Friday, February 15, 2013

Visualizing Faith

Must start seeing mustard seed: Matthew 13:31-32 
31 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”

It has always been hard to grasp and visualize faith for me even with ample examples in the bible. But over the past year I've come to realize an interesting take I'd like to share with all of you. I hope I won't lose you in my convoluted mind  but let's try to visualize our life as a white empty room. That is the moment we are born.

Time passes by and we start filling our room with people we love or things we value. We decorate the walls with fancy wall papers; buy a closet and fill it with clothes we like, shoes, watches, cars or about anything that makes us happy. After all, it is our room. Somewhere along our life, we accept Christ and we're given this thing the size of a mustard seed called faith. This is why those who come to faith earlier may have an easier time accessing their spirituality - their rooms were less filled and it's much easier spotting the mustard seed. But even then, it is so small and we don't quite understand its value compared to all the other things we gathered in our room so we stash it away somewhere. We grow older and continue to pile our room with work papers, relationships that come and go, maybe a couple ipads and a few trophies to show our achievements that we're proud of.We are convinced that when we invite someone into our room that they will be so impressed with the possessions that we own or relationships that we've established.

Yet in reality those outside of your room jealously look in hoping you'd let them in. Your rooms too crowded so of course you have to be selective about who you let in. Those in the room...are they in the room because you're there? Or the things inside of it? One can seldom answer that question confidently. Who is really impressed by your room but yourself?

But to anyone who's been on a missions trip, myself included, and came back humbly admitting that "there's something different there"  regarding the level connection we felt with God and the people. The reason why so many people go back over and over...well that's because when we are on the missions trip we were invited into THEIR home.

The hungering people, the "less fortunate" with a room filled of white...when we walked into their room we see a tree. We can't identify it because while our faith is buried somewhere under our possessions, the missionaries and local believers there have nurtured theirs into a tree. 

Jesus did not tell people to drop all their belongings nor did he say discard all your wealth without any basis. It is those things in the room that Jesus knew would tempt us away from nurturing the seed of faith. Am I saying to clean our your room? No that is unrealistic to me in my current level of faith. But I am saying that we should not be displaying our possessions and such as the centerpiece to our room.

Let us find that seed again: those who've accepted Christ MUST have it. If you feel that you don't it is not because you do no possess it; it's buried deep below somewhere. Just as cleaning a room is tedious so is cleaning our perspectives. But once we find that seed, friends let us plant it firmly in the center of the room and let us cultivate it so that the seed will flourish. Do you know why Jesus said mustard seed and not any other tree seed? Mustard trees are neither big nor tall, commonly seen as strength in OUR standards: mustard trees spread like wild fire when nurtured and the mustard seed was critical sustenance for life. The hope of of it all is that when we invite someone into our room they can go back to theirs - with a mustard seed stuck to their shoe.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Faith or Fail

Faith or Fail: Hebrews 11:1
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

In our years hearing pastors preach on what faith means, we've undoubtedly heard the classics such as faith without works is dead, actions with faith makes it perfect, and we live by faith not by sight. Stories such as Abraham bringing Isaac, his child, to be sacrificed paint a picture of faith. But really, who is going to be putting that test of faith into our lives now? More commonly so, we deal with disappointments in "Oh I tried everything but I can't lose weight at all!" or "I studied so hard for this test and I failed..." Maybe "this relationship won't work out...we just don't get each other."

What we need to understand first is our human nature. The term hyperbolic discounting describes our tendency to undervalue rewards begotten in the future versus overvaluing presents we can get today. Humans need a reward in order to convince them through a time of tribulation or simply put - invest time and effort. If we do not see the light at the end of the tunnel why go through the walk? It's completely logical and understandable but at the same time it directly goes against scripture concerning faith based actions. The simple fact of believing in the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit AND striving to be like Christ in order to be with the Father for eternity is 1) to be identified Christian and 2) going through a very tough life with no proof that this reward exists. 

For those who are "Christian," this is the model in which we operate our lives, on a all encompassing sort of way but we often ignore the details. For one, we often complain a great deal on failures that we tried so hard for success. Too many times we THINK we have exhausted all of our efforts and FAITHFULLY acted for success.
There are many times people would tell me they tried everything but just cannot lose weight and keep it off. I see them bike at less than walking pace on a stationary bike for 15 minutes and crash diet for a month. Students complain about missing a grade they were hoping for...I see them study furiously one to two days before the exam. I see couples say they try everything yet when an argument erupts neither people would shut up and listen to the other. It's comical what WE identify as "trying." 
Often times than not we don't act faithfully because the reward is too far and we aren't sure if our efforts will result in what we hope for. Start studying at day one of the term? Exam's not until 4 months later. That 90% I'm hoping for is so far away. I'd rather hang out with friends because I know I'll enjoy my time. Yet two days before the exam suddenly that 90% looks like gold. Hanging out with friends? Not worth a thing to me right now. Proper exercise and nutrition means 4 months of hard work to maybe lose a few inches? How about crash diet for a week and lose 20lbs? Sign me up because I know I'll fit into those jeans. A relationship takes hard work for a life time? Let's just look for someone else because honeymoon phase always feels nice.
Daily Challenge
It's not coincidental that many Satanic cults have the belief of seeking instant pleasure over all else. It's not coincidental that Christianity seeks ultimate reward post enduring trials and tribulations. But what's funny is that humans seek instant pleasure whilst still expecting ultimate reward. Interesting wouldn't you say?

If God knows our hearts and needs before we do; and if our actions depict our faith, then wouldn't you agree that cramming in itself shows little faith of our knowledge? Exercising half-heartedly shows our lack of desire for change? Expecting to be heard but refusing to hear shows zero effort?

Often times people say "take the leap of faith"...Let's stop walking to the ledge and call that an effort while expecting to magically appear across the gap. Let's actually make the leap not knowing if we'll land on our feet. Even if we fall, I dare say God will catch us from the other side.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

He is not hiding; We are not seeking.

He is not hiding; We are not seeking: 1 John 4:7 
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God


A while ago Pastor Darrick preached and used "Where's Waldo" as an anecdote to our relationship with God. I decided to read and play the actual book because I remembered as a kid how frustrating it was. Quickly I realized nothing's really changed as I struggle to find Waldo's signature hat, glasses and sweaterAfter a bit of reflection I've come to realize that God is indeed similar to Waldo and is elusive to us in many ways. However, as with anything in life, we can approach a problem aimlessly or do so in a strategic manner.

For so many churches and pastors stress and focus our need to find God that it becomes almost a command without instructions. We stare into the pages of life stressing to find God. Unlike Waldo God is not hiding from us. That is never God's purpose for He is simply amongst us. Like Waldo, when we seek God we look for His signature miracles, healing, and answer to prayers. I dare assume that when we read Where's Waldo, not many of us ever paid attention to all the colorful and entertaining characters other than him that the author created. We are so tunnel visioned by Waldo because humans are creatures that need to feel accomplished and fulfilled. Our objective driven minds didn't stop to enjoy the rest of the book...we just want results - right now.

The ironic part of it all is when we stop to appreciate all of the other characters and the entertaining things they're doing we are guaranteed to find Waldo.  If we approach finding Waldo in such manner we might be pleasantly surprised by how much more enjoyable the book really is. I started to stop looking for Waldo all together. Yes, it took me longer to find him on some pages I must admit. But I was never frustrated nor ever thought of giving up. In the journey of finding Waldo I've chuckled and laughed through looking into the lives of all the other characters.

It's funny how sometimes we think just because we are focused on finding God that we will find Him. God planned our lives and placed Himself in it along with everyone else that's in our lives. The people we meet, things we experience and emotions we go through were never meant hide Him. Its intent was for us to grow, learn and enjoy. If we unfocus our compulsion for direct results and simply love and appreciate all the people and situations God had authored...well, we just may find Him yet.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Street is Silent

The Street is Silent: Proverbs 15:13-14 ESV 

A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed. The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge, but the mouths of fools feed on folly


Last Friday as I was leaving from my work's Christmas lunch I hear on the radio of the heart wrenching horror in Sandy Hook. In an instant  my face was no longer cheerful as sorrow filled my heart. I literally felt crushed.

During my drive home I imagine myself in the shoes of the teachers, parents, and children. Sadness? Hopelessness? Courage? Broken? Sure...all of those I felt. Sadly any feelings were blanketed by rage and anger. I was shaking. I turn off the radio because the Christmas music was making me tremble with fury. Those kids probably walked into school that morning innocently pondering what mommy and daddy got them for Christmas. They don't even quite understand what love is yet but they know they can't wait to share that day with their family. The parents probably spent days looking into what to make their kids happy on Christmas and where the best hiding spot is. But they'll never know.

Slowly I park my car as tears come down and I am angry with God. I am angry at the shooter. I am angry at his parents.

Really though, what is the point of being angry at anyone? Would my anger revive the dead? Would my anger at God change His plans? Would my anger make anyone better off? No my anger is foolish and so is everyone else's.

We can point our fingers and blame the lack of gun control, we can go on for hours on how the killer was a heartless psycho and we can say it was out of anyone's control. We will do all we can to disassociate the possibility that we had anything to do with it. Lanza isn't the first and he won't be the last unless we, and by we I don't mean everyone else in society other than ourselves, do something about it.

I slow my thoughts down and put myself in the shoes of Lanza. Adam was literally the embodiment of anger mixed with hatred and separation. It's easy to label him as just another monster. But I wonder if he must have sustained insurmountable pain for a very long time to have done something like this. He is not Jesus. He is not capable of bearing all of that and overcoming it. 

Yes he was awkward. Don't we know someone that's awkward? Even worse he was creepy. Don't we know someone that's a little creepy? More unbearable was that he just couldn't connect with people. Don't we know someone that just doesn't seem to have friends? But what do we do? We disassociate with those people. They can stay awkward, creepy and alone because I don't want to show them any love. It's too much burden on me.

I am angry at myself. I am one of those people that decided to stay away from Lanza. Multiply that by the size of a town and that was Adam's "life." On that Friday we've lost our cheerful faces and were exposed to a crushed spirit because of Adam. But because of us, I dare say Adam had long lost his cheerful face: his spirit, long crushed before ours.

I ponder had only one person truly connected with Adam; if fate would have changed, not only for himself but the lives he took.

We meet people, see events and experience life; and to cope, we always compartmentalize the flurry of information on a daily basis. "That event was lame, not going ever. That was fun, let's doing it again. I hate this person, they're so awkward. I love that person, they're so like me." We compartmentalize and never let one seep into the other. But love can transcend our walls because it is the key that unlocks those compartments.  

Days like these need silence. Not a moment of silence for those who passed but silence to refrain our mouths from feeding hatred with hate. Instead it is with clear eyes that we ought to seek love which allows us to connect. When we connect we beget understanding. Those two are key pillars to healing not to just others but ourselves. For Christ did not defeat sin through the act of revival. Sin was defeated through Christ's love and revival was merely a metaphor. 

We cannot revive those who've perished. But with love we can revive hope and with hope a brighter tomorrow.


Friday, December 7, 2012

Word.S.unpoken for a Long Time

Stop Moving: Romans 9:20 
But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?”


Don't we all question our self worth? All of us worry to some extent what other people think of us. Whether we want to admit it or not, if we have the courage to dig deep and admit this truth then we can also admit that somewhere along the line our opinions of our own self worth is intertwined with opinions from society. We strive and operate to be deemed not only socially acceptable but socially revered. Because at the end of the day we enjoy praise, just as God as we're made in His image.

But what happens when we fail? We destroy our self worth as social opinions weigh down on us. We subconsciously accept that our self worth is a function of our own opinions and the opinions of others. Somewhere along there we exclude God; because really, who hears God cheering them on every day?

But where is our faith? We are His canvas and he paints us. To any true artist, their work, no matter how socially accepted, is beauty in their own eyes. It's worth isn't monetary but in every bit of their journey and their experience. Every art piece is different. God does not make strokes or dashes without full confidence. God does not smear and botch details or shades. But we, the canvas, cannot sit still and accept God's work. We move and fidget and WANT God to paint the end product WE envision. We want to be revered as much as the Mona Lisa or be as hilarious as the Ecce Homo. But who are we to have the audacity to ask that for that? Should we not be grateful that a painter is pouring His life into us with joy?

Because we move and fidget and God brushes with decisive strokes we ourselves smudge the vision that God has for us. Correcting a mistake on a painting is hard work. He will do it. Shading is abrasive to the canvas and tiring to the painter. He will do it. Painting details require patience and care. He will do it.
The most difficult parts of painting is what makes it beautiful and timeless. It is also memory and experience shared between the art piece and the artist. From the moment our life begins to the moment it's finished, it is God's painting and his masterpiece to show. Whether other people hold any value to it is irrelevant to Him and we mustn't forget that.

Daily Challenge:
Sit still and let God paint. Hang on as the shading shreds the canvas. Pause and absorb the vision of God.

Monday, November 21, 2011

I won't Pretend to be Someone Else for All Time

A good friend of mine once asked me randomly "if you were an object what would it be?" I think it was for interview prep or something...I'm not really sure. I blurted out quickly "I'm a mirror"


Many people I know put on masks to either hide themselves because they're ashamed or because they are not confident in who they are and wonder if they'll truly be accepted. Throughout my life I've realized that whether people choose to reveal themselves to me or not I will show them their reflection. Friends and family will tell lies to spare feelings...I will let you be known on who and what you are. Not a lot of people can handle me because truth is harsh. When you hide behind a mask for so long it becomes comfortable behind facade. Revealing truth is like peeling a scab before it's ready. (I love doing it, it's addicting but it's not my scab.)

Then there are people with no confidence and see a lie about themselves that they aren't good enough. I will always tell the truth that they are worth more than they give themselves credit for. You deserve to feel the love that you have robbed yourself of. Do not despair.

More importantly than reflecting what's in front of me is the science behind it all. For a mirror to work light must be present and ample. Dim lighting results in distorted images. God being my light I need Him at all times to be functioning properly. When I lose hope and the world seems so dim I no longer do my job as intended. The ugliness of people aren't pointed out because I no longer care. The beauty of people aren't pointed out because I no longer see.

Throughout my life, because of age...I've had many people push aside my views and insights with the statement "what do you know, you're a kid." Now that I'm growing older I resent it even more. "what do you know, so what you're an adult?" I still know nothing. All I know is what I see. Mirror sees all that you do. We as people do not see us 24/7 we see others 24/7. The problem is that few of us ever take the time looking at ourselves. And it gets uncomfortable when others peer into your true nature. Judgement is not painful if you painfully judged yourself. I know this from experience.

Sadly, and lastly...mirrors are objective and have no bias or feelings. I feel like somehow I'm robbed of all of that. I'm objective in my praise and criticisms that I dish out. People with feelings will not understand that. They will think I'm unfair or an ass. I can understand that because they do not see the world  or feel as I do. I can understand they can't grasp my feelings because it is rare to find someone with such a hardened heart.

Sometimes I wish instead of a mirror that I can be just a sheet of glass. I wish someone can see through me inside out. I wish that I didn't need light or darkness to function. I wish I had more of a function than revealing people to themselves.

Then God says to me...darkness has no purpose for you. A mirror is used for more than just people to look at themselves. Mirrors redirect light.

And I realized it's not about being a mirror that's significant but it's about harnessing the light. Concentrate the light and shine it towards the darkness. It doesn't matter what I am and who's reflection is in me.

What do you think you are?

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Elusive G-Spot

Since the beginning of time men and women have been puzzled and enraged by this odd phenomenon deemed the G-spot. Now some of you holier than thou Christians would probably stop reading right here and have a disgusted face. Have faith for this will benefit all of humanity for God surely made it because it is good.

Now this G spot isn't something you can google and get an answer to; nor can you confidently ask your pastor (because chances are it eluded them too); and OBVIOUSLY not your parents. Over centuries, people have slain each other over it...relationships have ended because of it and I'm certain many have found it but some how forgot to share it. I'm talking about the God Spot (in case you were wondering the women's g spot is simply located on the front vaginal wall between 11-1 o clock depending).

What is this God Spot I'm talking about? It is the spot which we can touch upon as humans and make the most positive impact. Raise your hands up if you see my analogy. People have gone on christian crusades and tried to hit the G spot, extremes do bombings for Allah (A-bomb?) and we still work our asses off to a good end. But really, I have to ask if that's truly satisfying to us and to God.

To paint this in more common terms: it's like when you're craving something and you eat a buffet to not hit the spot. You probably just needed one single bite of cheesecake. It's like when you read pages and pages of explanation for a concept and only needed the formula . And probably a lot of people will do a lot of things out of love for their loved ones only to find them unsatisfied. All they needed to do was one thing; they did a thousand and a thousand were worthless. That's not hitting the G Spot. All actions were little to no impact regardless of intent. The secret to finding the G Spot is to align intent with impact, consciously. 

It's not always the complex things that have the most impact but most of us think it is. I can look at the most elaborate presentation and watch a commercial for charities and it won't impact me. But seeing a hidden camera shoot 2 minutes of a little Indian girl sleeping on the streets will break my heart. Going on a family vacation and dropping a large sum of money won't remind me my parents love me. Seeing my mother cry when I share my joys with her does. Crying takes 2 seconds. Vacation takes weeks. I might remember the vacation but I wouldn't forget love.

We were made in God's image and but somehow few of us really think about His wisdom. When we imitate Jesus we make it a thing to be holy but we forgot the impact. Sometimes being unholy is the necessary evil as long as intent lines up. Jesus did many things. Jesus did things that took one second; Jesus did things that took years. Whatever he did though, it had and has IMPACT. We forget that salt has impact, we think it has "flavor." We forget light has impact, we think it has uses.

Don't do things easy or difficult to massage your ego or to convince yourself you're worthy of God's love. You're not and won't ever be. Grace makes you worthy alone. So instead focus on what you can accomplish - acting for impact. People who act without thinking of impact cannot be condemned because few ever think this way. But if wisdom calls you on the street and she's hugging tightly onto you, don't deny her. Now that I've shared my views, think about it. If it makes sense to you then live it and be impactful. You can do many "holy" things and say you're like Christ. Good for you. But if you're not int he slight bit intending to maximize your impact then I think you missed out on one of the most prominent qualities of Jesus.

Some blog posts are short and succinct and this one's longer than most expect. But no matter the length of time it takes I'll always try to hit the G Spot. Hopefully those on the receiving end agree.