Sunday, September 2, 2012


Together feels so natural
except when you're not there.
You vanish in a second's time
and leave but just a stare.
Your body sits alongside mine,
but who knows where you go;
Connections disconnecting us,
our friend become our foe.

The cool light shines upon your face,
revealing your faint grin;
I know I didn't bring it there.
I'm lost amongst the din
Of silent words and tacit thoughts,
cut off from what you see.
Your fingers push us far apart,
tear you away from me.

Return to me at last my love,
if love there yet can be.
I long to live inside your thoughts;
reveal them all to me.
You by my side is not enough
I cannot think it fair.
Together feels so natural
except when you're not there.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Life's Not Fair

One of the things my dad would tell us kids when we complained that one of our siblings got to do something we didn't, or when we saw other kids having fun that we weren't allowed to have was "Life's not fair." I was reintroduced to this concept when studying the lives of the early apostles, namely Peter and James. Both were very close to Jesus, as they along with John comprised the three apostles who Jesus brought with Him to the transfiguration. However, they met different fates. Peter was imprisoned with John by the Sanhedrin as recorded in Acts 5, but then angels delivered him by night. Peter was imprisoned by Herod Agrippa, and again angels delivered him by night. Acts 12 then states that James, on the other hand, was imprisoned by Herod Agrippa and beheaded.


Why so different? Why does Peter get delivered two times, yet James gets martyred? Wasn't Peter the one denying Jesus, cursing at the very thought that he and Jesus were friends? (Mk 14:71) And wasn't James the one that did the opposite, desiring to call down fire to judge a city that didn't give Jesus his due? (Lk 9:51-56) Yet Peter gets spared, and James doesn't.

There's no reason why. Life's not fair, because God's ways are higher than our ways. (Is 55:9) As the clay, we have no grounds to complain to our Potter that we're not made into the form we desire. (Is 45:9) It's tough to know that we're not in control, because we like to think we know better than God, when we know that's not really the case - even when we're given decisions to make, we still mess things up and do things we wish we hadn't done. We can, however, take heart in knowing that God is infinitely wise, kind beyond measure, and loves those who love Him (Pr 8:17); therefore we can willingly cast all our cares about "fairness" on Him, because He cares for us. (I Pt 5:7) Though we can't understand right now why He allows things to happen as they do, He's promised to work everything out for good (Rm 8:28) and I believe it.

Friday, January 6, 2012


I don't know that it's a new year's resolution, because those are so trite and usually get broken immediately. Also, I didn't start it on January 1st; it was probably closer to December 30. All I know is that this a priority of mine right now: I want to change to become a more grateful person.

Gratitude requires a certain framework of beliefs; the two I can think of off the top of my head are the need to (1) acknowledge the existence of the giver and (2) acknowledge that the gift wasn't deserved. Before you can be grateful for anything, you have to realize that there's a giver. This is easy with things like Christmas presents; they usually come with a tag on the present. (Hint: The tag gives you two options, and you're better off picking the one that isn't your name.) Sometimes the giver is anonymous, like in a Secret Santa exchange, but it's obvious that the gift came from a giver nonetheless.

Many people miss out on opportunities to be grateful because they don't realize there's a giver. Things like beautiful days, oxygen, and friendly cats don't come with a tag saying they're from God, but He's ultimately the source of all of them. If you don't believe the God of the Bible exists, or if you believe there's a god out there but he's not involved in human affairs (unlike the God of the Bible), then you see all these things as random events, and there's no way for you to be thankful for them. You can be happy for them, and excited about them, and appreciate them, but you can't be thankful.

The other requirement, as I see it, is for you to acknowledge your unworthiness, to admit you don't deserve the thing received. When you deserve something, it's not a gift - if you work 10 hours for your boss, you expect to receive a paycheck, and if you don't get it you're going to court (if you live in Minnesota, give me a call!) Gratitude only comes if you don't deserve the thing you receive. It's going to be tough for you to be grateful if you have a high estimation of yourself, because in your mind you don't receive many gifts. If you take the perspective, though, that you're nothing without God, that it's by His grace alone that you live, breathe, and exist on this earth, then suddenly everything becomes a gift.

For years now, I've believed that God exists, but I haven't had a very realistic perception of what I deserved. I was thankful for extraordinary gifts here and there, but they were few and far between. As a result of that mindset, I quickly ran out of things to be thankful for, and had the luxury to begin counting all the things I didn't have. To be entirely truthful, there are a lot of things I don't have. Right now, I don't have a job, I don't have millions of dollars, I don't have fame, and on and on and on. There are legitimately a lot of things I could have but don't.

As soon as I changed my perspective, though, and thought of myself as not deserving anything, I found myself overwhelmed with blessings - it's as if I was buried under a mound of gifts so deep that I couldn't see beyond them to the gifts I didn't have. It was sparked by a conversation with a friend about being thankful for (forgive me) bowel movements. This friend had undergone several surgeries just to be able to engage in this basic, primal function, and there were days when the endeavor was painful for him beyond words. However, the whole experience has made him immensely grateful for something 99% of the population takes for granted every single day.

When I realized that I wasn't even entitled to the basics, everything started opening up for me; the presents rained down. I can eat, see, hear, talk, and breathe on my own - I know people who can't. Think how happy an African woman who walks 5 miles a day to fetch water would be to have any car; I should be happier than that every single day for the car I have, instead of groaning about how it got scratched up in an accident recently. I don't deserve it; I don't deserve any of the blessings in my life, but that's why I can also be exceedingly happy for them. Think of all the happiness I've been missing out on by assuming that things came to me by chance, and by assuming that I deserved them. Just changing my perspective on those two little things has been giving me so much joy lately, and I hope you can experience it too.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Right outside my bedroom window sits a light. Supposedly, it illuminates the apartment unit's walkway and deters would-be felons from walking off with my stuff. However, there's one minor problem: it doesn't. Whether a result of poor wiring or a manufacturing error, the bulb gradually grows brighter and brighter until it reaches full strength, then shuts off. This means that my bedroom also starts off dark, grows brighter and brighter, then becomes immediately dark again. Needless to say, it annoys me to no end. It makes it very difficult to go to sleep, and as far as my apartment's security goes, I can imagine a would-be thief behaving like a WWII prisoner of war trying to escape a German Stalag - timing the lights to know just how long he has to run in, grab my stuff, and run out.

I've been thinking lately, however, about double-mindedness. The malfunctioning light presents the perfect example of why trying to be two opposite things is ultimately worthless - you wind up failing at each. The light would be great for my sleeping environment if it were always off, and it would be great for my apartment's security if it were always on. As it now stands, though, it does neither job (and annoys me in the process).

The Bible has a lot to say about double-mindedness. Revelations 3 springs to mind, where the Lord calls out the church at Laeodicea for being lukewarm. The believers there didn't burn with passion for the Lord, but at the same time they didn't alienate themselves from Christ and His name, either. Instead, they played it right down the middle - being hypocritical and lukewarm; "having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof." If they lit up the skies with love for God, they'd warmly draw the world to Him. By their double-mindedness and fence-sitting, however, they both made His name odious to the unbelieving world (who can't stand hypocrites) and also discouraged other fiery Christians. God said they needed to get on fire or get out of the way, but since they continued to inhabit the middle He was going to vomit them up.

The Israelites play this part to a tee. I read this afternoon how God delivered them out of Egypt with so many signs and wonders, and for a time they truly rejoiced in Him. The song Moses and the people sing in Exodus 15 gets my blood pumping: "The Lord is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation; He is my God, and I will praise Him; My father's God, and I will exalt Him." No less than three days later, they grumble and complain about not having any water. As I read it, I wanted to shout, "Hello?!? You're saying He can save you from the fiercest army in the world at the time (think of an army today with 600 elite armored tank units closing on a group of boy scouts) but you can't trust Him to save you from thirst? Do you really think the God who rolled back the waters of the Red Sea and produced dry ground will fail miserably when it comes to doing the opposite and providing you with water in the desert?" Ridiculous.

Yet for all my outrage, I'm guilty of doing the same thing. I believe God one day, and doubt Him the next. I find His strength in this area, but rely on myself in another situation. James addresses this in his discourse on trials:
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
As much fun as riding roller coasters brings, we wouldn't want to ride them all day every day of our lives; we ultimately like firmness and stability. God seeks the same thing - He doesn't want a bride who can't make up her mind, or who plays daisy games--"I love Him, I love Him not; I trust Him, I trust Him not", or who runs back and forth constantly between His arms and the pigpen. Let's read His promises and remember that He's worthy of being trusted all the time. That He deserves all of our time, money, and talents. That He's the single Person in our lives who, just by knowing Him, brings us true joy, happiness, and fulfillment. Make Him our all, since He gave His all for us.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Oregon Trail, Modern Version

Pick your Occupation
Then: banker, doctor, merchant, pharmacist, blacksmith, carpenter, prospector, farmer, and teacher
Now: Troll, Defender, Conspiracy Theorist, Correcter, Geek, Nerd, Idiot

Buying Supplies
Then: Welcome to Fort Laramie! Would you like to purchase a wagon wheel?
Now: Welcome to Best Buy! Would you like to purchase a hard drive?

Obtaining supplies outside of the regular course of business
Then: trade supplies with the Indians
Now: trade deficit with the Chinese

Daily life
Then: Meager versus decent versus hearty rations
Now: Dialup versus DSL versus broadband internet connection

Then: Bobby has a broken leg. Sally died from influenza.
Now: McAfee has detected a virus on your system. Blue screen of death.

Then: You killed 1483 lbs. of food, but were only able to carry back 200.
Now: You shot 4 gigabytes of video footage, but your hard drive only has 3 gigabytes of free space remaining.

Making do
Then: Your wagon wheel has a crack; you can (1) trade 2 wagon tongues with the Indians for a new wheel or (2) wait and fix the wagon wheel yourself.
Now: Your hard drive has been corrupted; you can (1) bring it to Geek Squad or (2) borrow a friend's computer and spend 5 hours reading how to install a new drive and recover the old.

Feel free to add others in the comments.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Pop-In

A long time ago, in a Seinfeld episode far, far from recent memory, Jerry had a discourse on "the pop in," the description for an unplanned visit by a friend or family member. Jerry said he hated the pop in, but George and Elaine both loved it. In reality, the pop in was what made the show; if it weren't for Jerry's friends constantly being at his place, the show would have been limited to establishing the character's rapport through their shared meals at Mort's Diner, and it would have quickly devolved from a show about nothing to a show about waitress and food jokes.

I personally love the pop in. One of my favorite parts about living in the dorms in college for all four years was that people would constantly drop by and hang out. Nobody needed an excuse to come over, or had to call first before stopping in - they just walked through the doorway, plopped down on the couch, and sometimes said "What's happening?" As a result, our dorm had a very close community of which I have many fond memories.

I welcome that level of hospitality today - I want people to treat my house like theirs, and feel free to stop by for a visit no matter the hour or occasion, with no need to call first. I love it when people want to come over. Similarly, I love people who treat their houses the same way, who I know I could visit if I had a free afternoon or evening and they'd be happy I dropped by.

Unfortunately, that's not our culture, or at least it's not most people's culture. Why is that, I wonder? Some people just don't like visitors, feeling that their home is their fortress of solitude, the one place they're free from other people. Some people take pride in having the reputation of a completely organized person whose house is always spotless, so they only have visitors when they've had a chance to clean the house from top to bottom, which ends up being seldom if ever, and then only for "special" guests. Other people take pride in having a house that provides an appearance of wealth, and until they finish redoing that kitchen or can buy that new living room set, they don't want people to see their current standard of living. Still others take pride in being a doting host, who waits on their guest's every need, which can be a physically or emotionally draining task.

Christians are called to hospitality, and I think that means not only being open to visitors at any hour, but also encouraging them to come. There's no better way to show love to your brothers and sisters and to enjoy their fellowship than by bringing them into your house. The same goes for unbelievers - there are few better ways to show someone you care about them and are interested than to invite them to your place. Granted, there are limits - you shouldn't have to give up your every waking moment of privacy, and you shouldn't become a permanent fixture at the home of someone either, showing up right when the oven timer dings. Take the initiative today - invite people over to your house. Don't feel the need to have things be perfect, or to wait on their every wish, just take a step of faith and see how God can use it to bless you and draw you closer to your Christian siblings.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Giving up too easily

If you're a Bible-believing Christian, how should you perceive the unsaved, whom you believe are going to hell? I think some people might respond "with pity"; however, to pity them would be premature. You could pity their present state, of living in this world as an enemy of God, but you couldn't pity them for being on the road to hell, because they can always exit that road. God says that "today is the day of salvation," II Cor 6:2, and Jesus preached that even people who came to know Him at the 11th hour would receive full salvation, Matthew 20:1-16. To view them with pity would be resigning yourself to their "fate," believing them to be "destined" to hell.

Instead, I propose that Christians should view the unsaved as they would a friend who is going to make a bad decision. Now your perception of just how bad the decision could be will be impacted, of course, by how you view hell: if you think it's "heaven lite" or temporary or just a place of mild discomfort, then you'll view the gravity of their situation differently than if you believe that the Bible says hell is a place of eternal anguish, pitch black, consisting of physical and mental torture all due to the absence of God's presence.

In either case, though, Christians should be doing much more than they already are to persuade people to make the right decision, especially if they hold the latter view of hell. If there's any decision in life that a person you know could make that could make you cry, have you cried over the unsaved? If you'd stay up all night on the phone with a suicidal friend, would you make yourself 10 minutes late for dinner to stay late and talk with an unsaved coworker? Some Christians mention their faith to a co-worker, listen to the "Sorry, I'm not interested," and move on. Is that giving up too easily? Shouldn't Christians be doing more?

My initial reaction as I pondered these thoughts was to think that outright panic was justified; that would be the correlation to how I would act if I saw my brother about to jump off a bridge. Why shouldn't Christians be like that towards the unsaved? However, different reactions may be in order based on the imminence of the danger - my response to my brother standing on the ledge of a bridge would be different than my response to my brother taking up a lifestyle of chain-smoking. But is that adjustment for immediacy counteracted by the magnitude of the danger? My brother's plans to travel through western Pakistan in a red, white, and blue Uncle Same costume this summer would be as near as if he was contemplating going into business with a Nigerian prince, but one involves losing his money and the other losing his life - my attempts to persuade him that he's making a bad decision would certainly be greater in the case of the former.

Ultimately, you can debate the imminence and the extent of the danger that the unsaved face, but if you believe the Bible you can't dismiss it altogether. If you're not doing anything about the tens of thousands of unbelievers you know other than pitying them, you're giving up too easily.