Monthly Archives: April 2015

Something You Should Know

I’ve written a few posts recently that have made it sound like I know Jesus super well and I know exactly how to run my life. Neither of those things are true. Most of the time I’m fairly self-centered, and a lot of the time, I forget about spiritual things until I go to bed. I pray before I go to sleep every night, but to be completely honest, a lot of the time it’s only out of superstition and habit. I pray during the day when I’m worried or nervous about something, but a lot of the time, I find that my prayers are selfish. The fact of the matter is, I think I am selfish. I want to be kind and helpful to people, but I’m distracted by video games and homework and friends and classes and commuting and relaxing.

Don’t get me wrong, I know I am blessed to have been born in the U.S. to a fairly wealthy middle class family. I don’t deserve what I have, but I am exceptionally thankful for it. I can’t begin to fathom how lucky I am. I’ve never seen war or extreme poverty or terrible sickness–not first hand, anyway. The point is that I get so wrapped up in my own life to remember those who are less fortunate than me.

I also know that I’m hard on myself about this stuff. I have done good things for other people, and honestly, I think I’ve made a real difference in some cases. I was part of creating an advocacy program for young adults with disabilities, and I’ve seen it make a big difference. I raided around $400 and did the Walk for Hunger last year. I know my music has inspired some people here and there. I just wish I could do more. I go through periods where I feel like I’m being lazy and I have too much free time. The trouble is, I don’t feel like I’ve made a difference where I want to.

Two things that I feel passionate about are mental illness and war. I can’t fix either of those problems, but I can pray about them, and I know I don’t do nearly enough of that. My other problem is that I am ridiculously disorganized. I’m not good at setting up fundraisers or demonstrations or even little prayer groups. I’m not a good leader.

However, I can do this: I have around 250 followers on this blog, and I can ask all of you, in whatever way feels right, to pray for the victims of any kind of violence: that they would be safe, that they would find places to go to or ways of defending themselves, and that the people causing this violence would change.

I also ask that you would pray for anyone suffering from mental illness, that they would find healthy ways of dealing with it, and that they would find support in loved ones.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

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Do Me A Favor

When I was in high school I was a deist. I believed in some sort of divine entity, but didn’t think he had a whole lot to do with humanity any more. There were a few reasons for this. The first was that I couldn’t understand why, if God supposedly loved humanity, he would allow so much pain and suffering. The second was that I was looking for a miracle; I was looking for the pillar of flames, and I wasn’t seeing the smaller miracles that happen all the time. The third was that I had been taught God’s wrath without being taught God’s love, and even though I prayed occasionally, I had no idea that one could have a personal relationship with him. The fourth reason was that, put simply, I was too scared to be an atheist.

In my high school, on the coolness scale, spirituality worked something like this: atheism was cool, agnosticism was weak, and religion; particularly Christianity was boring or a joke at best, and at worst, insensitive and exclusive. The fact of the matter was, I grew up Catholic. I wanted to be a rebel, so my deism might have also been a part of that. I was too scared to be an atheist, and the picture I had in my head of what God was like was too clear for me to be an agnostic. So I was a deist, even though I didn’t have a word for it at the time.

One of my close friends in middle school was an atheist, and one of my best friends now is an atheist. Honestly, I think that must take a lot of courage. The idea of dying without a God or an afterlife doesn’t scare me. In fact, death doesn’t scare me at all. If there were no afterlife, one would just go to sleep, and that would be that. If there is an afterlife, it’s just an added bonus. No, what scares me is the idea of living without a God. I know what it’s like. I’ve done it, and at least in my experience, it was awful. I was lonely and scared, and I felt very small all the time. True, these feelings, in part, just come with being a teenager, but they also come, in part, just with being human. Sometimes I still do feel small and helpless, but I also know that the most powerful being in the universe is looking out for me, and it’s okay that I’m small. I don’t have to completely fend for myself all the time.

It must be sort of like how my bird thinks about me. Without me taking care of him, he probably wouldn’t last very long, but he knows I love him, and if he wants something, a lot of the time I’ll give it to him. I’m nice to him, and we love each other. On the flip side, I don’t need him to survive, but I bought him because I wanted someone who would love me and who would be excited to see me in the morning. He is a pain in the neck, and sometimes I have to give him a time-out, but then I let him out and we make friends, and he gets to be my little co-pilot when I’m beating my dad at video games.

Quite frankly, I don’t know how I would get through the day sometimes without knowing that God is taking care of me. Does that mean that every single thing I do is going to work out perfectly? No, of course not. This is not a perfect world. What it means is that I’m not alone in my experiences. It means that, while I don’t have a set, definite road, I have a destination, and God knows how to get me there. That destination might be in this life or the next, but it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that I’m living, and I’m working, and I’m playing, and I’m trying to make this world a little more like what God intended for it.

I get that a lot of this doesn’t make sense if you don’t believe in God in the first place. I get that, for various reasons, people are angry with God. I can’t tell you what to think, but I can tell you that it’s okay to be angry with God, and it’s okay not to understand him. Just do me a favor and talk to him. Being mad at God forever or refusing to believe forever is like being angry at, or ignoring a friend forever. Just do me a favor and talk to him.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Confusion Is Not License To Judge

I want to be completely honest, and I don’t want to be offensive. If this post offends anyone in any way because of something I said or didn’t think of, I apologize in advance.

Sexuality and gender issues confuse me. I am asexual, and while I identify as a woman, I kind of think that gender is pointless as a defining factor in one’s personality. I am Christian, and I believe that God created people with male and female biology out of necessity. However, I think that thinking too much about on’es gender does more harm than good. For example, if gender was less of a defining factor, there would be less, or perhaps even no need for feminism. If gender didn’t matter then women would have the same power, the same respect, and the same income as men from the beginning of time. Men and women are good at different things for different reasons, but we are all equal on a fundamental level.

However, what I find confusing is when a person who was born male identifies as a woman, or when a person who was born female identifies as a man. I just don’t understand why or how it happens. I am just being honest. I’ve only ever known one trans person, and he was only an acquaintance, so I never got into this kind of stuff with him. It gets even more confusing when it comes to matters of sexuality. Sexuality confuses me to begin with, and I’m straight… I think (I like men without wanting to…). There are probably some asexual transgender peeps, but what about the rest of the world? What does it mean when a person with male biology who identifies as a woman likes men? What does it mean if that person likes women? What do you call that?

Again, I don’t mean to be offensive, but what you have to understand is that I like labels. Labels help me understand the world. I just like to be able to call things, well, things. Furthermore, all of this would matter less to me if I weren’t Christian. I want to understand this stuff in the context of the bigger picture; in terms of faith, and how it relates to God’s plan. To be completely honest, my immediate instinct is to say that God created people male and female–men and women for a reason, but I know that isn’t really fair. Something my friend suggested to me is that perhaps God created some people transgender, agender, etc, as some kind of test: to themselves and to the rest of society. The other thing is, it took me a long time to be able to differentiate gender from biology, which in hindsight, is really kind of stupid, so I apologize for that.

I don’t understand this stuff. Some people condemn the things they don’t understand, and that isn’t kind or fair. I believe that everyone has some kind of role to play in God’s plan, and God loves all of us. More than anything, I want misunderstood people to be accepted, whether that is people of different sexualities or genders, or disabled people, or people of different cultures.  Revelation 7:9 says: “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.” The Kingdom of Heaven is diverse because God intended it that way, and because he wants all people to be reconciled to him and to each other. God loves every single person on this planet, and if people have told you otherwise, they are wrong.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Justice And Mercy

I don’t know much about Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who, today, is facing his convictions. He is charged on 30 counts in total, and will likely be found guilty of all 30. 17 of these are death-penalty charges. I remember that the Marathon Bombing took place on my 19th birthday. Tsarnaev was also 19. When the nation heard about what happened, we were outraged. Some were sorry. I was sorry. Tsarnaev’s defense was that his brother pushed him into it; convinced him to do it; forced him even. Most don’t believe that now. I don’t believe it. At 19, people have minds and wills of their own. He could have said “no.” He could have defended himself. Maybe he was influenced, but his decisions and actions were his own.

Still, I was; I am sorry. Tsarnaev is my age. At the time we were both college Freshmen. We both had plans. We both had futures. Tsarnaev ruined his own life. He destroyed others as well. He deserves to die. What I want for him is mercy. What I want for him is justice. I want him to live. I want him live in prison and live with what he did. Maybe he will never be sorry, but if he is given the death penalty, he will never have the chance to be. I want him to be sorry. I want him to know who he’s hurt. I want him to have to look at it and see it. I want him to have to know that Boston is stronger than anything he, or anyone else could ever do to us.

I ask all of my readers to pray, in whatever way is right to you, that Tsarnaev would live, and that he will come to understand what he’s done and have to face it.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Hope For The Waiting

I am a huge fan of epic stories. Most people are. I think this is in large part because they are a lot more interesting than our own mundane lives. Last night my dad and I finished watching the Lord of the Rings series for the umpteenth time. I don’t think either of us will ever get tired of those movies. The thing is, after you’ve seen them so many times, you begin to see different things that you’ve missed before, or you begin to view the characters differently. You begin to look at the movies as a whole from an artistic standpoint in some ways. They just never get old.

It’s the same with any good story, but what exactly is it that makes a story good; what makes a story timeless? I am a huge fan of the Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, the Inheritance Cycle, the Hunger Games, and other stand-alone novels and movies. In some ways, all of these stories are very different, but what they all have in common is the triumph of good over evil. I think it is precisely this that makes a story great. Of course they are well written, and employ elements of suspense, high stakes, etc, but ultimately, what the human heart wants is for everything to work out. The human heart wants love and justice and some kind of redemption. Furthermore, we like things to be black and white. We like heroes and villains because we know who is right and whose side we should be on.

Real life doesn’t always give us that, and our stories aren’t usually that epic. Perhaps we are side characters in someone else’s epic story, or perhaps we’re really just not that exciting. Everything isn’t as cut and dry as we would like it, and we find that between shadow and light is a lot of gray area. Truth becomes a loaded word and white lies become useful. Stories are confused, exaggerated and changed to fit the situation, and the future is uncertain. The truth is that even though real life is less exciting than epic stories most of the time, it’s a lot more complicated. We have some guidelines for right and wrong; good and evil, but even so, we often have to trust that what we’re doing is right based on our best guess and a hope.

I think stories give us that hope: especially true stories. We have to remember that there are plenty of real-life stories about good triumphing over evil. There are plenty of real-life stories about human redemption. It happens in small, unlikely places, in weird, unexpected ways. We believe in these stories because they make real life a little more interesting and a little more bearable.

This is Easter weekend, and whether you believe in it or not, I think the resurrection of Christ is an excellent finish to a really good story. The Old Testament is filled with trials and adventures and triumphs and failures. It’s filled with danger and suspense, and in some cases, peace and redemption seem impossible. Even the Exodus alone is an excellent story, as evidenced by the fact that it has been portrayed countless times and different ways in movies.

Even if it is taken simply as a story, I think the implications of Christ’s triumph over death is enough to bring people a little joy and hope. It is the ultimate triumph of good over evil. Of course some might argue that, from a literary perspective (if we are only taking it as a story), it’s a little bit cheap to have him rise from the dead, but Gandalf did the exact same thing in Lord of the Rings, and I don’t know of too many people who would argue with that. Lord of the Rings clearly falls into the category of fantasy, and taken only as a story, the Bible does, too. I suppose that’s why it is rather hard to digest: it is a fantastic story of epic proportions that is taken as true.

If the Gospels are taken as the last several chapters of an epic story, it seems like a rather anticlimactic conclusion. A baby is born in a barn. He grows up in a good, but poor family. As he grows up, he begins to realize who he is and his importance. Eventually he starts teaching and his message is one of peace, acceptance and love. He is condemned and killed for it. He comes back from the dead to give hope to his followers and to show the world who he really is. He goes up into Heaven and sends his Spirit as a moral and spiritual guide for humanity. He leaves his people with the promise that he will make the world right.

This is the end of one story. However, it is the beginning of another, and each of us is writing our own version. Ultimately, the story will end like this: Jesus will come back and bring his Kingdom with him. The world will be made right and evil will finally be eradicated. That is why the resurrection is such a good ending. It might be seemingly anticlimactic, but it makes a difference in our real-life stories, and it gives us hope for the waiting.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Making Sense Of Things

It took me a very long time to understand how one is supposed to love and fear God, when actually, it’s not all that complicated. There are a lot of passages in the Bible where, in the same sentence, the speaker will say one ought to fear the Lord and, oh by the way, he loves you. On the surface that sounds contradictory, but what I think it means is that God is exceptionally powerful, and his power, understandably, should be feared and respected. There are a lot of verses that instruct the reader not to be afraid of dangers in the world. We are loved by the most powerful being in the universe.

Before I continue, I want to address some objections. The ones I can think of off the top of my head are as follows:

1) If God loves us (all of humanity), then why is there so much suffering in the world? If God is so powerful, why doesn’t he just fix everything?

2) If God truly loves everyone, then why does the Bible, as well as many followers of the Christian faith say that a large portion of the world’s population is going to Hell where they will be tortured for eternity?

These are two questions I encounter a lot, and they are questions that have bothered me for a long time. I don’t think I will ever find answers that will completely satisfy me, let alone anyone else, but I wanted to share the conclusions I have come to over the past several years.

1) God has a plan. It’s a good plan, and God intends to redeem humanity: to make the world a better place where there will be no more suffering. For whatever reason, it’s taking a long time, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t care. It just means that it has to take this long.

2) The fact of the matter is, I know close to nothing about the afterlife. I am certainly not an authority on the issue. I have come to a couple disjointed conclusions, based on research and personal experience, which are as follows:

I: No one is predestined for Heaven or Hell. I should preface this by saying that my understanding of Heaven is being in the full presence of God, while Hell is complete separation. In God’s presence is love and joy and peace, while outside of it is some sort of emptiness and danger. I believe that, in this life, we are stuck somewhere in the middle. That being said, It’s a choice where we end up.

II: Jesus died and rose from the dead so that all of humanity could be redeemed. God doesn’t want anyone to be left outside. Historical and linguistic evidence suggests that while some might go to Hell, it won’t be forever. When the Kingdom comes, even the worst, most immoral people who rejected God their entire lives will be returned to him. In fact, there is reason to believe that Hell is a place of reformation. This is evidenced by the development of the idea of Purgatory.

III: It isn’t the duty of any Christian to condemn people. It’s our duty to teach love and salvation. For one thing, it’s more effective, and for another, it’s closer to the Truth.

Another objection I can think of is: If salvation is universal, then why bother being Christian?

Salvation isn’t about booking a room in eternity. It’s about making the world a better place. Most of what Jesus told people to do was relevant to here and now. It was about taking care of the poor, making peace among enemies, and respecting people because they are worth a lot to God. It’s a way of life: not strictly an escape from death.

I just wanted to get this out there.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!