Tuesday, February 7, 2017

What I Learned from My First Month of Cancer

As some of you may know, I discovered about one month ago that I have cancer. Out of all the cancers I could possibly have gotten, this one is probably the "safest" (in that it has the best prognosis and the most optimistic outcome possible). That hasn't stopped it from still being really hard, but I think I've learned a lot along the way and I thought you might be interested in hearing my opinion. So in no particular order, here is a list of things I've learned from this first month with cancer.
  • I am so loved, more than I could ever have comprehended.
  • Sometimes illnesses are scarier for the people around you than for the person with the illness. I’m not at all worried about whether or not I’ll make it through, but many of my loved ones experienced a lot of stress and fear and grief.
  • The hardest part for me was realizing that my life had (in one way or another) caused pain to another person, even though I knew it was no one’s fault.
  • Once or twice I was mad that I was the one comforting the people around me when I thought it should have been the other way around.
  • I have an insane amount of respect for the nurses in the cancer center. They work with these patients who may or may not be dying, yet they still show up to their work every day with an optimistic smile and an inordinate amount of love for the patients in their care. It’s truly amazing, and this is coming from someone who really, really loves people.
  • If I ever smell that hospital smell again in my life, it’ll be too soon, which is unfortunate because I have at least six more chemo treatments, lab work for all of those treatments, and probably another surgery.
  • The worst part of treatment is not having the energy to do anything. It’s not that I have any loss of entertainment. I have an endless amount of books and tv shows and movies. I simply am too tired to do any of those things.
  • In order for this time to be made into a testimony for God, I need to be strong and positive. But that’s a good thing because it forces me to be optimistic and find the best of the situation, even when it seems like there’s no good to be seen.
  • I’ve learned to appreciate social interactions a lot more than I used to. I used to be constantly surrounded by people and socializing would drain me, but now I have no words to explain how much I appreciate those who have spent some of their valuable time with me.
  • I've learned to take life at a much slower pace than normal, teaching me the value of peace and just slowing down in general. I’ve also learned that it’s okay to be tired all the time, that it’s not a weakness or flaw, just a normal part of recovery.

Friday, December 30, 2016

The Year in Review, As They Say

Hey I have a great idea. Let’s lead out of the season of love and cheer with an attempt at a little bit of love and cheer.

(This is where you’re supposed to shout “hey cool let’s do that!” Or close the tab. It’s really up to you.)

So my very cool friend wrote a very cool blog post the other day, summarizing the year 2016 with the word “divided,” touching briefly on the chaos happening all around the world, and then wrapping it all up by saying (in essence) “Despite all of this brokenness, I will choose to celebrate humanity rather than dwell on all of our faults” and then saying (exact quote here) “Hope lives in spite of pain.”

Wow, right? Good message, good delivery, the whole nine yards. *insert shameless plug for my friend's blog here* But because I am me and therefore must argue with everything, I'm going to go ahead and disagree with his very first premise.

Because here’s the thing. He is right that we’re divided. I’ve only lived on this earth for twenty years (which isn’t a lot, but it’s enough), and I’ve never seen the kind of hatred that people are spewing at each other right now for the smallest of things. Things that on a good day wouldn’t even be noticeable. Things that should never, ever determine how we treat each other. For pity’s sake, we can’t even disagree with each other without metaphorically and literally tearing each other to shreds. It breaks my heart.

But before we all get caught up in too much sadness, let me pull in a conversation that I had with a professor this semester. For multiple reasons irrelevant to this post, I had a struggle with depression this semester, and it got to the point where it was getting in the way of school, so I went to go talk to an amazing professor who I really admire and who has been very open about his struggle with depression. I told him what was going on and how I was feeling, he told me (in so many words) that I was probably experiencing depression due to my tendency to take responsibility for every single problem of every single person around me, and then he said something that I will never forget until the day I die.

“The world is a broken place, full of pain and suffering. And the world is a beautiful place, full of life and joy. You have to learn how to hold these two things together in your hand at the same time, and it’s not easy, but it’s life.”

And he’s not wrong. Life is really just one huge paradox filled with example after example of things that shouldn’t make any sense at all but somehow still do, or things that shouldn’t exist but somehow still do. In the midst of brokenness, there is still beauty, and it is vital for us to stop and recognize that beauty.

This past semester, I had a very close friend tell me that he was dangerously close to suicide a few months past – in the planning stage, in fact. And then maybe one month later, the same friend told me that it struck him how extremely precious the simple concept of life is. How fortunate are we that we are still alive? I imagine this idea has more credence given the recent deaths of many beloved celebrities, and I’m going to specifically use Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds in this example. These two were childhood heroes to many people I know, and the loss of their lives have been greatly mourned. This in and of itself is perhaps not notable, but what has struck me is how people have come together to mourn. Sure, it wasn’t Aunt Carrie and Grandma Debbie, but we humans have an inherent value and love for life, and we especially mourn the deaths of those who touched our lives in one way or another.

To those of you who would prefer to skip over this year and pretend it simply never happened: trust me, I completely understand where you’re coming from, but I don’t think that’s the solution. There’s a season for everything, and really crappy times can teach us something, even if it’s just how not to act. It’s my personal opinion that this year was as beautiful as it was broken because that’s just how life works, but I can also understand if you don’t think that. But if nothing else, this past year was a part of the life we value so much, life that we should value even more in honor of those who died.

And perhaps we’ll discover that we are more similar to each other than we’d like to think, even in our divisiveness. We all enjoy good friendship and real laughter. We all cried at the end of Rogue One when literally everyone dies. And while we will probably always disagree on the methodology of politics, at the end of the day we all want the same thing. We just want to be safe and happy and loved and to take care of our loved ones as best we can. We just have different ways of going about it.

I’m certainly not trying to get you to forget all the brokenness that happened this year. By all means, remember the bad stuff, get mad about it, and then change it. But you have to love the world in order to change it. Theologian G.K. Chesterton said that we need to hate the world enough to change it, and yet love the world enough to think it worth changing. I’m not trying to convince you to love this year because it was secretly a blessing in disguise the entire time, although you’re certainly welcome to see it as such. I just don’t want us to write off the entire year as being such a spectacular disaster that we’ll never speak of it again. Life is beautiful and all too fragile, as we’ve discovered. It can’t just be thrown away like that. We are worth so much more.

I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the LORD.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Combating Intentional Apathy

Read this post. Read all of it. It is important. To be fair, I should warn you before you begin that I am angry. I am angry about the things I learned that I am about to share with you. Can you call to mind the anger you felt when you first started to understand the horror and injustice of the Holocaust? I can. And it’s that same anger writing this post right now. But I will still demand that you read it because I am more afraid of the apathy than of the anger. I’m more afraid that if the Holocaust were to happen again, we would be far too busy not caring at all.

I just watched a documentary called Six Days in Iraq. The two men who produced it – a writer and an ex-Marine – decide that they would like to see what exactly is going on in the Middle East with their own eyes, so they collect a camera crew and a large dose of crazy and fly off to spend a week with the Kurds in northern Iraq. No plan, no inhibitions, no political viewpoint to prove. Just a camera crew and a handful of near-death experiences.

If you look up who the Kurds are, you’ll probably learn that they are an ethnic group living in an area (called Kurdistan) that spans four different countries in the Middle East. You might also learn that because they consider themselves separate from all of those countries, they are pretty universally disliked by the governments of those four countries. And with the rise of the KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government) in northern Iraq, the Kurds living in Iraq are considered mostly autonomous from the Iraqi government. However, this status of autonomy does not stop them from being targeted by ISIS, and the Kurds have since been driven out of their homes by this terrorist organization who, as we know, shoots first and asks questions later. Some of the Kurds are dead, the rest live in refugee camps founded by the UN. “Oh they’re being taken care of by the UN,” you say. Not quite.

As discovered in this documentary, the families in the first refugee camp lived in “homes” that are the size of my bathroom. An entire family fit their entire life into a room that’s barely 18 square feet in all its glory. And that’s not even mentioning the later camps visited by the two, camps which they said “made the first camp look like the Ritz Carlton.” The last camp shown in the documentary houses families in cardboard boxes if they’re lucky. One refugee from the camp said that “animals cannot live in these kind of tents.” The camps are supposed to be maintained by the UN. The annual budget for UNCHR is over $5 billion, but the only indication that anyone from the UN has even stepped foot on this ground was their logo on the side of a tent. Other than that, there is only dirt and rocks and devastation in the eyes of these broken people.

Here are just a few of the refugees’ stories featured in the documentary:
  •  A husband whose wife was killed in an explosion, the very same explosion which caused half of his body to be paralyzed
  • A child who witnessed her father’s head being blown off his body before she was 5 years old
  • A boy whose head, back, and left leg suffer the scars of the drill that was used to torture him when he was captured at 4 years old

 And the soldiers who caused this widespread terror and destruction among these innocent people, obviously they’re condemned by anyone who has ever let the word “compassion” cross his lips in relation to the plight of these refugees – right? All of the politicians in our country calling for compassion on these people have nothing but contempt for the monsters who would do such a horrible thing – right? No, actually those very monsters are given their weapons by our government, share military bases with our soldiers.

But thank God we hear everyone preaching this same old rhetoric of compassion.

And thank God we live in a country where we don’t have to care about the horror show that is someone else’s life. If we get a little depressed, we can just turn on a favorite TV show to chase away the bad vibes. But this 4 year old will never be able to forget seeing her dad’s head blown off in front of her. This father will never be able to erase the screams of his wife and children as they died, but good thing we’re taking care of the important issues like the latest development in Game of Thrones. This 8 year old boy was left with permanent brain damage after Iraqi soldiers drilled a hole in his head literally just for fun, but I’m so glad that I can see exactly how the Internet has reacted to Finding Dory as soon as I log onto Facebook.

And Christians, I am now speaking directly to you. How can we say that we are serving God faithfully if we do nothing about the unspeakable suffering of the very people we are called to serve? Jesus tells us to be servants to those in need, that as the city on a hill, it's our job to shine the light of love and compassion everywhere to those in need. His whole life was a lesson in service, and correct me if I misunderstood this part of the Bible, but I thought we were supposed to follow his example. How dare you stand there and speak of compassion and hashtag that love has won when our brothers and sisters are being murdered on a daily basis by the hatred that they face for their faith?

Oh I’m sorry. You’re right, I’m being too harsh. Is it just too much for you to handle? Is it just too heartbreaking for you to think about the thousands of people crammed into a few cardboard boxes that they label “home?” Is it just too sad for you to think of the bodies piled high in the empty streets of what used to be a town full of life – or worse, no bodies but just a bit of extra dust floating around in the air? Is it just too damn depressing for you to consider that the heart of the One who saved you is being broken by the holocaust of the very people that He came to save? Well good thing you don’t have to care. Good thing you can just curl up under a blanket and watch a video about kittens when reality gets a little too close to you. But what about the others, the ones living in this hell? What can they do to escape the horrors of reality?

So yes, I am angry about this. And you should be too. This is your life. This is your future. Call yourself a citizen of the world? Pride yourself on the love you show to everyone around you? Maybe try caring about the issues that deserve your attention. Maybe try caring about the people who need your help right now. Maybe try caring about the difference between right and wrong, because if you don’t stand up for what’s right, who will? Or, as they say, maybe there will be no one left to stand up for you.

You may feel overwhelmed. This is such a huge issue, where can you even begin? I know, I feel the same way. I literally have no idea what I could possibly do to help. But that is absolutely not an excuse to do nothing. We can pray. We can donate to those charities that are actually trying to do something to help (link below). And you, reader, can find something – anything at all – to do. It doesn’t matter how insignificant or unhelpful it may seem, any action you take, any small step towards helping these people who are suffering is better than sitting around on your ass in intentional apathy.

To donate to Christian refugees:

To read more about the Kurds fighting against ISIS:

Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Love of the Father Part I: Abandonment

Today is Father’s Day. And it’s a Sunday. Anyone who attends church on a regular basis knows that this means it’s time for your pastor to stand up and talk about how God is the greatest, most loving Father of all!!! Yay!!! But all this talk about the amazing, unconditional love of God reminds me of a belief common to most Christians that I have had a very hard time understanding. I have a big problem with the belief that while Jesus was on the cross, he was forsaken by his Father. They say that when Jesus was crucified, he became sin, and since God is so holy that He cannot even be close to sin, of course He turned His face away. It’s supposed to represent both how completely good God is and how much Jesus loved us to go through this ordeal to the point where even God forsook him.

But, as I mentioned, I have a huge problem with that. First of all, literally the entire purpose of the Bible is to demonstrate that God always and unfailingly loves us and that nothing we do could make Him abandon us. He sacrificed His only son for us, so why would He turn around and abandon aforementioned son. If He’s so deathly allergic to sin, why did He not just destroy humanity after the Fall and be done with this sin business once and for all. Why does the Bible consistently say (and show) that God does not abandon us? And why in the name of everything that’s holy should we expect God to be with us in our darkest moments, the moments that we feel like everything that is dark and there is no light in our minds, when he was so quick to abandon His son on the cross, the son in whom He was “well-pleased,” the son who said “not my will but Yours be done.” We can never ever claim the kind of goodness that Jesus presented, and if Jesus wasn’t good enough for God, how can we ever be?

Sure, you can make an argument for the idea that we don’t become sin when we mess up because we are redeemed by Christ, and when Jesus became sin, he made it impossible for us to ever truly become sin, so therefore we will never be abandoned, but the question that arises from that idea is are we redeemed before we’ve even repented? And if we are not, aren’t we also “become sin” before we repent? Or if we’ve rejected God and refused to turn back to Him or even believe in His existence, then what? Are we just totally screwed at that point? God just says “well okay if that’s the choice you want to make” and abandons us? I don’t think so.

If you find yourself agreeing with me (or at least find your interest even slightly piqued), please join me on my (long) journey to make sense out of this apparent contradiction. (If not, I suggest you skip this post and possibly a few others.) Our first step should be to talk about the language used here. Let me quickly note before I begin that there is some debate over whether or not Jesus spoke Mishnaic Hebrew or Aramaic, but in regards to these specific words, I’ve found that the distinction is fairly irrelevant because both languages actually end up translating the words into the same English words. Eli obviously is addressing God directly. Lama means “why” or “for what purpose.” Okay, that was easy enough. The last word is a little harder. See, while sabachthani (related to the Aramaic shebaq, as we'll talk about later) is used in both Matthew and Mark, that’s not the same word used in the Psalm. David uses the Hebrew word azavthani (the root of which is azab) in Psalm 22.

Both of these words are translated “forsaken” in the two examples that I’m using, but there is more nuance to the difference between these words. To understand the meaning of azab a bit better, let’s look at the context of other uses of the word. In Genesis 28, when God is speaking to Jacob, He promises that He will not leave – azab – Jacob until He has fulfilled His promise. In Deuteronomy, God instructs the Israelites not to leave – azab – the Levites alone because they have no inheritance. The word azab primarily means “forsaken,” although it is used occasionally to mean something along the lines of “left behind for a specific purpose.” However, as with any apparent Biblical ambiguity, we can use the context of the word to determine which meaning the word has.

The meaning of shebaq, on the other hand, is a bit easier to determine. As mentioned above, the words sabachthani is simply the Greek translation for the Aramaic word shebaq; actually, sabachthani is only used in those two instances in Matthew and Mark. Since there are no other verses which use sabachthani, we have to look at the Aramaic version shebaq to accurately determine the meaning of the word.

Shebaq is used in 5 instances in the Old Testament: Ezra 6:7, Daniel 2:44, Daniel 4:15, Daniel 4:23, and Daniel 4:26. In all of these verses, shebaq is always referring to leaving something behind – not forsaking it, but leaving it behind for its own purpose. 
According to Strong’s concordance, shebaq means “to allow to remain, to leave, to let alone.” To shebaq something is not to abandon it. 

However, while these differences must be noted, the fact still remained that Jesus used the Aramaic (or Hebrew) version of the English word “leave.” There are so many nuances to the word that could completely change the meaning of what he was trying to say, so why didn’t he just use a more specific word to remove all doubt or ambiguity?

Before I move to directly answering that question, I have a question for you. When I say “The Lord is my shepherd,” what do you think of? Probably Psalm 23, and not just the beginning of it, but the entire Psalm as a whole. I’ll even bet that after you read “The Lord is my shepherd,” your mind automatically thought “I shall not want.” If I say “It is a truth universally acknowledged,” your brain may have supplied the rest of the sentence. Same with other famous beginnings: “It was the best of times…” “It was a bright cold day in April…” and so on. Some writings are so well-known that all you need to do is quote the first line, and everyone knows what you’re talking about. Your audience will fill in the blanks, prompted only by your reference.

Back in the day, the Hebrew texts were as well-known as our own classic literature. One needed only to quote the first line of a section of the Scriptures, and the audience would know what the rest of that text said. In using language that directly quoted the first line of Psalm 22, Jesus was drawing attention to the entire Psalm, just like how if I say “The Lord is my shepherd,” you immediately think of the entire Psalm 23. Look at the crucifixion record and compare it with the Psalm, it is almost the same account. In places, they use the same words. Let me provide a short example for you.

Psalm 22
All who see me mock me; they wag their heads (verse 7)
[Those who mock said] He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him (v. 8)
They divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots (v. 18)

Matthew 27
And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads (verse 39)
[Those who mock said] He trusts in God; let God deliver him now (v. 43)
Then they crucified him, and divided his garments, casting lots (v. 35)

And as if that weren’t enough, verse 15 of Psalm 22 says “my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth,” referring to Jesus’ “I thirst,” and in verse 16, the speaker says “they pierced my hands and my feet,” exactly what happened during the crucifixion. This is what Jesus was referencing; not that one single passage as a stand-alone commentary on his situation, but the message of the Psalm as a whole.

And hey, while you’re at it, let’s keep reading, so we can get the complete picture of what Jesus was trying to tell his audience. In verse 24, the psalmist states “He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; nor has He hidden His face from him.” Nor has He hidden His face from him. And if we continue on to verses 25-31 (the ending section of the Psalm), we can see that the conclusion of the Psalm is quite a bit more optimistic than the first line might make us think. “They shall praise the LORD who seek him…. All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD … for the kingdom is the LORD’s…. They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this.”

This is not a Psalm of defeat, of abandonment, of Jesus being alone and forsaken by the One who loved him. This is a victory cry! Jesus was despised, scorned, tortured, and killed, but not ever abandoned by God for even one second.  Because, as numerous examples from the Bible tell us, God is not in the habit of abandoning those He loves. Read Deuteronomy 31:8, Joshua 1:9, basically the entire book of Psalms, John 16:32, Hebrews 13:5, and you can look up even more examples if you’d like. But in every instance, you will find that God constantly remains with those that He loves.

It’s not, perhaps, a type of love that we can fully understand. We’re only human, our minds can only comprehend a finite amount of love. For us, there’s always a point at which love comes to an end, abandoning the person who is loved. But our amazing, infinite Creator does not and will not ever run out of love. His love does not include abandonment. His love is perfect, unfailing, and forever. More on this coming soon.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Crazy Little Thing Called Love

Hey folks! So I’m going to try to lighten the mood of my blog with this week’s post and talk about something that makes us all happy: love and relationships. Quite a few of my friends have recently gotten themselves into partly long-distance relationships (also known as school relationships during the summer when we all go back home) and I am currently in a long distance almost relationship (I’m not even going to try to explain that one). Plus a lot of friends are getting married, which is weirding me out a little bit, but there it is. Anyway, in light of all of this, I thought I would present to you a few thoughts on how to maintain a long distance relationship, even if it’s only long distance for a few months in the year. Feel free to also apply these tips to relationships which are not long distance.

  • Make God your very first priority – and check yourself to make sure you’re actually keeping Him first. I can tell you with complete certainty that if you two don’t share the same priorities and goals, either you or your relationship will fall into chaos. Something has to give. If you want your life to be about God, your relationship will need to as well. This can take whatever form you like – you can read the Bible together, pray together, share new ideas with each other, discuss things, etc. Whatever floats your boat.
  • Learn how your partner gives/receives love and then act in such a way that will make them happy. I would suggest taking the love languages test (it’s free! and awesome), but that’s not a requirement. It does make things a lot easier.
  •  Spend time together. Quality time is hugely important. At first, you’re getting to know each other, which you can’t do without spending time together. And as you get further into your relationship, you need to continue to let this person know that they are important to you, and nothing says you care like taking time out of your oh-so-busy life to devote solely to that person, even if it’s just a phone call once a week. But also…
  • Take some time to be apart. Yes, you making time for them is so so important, but you’re also not attached at the hip and you are still your own person. So while you do need to grow together, you also need to continue to grow as individuals. Also, frankly, if you spend every second together, you will get sick of each other and simultaneously drive everyone around you completely bananas. Trust me, you don’t need to be texting every second you’re awake.
  • Stick up for each other! This is an obvious one, but it can also be overlooked really easily. You’re getting to know this flawed human being, and you probably know more about their little flaws and imperfections than anyone else, so of course it’s easy to complain about them or even just gossip about them to your friends. But not only does that bring negativity into your relationship, it destroys trust between the two of you. If all you talk about is the stuff they’re bad at, of course they’re not going to trust you with everything that they are. Additionally, don’t let your friends badmouth them. This can be a tough one if you guys are all friends because you’re used to speaking the truth to each other and about each other. But just don't. Don't do it and don't tolerate it.
  • Be sickeningly romantic and cute. You’re in a relationship for goodness sake. You’re allowed to show people that you care about each other. Maybe don’t start planning your wedding after one month of dating (at least not out loud), but hey! Be cute! The people around you are happy for you, and the people who don’t know you are probably jealous of how cute you are. Own it.

Some other fun activities that you can look forward to doing together when you see each other again and may not be as highly recommended as the above tips but can give you some date ideas if you’re stuck and don’t know what to do:

  • Physical exertion. You can work out together, go hiking together, or (my personal favorite) maybe even go dancing together. You get to spend time together and get in shape! And you know what they say, couples who sweat together stay together. (Disclaimer: I have no idea if that’s something they say or not. It just sounds like it works and supports my point well.)
  • Find some community service that you guys can do together. Not every date has to be all about you two.
  • Do something completely cliché at least once. Go see a movie, grab some ice cream afterwards. Go on a picnic in a meadow somewhere. Watch the sunset on the beach. Whatever.
  • Do something completely novel at least once. Would either of you two normally ever spend the day reenacting Groundhog Day in public as a two man show? I don’t think so. Try it!
  • Make sure you dress up for each other sometimes. Watching a movie in sweatpants and calling it a “date” might work once in a while, but taking time to put on heels or a nice tie will show the other person that you care enough about them to look nice when you’re with them. And there are so few chances to really dress up anyway, so why waste the opportunity when it comes along?
  • Cook together. Who here doesn’t like food? If you’re opening your mouth with a smartass comment, you’re lying. Everyone likes food. If you absolutely must, you can make something healthy, but consider that you could also make comfort food, and that would probably be more fun.
  • Just sit and read together. Or just sit together. Be comfortable in silence.
  • Play a cooperative board game together, preferably one that’s a little stressful. Nothing teaches you more about how something thinks than cooperative board games and watching how they act under stress. This can teach you what to expect and how to act when they have to deal with actual stress in their lives. And if you win, that’s just the icing on top of the cake! (I would stay away from Monopoly though, just in case.)
  • Switch up roles. If one of you normally plans the dates, let the other person plan and take charge of the date. If one of you normally pays, let the other person pay. If one of you normally drives, let the other person drive. (Unless the other person is a terrible driver and you maybe want to finish out this date still breathing. Then you can drive.)
Pro tip: If you’ve completed all of the above activities and you’re really still stuck on what to do, sit down together and make a list of all of the activities you did as a kid or all of the activities you always wanted to try when you were a kid. Do those activities.

Extra pro tip: If you’ve done all of those activities too and you’re still stuck, flip to a random page in the dictionary, point to a random word, and try to plan a date that somehow relates back to that word.

Super fantastic pro tip: Don’t be afraid to go out on a limb with your date ideas! If it goes well, good for you! If it doesn’t, you’ll have some great bonding time as a couple and a hilarious story to tell everyone.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Evangelism Part II: On Ships, Prayers, and the Memory of Last Year's Ashes

In Part I of this post, I revealed some fascinating information about my personality and politics which ultimately led to me asking the question “Why do I talk about politics more than I talk about the savior of the world?” I promised a response within six months. Two and a half months later, my answer:

I am afraid.

If I was writing as my usual defensive self, I would try to put a joke in here. I would try to downplay my whole serious tone. I would probably say something along the lines of “This is the point where I give you a moment to roll your eyes, scoff, or do whatever floats your boat to show derision within the next five seconds.” (Fun fact: that may or may not have been the exact phrasing in my original draft.)

But I’m not doing that this time.

Instead, this is the point where I give you a moment to join me in my confession of weakness. A moment to exist in humility with me. A moment to collect your courage and find what you’re afraid of. Because unless we can find the courage to first admit that we are afraid, we will be stuck. We will never be able to pray “Disturb us, Lord, when our dreams have come true because we dreamed too little.” We will forever be ships anchored to the shore, too terrified to let go and believe that the One who created this very sea will be there to save us when the storms hit.

And so we don’t let go. We hold on to safety until our knuckles turn white, we squeeze our eyes shut and pretend that we don’t see Jesus calling us from outside the boat. Because if you don’t see it, it’s not real. Right? And all we’re left with is the shriveled desire to follow God and the overwhelming feeling of emptiness on Ash Wednesday when your pastor says “give something to God for Lent” and you can’t think of a damn thing because you haven’t let yourself be disturbed.

I read a blog post a few years ago, a poem about all the things we’re supposed to do, the ways we’re expected to act. The author – getting ready to be married at an age most people consider too young to even consider dating seriously – wrote “Ready is for people who trust in themselves, who want to live small and safe lives. Freedom is for people who trust in the One who made them, who want to live lives too big to be ready for.” Sure, being ready might relieve you of (some of) your fear, but God has plans that you may never, ever be ready for. Are you okay with missing out on those plans just because you don’t feel ready? I’m not.

Exactly 461 days ago, I wrote that I had hit a wall in my own self development because “I was too busy making excuses.” In attempting to follow the traditions of Ash Wednesday, I discovered that I couldn’t find anything to fix because I didn’t want to fix anything. I was comfortable. I was afraid of change. And to most people, that just makes sense. Who would voluntarily give up a life of ease, a life of comfort, to endure the pain and terror of the unknown – just for the sake of following the will of God?

I can think of someone.

In light of that, I will – to the best of my ability – cast my fear aside and take one step closer to trusting God, one step further away from the safety of the shore. I don’t claim to be ready, but I am here. And you may not be ready either, but I can walk with you and you can walk with me, and we can remind each other that God’s perfect love casts out fear. So come here, stand next to me, join me in my voyage out into the endless immensity of the open and unknown sea. Are we ready? Absolutely not. But that’s kind of the point.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Like a Summer Reading Challenge, But Instead a Summer Writing Challenge

Hi folks!

So I'm trying to use this summer to challenge myself to build better study habits (and just better life habits in general), and I have decided that part of this challenge will include me reading one book per week and writing one blog post per week for the entire summer. My posts may or may not be about the book I'm reading, but it will be a post on this blog. I'm asking you, as my Very Important Readers, to hold me to this promise of one exciting new post per week, to perhaps shoot me a text or message or email or letter by carrier pigeon if I have not posted within the week.

And to those readers who think in sarcasm and have already considered how exactly to send a letter by carrier pigeon, I'll give you +10 importance points if a pigeon arrives on my doorstep with a letter from you. What a deal, right?

Disclaimer: This post may or may not count for this week depending on whether I can finish my next post by tomorrow night.