I Finally Did It

It’s taken quite a long time. And it’s not just been since I started writing, but since I started writing this particular story, even. It was a little over 4 years ago that I started writing it. And, almost exactly four years (it would be tomorrow, in fact), that I changed it a little bit to make it  much more like the story that it is today. But, finally, after nearly four years (in which I’d just barely graduated high school when it started, and I’ve now graduated college), I have finally published my first book.

I’ve to some extent awaited this day for a long time. Ever since I started writing, I always imagined having something published. Of course, at that time, I don’t even know if self-publishing really existed, though it probably did, but it certainly wasn’t something big. However, it’s quite a bit less stressful than I could imagine sending it into a publisher and awaiting a response would be, and for that I’m thankful. I honestly don’t need more stress now. Of course, there is some stress that comes with even self-publishing and wondering if anyone at all will like it. It scares me a bit of what the comments might be.

But, for right now, I’m thankful. Not only am I thankful, but I’m hoping that if some people will buy my book, then it might really encourage me to finish at least some of the hundreds of other stories that I’ve started, or at least planned out. Because honestly, I enjoy writing. It’s about the only thing that I have much of a passion for. And to be publishing something is really great. It means that I have finally accomplished the long process of writing and the reading over and trying to make it something that others might want to read (and I’m very thankful for my dad’s help in reading it over for me and making some suggestions for me).

I honestly don’t know where my life is going to take me, but this is a very big step. Writing is something that I want to be a part of my life well into the future. So, for me this is a step in that direction.

So, if you want see it, at least check it out, or even buy it, it’s available on Amazon. And, you can view a portion of the story there (I think it’s a part of the first 6 chapters) to see whether or not you might be interested in reading it.

So, thank you for reading this post, as well as the other posts that I have made on this blog. I know I haven’t written one in a while and I hope to write more soon, it’s just been a long and stressful year as I have graduated from college and am now moving on with my life, still completely unsure of where I’m going to be in a year. So, I thank you for your support, your views of my posts, and even more so the likes and the comments. It has been a great encouragement for me.

P.S. The book is titled One Way Out.

How Should We Celebrate People?

It’s been a while since I’ve written a post. School has been stressful for quite a while and I just haven’t quite gotten a chance to write or really think about what to write in quite awhile. But, early this week, on Sunday, some thoughts began mulling around in my head. One’s totally unrelated to what this post is about, and I hope to write more on it later, but I figured I might as well as least start by giving a brief description.

For starters, I’ve recently switched churches for the second time since I’ve been at Bible College. I was at the last one for almost two years. I wasn’t doing much there, and because of some other circumstances, it just seemed like the right time to change. Plus, it was an even smaller church, which I have truly come to like a lot. Anyways, a few of the people on the music team have been sick recently. And, while at the music practice early on Sunday morning it didn’t sound great at first because of their sickness. It didn’t really make a big difference in the actually service, but it got me thinking. Would it really be such a terrible thing if we didn’t do music one week because of sickness, or for any other reason that would make it hard to do? Would God really care that much?

In short, my answer would be “no,” but that comes from a lot of other thoughts and study on what the Sunday gathering is really supposed to be about and isn’t for this post, but hopefully another time.

Anyways, later that Sunday while having lunch with some of the people from the church, including one of the elders and the current preacher, a thought came up near the end that really got me thinking. It’s been a thought that I’ve had for quite a while but never really been able to put into words or anything like that.

What was said was that it’s interesting that farmers (and ranchers), those who provide the majority of the food that we eat, can struggle to get by while these sports athletes and actors, actresses, and singers can get paid more money than anyone really needs to get paid just because they entertain us. I can’t help but think how sad it is that this is what our society has become. I honestly don’t believe that anyone needs to be making over a million dollars a year. There’s just no reason for it.

Of course, that whole thought can probably lead a lot closer to socialism than I’d want to go, but that’s not my point. My points is that all of our priorities are really screwed up. For whatever reason the people who get paid the most are those who “entertain” us. At the same time, people who help provide us with our basic needs can struggle to make a living.

I’m at a loss of words for all of this.

I have grown up my life watching sports and for the most part listening to music, though neither are really that important to me anymore for various reasons. However, for the longest time I’ve found it ridiculous how much they make. The skills that it takes to do some of those things is pretty amazing, but in the grand scheme of things, they don’t offer much to society. That’s not to say that they shouldn’t necessarily be paid for what they do, but they shouldn’t be making ten or more times more than those who are actually supporting society.

With sports it disgusts me with how athletes will just go to whatever team will pay them the most money. That is there driving force. Nothing but money.

I read this story the other day. I found it interesting to see a professional athlete who actually wanted to return to where his family was. He didn’t want to have to go for the money, but instead he wanted to go to be close to his family. It’s much more stories like these where I see people to be celebrated than stories where a player breaks records or gets the contract with the most money on it.

That brings me to the question about the title. How should we celebrate people? For me, this is a little bit of a difficult question to answer. So many times I want to celebrate those stories of people who do nearly the exact opposite of what most people celebrate. It’s not the famous people, or those with extreme conditions that need to be most celebrated, but those who are normal and never get celebrated for anything. But, that’s not quite right either. Instead, each and every person should be celebrated in their own ways. Everyone is wonderful and adds something to society just by being who they are, and for that they should be celebrated.

Where Are You, God?

Where are you?

Are you in the darkness?

Are you in the light?

Do you notice me?

Do you see me struggling?

Do you see me hurting

Do you even hear me?

Hear my cries?

Hear my thanks and adoration?

Why do you seem so far gone?

Why do I seek and never find you?

Where are you?

Are you right here with me?

Is that why my seeking comes up short?

Am I looking in the wrong places?

Will you come and reveal yourself to me?

Will you show me that you are still here?

Or do you even know who I am?

Why do I feel like you are missing?

Why does your absence feel so strange?

Where are you, God?

Pulled Apart

There’s a constant force

Pushing me towards where I’ve always been

There’s an opposing force

Pushing me toward new beginnings

I’m being pulled in opposite directions

By constant opposing forces

Which side is going to win?

Will I give in and change or continue to move alone?

Is there a stronger force?

One that looks more desirable

Or do they look the same?

Both desirable despite their differences

The forces push and pull

The equal yet opposite forces keeping me in equilibrium

But tension develops within

Tension which won’t go away

Two forces

Pulling me apart

The will to stay the same

Versus the will to change

Everyday the tension builds

Everyday nothing changes

But once the tension becomes great enough

I will break and never be the same

It Takes Two

Friendships are important. There are few people who would doubt that. I would totally agree. Life is certainly missing something when you don’t have friends.

In one of the chapels earlier this semester, one of the speakers started talking about this. But he took a bit of a different approach that sort of frustrated me. He didn’t just say that they were important, but that we needed them. Again, I don’t disagree that they are needed, but it was the way he came across. It felt like a slap to my face. Not because it was something new to me, but because I was trying. I was working really hard at trying to make friends. But he basically just said that it was my fault that I didn’t have friends. What? I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. And I just began to become even more frustrated with him and every word that he spoke. That if I don’t have friends, it’s my fault. Never anyone else’s. It’s only mine.

So, apparently, he thinks that I control everything and everyone. Or, at least that’s how it come across to me. That if it’s not working, I need to control it and make it better. Now, before I make the speaker sound like some Christians who believe the phrase “God helps those who help themselves” and that as a Christian we basically have the power to do everything and will have amazing and perfect lives with many friends and much stuff, he wasn’t like that. Though, it certainly seems, looking back, that he was getting close to it. But that wasn’t his point. He was just telling us that we needed to be around friends and have mentors who could help us as we went along in our lives.

Back to it being my problem. I have to say, I’m still not over what he was saying. It still frustrates me. As I’m writing this and remembering what he said, I can’t help but feel frustrated.

What if it’s not all my fault? What if there is another factor in all of this?

It’s like the phrase goes, “It takes two to tango.” It certainly takes two people to make a friendship work. (Unless of course you are having a friendship with yourself, but that’s a totally different story.) I can’t control how other people respond to me. Yes, I can to some extent change how I act so that some won’t find me repulsive. However, there comes a point where I’d have to completely change who I am just to get a person to accept me for who I am. And I do not believe for one second that God, or anyone else for that matter, is calling us to change who we are just to have friends.

What good is a friendship where a person can’t be him/herself? How well does a friendship last that has no transparency and where both parties are hiding who they truly are so the other person won’t think any less of them? The simple answer is, they can’t. You can’t change yourself just to be friends with another person. Of course, you have to know how to treat them, or they’ll never want to be around you, but you shouldn’t be changing your overall personality or your appearances or anything like that just to please a person. That’s just going to start a friendship that’s built upon lies.

So, back to what I’ve been trying to say all along. It takes two people, being themselves, to make a friendship work. I can’t be friends with someone who doesn’t want to be friends with me. It just can’t ever work. If they reject me for any reason, then they’ll never want to see me, or have any connection to me. And what is a friendship without connection? Well, it’s basically nothing at all. It makes you and them at best acquaintances.

The truth of the matter is that it’s not always my fault if I don’t have friends. If I put myself out there and treat everyone in the right way, but still get rejected and turned down, it’s not my fault anymore. There’s nothing I can do about how they respond to me. All I can do is treat them right.

Now, if we want to be truthful, it is somewhat my fault that I don’t have any real close friends. I don’t go and put myself out there because I do have a fear of rejection. I also can’t go up and talk to a person out of the blue. I don’t know what the underlying cause of that is, but I know it’s there. I just can’t do it. I’m also terrible at having conversations and knowing what to say, so that certainly make it hard for me to ever want to approach anyone. However, I find it completely wrong to still place the fault all on me. How is it my fault that no one ever approaches me? That no one ever cares enough to know how I’m really feeling? That no one ever shows an interest in me?

You see, a friendship takes two. Not one, but two. If both people aren’t on board, there will never be a friendship. It is important to have friends, no doubt. But it’s also ridiculous to place the fault on simply the person who doesn’t have any friends.

All we can do is treat others the right way. How they respond is up to them. Some will become acquaintances. Some we will never see ever again. Some may become enemies. And some will become friends. Sometimes we have to wait it out for a while before friends finally come. But all we can do is seek. We shouldn’t blame ourselves, or anyone else for that matter, when it’s not going our way. Instead, we should just accept life as it comes. Sooner or later it’s going to change anyways, whether for the better or worse, in usually a week (or maybe even a day) at the most, something is going to change.

Free: Transparency Before God

I’ve started to try something new. I’ve started to become transparent before God. What I mean by this, is making an attempt to talk to God about everything, even those things that it seems wrong to ever talk to God about. Of course, God already knows everything, so it’s not telling Him anything He doesn’t already know, but it’s me opening myself up and trying to lay everything out there of what I’m thinking and feeling and just allowing God to listen to me.

This is certainly a scary process. Telling the Creator of all things about how you’re feeling, even when it’s something you know that He might not necessarily like. Even when it’s just complaining about the way things are going. Sometimes it’s just as simple as humbling yourself, and saying, “life sucks. I hate how things are going. I really wish that You had made things go a different way. I know I don’t know how it’s going to turn out and that You know much better than I do, but I still feel that way. This isn’t where I want to be.” It may even be using strong words that might seem inappropriate to say to God but so well express what really needs to be said.

As I was praying the other night as I was working, I began to ask God a question. I asked Him basically to give me a free pass to sin and mess up and make tons of mistakes without feeling the quilt or the shame for what I’ve done. I asked Him to do this and to allow me to intentionally do some of these things as I continue on the process to find myself.

I know this in unconventional, and maybe even wrong, but I felt the need to ask the question. If I was going to be transparent, this was something that I needed to ask. I want to be able to sin and mess up and make mistakes. I want to do the wrong thing as I search and try to find myself. I need to do it. So I asked Him. I can’t say I know the answer. Maybe it’ll take a while for me to not feel guilty. Maybe I’ll never reach that point. Maybe I’ll reach and it and lose God in the process because I’m so focused on me and wanting to do whatever I want. But maybe, it’ll happen and I’ll find myself and I’ll find God in the process and I’ll grow closer to Him and eventually it’ll be as if none of it ever happened and I’ll reach the point where I’m not sinning any more.

I don’t know the outcome, but I asked God to allow me to sin and basically defy Him, and right now I’m working on feeling no shame for it. Truthfully, I expect for Him to say no. But I’m not going to let myself feel bad for asking Him. He’s God, we can tell Him anything. We can talk to Him however we want. He can take it. He wants us to talk to Him. We need to not hold anything back. That’s what I’m beginning to learn.

It’s likely I’ll look back on this and wonder why I was such an idiot, but for now, it’s just part of my process. I’m not going to regret doing this. I’m not going to regret growing and learning and trying to grow closer to God. Sometimes it will happen in unconventional ways, like this. But I’m ready for things to be weird and unconventional. I’m tried of the normal and how boring it is. I’m ready for a crazy life.

I’m learning to be transparent with God. Without transparency, I’ll never be free. And I need to find freedom. I know it’ll be a wild, windy path ahead of me, but I’m ready to do this. And I’m ready to have God by my side every step of the way even when I’m screwing up. Because that’s when I’ll need Him the most to clean up my screw ups and help guide me forward.

Free: How Free Am I?

I’m just slightly less than six months away from graduating from college. I’m 21 now and will be 22 by that time. As I look back over my life, especially my time in college, I begin to wonder who I really am. For the most part, it tends to be college where people really find themselves and determine who they are and then from that determine where they are going to go and what they are going to be doing with the rest of their lives. For me, I’ve been asking myself what I am going to do with the rest of my life since before classes began for me. And the question has never gone away.

Though I have some ideas of what I want to do, I know I’m not certain. Nothing is set in stone. I can already tell that things are going to change. I’m expecting to fail. I’m expecting for things to not work out and everything be reworked as I try to find the direction that I really need to be heading in. But the question I now wonder is, how free am I?

I’ve spend the past 3 1/4 years or so in Bible college. How free can I really be? There are rules to be followed. Restrictions that can’t be ignored. The Bible is the main guide, and we basically are supposed to uphold it perfectly. I don’t say this to complain, or put down Bible college, but it’s just the truth of the matter. There is a sense as to where our freedom has been taken away from us. Of course, it’s basically all for our benefit, but sometimes it doesn’t feel so free.

As I look back, I want to take a moment and really look over what I may have been missing by heading to Bible college. I certainly didn’t go for the same reason most go. I didn’t go in search of ministry or to go work in a church once I was done. I went to determine what I was supposed to do with my life and hopefully find God’s calling and make good (and lasting) Christian friends. I basically failed miserably.

Not only is my “life calling” still unclear, but I feel like by the time I’m done, I’m going to have lost nearly 4 years of my life. Years that I was being told what the Bible says and what’s truth and never being able to do much searching or investigating for myself. I never got a chance to look and see if what I was being taught was what I truly believe to be the truth. Of course I believe the Bible is the truth and I was learning that, but I never got to see another perspective. I never really got to learn other people’s point of views. Though it is certainly my fault, I’ve had nearly no contact with anyone who isn’t a Christian in the past 3 years. I’ve just been around Christians.

I missed going out on my own and searching and stretching myself and trying to see what the world is really like. I’ve missed failing and being able to take any risk. I’ve been held back. And I wonder how free I really am. I’ve spend these years learning about God and how to tell others about Him. That’s about all. That’s certainly not bad, but it has kept me away from so much. Sometimes I feel it makes me unable to relate to people very well. I feel awkward telling people I don’t know and who are not Christians that I am at Bible college. I’m afraid they’ll associate me with what too many people really think about Christians, things that certainly aren’t good. I’m afraid they won’t want anything to do with me. I’m not afraid that they’ll hate me because I’m a Christians, but that there will be no respect and I’ll never have any chance to actually get to know them. I don’t feel free at all.

I want to know what other people think. I want to know what they believe. I want to meet and be friends with people who are rather opposite of me. I want to have these experiences. But I want to have them in an environment where I am free to fail and free to mess up and makes mistakes. But yet, I don’t feel I have that. I’ll be a Bible college graduate. Everything that I do reflects that I’m a Christian and how people see me may determine how they see other Christians. I don’t want that. I want to find who I am. I want to be able to have some doubts. Truthfully, I do have some doubts. But I don’t want them to be hidden away where I have to keep them a secret so that no one can know that I have some doubts. I don’t want it to ruin who I am, a Christian who graduate from Bible college. I’m not supposed to have any doubts. I’m supposed to be some kind of leader in the church. But that’s not what I want, or even feel I need.

Over some more posts, I want to explore this more. I want to document some of the things that I do as I search and see things that are outside of Christianity. Of course I still have bounds considering I’m in Bible college, but there is still some wiggle room that I can search and begin to see how I might be able to come to conclusions on my doubts.

People Not a Group

What is the Church? It depends on who you ask to what the answer might be. To some it is simply the building that they go to every Sunday (and maybe a few other times a week). To others it’s the people in a congregation. Still to others, though maybe fewer than there should be, it’s the entire body of Christ, all of the people who are Christians.

For the most part anymore, church is seen simply as the meeting place, or maybe the people that meet together. It is seen at a congregational level but rarely is it ever seen at a global level. Most Christians say that they go to church. But do they really go to church at all? The early Christians never seemed to think so. They met, but didn’t “go to church.”

Something is certainly wrong in our culture when we think that we have to “go to church” every Sunday. It would take too much time that I really don’t have to go into the number of things wrong with that statement. For starters, all Christians care about anymore is Sundays. Yes, Hebrews 10:24-25 talks about meeting, and Acts 20:7 makes it clear that the early Christians met on Sunday, but that’s certainly not the only times they met. Acts 2:42-47 talks about what they did daily. The second problem wrong is the “go to church.” There was no going to church. They came together. They fellowshipped. They met. But they never “went to church.” They were the church!

The Church is the body of Christ. It’s not where people meet, or even just who they meet with, it’s all Christians, on all seven continents. But somehow this fact has been lost. All the church seems to be to people anymore is a local congregation, or the congregation meeting place.

Not only has the church been misrepresented, but so has the term “Christian.” For starters, it’s now an adjective used to describe everything under the sun that is in some way associated with God, or especially with Jesus, or “Christian” practices. “Christian” is now used to describe a group, or a group of ideals as opposed to people who are followers of Christ.

Christians are people, not a group. They are flesh and blood people made in the image of God and adopted into God’s family. People who aren’t Christians are just as much flesh and blood people made in the image of God. They are just as important to God. Yet, we prefer to label people and put them into groups.

Christians have two favorite groups, Christians and non-Christians, and you are either one or the other. People are so much associated with groups that they mean nothing as people anymore. Their label says everything about them and who they are isn’t allowed to say a single thing about them.

This isn’t how things are supposed to be. Christians and non-Christians, are all just people. They aren’t two groups of people. Until the final judgment, there is no separation. Yes, some have their name in the Book of Life and others don’t. Yes, some will go to eternal reward and some to eternal punishment, but that’s yet to come. Right now, people are people. People are individuals. Each person is unique and one’s own self. However, we have to group people into categories and then based off those categories we can make assumptions and say whatever we want about them.

I’m convinced that each person is not defined by facts about him/her, especially facts that are associated with the groups that one can be placed into, but are instead much more defined by his/her story (I know that the real defining point of a person is that he/she is made in the image of God and that our identity should be whose we are, not who we are, but that’s not the point I’m trying to make here). You can know much more about a person just by listening to his/her story and what he/she has been through in life than you can ever hear about him/her by him/herself, or others, telling you things about him/her.

The church is made up of a huge number of individuals. But they are people, not a group. Each person is special and important. That, however, is forgotten. Instead, the church ends up dividing itself into even more groups and programs and forgets how important relationships are.

The church instead needs to be what it was meant to be, a united body of numerous individuals who are all striving to be more like Christ.

Stagnant Words

The spoken words are true

They come from the heart

They are an expression of the whole being

Yet they are stagnant

They do not move

They stay right in place

They are lacking in action

They are stagnant

“Actions speak louder than words,” you say

“I try but I’m stuck right in place,” I respond

My attempts always fail

My words are void of movement

My steps are out of sync with my words

How do I fit them together?

I don’t want it to be this way

Yet my words are stagnant

I want to show you how I care

I want to show you my love

But it’s left on my lips

It doesn’t always show up in what I do

I’m a failure at being who I’m supposed to be

I’m a coward trying to do my job

I say the words but don’t prove them

I only speak in stagnant words

You shouldn’t believe my words

They will lead you astray

As hard as I try

I can just never live out my words

I feel nothing but shame

How can I do this to everyone?

Why can’t I get it right?

Why must I speak only with stagnant words?

Love Above Sin

When you go to a church, what do you expect to hear? Do you expect to hear ways that you can live your life that show your love for others? Or do you expect to hear about what is a sin and how wrong it is to do? Though it may not actually be the case, the truth is, what people hear most in churches is about sin.

I’ve heard sin preached on before, but in reality, I haven’t it heard it preached on that often. However, so many sermons anymore are just so vague and boring and confusing. For me, once a pastor goes beyond 20 or 30 minutes, I get confused with what they are trying to say. I thought I understood their point, but then they just keep on going on and on and I all the sudden don’t know what they’re trying to say anymore.

I do have quite a few problems with preaching and other common things that go on in church services, but that’s not the point of this post. That’s for a later time. Right now, my point is that sin seems to be the most talked about thing in the church. In youth groups, it seems all they talk about are sin. Or at least that’s how it comes off.

No matter what the truth of the matter is, the church continues to come off as just simply being opposed to sin and doing everything they can to not sin. The biggest problem is, it’s not working. At all.

Is there an alternative? I believe there is. And a simple alternative at that.

Love. Selflessness. Self-sacrifice. You can call this concept whatever you want, but that’s what it is.

Sin causes us to focus on ourselves. Whether it is temptation or whether it’s focusing on not sinning, the focus of our thoughts is always on ourselves. That’s not how it’s supposed to be. We aren’t supposed to be the focus. Other people are supposed to be our focus! However, we’ve managed to screw that up too.

Our biggest focus in evangelism is to get people to stop sinning. In fact, it hardly seems like most Christians care about anything else. One of our methods is to go where the sinners are and then basically get them to come out of it. I can’t say I agree with that at all.

One thing we just don’t seem to understand is that every relationship we have is supposed to be based on love. Let me define relationship, the interaction between two human beings. Okay, I don’t know if that’s the exact definition, but that’s my point. What I’m saying is that the interaction between you and every single person that you meet is supposed to be based on love. You are supposed to show love to that person, just as Christ did for each one of us and went as far as giving His own life for us!

I may have asked this question before in another blog, but I want to ask it again. If our focus was on loving others and put them first, their needs, their wants, just them in general, how many sins would we be committing? Would we be saying bad things? I don’t think so. We’d be trying to say things to help build them up. Would we be stealing from them? Certainly not. We’d be giving to them. Would we be lying to them or to others about them? Not a chance. We’d be as honest with them as possible, and not say things about them to others unless it was to praise them, or something like that. You see, we have a terrible focus.

With all my frustrations with the church, one of them is related to this. Not only do we not love other people, but we also only spend time doing anything God related once or twice a week. If it isn’t related to church in some way, we wouldn’t do anything related to God. That’s the sad reality.

There are two major things that need to change. First, our approach needs to be to put love above sin. In other words, we need to be focusing our minds and everything that we do so that it reflects love, and not think about sin. If we focus on love, sin will eventually begin to disappear because we will be focused on others and not what we want or what’s going to “help us out.” Second, we need to do this 24/7. Not 2/2. In other words, instead of thinking about God with something related to church, or loving only when the church doors are open, we need to be doing it all the time. God and His love should flood our minds and it should come out in everything we do.

Every single second should reveal how we are Christians.