What if…

There have been many “no-no” items I’ve grown up learning throughout the course of my life.  For example, aside from words like farm, duck, spin, and oink (there seems to be a farm theme there but it is unintentional), always avoid the “four-letter” words.  Or… if the stove is cookin’, don’t go throwing my hand on as well or it will plump as you cook it.  And since things often come in threes, here’s one more… if nature is on the line, take the call outside of the pool… not while you’re splashin’ around with your buddies beside you.  With all of these great guidelines of my life, I wish I would have been taught a little gem that could save me from many a headache.  It’s something that is hyper-rationalized as “being prepared” or just “thinking ahead,” when I believe it is a major justification for our human attempts to control a life that should be directed by God.  That is… avoid the “What if?”

From my own personal experience, “What if” is often my attempt to prepare for the worst-case scenario that might happen every 1:1,000,000,000 attempts.  You might call it preparation… I’m learning to call it stupidity these days.  Go ahead and un-bunch your trousers; I’m not promoting absent-minded, free-spirited ignorance.  I’ve just found that “what if” has become an attempt for me to gain complete control over the potential situations in my life… HA!  Lately I was getting ready in the morning and (shamefully) I had on The Today Show where a guest was speaking about a method to decrease anxiety.  She said that one should prepare ahead of time for things so they won’t be so worked up when they actually come.  I couldn’t help but grieve for the poor saps who gazed into the idiot box and bought into that idea.  Please… keep the receipt and return it!   I’ve tried her method of achieving tranquility in the past; it just creates anxiety that makes every-day situations turn the waves from an elderly aquatic fitness class into a full-fledged tsunami (meaning: over-preparation doesn’t help).

In our egocentric globe, God we are the ones in charge of handling life.  It is our will-power that overcomes difficulty and conquers anxiety… really?  At what point did God slip out of the equation?  When did we say, “It’s cool God… I can take things from here”?  The felt-board stories of Sunday school where God lent his gigantic hand to David’s sling, gave Moses a divine tongue to speak, and breathed peace into Mary when delivering what looked like a child outside of wedlock sure were neat, but apparently He doesn’t work for us any more unless we end up getting a promotion or a new boat.  How bout this “What if”… What if we just trust that whatever God has in mind is better than what we can think up?  What if we are no longer self-centered, but we become kingdom-centered?  I’m pretty sure that’s what the Bible hints at a few times (give it a read sometime… you’ll see).  That doesn’t mean we’ll rub his lamp and get what we think we want, but maybe that just means we find contentment in knowing that our “plans ahead of time” are pathetic.  Sure it’s not easy, but aren’t we called to have faith?  Or is that just a church term that gets tossed around on Sundays?

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Losing my bipolar faith…

I’ve found lately that the difficulty I find within my Christian walk  (and I believe with many others as well) is not claiming to be a Christian, but rather it is purging it of the close-to-Christian concepts that have infected my brain for the last 20-some years.  Specifically, my older brother recently told me of this “Christian” trend seen in America that really fuses (or blurs) Christianity with the concept of the American dream.  As I’ve mulled that idea around a bit, I’ve really seen the sad truth to it all.

For what seems to be the past 37 years, I’ve been trying to get into medical school (ok… really it’s been significantly less… it just feels like that long).  The frustrating thing with this “American Dream” Christianity is that it means I hear a lot of “Christian” suggestions that maybe sounds like they COULD be legit, but is more often than not merely our longing for success tagging onto our rationalizing brains.  I keep seeing and hearing of people who “follow God’s will” by an acceptance letter to a school or a well-paying job in another state.  Of course it’s not my place to say that they are not, but I don’t feel like God really cares how much we’re making or how sweet of a school we’re at.  If somebody knows where in the Bible God says these are His priorities… please let me know.

Anyone who knows me could tell you of just how much I quote and love listening to Matt Chandler’s sermons (look him up on iTunes), and I was taken back by a comment he made on his most recent sermon.  He said that it’s a common idea that Christians want to live this successful, wonderful life so that non-Christians can admire it and want to become a Christian.  However, as good ‘ol Matt says, that’s just a form of idolatry… they don’t want Christ in that situation, they want the stuff you have.  What really blows away the non-Christian is seeing one suffer and come out praising God.

I say all that for a reason.  It’s been a struggle for me not to look at the silences (or the “no thanks”) I hear from schools and feel like God is just being cruel and keeping quiet.  In reality this isn’t true.  If He were to give me all I ever wanted, I’d be that spoiled kid that nobody likes and would be self-worshiping which would probably give me a ticket to hell (sorry… it’s true).  The hardest idea I’ve been trying to purge out of my mind is that being a Christian doesn’t mean God gives me the better stuff… that if I love and trust Him all the “financial, educational, etc” doors will open.  I know in my mind this isn’t the case, but it’s another thing to live in such an understanding.  Trusting and moving in faith have slowly come to be a reality in my life instead of merely something nice you say in church.  On the one hand it’s absolutely exhilarating and terrifying; on the other it’s comforting and beautiful to grow just one step closer to God.

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The beckoning workplace…

Nothing makes you spring into work faster than the welcoming glow of an array of grays and whites while being isolated entirely from the beauty of God’s creation.  While sitting in a conference room in a basement (waiting for people to show up), I couldn’t help but feel as though the monochromatic decor was going to slowly but surely suck all the joy out of my day.  Ok… maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but it still sparked my mind into pondering why one would ever pick such a dull, sterile design for their employees to spend their time meddling.  My mind slipped back to the time I spent in the rainforests of Costa Rica, and as I mentally re-walked those dirt trails I couldn’t help but feel the moist air, see the waterfalls and lush vegetation, and hear the calls of nature (no… not bathroom style).  As I did this, I felt a little bit of joy and longing seep into my body… to immerse myself into the beauty of creation.  What a stark, sad comparison it was.

You can see this longing by just looking around and turning on the TV.  Do you ever notice how cars aren’t named the Xoffice (Xterra) or the Cubical-er (Forrester)?  Or how car commercials don’t follow these “extreme” white-collar workers to their jobs with some heavy rock music blaring and crazy, swirling camera angles?  Today I guess I’m going to state the obvious… we have a beckoning to be in God’s creation.  That’s why there’s such a trend in advertising that shows how much fun you can have outdoors if you buy so-and-so’s product… really?  If I buy a different car, will it create new roads that I can’t drive with my current one?  (Ok… I know you’re thinking that maybe you can take a different dirt road in your Hummer… you show me a video of the average joe actually using his Hummer for that purpose and maybe I’ll consider that argument).

The irony of it all is that we set a goal upon reaching it we will finally be able to relax.  This might be a car, a new lake house, or you can pick your own downfall.  This, however, is a never-ending pursuit in which completing the first will only give rise to another.  We end up spending all our time working towards pursuits instead of actually enjoying them.  You don’t always NEED things to enjoy the present time.

This whole idea further spurs me to consider the materialism in my life and the activities to which I commit my efforts.  Are the purchases I make actually worth while?  Will these items help pursue the works of God’s kingdom?  I realize that perfection will not be attained through the works of man, yet if I put even just half of all my meaningless efforts into pursuing God my life would prove all the richer.  So I challenge myself and you… instead of wandering about the man-made mall looking for things you don’t need, try spending your time walking in the majesty of creation and appreciate the craftsmanship of God.

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Consumed by consumerism…

Gluttony is a funny thing.  Ok… so it’s really not, but it’s a funny thing how I’ve grown up seeing it in such a narrow, spiritual perspective.

Gluttony = Eating too much food

Really?  Or is there more to it.  Good ‘ol wikipedia says it is derived from Latin (the language I took for 4 years and know essentially nothing of) meaning “to gulp down or swallow, means over-indulgence and over-consumption.”  It goes on to say of food, but I’m pretty sure that over-indulgence and over-consumption is nearly synonymous with the term American (or really most industrialized nations).

I say all of this because I have found it difficult to break loose from the materialistic gluttony that until recently I have ignored.  Although in my defense, it has all just seemed normal to daily life.  Sure I remember the occasional Sunday school lesson saying that you “shouldn’t store your treasures on earth,” but why is it that I feel like that message is heavily ignored by the congregation.  I find myself filling in my personal time gaps with eBay, Craigslist, or other junk that I really don’t need (nor to I have the wallet to support).  In fact, as I have become aware of this and tried to cut it out, I’ve actually found myself periodically bored… a feeling I haven’t felt for a LOOOOOOONG time!  How do I now take a break from studying?  I’d rather not read some more (my mind is already mushy), and tv only clutters my mind full of more nonsense.  Yikes… it’s tough thinking of a quality activity to do every now and then (especially when it’s nasty outside).

It’s really quite sad when you consider how this notion has polluted Christmas as well.  The celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior now means that we all get real busy trying to buy stuff, decorate up a tree, and stress out to make a “season” perfect.  Meanwhile, we raise our kids to get cranky if they get clothes (personal experience) or toys they didn’t exactly ask Santa for.  Maybe some families realize what’s going on here and try to “incorporate” Jesus into Christmas a little bit more, but in reality we continually perpetuate the cycle instead of breaking out of it.  I’m not saying that gifts by any means are wrong, but as with most things in life… there’s a balance; we’re currently in the extreme.

Perhaps one of the biggest problems though all of this is how it influences my relationships.  If something happens to one of the things I “own,” does it bring on any bit of anger?  Can I let someone borrow something without worrying they’ll maybe not treat it as I would?  Could my money be spent better by supporting someone who wouldn’t DREAM of buying superficial items when they can’t afford the essentials?  Are we too busy perfecting ourselves by not cussing and drinking, or why is it that this doesn’t bother some Christians?

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Sweaty Stuff…

Through the various pursuits of life, I’ve picked up what is perhaps the most stereotypically masculine hobby of all times (next to watching football, drinking suds, shooting stuff, and watching things blow up)… sewing.  Coincidentally or not, it comes in quite handy.  ALSO, it aids in the process of gradually cleansing myself of the many horrific industrialized acts that our “Christian nation” has pushed out of mind and out of sight; in particular I am speaking of reducing my dependency and support of sweat shops.  No, I’m not exactly to the point of gathering up my own wool or cotton, but instead I’ve picked up an interest in finding blank T-shirts from thrift stores and sewing my own junk onto it.  Not only is it a bit of fun, but it allows me to put something meaningful/personal on them instead of “falling in the Gap” of whatever people in the Republic of Bananas want.  Anyway… I just finally finished up my first shirt (now that I have a LITTLE bit of time on Spring Break).  The logo was inspired by the cover of the book “Jesus for President,”

the gray shirt is from a local thrift store, and the green yarn was a bit of an experiment.  Fortunately/unfortunately, I started to get the hang of things as I progressed, which means that yes there are some imperfections.  However, even though I highly doubt the Chinese still universally impart this practice (especially in said sweat shops), it used to be prior custom that when creating something, the creator would start off with a flaw.  In doing this, the Chinese recognized that their project could not be perfect, as only God should be.  My point is… this shirt has a lot of this practice in it.

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I pee in clean water…

So one issue I’ve been grappling with deals with things forgotten or ignored.  For example… each morning when I wake up, I stumble out of bed (trying not to fall with each step) and make my way over to the men’s lounge to create my own personal, transient waterfall.  As I look down into this crystal clear bowl of water, I can’t help but think that I might feel a bit differently if I was “doing the deed” next to someone whose drinking water is typically thick and muddy.  Two things would make me feel uncomfortable…

1. There’s someone I don’t know watching me pee.
2. This person could likely love to swap their parasite-filled water (resulting in sickness) with my commode water.

It seems somewhat disrespectful and insulting.  I might as well run in front of a starving man, throw down a delectable 3 course meal, and stomp all over it.  Ok… maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but the thought crosses my mind nonetheless.  Therefore, I’m trying to find ways that I can somewhat reduce this waste in my current situation.

I created a very rough schematic diagram of one idea I had and have included it below.  It would be WONDERFUL if anyone could help take this sketchy idea into a reality…

Until I can hook up this idea, I’m currently collecting any “waste water” I can easily scrounge up in an old Sweet Tea jug from McAllisters.  The natural instinct of mine is to add a dumb pun that usually receives an eye roll from my lady.  Also… my mind keeps-a-brewin’ trying to improve on using my resources well.  Any ideas?

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The beauty of hypocrisy…

So here I am hopping into the very world of blogging that I just recently criticized (hence the title).  Like the disease of Facebook, this too apparently will slowly and steadily devour whatever free time that most definitely could be more “productive” elsewhere.  The concept of a journal decorated with locks and a security alarm (of course I never had…) is now but history as we so freely beckon the world to read our thoughts.

The irony of it all is that such a closed, secluded society full of secrets finds such great delight divulging the many details of everyday life for any stranger to see and partake in.  Anyway… instead of jammering on about nothingness, I’ll cut to the meat of things.

The title, I soil myself, might seem as though I am incontinent and am constantly filling my drawers with tootsie rolls, when in actuality it jabs at the intent of this blog.  The aim is to potentially dig deep into the roots of right Christianity that inevitably result in living as a steward of God’s creation.

I’ll TRY to keep things light, yet sometimes I think my rhetoric might inevitably carry a heavy tone.  So… nonetheless, let’s sit back and see where this takes us (assuming there is someone else out there reading this)…

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