Monday, May 18, 2015

Christ Is More: A Conversation about Joy and Faith

Why is Christianity worth integrating into my life when I'm fine as I am?

The greatest argument against this unanswered question is this

Christ is more:

Everything and anything we can and will base our lives off of is finite and will die away with us. Seasons come and go. Money is spent and must be earned by the work of human hands. Human hands fail everyday. Fail to love, fail to touch, fail to work by choice or by circumstance. We fail. All created things will fail. Even if the chances are low. Even when our lives are air-conditioned to the perfect degree of happiness, the thermostat can break any day and when it does we will be miserable as we swelter in the shelter of our own purposelessness. Which means our happiness was based on empty promises in the first place. We believed the things we thought would satisfy us would never fail. And if they do, in our lifetimes, we are proved utterly wrong, until we run to the newest lie that enraptures us in its facade of invincibility. Or we die asleep to the looming reality watching us above our heads.

The only exception to this is the belief in a god who will never fail to satisfy, who will endure forever, and who is all-powerful.
In many ways, it's easier to have faith, so that you have some some sort of security when  the resources of happiness are depleted and our world is shaken to its very foundations.
Although having faith does make things easier, it is no way a cop- out to reality. Unlike an attitude of unrealistic, untethered optimism, much like that criticized in Candide, that everything happens for a reason with no questions asked, the Gospel makes room for our pain, considering Christ feels it with us and walked in our shoes. Some pain is utterly unreasonable. Not only can we trust that our God has a greater plan, but also that our loving Father knows how we feel, is with us in the midst of it and will lovingly walk with us every step of the way- our constant help in trouble.
Having faith also doesn't necessarily makes our lives safer, If we trust and believe that God loves us and will ultimately bring us joy, should we choose to trust him, we cheerfully give up the tight control we have on our thermostats. We have to be prepared to give up the things we love in order to love him. Should God choose to lead Peter to walk on the water, Peter won't have the safety of land, but he will have confidence in the love of God, more constant than the shifting of continents. All God is and all God plans for is for our good and his glory- that we may know him for who he is. And who is he? Who is God? God is Christ. Christ is more. More than perfectly monitored lives guaranteed to satisfy our hunger for true joy until they don't. More than the the finite promises of the things we love, and more satisfying than the the things we crave. More than unrealistic optimism. More than a warm cradle of safety. More than enough.

For believers and nonbelievers, this song has stuck a chord with many people, including me, whether they walked out believing in Christ or not, after listening. And, it's also just good music.

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”- C.S. Lewis

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Don't Give Up

The voice of failure is louder than your cheap advice
Never giving up is not an option
If I don't try, I can't fail
Success is overrated

"You're not God", she says
My blatant inadequacies a daily reminder
Unsatisfactory, unworthy, incapable of paying my bill
Denying who is my ransom
A living oxymoron

Ransom carries a heavy load on his back
Endures the race for me
Success is overrated
Grace is undermined


Find me on rainy days with soft crowning frizz
Cracked weary hands pressed against cool glass windows 
Searching searching searching for my lover
He saunters across hissing clouds of precipitating spitfire nonchalantly
Italian suits would be incinerated through the heat of his glory
His wear is of majesty and splendor
Great worldly men sprawl before him in submissive terror
Kings of majestic purple now are clothed in  white surrender with soiled yellow stain
Words flounce their syllables and in one orchestrated cadence cease to breathe in total silence
When he exhales the planets are swept to the far end of the universe
When he breathes in he consumes everything in one swift zip
Only lonely nonexistence remains when he’s through
Nothing is constant

When I was in elementary school, I was a pistol. I relished in the disapproval of others and lived to bear my own unique flag of pride and arrogance. Despite my veneer, I was probably ten times more insecure then than I am now. Then, I wore a mask of confident self-identity to hide who I was. Now I just try to remain invulnerable.  Ever so slowly, the  accumulated words of disapproval,  gossip and light bullying took deep root as verbal cuts dug their way deeper and deeper into my mental skin, penetrating my hardened facade. I've become increasingly more and more antisocial this year. As someone who once naturally gravitated towards lonely awkward teenagers and did her best to make them feel welcome, I have become the lonely awkward teenager, who despite the most extensive of efforts refuses to feel welcome. While most kids are coming out of their shell, I am exploring mine more and more, a dark cave that echoes, dark,cold and humid- a whole new world of undiscovered biosphere. Funny how a strand of Ebola was traced back to a cave in Africa. Hmm... 
1 As the deer pants for streams of water,

I read my Bible a lot. Not to feel good about myself for being such a "good Christian". But because I literally go insane otherwise. For someone who naturally and deeply bases her worth and value on of her performance and never finds rest in her achievements (no matter how much crummy advice people give me), it is a necessity for me to affirm the message of grace I so deeply claim to believe in, which releases me from my bondage of performance and fleeting pleasures that never truly satisfy me. Grace liberates me to love God and others, as I was created to, joyfully. And so, in this season of isolation, I find myself in Psalms, a large book filled with raw feelings and inexpressible groanings and inconceivable anguish and uncontainable joy, laced together by the promises of God, from the moaning of exiles in a foreign land to the wisdom of kings. The authentic, intimate words of people living out their faith in the Creator through the mercy, strength, kindness, and compassion he bestows upon them. Many times, his greatest mercies to them are allowing them to walk through the deepest waters of sorrow for a season, or maybe even a lifetime,  under the promise that one day they will come home to him, where they belong, day by day, granting them just enough strength to make it through until tomorrow. 
Psalms includes the prayers of David, a king, after God confronts him for cheating on his wife with another woman, whose body he impregnates and whose husband he deliberately kills, as he repents and mourns. In the lifespan of the same man, are songs of joy written  as he delighted in the laws of his god that he loved so much and walked so closely to. More closely than any human-crafted relationship is the intimacy with him who provides the very bonds that hold our atoms together. 
And so as I go about through a season of isolation and difficulty, these words don't just stare blankly back at me from the page of my mom's old NIV Bible. These words are alive and tangible as the God of the universe continues to be enough for his people, no matter what does or doesn't come... 
Psalm 42
For the director of music. A maskil of the Sons of Korah.

    so my soul pants for you, my God.
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
    When can I go and meet with God?
3 My tears have been my food
    day and night,
while people say to me all day long,
    “Where is your God?”
4 These things I remember
    as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God
    under the protection of the Mighty One[d]
with shouts of joy and praise
    among the festive throng.
5 Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Savior and my God.
6 My soul is downcast within me;
    therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan,
    the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.
7 Deep calls to deep
    in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
    have swept over me.
8 By day the Lord directs his love,
    at night his song is with me—
    a prayer to the God of my life.
9 I say to God my Rock,
    “Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
    oppressed by the enemy?”
10 My bones suffer mortal agony
    as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
    “Where is your God?”
11 Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,

    my Savior and my God.