying that both have come to a conclusion that is true, but rather have come to a conclusion by using their intellect)?

There are plenty of Christians who have critically thought their way into atheism, and there are plenty of atheists who have critically thought their way into Christianity.  I don’t think one gave up their intellect just because they concluded that the other must be true.  But it seems I’ve gone off on a bit of a bunny trail.

The point I was trying to make is that the Gospel, and consequentially Christianity, is so much deeper than just saying a prayer, or following a list of rules.  It is about reaching out to people in love, to better their lives by introducing them to Jesus.  I know that he has changed me forever, and I know that even when I am struck by fear or by a hard time in my life that I can lean on a being that far exceeds my limitations.  If that makes me weak then so be it.  I would rather be weak and surrounded by a God and people who will support and help me, than to be strong and be alone.

I am not writing these words to try to convince you, my reader, that Christ is the only way to really live.  I am of the opinion that it is impossible to change others; the only person I can ever change is myself.  But I do find it important to occasionally share where I stand, and to do so confidently.  If I cannot be confident on the things I hold closes to my heart, then I would have to question whether or not they are what I really believe.

More rambling on a Wednesday.  Happy Hump Day!

Grace and Peace

Friday, October 11, 2013

Complacency is Too Comfortable

Some days it is hard not to feel like I’m stagnating in my life.  Day in and day out I go through the same routine, week after week little changes.  Sometimes I wonder if it is okay for my life to be so mechanic or if I need to be looking into something to change it.  Complacency is such a dangerous place to be.   Complacency has a tendency to lead to a type of emotional and spiritual atrophy that I would hate to see in myself as I have seen it in others.

The thing is, there is always something to learn about myself, about the world I live in, and especially about others (even my own wife still surprises me frequently).  I know that there are things that I can change about myself that improve myself and my humanity.  There are things I can do for other people to improve the world (and I do what I can, but sometimes I think I could do more).  So, there is really no reason to become complacent with where I am. 

I find consistently find myself thinking of ways to take advantage of my passions and of my skills.  I know that where I am in life I don’t want to be for the rest of my life.  Sure, I make enough to somehow pay all my bills and somehow pull off date time with my wife without overdrawing on my account, but it is such a close budget I have to watch where every penny goes.  It’s annoying.  I would much rather be in a position where I can still adequately take care of my family but don’t have to be a penny pincher to do it (and I’d probably give the rest away anyway to help give people clean water, or help students through college since tuition is terrible right now, etc).

Sadly, most of this isn’t quite within my circle of influence, but I can start making changes today to get me there.  I need to battle the complacency.

I can start with the things I want to change in myself and go from there.  It’s always better to work from the inside out and not worry about others.  I’ve learned over the years that you can never change other people, you can only change yourself.  As I make more and more changes that improve my lifestyle, my health, my relationships, my skills, etc. the more my circle of influence will slowly expand until I have control over the things that I need to be where I wish to be.

Funnily enough, I’m sure the moment I get where I want to be now, I’ll have found other things to achieve and improvements to be made.  A never ending cycle of growth, success, growth.  Sure I’ll have days when I fall, when I fail, and even back step from time to time, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t pursue it.  We all have things we want that we could achieve if we allow ourselves to push past the uncomfortable and the painful things that will stand in our way.

Change is never easy, but it is good for us.  Humanity can’t live on complacency.  We are so much better than that.

Just some random thoughts for a Friday.

Grace and Peace.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Mind Games

So, I finally watched Pacific Rim this week at the dollar theater here in Birmingham, and if you haven’t seen it yet I make a suggestion to do so; especially if you like big robots, big monsters, and the idea of the two fighting each other for the fate of the planet.  If not, then you still might find it enjoyable.  Honestly, it has been a while since an intense part of a movie causes me to catch myself not breathing (although that could have had something to do with the theater we were in).

But the movie got me thinking about one of the aspects of it.

If you don’t know by now, the big robots are handled by two pilots who link minds with each other (not a spoiler since it’s revealed in the trailer).

I find this concept incredibly fascinating.  Having seen the movie I now find myself wondering what that would actually feel like to essentially mind meld with another human being through technology.  To experience all their emotions and memories that has led them up to this point in the blip of a couple of seconds.  How overwhelming would that be?  Would we be able to actually physically process that much information?  How strong is a bond that is made like this?

The most interesting aspect to me about it all is that the experience is very organic.  It is portrayed in the movie by flashes of memories, scenes from the individuals life, that pass by in a moment; some of which are much more vivid than others both in detail and content and it makes me think of all the other times I have seen a sci-fi movie or show that had something similar happen (Vulcan Mind Meld for example).  It got me thinking, permitting that it is even possible to see or read a mind in such a way, would it be possible to do so with technology?

A lot of advances have been made with the human study on the brain, but I can’t think of anything I have personally seen that would indicate that it is anything more than data points.  As of right now there isn’t really a way to attach some unobtrusive device to our heads and see images on a screen.  Do I think that we will ever get to a point when we could see images?  I think it is plausible but I’m not sure we’d ever reach the point where it is as clear as some of the things that have been represented by Hollywood.  Still it is fascinating to think of.

On the other side of things what would that be like to experience?  Think about it, two complete strangers come together who are found to be “compatible” through whatever rigmarole is deemed the appropriate steps for analysis, and are connected to each other’s minds via a metal coil.  In the background the countdown can be heard and anxiously they try to calm their minds and their bodies.  Suddenly, like the rushing wave of a tsunami each is engulfed in the endless sea of years of memories and emotions.  Everything that was ever thought, felt, experienced (everything) lay wide open for the other to experience as a memory as well.

How vulnerable would you feel?

How much trust would you have in the other person?

You would know this person so intimately that even that others romantic interest would be embarrassed of not knowing as much.

I think, because of the way humans are, that experiencing something like would develop a bond and relationship unlike any other.  It would be impossible to lie to one another even if you wanted to because it would be recognized so quickly.  I think it would also lead to what I’m going to call an echo imprint.  Essentially, once the mind has been touched there is evidence of it within that individual.  Whether personalities start to meld, or perhaps a way of speech, a part of you is left on the person and vice versa.  That has some profound, if not dangerous, implications.

What then becomes definition of identity with people who experience this consistently?  Do they even deal with identity or do they view themselves as a single entity in two bodies?  What are some negative effects this could have on the mind?

Who knows, at the moment I can only talk theoretically anyway.

Still I find it fascinating, and I think it was and intriguing idea to use.

What do you think?  What would this mean for someone like you?

Grace and Peace.