Merry Christmas. Sorry For The Whining.

I don’t want to be bitter, and I’m sorry that I have been lately. Ironically, Christmas does that to me a little bit. I think it has that effect on a lot of people. It was simpler when I was a little kid and didn’t really know about Jesus. I just knew that a guy named Santa was going to sneak into my house late at night and give me stuff.

Lately I’ve been liking Santa Clause less and less, but today I looked up the history behind the myth because, honestly, I didn’t really know much about where it came from. I knew Saint Nicholas was a real, historical person, but I didn’t really know anything about him other than, presumably, he was generous. What I found were two details about his life that made me like him quite a bit more. I found out that Saint Nick was actually a bishop in the Church. At one point he found out that a poor nobleman had three daughters who were getting married, but he didn’t have a dowry for each of them. Nick wanted to help, but he wanted to do it anonymously, so he threw three bags of gold through the nobleman’s window. Eventually people did find out who did it, which started the tradition of associating charitable giving with Saint Nick. I also found out that at one time, he was imprisoned for his faith, but while he was there, he spread the Gospel to the other prisoners. In fact, he was super generous because the Gospel says we are supposed to help the poor.

So I like the guy. I have a cousin who doesn’t celebrate Christmas at all because it has essentially become a secular holiday. I know plenty of people, including my friends, who celebrate Christmas even though they’re not Christian. While the consumerism of it does get on my nerves, I still love it. I love Christmas. I love going bananas with the decorations. I love hanging out with my relatives. I love going to midnight mass on Christmas eve and then coming home at 1:00 in the morning and opening presents then. I love driving around with hot chocolate to go look at people’s insane decorations. I love that there’s tons of junk food.

I love that Christmas is kind of like starting over. It’s a reminder that our savior came as a tiny human baby, born to a family who couldn’t even get a room in the inn. It’s where his story, and therefore, really, our story begins.

There are some things I want to do differently in the coming year. I want to read Scripture more, and try to figure out to the best of my ability what is objectively True about some things (as best I can, anyway). I also want to lose a little weight and build up some upper body strength. Skiing is on my bucket list, but because of my disability, I would have to ride a sit-down ski thingy and use my arms to steer. I’m not strong enough to do that yet, so I’m going to work on it. I have to figure out exactly how I’m going to do it, but these are sort of my New Year’s resolutions.

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve, and this makes me happy. Long story short, I want to thank everyone for reading, and I want to wish you all a very merry Christmas.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Making A List And Changing My Mind

I realize that I’ve been posting a lot of not-so-happy things on here lately. Part of that is the result of working on my literary journal project for school. The subject matter of my journal was activism, so I ended up reading a lot of concerning things.

Yesterday I was in a bad mood. I read an article from a white woman’s perspective about her godson and his family, who were black. The story was about how, as a teenager, her godson was arrested for not giving up his hat at school because he was afraid he wouldn’t get it back, and later, how his father was badly beaten because he wouldn’t get out of his car fast enough when the police targeted him for committing a crime he had nothing to do with.

After reading this, I was angry. I was sad. I had to consciously remind myself that the world is not terrible, so I sang my song, “Good In Things,” to myself. It’s a happy song, and in that moment, it meant a lot. However, it took me all day yesterday to completely snap out of my bad mood. Yesterday afternoon I had to consciously make a list of what the good in the world was.

Here is my list:

Love
Faith
Trust
Hope
Music
Sunshine
Snow
Rain
Sunsets
Family
Cars
Airplanes
Food
Movies
The Internet
Powered Wheelchairs
Hospitals
Medicine
Doctors
Compassion
Engineers
Humor
Video Games
Blogging
Strawberries
Language
Hands
Guitars
Voices
Singing
Eyes
Cell Phones
Trees
The smell of dirt
Forgiveness
Fish tanks/fish
Doing stupid stuff
Water
Fire
The word “Noodle”
Redemption
God’s Plan
Jesus
Christmas
Presents
Guitar amps
The fact that I can be six inside
Penguins
Animals in general
Gravity
Solid things
The laws of physics
Philosophy
Bug spray
Lava lamps
Yellow paint
Paper
Coffee
Stars

All of these things are good.

The first few lines of my song go like this:

Do you remember when we built castle walls
With colored bricks to the ceiling of our skies?
Our friends and brothers came and knocked them down
But we built something better from the wreckage somehow.

I won’t say that everything happens for a reason, but often, bad things bring out the best in people. Often, something that just works has to be broken down to build something that works great. Often, we need a problem to create love; to create art; to create hope. That family’s story got out. Families will continue to face these kinds of problems, but amazing people will continue to tell their stories, and something will change. We just have to stay optimistic and hopeful because there is good in things, and there is good in people.

Christmas is supposed to be happy, and I just wanted to post something a little more optimistic today.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Please Read And Share This

I just found out about this via another blogger. Honestly, I can’t write much because I’m lost for words at the moment. I would really appreciate it if you all would take the time to read this and sign the petition. The gist of it is that a group of Christians were attacked at a church in India for singing Christmas carols.

Article

Here is the original site where I found the information

Christians Attacked For Singing Christmas Carols In India

A few days ago I was working on a project for school and I read another article that was disturbingly similar to this. Christians all over the place are being attacked and persecuted for their religion. I feel like I can’t do much from so far away, but I can at least share this.

Thanks for taking the time to do this and to pray for these people.

Shameless

When I became a Christian, somebody told me that the day I accepted Jesus, there was a party in Heaven for me. At the time I liked the sentiment, even if it is a little hokey. In the past couple of days I’ve just been wondering what it actually means when someone goes from a life of sin, or even just a life of unbelief to believing in Jesus; or from another perspective: why does God allow us to be in dark places sometimes?

When I was a teenager I was agnostic. Because I was searching for God, or a religion through which I could (somewhat) understand him, I did a lot of questionable things. Believing in an all-powerful God allows me to accept that I don’t have control or power over a lot of things and that he will take care those things for me. At the time, however, I wanted control, so I tried to gain that control through exploring the power of what I would probably now call witchcraft, only because I don’t really have another name for it. I did a lot of spiritual improvising, and I suspect at least some of it was a bit dangerous.

Last week I was seriously questioning my faith, and I had to decide whether to believe God or believe what people were telling me. In a lot of ways, it was a pretty big setback. I was really at a crossroad, to use an old cliche. However, what was important about that night was that the choice was mine. I was trying to figure things out when a question came to my mind.

“Do you still trust me?”

I realized that the answer was an overwhelming

“Yes.”

How could I not? I have had at least 4 really powerful spiritual experiences, and on top of that, God has answered too many of my prayers for me to count. How could I not trust him? In spite of that, I mess up. That is God’s forgiveness. He forgives us no matter where we are, no matter where we’ve been, and no matter where we fall to. He forgives us every time we mess up. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t try to be better when we make mistakes. In fact, we’re meant to try and be perfect, even thought it’s quite obvious that we can’t be most of the time.

God is a merciful judge, and he doesn’t judge the past without looking at a person’s whole life. Some people are born into wealthy families and are brought up in the Church and have a strong faith all their lives. Then again, some people come to faith much later in life, sometimes after doing some questionable things, and have an equally strong faith. In fact, some people come to faith in prison, or on their deathbeds. I just wonder how God looks at that. I think a lot of times, he uses those people in ways that he couldn’t use people who have been given their faith at birth. I’m sort of speculating.

When Jesus came among us in human form, he hung out with sinners. When he was questioned about this, he said that it isn’t the healthy who need a doctor. He wants to be with those of us who need help and encouragement. I like to think that my faith is strong and that I live by God’s commands. I don’t; not perfectly, anyway. I try, but I mess up. I remember hearing in church one time that we have a tendency to remember God only when we feel we really need him. I try very hard not to do this, but the reality is that I sometimes feel closest to him when I completely give up and he fixes things for me. I often feel very close to him when things are going great as well, but in some cases, I have to be more intentional about remembering him.

He didn’t come to shame us, he came to save us. He called people out on things, but it was always for the purpose of changing them, and it was always in love. Last week he called me out on the fact that I was doubting him after everything I’ve seen him do. He did it kindly. He just asked me a question, and that cleared everything up. Sometimes that’s all it takes.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Dark Secrets Are Hard To Keep

In October 2014, Oren Yakobovich made it very clear to the world that dark secrets are becoming much harder to keep. He gave a TED Talk explaining how the use of hidden cameras is making it much easier for exploited people to get their story told. He began with the story of Mary, a woman from a small village in Africa who used a camera hidden in her dress to showcase the violence and intimidation used to sway local elections. Before such technology was available to exploited people, militia were forcing people from their homes, murdering innocent people, and abusing their power in unspeakable ways. Mary got her video into the right hands, and it was broadcast all over the world, including back to her community. This changed things because it made the perpetrators realize that they were not invulnerable and that they would be brought to Justice. This was made possible through organizations such as Videre.

Videre as an organization that Yakobovich started along with Uri Fruchtmann. They work with exploited communities to get them the technology they need, and then to broadcast what they film to the world. In hist talk, Yakobovich explains that it is very important for the people to film these things instead of professional reporters because it has a higher impact on the world. It gives these people the sense that they have the power to make change, and it makes those who are in power think twice before continuing perpetrating injustice.

Yakobovich also shows some of the technology that is being used to make this process possible, and it is truly amazing. He explains that the kind of camera Mary was using is tiny and literally blends into its surroundings so that it is almost undetectable. However, there is more involved with this process than simply providing people with cameras. He explains that there is a lot of planning involved. Before any filming even takes place, the organization works with the camera person to come up with a backup plan if something goes wrong. Furthermore, there is a specific process through which video has to be verified. The credibility of these kinds of videos is extremely important in the cause for justice.

Yakobovich was inspired to on this project as a result of his service in the Israeli army. He saw what the Israeli army and police were doing to the resident Palestinians in the West Bank, and was shocked and dismayed. In fact, his work in this area started right at home. He eventually refused to serve in the West Bank and had to spend time in jail because of it.

The link to the original talk and transcript is here: 

A Good Place To Start: Review Of Christians In Crisis Website

It is difficult to say exactly what “accurate” news really is. The truth of the matter is, however, that without doing more research than most of us have time for, we’re never getting the whole story. Furthermore, every news station on TV, and every newspaper has its priorities and its politics. To survive they have to cover what is most important and most interesting to the average consumer. News, like anything else, is a commercial product. In general, it seems that domestic issues get far more coverage than international ones, especially when international issues are religious in nature, and particularly violent. The coverage of the war on ISIS, and their brutal persecution of Christians in the Middle East has all but died out, and is only really mentioned again when an American reporter gets tragically involved.

However, this is an ongoing problem. Radical Islam and their oppressive ideals are currently taking over in Iraq and Syria, but the media is very quiet on the issue. Christianity is the largest religion in the world, seconded by Islam. However, in many parts of the world, it is a clear minority. The International Christian Concern released an article on December 11th explaining how Hindu radicals in parts of rural India are going into villages and forcibly converting Christians to Hinduism and their churches into temples. This is clearly a bigger issue than the media is letting on.

In light of that, a blog has been created that specifically focuses international religious relations for people who are invested in it. Christians In Crisis is a small, nonprofit organization that compiles information and news found from internet and print sources specifically about the persecuted Church throughout the world. They do not ask for or accept donations, but point potential donors in the direction of organizations that do. Their main goal is to provide information and incentive to help. They are constantly updating the site and do not simply focus on one area. On December 12, they posted five stories focusing on current events in various Middle Eastern countries as well as one article focusing on Christian missionaries in China.
The link to that particular article is here: Article

This article explains that the Chinese Government seems to be cracking down on Christian missionaries from around the world due to their humanitarian efforts to aid North Korean refugees to that country. Several individuals that were specifically mentioned in the article have been accused and deported for allegedly stealing and illegally sharing state secrets. One theory is that:

“While there’s no concrete evidence for such a claim, the deportations do seem to be part of a larger trend toward nationalization of domestic institutions, particularly Christian churches.”

Furthermore:

“A number of Christian aid groups in the area have ceased operations.”

The article suggests that this increase in deportations is a way for the Communist party to maintain power over an increasingly Christian population.

This is very helpful information for the western Church to know. If the Church is in fact one cohesive organization, then it is important to know what is happening in all areas of the world, and it is the responsibility of those who can help to actually do something if they can. Knowing the truth about these things is the first step toward making change. obviously change is difficult, and there is more involved than religion, such as politics, diplomacy and other cultural concerns. However, Christians In Crisis is a very helpful website and an excellent place to start for those who want to know more.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

How May I Serve You?

I’ve noticed a trend happening lately. I don’t know exactly when it started, but for a while now, I’ve been much more willing to mention God and talk about spiritual issues in my posts. People have been interested in my blog from the start, and I’ve never been wanting for followers. That’s gratifying, and I appreciate it. However, I’ve recently noticed that the audience of my blog has narrowed quite a bit. I haven’t lost any followers, but when I gain new ones or even just have people pass by, the overwhelming majority of them tend to be Christians; many stronger and wiser than I am.

In some sense, this is a good thing. I’ve found my niche, and that tends to be something writers strive for. In fact, when I started my blog, I was hoping to find my niche. It took a lot of trial and error, but I got here. Now that I am here, though, I’m not so sure I want it.

I want to be interesting to people who don’t think like me and don’t believe what I do. I want to make Christianity interesting to people who aren’t Christians. I want to move beyond religion and connect with people on a universal, human level.

I realize that as I grow in faith I get a little farther away from some people. Some people strongly disagree with Christianity and religion in general, in part because of our history, and in part because of some of the things the Church continues to do. Some people think we’re all just crazy. I get that. If you had asked me in high school what I thought of Christianity, I would have said it’s old fashioned and ridiculous. In brief, my thoughts on it now are that if one is cruel to others or does anything out of spite or hate, then one is not Christian. They are only using that label. However, that is a topic for another post.

It isn’t fear or allegiance to a certain church or even tradition that drives me. What drives me is the innate knowledge of my salvation, and the overwhelming desire to make music. Those two things do make me want to try and bring people to Jesus. However, I know from experience that spiritual issues need to be between individuals and God. I’m here to help if people want it, but otherwise I’m just here to make noise and lead by example if I can.

I am interested in worldly things. I’m invested in making noise for peace. I care about those who are less fortunate than I am. I want to know more about the Earth and the people and creatures that inhabit it. We can’t live in two different worlds. The spiritual and the earthly are inseparable. That’s why I can’t not talk about God. I honestly try not to sometimes, and I simply can’t avoid it. My intention was never to turn people away or to gain specifically Christian readers. I would like to gain more readers who are not Christian. I’m just not sure how to do that.

So that’s where I’m at now.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!