Monthly Archives: May 2014

Free Will, God’s Plan, Faith And Unbelief

I read something interesting for class the other day. A guy named Gerald Sittser said–not a direct quote–that if we seek God’s kingdom first, then our choices become his will for us. I’m not sure how I feel about that. It feels too simple to me. I tend to think that God is really complicated. Maybe complicated isn’t the right way to describe him. In some ways he’s no more complicated than any average person. Maybe it’s more that what he does and controls is complicated. In fact, he’s more one-track-minded than most people. He’s not emotionally volatile for one thing, and he never sways from his plan for the Universe.

People tend to fall off the wagon. A lot of us have no idea what we want to do with our lives or what we’re supposed to be doing. It seems to me that if God has a grand, master plan, and if we’re part of that plan, then wouldn’t it follow that he would want us to do certain things? A lot of people talk about God’s calling; what God calls them to do. How does that relate to free choice? Obviously people can ignore God’s calling, but I think it tends not to end well–at least not as well as it otherwise would. This is coming from personal experience.

Is there a best way to go? Sittser used the analogy of a road trip. He and a friend had a set destination and a date they had to get there. They planned their road trip around these. They decided not to follow any highways if possible, and instead, meandered along seemingly random back roads. Is this like how we choose what to do with our lives? He said that we can see how God had a plan for us in what we chose if we look at it in retrospect. Is this just conjecture, or is this God’s way of showing someone how they’ve progressed towards their destination?

I believe that I was destined to be a Christian and maybe I was destined to be a musician, but for a long time I chose not to be. For a long time when I was younger I decided that while I believed in God, I didn’t believe in Christianity, partly because I didn’t understand it. However, I believe that God made me so that I would need him, emotionally, among other reasons.

I do think that people are a product of their environment, upbringing, etc, but I also believe that God makes people in specific ways, and I think he makes people for other people. I also think that people can choose to be whoever they want to be. This is just an idea I have, but I think God presents us with choices throughout our lives and I think he probably wants us to choose certain things, but he also gives us the option not to. Furthermore, I think there are certain choices we make that God probably doesn’t care much about either way–like if we want chocolate or coffee flavored ice cream.

I was thinking about my friends last night. Many of them don’t believe in God partly because they don’t see any reason to; they haven’t seen any evidence that he even exists. I wonder if they think I’m crazy. I think I always believed in God; at least I’ve always believed that he exists. I’m not sure why. I guess because I was able to imagine it. For a while it didn’t really matter that much. He was just there. I guess it might have something to do with the fact that prayer saved my life when I was a baby… Which is a long story for another time.

The point is, I’ve always felt like he’s just been around. I can’t even understand not having that feeling. I know I choose to believe because I think I have good reason to. Can someone choose to believe without thinking they have good reason to? Isn’t that kind of the point of faith? If someone doesn’t have faith in God, what do they have faith in? Not believing in God sounds as crazy to me as believing probably sounds to my friends.

A large part of the reason I believe in free will is because some people don’t believe in God, but many people change. I don’t think God would intentionally create people who don’t believe in him. I’ll say it here because very few people I actually know read my blog, but I’m closeted universalist. I believe that Jesus died to redeem everyone. My belief is that at the second coming, everyone will be rejoined in the same place and we will all finally be on the same page. I don’t like talking about hell, but I do think that nonbelievers and really terrible people spend different amounts of time there for different reasons. This is why I desperately want my friends to be saved.

Would I give up free will to make this happen? Not a chance. That doesn’t make much sense, does it? I think God gave us free will for that reason, though. I think he wants us choose to believe in him. Are some of us destined to? I don’t know. Maybe. I think actually, some of us are made in such a way that it’s easier for us to believe. God gave me a crazy imagination, which made believing easier.

What about when it comes to music? Was I destined to be a musician? I’ve always loved it. There’s always been music in my life. When I was 14 I came to the realization that my friends were all good at something, and I was okay at writing poetry, but I didn’t think that counted. I told my dad that I wanted to learn to play guitar, but I didn’t think I could because of my disability (I can’t turn my hands over). He told me not to worry about it and took me to guitar center. It turns out I can play guitar upside down. Now I want music to be my career, partly because it’s wicked fun, and partly because I can use it for God’s glory. Was this all part of the plan? When I first started playing guitar I wasn’t Christian, and I intended to play in a punk-rock band. When I became Christian I was conveniently getting good at songwriting.

Something we talked about in one of my classes is that maybe God has an overall plan for humanity but not necessarily for every individual. At first I kind of liked the idea, but now I don’t think I do. I think God definitely had a plan for people like Martin Luther King Jr. or Nelson Mandela. The only way I can see free will and God’s plan working together is that he gives us the option not to operate according to plan. It’s sounds sort of weird to me, but then I think I know what God’s plan is for me, and I like it.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

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Faith, Doubt, Patience And Getting Famous

I wonder what it’s like to be the friends and family of U2 or Pearl Jam or Paul McCartney. I wonder what it was like growing up with them, having no idea they would become huge, international rock stars. I wonder if there were doubters. I wonder how their parents felt about the fact that they spent hours on end writing songs and playing guitar in their basements instead of doing homework. I wonder how they feel now.

I know there are doubters among my friends and family and acquaintances. I won’t say who they are. It’s annoying to me that people ask, “well, do you know what you would do if music doesn’t work out?” It’s just their way of saying, “You’re destined to fail. You need a backup plan.” Maybe I’m crazy, but there isn’t a doubt in my mind that I’ll make it. I don’t care about being famous. I just don’t want to have a day job. More importantly, though, I want to dedicate my life to music because it’s my most meaningful way of dedicating my life to God. I know I’m a good songwriter, and I know that talent came from him. I can’t do anything else because I feel like I would be wasting that talent.

Furthermore, I’ve already put so much time, money, effort and prayer into this dream of mine. I feel that, as a Christian songwriter, I have an obligation to spread a message. A week ago I was thinking; why did God make us in the first place? It’s not a thought that had ever really struck me. It had crossed my mind before, but I had never really thought about it. The conclusion that I came to after some reading and thinking was that God made us because he loves us. Before we were made we were loved. Furthermore, God is good, so we are good and the world is good because he made all that exists. I feel obligated to share that message LOUDLY.

Admittedly, I do want music to work out for selfish reasons. I don’t want to sit behind a computer for several hours a day researching or editing articles or whatever it is most English majors end up doing. I don’t want to teach either. I definitely don’t want to teach. All of it sounds boring, tedious and unfulfilling. I get so much joy and fulfillment from performing and writing songs, partly because it’s fun, and partly because I know people are hearing what I really want them to hear.

Sometimes trying to get gigs and only getting to play two songs at church open mics or tiny restaurants is frustrating, but I know it really is all worth it because it’s better than nothing, and will amount to something eventually. I do believe that God will open doors for me, like he already has, and this project will go somewhere. I have found that I get in my own way sometimes. It’s easy to forget that it’s all for his glory and not mine. I get a giant ego trip from applause and compliments after my sets, and I have to be careful of that. I’m not too worried, though. Doubters can be frustrating, but I know this is going in the right direction. I just have to be patient. That’s something I have trouble with sometimes. I’ll get to where I need to be eventually. I’m just a passenger on this crazy road trip anyway.

The Latest Version of “Passenger”

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

If I Saw You In The Airport

I wrote this story after I wrote a song called “Airport Song.” It’s based off musings about what would happen if I ran into Jesus in a public place. It just happened to be an airport for some reason, and I think it works well. I haven’t really edited it much, but it’s very short. Furthermore, the narrator in the story sin’t necessarily me. She’s sort of based on me, but I’ve altered some details. Anyway, here it is.

If I Saw You In The Aairport

I was on my way to California when I met him. I had never been to California, and now I was going. I was finally going. I was so excited to see the West Coast. I guess I’ve always sort of had an idealized idea of what it’s like. I had never really left New England up until that point, and I was nervous as I checked my bags, got a hot dog and found my gate. The airport was extremely crowded on that day. It was early May, and still a bit chilly in Boston. It had been a long winter, and it seemed, or at least I guessed, that everyone was headed somewhere warm.

Finally I found a place to sit that was slightly less crowded near one of the big windows that look out over the runway. I sat for a moment in silence, rather breathless, and then, to pass the time, I dug out my phone and looked up the weather in San Francisco. Eighty degrees and sunny for the next week. Perfect. I had at least an hour to kill, so I ate my hot dog, played some games on my phone, checked Facebook and called my grandmother. Then I noticed the time and saw that I would be boarding my flight in twenty five minutes.

It was at that moment that a young man, I guessed a few years older than myself walked up carrying only a small carry-on bag with him. He looked tired, and perhaps a bit distracted, but content. When he noticed me watching him he said, “Hello.”

“Hello,” I said. “Are you looking for a place to sit?” There were several empty seats on either side of me at the moment.

He smiled and said, “Yes.”

“Well, sit down,” I said. “Where are you going?”

“I don’t know,” he said as he took a seat. “I’m waiting to see.”

“See what?”

“Who I’m traveling with.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’ll know where I’m going once I know who I’m going with. That’s all.”

“But what if you find out the person you’re supposed to be going with has already left?” I felt that I had been rather cleaver in asking this question.

“They haven’t. I’ll find them before they leave.”

“How can you be sure?”

“Because I believe it.”

It felt to me as if this conversation was going in circles. Clearly this man was crazy.

“I’m not crazy,” he said as if he knew what I was thinking. I figured since I would be leaving in a few minutes that it would be at least interesting to continue the conversation, and I would have a reasonable, not-rude excuse to cut it off if it got weird.

“Alright. I didn’t say you were crazy,” I said patiently.

“You were thinking it, though. Where are you going?”

“California.”

“Have you been there before?”

“No, I haven’t. It’s sort of a little present to myself. I just graduated college.”

“Congratulations,” he said, so sincerely that I was actually touched by this over-used, uninteresting word.

“Thanks… Have you ever been to California before?”

“A few times. I’ve been just about everywhere for my work.”

“Really? What do you do for work?”

“I guess you could say I’m a teacher.”

“Like a traveling professor?”

“In a way.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I don’t get paid because I don’t charge my students. I hardly ever spend a whole lot of time in one place, and I’ve never been tied to one institution. All I ask is that people listen, think about it, and spread the word.”

“How do you live if you don’t get paid?”

“I live off the charity of others.”

“Why?”

“It’s part of my teaching. I want people to be kind to one another.”

“I’ve never heard of anyone like you.”

“Are you sure?”

“Pretty sure.”

“Then you’ve misunderstood.”

“Misunderstood what?”

“You’ve misunderstood what you say you believe in.”

I was silent for a moment. I was very confused at this point, and my plane was leaving in just a few minutes, but for some reason I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to know more.

“You’ll miss your flight,” he said, once again reading my thoughts.

“That’s alright… I’ll catch another.”

“I’m glad. I like talking to you.”

“Thanks.”

He was silent for a moment, then he said, “If you could go anywhere, where would you go?”

“Right now, somewhere warm. Anywhere warm.”

“What about Africa?”

“Maybe.”

“Have you ever been to the desert?”

“Well, once when I was very little, but I hardly remember.”

“It can be beautiful, but also unforgiving. I spent a long time in the desert once.”

“Were you lost?”

“No, but I did a lot of thinking. Things were different after that for me.”

“What do you mean?”

“I guess you could say I came into my own. I knew what my purpose was.”

“And what was that?”

“To make the world better than it was before. That’s what my teaching is all about.”

After a moment I asked, “Do you know where you’re going yet?”

“Not yet, but I’m getting an idea.”

We sat in silence for another minute, then I asked, “Would you like something to eat? I’ll buy you something.”

“Alright. Thank you. I appreciate it.”

“Great. Do you like pizza? I saw a pizza place around here somewhere.”

“I’ll eat anything. Pizza sounds good.”

We walked over to the pizza place, and I bought him a couple slices of pizza and a bottle of ginger ale for us to share. When we got back to where we had been sitting we discovered that our seats had been taken, so we wandered around the airport, looking to see where all the flights were going. During this time we didn’t talk much. It didn’t feel like we had to. For some reason I felt very comfortable around this man even though he was a bit strange. I led the way as we walked from one end of the airport to the other. The whole place was very crowded and noisy. There were people standing in long lines waiting for food and sitting around talking about where they were going and what they would do when they got there. I wondered if my new friend was listening to any of these conversations. I didn’t understand what he was looking for in his mystery traveler, and I eventually thought that it might as well be me.

We sat down near a random gate. The flight was leaving for Nebraska in an hour. I thought about buying a ticket for this flight, but dismissed the idea as frivolous.

I asked my friend, “Would you like to go somewhere with me?”

“Yes, I would.”

“Okay. Where should we go?”

“You decide.”

“Well, where haven’t you been?”

“I’ve been just about everywhere. Where haven’t you been?”
I laughed. “Everywhere. I mean anywhere. I’ve hardly left New England.”

“How about Istanbul?”

“Alright,” I said. “Why?”

“Because you haven’t been there.”

“Okay. When should we go?”

“Tonight.”

“What if there isn’t a flight tonight?”

“There will be. Don’t worry.”

“How do you know?”

“It’s meant to be.”

“You wanna bet?”

“No, I don’t.”

“We don’t have any hotel reservations or anything.”

“That’s alright. We’ll manage. We’ll find a place to stay.”

“You’re crazy.”

“A lot of people think so.”

“We haven’t packed the right stuff to go all that way,” I said, looking at his small bag, and thinking of all my luggage, which was now on its way to California.

“Don’t worry about that. You don’t need a whole lot, really.”

I laughed. “Alright. I’ll go with you to Istanbul. Just don’t let me get lost.”

“I won’t. Just stay with me.”

“Alright, but what about my stuff? I missed me flight to California.”

“I’ll take care of it.”

“Really?”

“Yes. Do you trust me?”

“Yes,” I said after a moment. “I do.”

“So it’s settled then.”

“Yes.”