Category Archives: Challenge

Hmmm. I must be getting old.

Admist the swirling maelstrom that has become my life in the last few months, I have had a few moments of peace. During those bits of time, I have composed maybe 6 essays in my head, outlined about half of a potential sermon, thought about a surefire entrepreneurial business strategy, and won some heated arguments against my own conceptions of the anti-me. At these little times in my life, I feel pretty brilliant. I feel blessed with wisdom. I feel spiritually gifted and inspired to share this “gift” with others and maybe try my hand at saving the world.

So I remembered that I haven’t posted a blog since maybe November? I thought, during one of these times of stillness, “well now I have plenty of ideas, all laid out neatly. I just need to sit and write them down.”

Well, here I am sitting and writing….but not remember what it was that I intended to sit and write! I don’t even remember half of the good ideas that I had during my quiet times of sitting in a waiting room, lying awake at night or in a long car ride.

Then I realized I’ve been forgetting a lot of things. I almost forgot my own birthday a couple weeks ago. Thankfully I have a husband who remembered for me. And I’ve forgotten some very simple things that seem quite foolish:

I almost left for work still wearing my slippers;

I was carrying a book, a glass, and a carton of grape juice. Intending to put down the book to pour the grape juice in the glass, I instead set down the glass and nearly poured grape juice all over my book;

I almost left my two month old son in the car, but still took his diaper bag, while about to enter the grocery store. I intended to leave the diaper bag, since it was a quick trip, and instead just take him.

I was perplexed on how to retrieve the power cord for my laptop since the large adapter part wouldn’t fit through the small slit between the desk and the wall. My esteemed colleague told me to just pull the small end of the cord down through the slit and take it out that way. Oh yeah…

And there are many more of these instances, probably more than 3 or 4 daily, that really make me look like a capable human being. Heh, in my observations of human behavior, if someone that was over 50 made these claims, they would just say “well, I’m getting old.” and shrug it off. But if I’m making these same bumbles, and I’m only freshly 27, do I not get to have an excuse? Uh-oh….this must be how I really am!

Oh well. That isn’t the point of this composition. Really, I sat down just to see if all these ideas would come back to me. Or perhaps I just needed a written record to document that I have had ideas, I just didn’t get them down in time.

Hopefully they’ll come back to me. If they really were going to help me save the world, I’m sure they’ll pop up again in another moment of sudden insight. At least, as long as I don’t descend into senility too rapidly.

My back hurts.

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Filed under Challenge, Daily Normalcy, Stress, Time management

Freedom’s little surprise

A few weeks ago, I was intrigued by a worship thought given by one of my MAU colleagues, Kris Sisodia. He had just returned from a visit in India, and had a lot of great photos and travel anecdotes that came together into practical worship thoughts. The first “thought” was my favorite, though. Our story takes place on the modern roadways of India.

Kris explained that the roads themselves are freeway-quality, comparable to many of the US’s major cities. 6 lanes, overpasses, exits, and the suburban streets are set up similarly as well. Rather nice.

Full of traffic, though. Just like here.

The best way to tell if you are in US traffic or India traffic, however, is probably the cows and the oxcarts.

cartontheroad

Yup. You’ll see the carts and cows along the roadway, sharing the same turnpike as the Corollas, Accords and Malibus. The usually go much slower, so if you’re driving by, you’ll probably want to get around them. But that can be hard to do when the traffic is like this:

traffic underpassmoretraffic

Basically, these parts of India are perfect examples of traffic anarchy. You may notice how there are lane markers, but no one is following them. There are no vehicle-type restrictions, and some people choose to just walk along the road. Not to mention, if the cows wander out onto the road, you can’t do anything to them. The cows are sacred, and must not be disturbed. Oh, and there are traffic signals, but good luck trying to go through your green light when three other cars are running their red light without a blink of an eye.

cowsonroadnolaneslilpileup

Also, Kris noted that many people still invested in nice cars. You might see BMWs and Mercedes and higher-end Toyotas, but usually the fastest you could ever get to go on these roads is about 35-40 mph….if you’re lucky. With this traffic anarchy, it doesn’t matter how fast you want to go. The cops aren’t going to stop you—but the traffic is. So all the money spent on these high-performance vehicles is pretty much wasted.

Oh, and they do have traffic rules. They even post signs of encouragement 😉

obey

It’s just that no one seems to follow them, no matter how nice the signs are. 🙂

Now Kris hardly had to summarize the symbolism in this part of his travelogue before we were all nodding our heads and saying, “ah yes, I see the connection here.”

Life is like a roadway in India.

The obvious lesson here is that the freedom to drive from A to B is increased when rules are enacted and followed. The less the rules are heeded, the less ability there is to drive safely, comfortably and even quickly!

Though some may associate anarchy with freedom, it’s not long before individual freedom is yanked away by all the other people trying to do things their own way. And we end up in a traffic jam.

In ways like this, the laws actually set us free, rather than restrict us.

I finally read Lord of the Flies last month. Cale was going over it in his sophomore literature class, and since I had never even picked it up before, I decided it was high time. The balance of rules vs freedom, of practicality vs more carnal desires, was the common theme throughout the story. People end up wanting rules. The total freedom that some twist into anarchy causes discord and fear, and people end up craving rules. Craving regulation. Yearning for order.

I’ll let y’all draw your own conclusions on how this fits into our daily lives, and our beliefs.

“To all perfection I see a limit;

but Your commands are boundless.

Oh, how I love your law!

I meditate on it all day long.

Your commands make me wiser than my enemies…”

Psalm 119: 96-98

 

 

(All photos taken by Kris. He was nice enough to share them with me.)

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Filed under Allegories, Challenge, Daily Normalcy, Logic, Spiritual Application, State of the world

What are we all arguing about?

Really, I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. I even scratched out an epiphany on the back of a bulletin while at church in St. Joseph, Missouri, since the words just came to me all at once–stream of consciousness style. Soon after, I thought, “I’m glad I finally wrote this down. Now I can do something about it.” I planned to blog about it. But then just thinking about it made me weary. I realized, I am just very weary of this subject in general. When it comes to differences between denominations, especially denominations that have experience with ex-Adventists, this seems to be where we argue:

“Are we under law or under grace?”

“What commandments still stand today?”

“Are we still required to keep the literal, 7th-day Sabbath?”

Most of the time I just want to throw up my hands at both sides. Forgive me if my tone here is not incredibly tactful or smooth, but this is the state of mind I am in when I think about this, and I can’t wait any longer to write it down.

We’re not getting anywhere on this argument. Sometimes it even feels like the other side is winning because there are more of them than there are us. But we’re not coming to any common ground because we’re hovering over the deeper, SIMPLER issue. First I ask, “why NOT keep the Sabbath? Why wouldn’t we want to?” or “Why NOT keep the 10 commandments?”

If we start at the other end, I think we’ll get farther than just arguing the original question. Honestly I’m still surprised that there are people that are so against the Sabbath. To me, that seems like the most nonthreatening “law” there is! Obviously those that are in a spirit of rebellion over the Sabbath are reacting against the way our own culture has made it, not the Biblical guidelines (which I think are made intentionally vague!!!)

Anyway, we are told all throughout the Bible, especially in the New Testament, how to treat people. We find out what the fruits of the Spirit are. And we are told in many places Who the One True God is. If we live by those words and principles, we may find ourselves ENDING UP keeping the 10 commandments! Not because “it’s the law” but because it’s smart! Because it makes sense. The principles are there! And they are even recognized by most of society as the “right” things to do!

And on the other end of things, if we notice a person “breaking a commandment” and repeatedly falling into habits that are self-destructive or could make life difficult for them, we want to “restore them gently” because we CARE for this person’s WELL-BEING! And, foreseeing possible challenges in the future based on his or her behavior, we want to HELP them, not to police them or humiliate them. (If the latter is EVER the intention, than you are in much bigger trouble that wondering if you are under law or under grace. That is just plain the Wrong Spirit. Most anywhere in the Bible will tell you that.)

We don’t need to be debating this, really. Perhaps the devil is WANTING us to get caught up in the details. Yes, Paul does make a lot of references to “the law” and being “under the law or under grace.” I suppose that means that we are not to forget about the law and that we are to know its place in our lives. Because really, we only need a law when things are getting out of control and need regulation or clarification (and I’d say the world is a bit out of control!). If we daily live by the fruits of the Spirit, being guided by God Himself, we eventually won’t even NEED the words of the law to tell us to do what is right. It will be in us.

Test it. I dare you.

Good to read:

James 3:17

Galatians 5:22

Hebrews 4:9

Acts 18:1-4

Colossians 3

Deuteronomy 6

And so many more….

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Filed under Argument, Challenge, Daily Normalcy, Logic, Spiritual Application, State of the world

The Unknown’s Gravitational Pull

Knowledge is Power

Is it?
Is it really?

Now, I’m not referring to the normal and necessary pursuit of studies and exercising of common sense. I’m talking about simply….Knowing Things. Or rather, the not knowing of things. And why that can be better.

First off, on a silly little note, have you noticed how happy naive people are? Have you experienced how you can have such a wonderfully carefree time being around those that have no clue (or at least no intention of thinking about) all the deeper, sadder, depressing things going on in the world? Or have you observed how liberating it is when you choose to not know something, or at the very least choose not to worry about it? Sometimes I feel like those people are more powerful than a person like me, who has wasted much of her time worrying about things that I don’t have anything to do with or trying to find out things that I have no real need of knowing.

OK, before a bunch of you Knowers out there retort with your list of the profound gifts of knowledge, expounding on how precious the knowledge is, and how you would never give it up even for the greatest happiness because of all the parts of you that would be lost in the process, about all the new connections you have to the universe and possibly to God, as depressing as some of the facets of knowledge are that you would never relinquish it…well, you guys can be quiet for now.

I’m not saying that you Knowers are wrong. And I’m not about to say that ignorance is blissful enough to be meaningful or smart, or even close to a good way to live life. No. I am not an extremist. What I am posing is this: Knowledge may be power, but perhaps it is power we shouldn’t always feel we need to tap into. Or, we shouldn’t always feel like we deserve to know all things.

One good example is near the end of Jesus’ physical ministry on Earth. His disciples needed to know what was going to happen to Him. However, He wouldn’t just sit down and spill it all out on them. He knew that, at that time, it would be too much for them. He knew that if He said too much too soon, it would prove futile because their current understandings of His great purpose wouldn’t be able to hold it for what it’s worth.
“There is so much more I want to tell you, but you can’t bear it now,” Jesus spoke in John 16:12.

That’s just one angle of my point: strategic withholding of knowledge. I’ve heard many arguments against Jesus’ fairness that stemmed from this verse. One person said that if Jesus was fair and really loving, He wouldn’t be so arrogant with His power as to ration it out like that, He should tell all and let everyone deal with it. No, I disagree. I’d rather have someone care about me enough to value my own understanding of such an important concept that they would nurture my process of learning. However, I certainly can relate to the opposing viewpoint. If I find out that there is something that someone (anyone, really) knows that I do not, I don’t care what it is or even how relevant it is to my life, I WANT TO KNOW IT! How annoying. I guess it’s a human tendency. But how much hassle would I save myself (and others too, probably) if I wasn’t such a baby about it. (I want i want i want!) It’s true, I admit it. I really really like to know things. And most of those things I probably didn’t really need to know.

Or, on the shallower side of things, don’t you just love being surprised? I’m not talking about near-scary surprises that can attack the heart, and I’m also not addressing bad or tragic surprises. But when something unexpected happens that turns out to be nice, it makes it all that much nicer because it was unexpected. Sometimes I’ll find out about something nice that is going to happen and it takes some of the niceness away because now I know about it. Or one year when it was nearing my birthday, I caught wind of something my friends were discussing. I didn’t actually know if it was about my birthday or not (turned out it wasn’t…) but it sounded like it could have been, and what was mentioned sounded nice. So here I was expecting a certain kind of something to happen, and it didn’t. Something else happened that was equally as awesome, but it didn’t seem as wonderful to me because I was getting excited about something else. I wish I never knew of that Something Else, because it almost ruined my Something Real.

In that sense, Knowledge’s wonderful power can be slightly dangerous if it is misused or misinterpreted. Or at least it can be a disappointment. And I’m sure you can come up with your own examples relating to my silly little example situation. But situations like that can also be slightly altered and transformed into an actual serious situation, so demonstrating the aforementioned danger of too much knowledge.

Also, as great a creation as we human beings are, we are not really that awesome. We could be, but as we are now, we are most definitely not. We have no business knowing Good from Evil. Heck, we’re having trouble enough with that right now on earth. That’s what’s behind this whole mess we’re in. We asked to learn good and evil, and we are right in the thick of this knowledge. Life could be paradise (as intended) if we weren’t so darned curious about evil. But there we go again….just because there’s something we don’t know, we automatically want to know it, as proven way back when.

So, in closing, here are some things I’ve learned, in short:

Knowledge is Power, but not such that we are automatically entitled.

and

Get over yourself. You don’t need to know everything. It’s not your job.

and, to quote The Rock: “We’re on a need-to-know basis, and you don’t need to know.”

Ok. I’m done scolding myself.
Keep it real, everybody. May your days be full of pleasant surprises.

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Filed under Challenge, Logic, Spiritual Application, State of the world, the Bible

First we had the X-Games, now we have X-logic?

Lately, I’ve noticed a trend in arguments. Not just with Christians, but with most people in general. Each side seems to stand on either side of the see-saw, and instead of leveling things out, the see-saw just goes up and down. Here’s an example:

Guy 1: “Maybe we shouldn’t be so strict on our office dress code.”

Guy 2: “So you think our employees should just be able to wear whatever they want? That’s so unprofessional! We have to look our best.”

Ok, do you really think that Guy 1 made that suggestion with the intent of employees “wearing whatever they want?” Most likely, Guy 1  just wanted to be able to forgo his suit coat after office arrival, or lessen the requirement to wear a tie every single day. But, as is the trend I see these days, the other arguer seems to assume the extreme.

Here’s another example:

Guy 1: “Some day, I would like to play my instrument for church. My instrument is percussion.”

Guy 2: “So you think we should just rock out for our worship services? That’s so irreverent! Church should not turn into a rock concert.”

I know, I went there. Truthfully, I don’t even like talking about worship styles because it never seems to go anywhere and there are so many more important things to tackle, but it just fit here. I myself am a percussionist, so I can relate. Now I’m not actively trying to get my drumset into the sanctuary (even though sometimes the organ does need a little foundational rhythm so we can all hit the same note at the same time!), but if I happen to be talking to someone who is against drums in church, they assume that since I play drums, I would automatically want to play super loud and be the center of attention and try to turn the worship service into a contemporary Christian concert. Personally, I would rather hide in an orchestra pit and pound out a no-frills, fundamental meter to guide other instruments (as is the primary purpose of percussion). I think every instrument should blend together to make a balanced, harmonious sound, not necessarily have one ring out over everyone else. But often times, the extreme is assumed just because of the word “drums.”

Here’s another example I heard just before the election:

Woman 1: “I think I might vote for Obama.”

Guy 1: “You would vote for someone who wants to kill babies? That’s very unlike you! Don’t you realize he’s pro-choice?”

In this conversation, Guy 1 seems to think that if you aren’t pro-life, you are pro-abortion. No, pro-choice doesn’t mean you like abortion. That seems obvious. But I’ve heard this kind of argument even before this conversation. I’ve heard this kind of “Xtreme” Logic in waaaay too many places. It drives me batty. Have we lost our common sense?

Xtreme logic seems to be infiltrating our thought processes, whether it is about politics, personal opinions, or religion. Where did this come from? Why do we tend to assume the worst, way on the other end of the spectrum, if someone disagrees with us? Why do we take things so personally? Why do we get so defensive? Why are we so paranoid?

I hope we don’t forget that our God is a God of balance. We are advised in Ecclesiastes 7:18 that “18 It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. The man who fears God will avoid all extremes.”

We should always stand our ground on our beliefs, but let’s also try to avoid this “X-logic.”

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Filed under Challenge, Daily Normalcy, Spiritual Application, State of the world, Stress

If only they’d look a little closer…

There’s a country song that is played on the radio quite frequently, and it’s lyrics make me sad. It shows a common mentality of average joes these days. The song is Everybody Wants to go to Heaven by Kenny Chesney. Here are the lyrics:

Preacher told me last Sunday mornin’
“Son, you better start livin’ right:”
You need to quit the women and whiskey
And carrying on all night.”

Don’t you wanna hear him call your name,
When you’re standin’ at the pearly gates?
I told the preacher, “Yes I do”
But I hope they don’t call today
I ain’t ready

Everybody wants to go to heaven
Have a mansion high above the clouds
Everybody wants to go to heaven
But nobody want to go now

Said, “Preacher maybe you didn’t see me
Throw an extra twenty in the plate.
There’s one for everything I did last night,
And one to get me through today.
Here’s a ten to help you remember
Next time you got the good Lord’s ear
Say I’m comin’, but there ain’t no hurry
I’m havin’ fun down here.
Don’t you know that!

Everybody wants to go to heaven
Get their wings and fly around
Everybody want to go to heaven
But nobody want to go now

Someday I want to see those streets of gold in my halo
But I wouldn’t mind waiting at least a hundred years or so

Everybody wanna go to heaven
It beats the other place there ain’t no doubt
Everybody wanna go to heaven
But nobody wanna go now

Everybody wanna go to heaven
Hallelujah, let me hear you shout
Everybody wanna go to heaven
But nobody wanna go now
I think I speak for the crowd.

Obviously this guy hasn’t looked too closely at what it means to be a real Believer, a true Christian, following Christ. Some people like to leave it at the imagery of halos and harps, not applying the grace and guidance and Abundant Life to daily life. Really, it just makes me sad. But it alerts me to a view on Christianity that is still common in society, that I need to be prepared to reach. Now that I’ve heard this song, I better make it a personal mission and prayer request to live out what we so affectionately call the “Joy of the Lord,” praising Him when things are good and looking to Him when things are tough. Sharing the happiness and contentedness I get from putting trust in an all-knowing, all-powerful God and not worrying about “chasing after the wind” (here it is again!) or other vanities of life that distract the attention of millions. For some individuals I come in contact with, I never know if I’m the only one they might witness that is a committed Christian, experiencing the Peace that only God gives (that surpasses understanding), and the joy that comes from that Peace.

I guess some examples could be everyday conversations when I’m out and about. That’s what I need to work on. When I’m at the post office, buying vitamins at Walgreens or asking for a price check at the grocery store. Can my patience be detected? Can my love for humanity and burden for souls be picked up on, in one small way or another? When I’m with my volleyball team, when I’m performing with my country dance team, when I meet with friends that don’t belong to a church? I guess that’s my challenge for myself, and for everyone, really. Go out and connect with people. You don’t have to make friends with everybody, you don’t have to become an extrovert. But you can live out the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), the commands of Colossians 3, the mindset of Philippians 4:8, and some more of my favorites, Matthew 5:16 and 1 Peter 2:12. I’m making those my daily instructions.

Hopefully we can show people that God’s grace can’t be bought by money or “make-up good deeds,” and that Heaven and following Jesus Christ is more than just singing with a harp and getting a halo someday.

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Filed under Allegories, Challenge, Daily Normalcy, Music, Spiritual Application, State of the world, the Bible

Well Said! (or sung)

I just can’t get over the powerful message of the lyrics of this song:

He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother
The road is long…
With many a winding turn,
That leads us to who knows where,
Who knows where.
But I’m strong,
Strong enough to carry him.
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

So on we go…
His welfare is of my concern.
No burden is he to bear,
We’ll get there.
For I know
He would not encumber me:
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

If I’m laden at all

I’m laden with sadness

That everyone’s heart

Isn’t filled with the gladness

Of love for one another


It’s a long, long road
From which there is no return
While we’re on the way to there
Why not share

And the load
Doesn’t weigh me down at all
He ain’t heavy he’s my brother
He’s my brother
He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

Just the whole idea that the weight of the burden is irrelevant, because all that matters is the relationship.

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2

“Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.” 1 Peter 3:8

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Filed under Allegories, Challenge, Daily Normalcy, Music, Spiritual Application, State of the world, the Bible