Take Me Higher

A long laborious lament of a day and I wonder when it will end. I’ve been chasing my shadow all day long, trying to stay on top of it all, fearing the dreadful fall to the bottom, wondering just how I’m supposed to do anything. It’s only the second week, and I can’t help but wonder if it will continue indefinitely. I feel as though I’m in the crucible, and I’m not so sure anymore just how I’ll come out of the fire. It’s just so late and there’s so much to do and I just get by. But will it really be that bad if I don’t get by? I can’t help but wonder sometimes. Perhaps I need to relax and let it hang out. I don’t have to have it all just right. Sometimes you need to be a little sloppy.

Movies of death and dreariness fill my evening, and I wish I had time to process it all. One tries to deal with tragedy with a laugh. It was self-sacrifice, but in the end it triumphed. I’m not too sure where the other movie was going, but as the song grows louder in the background I just want to go higher and I lose my point.

What was I talking about? And I had such a good streak of insightful thoughts. It’s times like these that all I can do is place my hope in the fact that there’s something higher. A place where blind men see. A place with golden streets. Just take me higher and let this weary busyness fall away. Can you take me higher? (my apologies to Creed)

Deconstructing Valentine’s Day

Ah, Valentine’s Day. The token holiday for a forgotten saint celebrated with naked babies with wings and arrows, inflated floral prices, and candy hearts expressing sentiments of affection. You might expect that me, being an engaged young man, would thoroughly enjoy the romantic possibilities of such a day. However, I have some news for the single men and women out there who are continually put out by the mid-February holiday of love: I could care less. Valentine’s Day is an excuse for couples to be romantic. The one time a year when a man is forced to be charming and thoughtful. Certainly a good ideal to work towards, but I think the goal would be achieved much more successfully if there was no such day and a man was left to express his love on his own terms at his own time.

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Hell No

“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.’ But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:33-37 NIV)

Maybe I’m just stupid, but I’ve never really understood this passage before. I’ve always read it and thought about oaths. I thought it meant when you promise to do something don’t swear by heaven that you’ll do it. I always concentrated on the oath part and never on what you were actually doing. Jesus was talking about being truthful. Don’t swear to God that you’ll never beat up on your sister again. Just don’t beat up on your sister. Don’t make all these triumphant claims appealing to God about what you will or won’t do. Just do or do not do them. It’s that simple. It’s an integrity issue. And all this time I thought it was about saying ‘no’ instead of ‘hell, no.’

Learning to be Wide Minded

Why do we always have to have an opinion? Why is it so hard to admit we’re wrong? The other day my roommates and I were talking about the presidential elections, and one of them told us about a web site where you could take a survey and it would tell you which presidential candidate most closely matched your views and give you some general statistics on your answers and how they relate to the candidates. We all took the survey and were comparing our results. I had to admit that my results probably weren’t too accurate because I didn’t know anything about half the issues I was asked about. Sure, I knew of the issue. I’d heard some rhetoric from both sides, but I didn’t have a clue what the issue was really about. It’s just now dawning on me since I’m old enough to vote that I should know about this stuff. I can’t help but wonder how many other Americans are in my boat. Yet what percentage won’t admit they don’t know anything?

It’s like living in a box when we pretend we know everything. When I was in high school I was an adamant Christian rock listener. I didn’t understand why any Christian would want to listen to the radio or any secular music for that matter. I was so closed minded I never even considered the thought. Since coming to college I’ve been blown away. Nearly all of my roommates are U2 fans, and I’ve been amazed at the power of their music. Not only that, but you could easily argue that some of U2’s songs are expressing Christian ideals–an idea that was completely foreign to me in high school. Recently I’ve been too lazy to take my CD cartridge to my truck and I’ve been listening to the radio. A favorite song of mine has been Creed’s “Higher.” I just liked the way the song sounded. Tonight I decided to learn more about the band. So I checked out their web page and actually read the lyrics to “Higher.” I couldn’t stop there. I read the lyrics to half the songs on their newest CD. I was amazed at the Christian themes that kept coming up. All my life a lack of knowledge has lead me to think secular music is trash. But that’s only because I was being completely narrow minded. Some of it is trash. But there’s also some very powerful and insightful music out there. Maybe it’s time we start admitting we don’t know it all and broaden our horizons.

Thoughts on Birth Control

Let’s talk about theology, baby. You never really hear those words, do you? Between mashed potato bites at supper you usually don’t talk about the divine attributes of God. The depravity of man isn’t a normal topic of conversation during your study breaks in the lounge. But even though we don’t talk about theology in our every day conversations, it influences every aspect of our lives.

My fiance pointed out an article in a Christian Bridal magazine (yeah, believe it or not, they do exist) that was talking about different kinds of birth control. They were giving alternatives to the pill, and they gave one couple as an example that had chosen to let God do their family planning. They figured if God wanted them to have a child, they would. If God didn’t want them to have a child, they wouldn’t. They had seven children and three miscarriages–two of which were nearly fatal–and decided they’d had enough children and went back on the pill. What’s interesting is how their decisions were based on their theology. They believed that God planned their lives, including how many children they would have, and in so doing took the necessary steps to make that happen. It goes back to the Calvinist/Arminian debate of just how involved God is in our lives. Based on this belief, they decided that birth control wasn’t necessary.

Personally, I think that’s a rather simplistic view of God. He created us with thinking minds and with the capacity for responsibility. I believe he expects us to exercise that responsibility in such areas as birth control. God created this world with natural laws and I believe he uses those natural laws to bring about his will, with the exception of the occasional miracle.

But my point here isn’t to get into the Calvinist/Arminian debate. It’s been going on for centuries and I’m not about to bring earth-shattering insight to the debate. My point is that our theological decisions, the ones that seem so abstract, in fact determine many of the concrete situations we deal with in every day life. For example, let’s say you buy a Coke at lunch. If you believe that God has planned out your life and is intimately involved in the details it won’t matter if you just throw the can away. But if you believe God is less involved in the intimate details, then you feel a responsibility for the creation God has given us and you recycle the can.

Okay, it’s a simplistic example. But think about it. That’s what these Thoughts are all about. As I struggle with these issues my goal isn’t to come up with the answer. My goal is for you to struggle with the issue yourself and come up with your own answer. So what do you believe about the nature of God? What you believe will have a huge impact on how you live your day to day life.

New Haircut Experience

I got a haircut today. It’s odd, but sometimes these minor events are worth thinking about. I used to love getting my haircut. When I was a kid all you had to do was sit there and they snipped away. I could always hide behind my shy, childhood exterior and no one bothered me. But now that I’m in college I can’t do that anymore. I always dread going to the barber. It’s the cheapest place around (aside from having your roommate do it–and walk away with an Eddie Munster do) so that’s where I go. I think the barbershop, as it’s come to be known in America, is dying. Barbershops used to be friendly places where the old people in the town hung out. Everyone would talk and joke and it was a happy place. Not anymore. Now you walk in and give a brief nod to the barber. He nods at you and the victim in the chair gives a brief nod. Nods all the way around.

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The Dream of America

What’s the idea of “American”? We grow up with these notions of certain things being firmly American: apple pie, baseball, rock ‘n roll, the protestant work ethic, cars, the American Dream. Sometimes I wonder where it all comes from and why these pressures continue to mount on us today. When the first colonies were settled and people were trying to carve out their existence in the face of harsh weather, few supplies, and a native people who wanted to remain native, did those colonists ever look forward and wonder what life would be like on this continent in several hundred years? Did they realize how much of the land would be swallowed up and consumed with concrete? Did they realize that the people inhabiting the land would continue to carry on many of the ethics they started with?

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The Weight of the Bible

The Bible is an intimidating book. It carries with it the weight of history and the authority of God himself. It comes in several dozen translations, from the overbearing King James to the simplistic New International Reader’s Version. The book sits on my shelf between my journal and a clip art book. The binding is giving out and the corners of the cover are bent and torn. Sometimes I try not to look at it. It sits there on my desk, the face of the binding staring back at me with its gold embossed letters. I know what it’s going to tell me, and I don’t want to hear it. So I look away. Other times I sigh, and with a sense of duty pick the book up and drop it in my lap, turning to the bookmarked page and reading my required chapter. The words ring empty and hollow in my ear. I’ve heard them so many times before. Sometimes the words sound cryptic and mysterious, and I can’t fathom their meaning. What was Jesus getting at? I shake my head and wonder if I’m supposed to understand. It’s a scary book to read. It drips with the truth, and even when I pause to think about what the point is, I know have an inkling in the back of my mind that it’s speaking directly to me. Yesterday I read it with a chuckle. For the first time in my life I saw the humor in a passage. Is the Bible allowed to be funny? What an oddly mysterious and wonderful book. Sometimes intimidating, other times enlightening, but always a heavy weight in my backpack. I’m not sure if I really know what I’m carrying around with me.

Fundamentally Opposed Worldviews

College age minstrels, playing the songs of their hearts. He closes his eyes and strums his guitar, his body swaying to the music. I close my eyes to listen, leaning forward. The others around me are oblivious. A girl tells jokes to her friend, another catches up on lost time. Sometimes I don’t understand, and I try to filter out the noise. Later that night a song ends and the silence pervades. It lingered for a moment, the crowd afraid to disrupt the moment with applause. That’s when you know it’s right.

Today I came face to face with a certain dilemma. Whether you know it or not you have an organized priority list for all of your beliefs. Some of them are worth dying for, others are not. Your belief in the superiority of Macintosh computers, for example, is not an extremely important belief. You learn to live with those who don’t care too much for Macs. However, you also believe that forgiveness through Jesus Christ is the only way to eternal life. That is an important belief, and one you might even give your life for. In between is an expansive list of beliefs that range in importance. Some are central to Christian belief. Others are mere opinion. Some have set the boundaries between denominations. Beliefs over the sacraments–communion and baptism would be two fine examples. But other beliefs aren’t nearly as important. I believe eating breakfast every day is good for you and important. But among my roommates I’m the minority, and we all seem to live with that. At my church back home, rock ‘n roll wasn’t looked on too favorably. But despite our differences in belief, I managed to serve in that church without too much trouble.

The dilemma I faced today was how important are some of those minor beliefs? Someone told me that my view point was fundamentally opposed to their view point, and therefore we couldn’t work together–all based on a minor point of belief, similar to me liking breakfast. I wasn’t quite sure what to do. I dropped my defenses and decided to stop arguing over the minor belief. Neither of us was going to give any ground, and I didn’t see the point in debating. But I explained this simple idea in some situations you need to agree to disagree. I’m not too sure how they’ll take that. I’m still waiting for an answer. It seems sadly quiet that few people understand this concept today. Everyone has their own opinion, and I’m always right, darn it. I don’t really care what your opinion is, and frankly I don’t have to listen to it, or put up with it. It’s not a very friendly philosophy, is it? Seems to slam doors in people’s faces and create a vast hall of narrow mindedness. But then again, maybe that’s just my opinion.

Evangelists for Joes

What are you an evangelist for? Sometimes it seems like we’re better at evangelizing everything else. Have you eaten at Joe’s? They have the best chicken sandwiches. You should listen to Joe’s Rock Band, they’re the best. Why do you eat meat? You should become a vegetarian. Why are we so enthusiastic about everything else in our lives, but when it comes to God we usually keep quiet? It really makes you wonder where your priorities are. Sure, you can say your priorities are in one place, but it’s your actions that really prove it.