Black Adidas jacket, big hoody. Apple earbuds and a cigarette between his fingers. He smiled almost maliciously, confident as all the ladies approached gang boy’s red, green and yellow bird as it preened its feathers on his knee.
It’s been quite the ride.
I jumped on a bandwagon (LETS GO BLUE JAYS), stayed ahead of a wave (of midterms and assignments)… and now I’m not quite sure what to do on the shore.
For those of you still hanging on, I promise I still have work and assignments to do… just not what some call “hell week.”
ALDS, Game 5, Bautista bat flip… I was hooked. Before that, I couldn’t care less about baseball. Then the game was explained and I marvelled at the amount of strategy involved… it really is a mind game. Followed it through the Championship Series… and I’m still feeling the let down that it didn’t turn into Game 7, let alone a World Series.
At the same time that the ALCS was going… so were midterms and midterm-equivalent-assignments. I was wired in and out of class… Not at all a healthy thing. On top of my usual sleeplessness, I could hardly celebrate finishing one midterm and/or assignment before I had to start thinking of and planning for the next. And when I wasn’t, there were the Jays.
For some the following will be heresy… but maybe for me, it wasn’t such a bad thing that we lost… the spell broke and here I am blinking in the sunlight wondering where the last week and a half went.
These games turned me into something I never thought I would be… a sports fan. Maybe not the super crazy ones, but crazy enough to feel every out like a ball to the gut. Crazy enough to scoff at the opponent team’s despair. Crazy enough to cheer for a team I’d only been with for a week, and study all the terms and the players (alongside my midterms).
This wasn’t me, was it? Since when did I care about a game?
As for midterms… this is the first time where because of the back-to-back nature of my schedule, I basically had to cram every night. I’ve never crammed before, so that was a learning curve in itself! By God’s grace, I still did well… but marks are still coming in. All week, I was stressing over what’s done, what’s next, what’s ahead… just survive until Friday and I’m home free.
Well… it’s Friday. No Jays. No midterms.
I’ve forgotten what it was like to breathe. I’d forgotten what it was like to rest. I’d left peace and joy that surpass all understanding for… fandom — tension and anxiety.
Now that it’s over, it feels like the room was flooding, and just before I ran out of air, someone slammed the valve shut. It’s been a week of so much noise and panic, that the quiet sounds suspicious.
But in the quiet, is a still small voice of graceful intercession.
Heaven and Earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
It’s over. Jays, midterms, adrenaline, stress, anxiety. No screaming, pounding fans, no profs and TAs telling me how much time I have left. Just a still small voice.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he utters his voice, the earth melts. The Lord of hosts is with us the God of Jacob is our fortress. Come, behold the works of the Lord, how he has brought desolations on the earth. He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariots with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
A very present help in trouble… infinitely more present and more help than seeing a win for the Jays. Though that would’ve been nice, what would it have really accomplished?
The nations rage… sounds like the jays fans. First a bad call on an inference homer, then a bad call on Revere’s strike.
He utters his voice, the earth melts… can I just let that sink in? And then, He is with us? He is our fortress? It’s such a silly thing to forget. How can we forget that God is on our side? The Jays lost… when did that become such an important thing to me that losing hurts? When did losing Jays glory matter more than forgetting God’s glory?
October 21, 2015. The day Marty and Jen arrive in their future with Doc.
Tons of people will be celebrating this “auspicious” day, and posting about it, tweeting about it, remembering the BTTF franchise…
I will admit, Back to the Future is my go to answer to “What’s your favourite movie?” You’ve got the mad scientist, the kid, the car, the stakes, the romance, the comedy, the “feels” …
“Maybe one day you’ll write something like that,” people tell me. Maybe. I wish! But at the same time, I don’t really feel like that’s the goal.
Writing for fame, writing for “success,” writing for the market… that’s the fast lane to hating what you love. Writing for the grade, the reward… you miss the point. Writing is the reward. For the record, I have no idea where this post is going. Call it a warm up/productive procrastination for the work I should be doing, writing. Wait, what? But I just said– yes, I know. Oh the paradoxes of life and the universe.
It’s a peculiar thing. I love writing. I have an assignment to write. I don’t want to write. So to procrastinate, I write. Because I love writing. I don’t get it either.
Timey-wimey? No, wait.
Welp. Better get writing, it’s time my writing got better. Maybe when I’m not as brain dead I’ll come back and put something a bit more substantial to this post… and no one will be the wiser…
OR– if ever I get to time travel, you’ll know it because I’ll come back to this moment and make something happen on this post.
Man, today would’ve been the perfect day to run into a store downtown, ask what year it is, and then run out screaming, “it worked!” Or better yet, “Great Scott!”
Oh well. Maybe when I revisit this day. Maybe I already have.
I first wrote this 4 months ago when the US Supreme Court ruling came out. I held back from posting right away because, well, I think the whole western world was emotional one way or another, including myself. I process through writing, and now that the dust has somewhat settled, at least on my feeds it has, I’ve decided to come back to it. So if you’re reading, thanks for taking the time and caring about my voice.
Much love and grace, 1100.
I was initially going to title this post “Double Rainbows All the Way Across the Sky!” but as I opened the empty text box to compose this blog, WordPress has hoisted the rainbow banner at the top of the page. And why not? Yesterday’s event dropped like a boulder into the ocean, sending supporters like water to the sky, and shaking up everyone else like the sand below.
But yes, that was strangely my first thought when I saw the colours. A straight banner of each of our seven colours as a symbol to celebrate gay marriage. And yet after the flood, God used a bent banner of the same kind as a symbol of His promise and mercy.
Before I go any further, let me invite you to read this post by Mike Donehey titled “To hear or be heard.” (May require scrolling.)
Most of this post is an echoing of what he wrote. I’m not here to judge, I’m not here to mock, I’m not here to condemn, and I’m not here to dish out an opinion simply for the sake of being counter-cultural. And I apologize if in this post I do any or all of these things, this is not my intention. As with many of my other posts, this is just me trying to figure things out. Unpack and process the thoughts I’ve bottled up for years.
For a long time, I’ve shied away from topics like this online. There was an instance (maybe more) where I didn’t, and I was still new to this whole Christianity thing, and I was writing out of frustration. I’m hoping I won’t make that mistake again today.
Since that time, I’ve stayed far away from this discussion and one other one (cough cough evolution) because I could empathize with, if not understand, both sides, and no matter what I said, I knew I would get labelled. And fitting into boxes just isn’t my style. (Except if it’s a physical cardboard box/spaceship. Those are fun.) Not to mention that all of those labels, from either side, are meant to tear down not just an argument or an opinion, but one’s character.
But enough stalling (can you hear the eggshells creaking?), after yesterday, now’s a good time as any to open this particular can of worms. Or come out of the closet, if you will. (Sorry.)
I’ve posted before on my thoughts on marriage, intentionally leaving gay marriage out of it, not because I’m discriminating, but because that would’ve been way too much for one post. Just to be clear. But I’m here now. Nervous, afraid, vulnerable. I am neither gay nor married, so do I know what I’m talking about? Probably not. But here it goes.
I disagree with and do not condone gay marriage or homosexual activity. Does that make me a homophobe? To some people, absolutely. Do I hate people of the LGBTQ community? By no means. On the contrary I respect those I know and commend them for their bravery. I even work for one. (Hi Mark.)
So how do I reconcile that? At first I told myself, well, it’s the law, and has been for a decade now (in Canada), what choice do I have? But that wasn’t quite it for me. So then I thought about the definition and purpose of marriage now, compared to that of the church. Of course if people are defining marriage only as a proclamation of love and pleasure, all this marriage equality and marriage rights talk makes sense. But getting into the gospel applications of heterosexual marriage kind of seemed like the wrong approach to this. I wonder why.
So how about just the good ol’ gospel itself? There’s a song from the Prince of Egypt Soundtrack that has always captivated me, called Through Heaven’s Eyes. One, because it gets your eyes off of yourself and onto the big picture, and most importantly onto God. Similarly, Brandon Heath’s Give Me Your Eyes invites us to see and remember what God has done.
The sea of faces you see everywhere you go, or the throngs of pride parade attendees, are all precious to God. That means that they are infinitely more than their sexuality (or their ethnicity or gender for that matter). Every human being is an image bearer of the Most High God, and should be treated with worth, love and respect. Let me be the first to say that I don’t always do this. I try to see everyone as a God-breathed masterpiece who are loved to the point where Christ died for them. But I confess that, among other things, I have looked with lust before, that I have idolized and objectified people, I have committed adultery in the heart. Willingly, involuntarily, it doesn’t matter. The point is, who am I to judge and throw stones at the biblically sexually immoral? (That is, whom the Bible calls sexually immoral, whether you think they are or not.) But fear or avoidance of hypocrisy isn’t the only drive here.
While I won’t and can’t judge, I think there is a difference between not judging and agreeing/celebrating/glorifying. A huge difference. “Well if you think being gay is wrong, that’s being judgmental.” But isn’t saying that being gay is good and fine also a judgment? I’m not convinced that judgment and opinion are as closely tied as people think it is.
To me, being non-judgmental means loving and respecting in spite of what you see as flaws. The love and respect alone doesn’t stop the flaws from being flaws, but neither do the flaws hinder the love and respect. And I think the gospel facilitates this because it is the story of unconditional love, after all.
Whether you perceive homosexuality as a sin or not is really of no consequence, not that I’m saying I believe it isn’t sin. But even if it weren’t, there are plenty of other sins that have us covered. That’s the bad news. The good news, is that
God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:8-11)
Maybe you don’t see yourself as a sinner. Maybe you don’t want this “reconciliation with Christ.” Maybe you still don’t get why Christ had to die. Many don’t.
But if you’re willing to find out, come exactly as you are, because you don’t have to find God, He’s already found you. You don’t have to work to earn His favour, He is already at work in you, inclining your heart towards Him.
In the end, Love does win, but not the comparatively cheap, divorce-susceptible love driven solely by sexual attraction, whether homosexual, heterosexual, or otherwise.
God’s love wins, not simply over hatred or injustice, but death itself — and it can never be undone.
In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. (1 John 4:9-12)
A dear friend sent me this daily devotion the other day, and while I’m sure its author meant well, it did get me thinking…
I love those who love me, and those who seek me early and diligently shall find me.
Our motives are misplaced if we think we read the Bible and pray to please God, or to keep from making Him mad at us. God once told me, “You think, when you read the Bible, that you are making Me happy. I am going to be happy whether you read it or not. No, if you read the Bible, you’re happy. If you pray, you’re happy. If you give, you receive.”
Every single thing that God tells us to do, He tells us to do so to bless ourselves. He doesn’t ask us to devote ourselves to study and prayer for Him; it is for us. The good life is our choice.
We don’t have the power or authority to bless ourselves. When we read the Word, God gave us the Word and the Spirit to move us to read it. When we read the Bible, it’s still God blessing us. Blessing us with the air in our lungs and the eyes to see and the heart to accept and understand His Word.
And I’m not sure if God is happy “whether we read the Bible or not.” He wants us to draw near to Him, and we do so when we read His word. We get closer to God when we are meditating in the word daily. When we don’t read His word, it grieves Him that we would turn away from his counsel, because it’s there for our good. He wants us and pursues us. Think about all the things he orchestrated through time and space to give us His word for our good, think about everything He did on the cross to make sure we could be reconciled and near to Him, for our good. Why would he be happy when we ignore him in His word? To me, “good” here means so much more than mere happiness. Being in the word has nothing to do with happiness, but everything to do with His glory and our obedience. Those two things are “our good.”
“He loves those who love Him” because they search and thirst for Him, and He is pleased that His children return to Him. It’s not a cause and effect, we love then He loves, no. His unconditional love for us feeds our love for Him into a gloriously vicious cycle. “Those who seek Him early and diligently shall find Him” because they are the ones who love Him enough to look. He is omnipresent, He’s there all the time for the whole world to see. He’s not hard to find for those who want to. It’s like that CS Lewis quote, “It is safe to say ‘blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God,’ for only the pure in heart want to.”
If God is happy even when we don’t read the Bible, why read it? Not to be happy, but to be fully and deeply satisfied in Him, because that’s what we were made for, God, not our own happiness. We pray to be with our Father, we give in obedience to our Father. Not our own happiness.
I guess I just don’t like the word “happy”… it seems to imply if we do (works), we’ll be happy, if we give, we receive and prosper. But the lives of the apostles show that they gave and they suffered, even Christ gave everything, and He suffered. They obeyed the Father in love, and their reward wasn’t found in the consequences of their giving, but in obeying itself. When we obey the Father, He is glorified, and we are satisfied… not necessarily happy, but satisfied. And when we are satisfied, He is glorified. In that sense, our devotion to Him is for Him. For us too, but mostly for His sake. Not because he’s egotistical and self-absorbed, but because He wants to show us that we can trust that He is the God of all creation for eternity, that we really don’t have to be afraid when he reminds us that He is for us not against us. He’s got this. He’s like the climbing rope that can hold 3000lbs that a 160lb climber brings to the mountain. The greater that we see that He is, the more faith we have in Him, and the easier it is for us to draw near to Him, and feed that cycle again.
Happiness is fleeting, but Christ is the rock that never changes, never moves, never fails. We can trust in Him, we can find our peace and our joy in Him. That is why we ought to seek after Him in reading the Bible, seek Him in prayer and seek Him in obeying His commands. Christ. Not happiness. We don’t need happiness from anything or anyone or any works if we’ve got Christ. We can be suffering, crying, dying and still be satisfied. We can still say, “It is well with my soul.”
Happiness is shiny, but cheap in light of God’s brilliant glory and His everlasting Kingdom to come. Happiness is dangerous, even happiness in faith, because it makes us self-sufficient, makes us think we’re okay, we don’t need a saviour, I saved myself, blessed myself today. Happiness makes us comfortable here in this world. Joy in what Christ has done is so much more robust, it gives us strength to look forward, to wait daily, patiently for our King, even when the world around us crumbles.
What happens when runaway thoughts spin themselves into a hurricane inside your heart, but all you want at that moment is to go to bed?
“Spirit, can you hold these thoughts, bookmark them or something ’til morning?”
The storm only presses upon me like a firm and gentle push on the swings, adding momentum. Very well. Here I am.
In the past two weeks, I’ve experienced the same conversation several times, which I found rather curious. It went something along the lines of, “Well you have your Christianity thing, but I prefer the buddhist philosophy if I had to choose.”
I’ve heard many people express their admiration for the buddhist worldview, my own grandmother being a devout practitioner.
I’d always wondered what made it so attractive until I saw a booth on campus a few semesters ago, that encouraged students to develop spirituality or oneness with the universe… but where God was optional.
One part of me said, yeah um, good luck with that. God is inviting you into true spirituality, that is, a relationship with His Holy Spirit (and the Son and the Father), how can you possibly do that without Him? You can’t fist bump without a fist to bump! There have been many times when a friend would hold out their fist and I’d miss it, so to add some dramatic flair to the situation and reduce the embarrassment, they’d make a big deal about leaving them hanging. I do it by accident of course, though Freud might disagree. However, we do do this on purpose to God all the time, on a daily maybe even hourly basis. He’s set up the relationship so that He contacts us, we just have to be there and be willing. Instead, we don’t just leave Him hanging, we left Him, the King of all things, high and dry!
But back to the booth. The other part of me empathized. We were made to worship, and worship we do. We are constantly searching for it. Some will worship things like money or success or approval, not in the golden calf sort of way, but in putting their identity in relationships (self is only in relation to so and so), image (I live to appear like this to the world), reputation (I am who people tell me or expect me to be) or a career (I am no one without my career and/or my salary), and so many other things. Others will worship virtue, being and doing and living according to some moral standard, a constant process of atonement. In fact, since the Fall, these are the defaults in you, in me, and in everyone else who ever lived.
In seeking just spirituality, people are looking for the “way of life” part of worship, which is why I can understand the thought process behind “why can’t people just believe what they want to believe, do what works for them?” Another phrase I’ve heard often, but oddly more frequently in the past bit.
Worship, the kind that we were designed for, includes another component: loving and generous volition. In other words, a relationship. Without that, nothing will work or satisfy your soul. At least not forever. When we say that Jesus, and Jesus alone, is the way, the truth and the life, we’re not trying to take away people’s free will! If a treasure hunter finds the room with the jackpot, a sea of treasure, won’t they say, “hey guys, come here, I found it!” It’s a jackpot, you really can’t miss it, which is why it doesn’t make sense for the other treasure hunters to ask, “are you sure you found it? There’s a smaller room here with some cool trinkets, that might be it.”
As followers of Christ, we are not just servants to the King of the universe, but heirs. Heirs! The one who holds the name above all names is not just our Lord or our Master… He is our friend and Father who knows us deeply. He cares much less about us and His rules than us and Himself. Matt Chandler puts it this way, “God is more interested in progress than perfection.” Progress of course, requires an interaction with the one assessing you.
I’m not sure what kind of spirituality people have found without a deep and personal relationship with God, but I can imagine the peace it brings is more about keeping your hands busy than finding rest and purpose… A peace that comes at the price of never ending toil, with the resulting fruit leaving something to be desired.
Here’s another one I hear often enough: “So many other religions and worldviews are similar, what makes Christianity right or better than them? It’s not even the first one.”
Many people go to this point of the argument to discredit Christianity, but to me I see it as a proof of its legitimacy. Communicating what I see is of course the issue, but I will try. The most basic common ground for all the religions of world history is the human condition. It’s all about advancing or improving the human condition in some way. That is the common thread — a sinful heart that needs fixing.
This common thread extends far beyond religion, and into everything we do, since everything we do is a direct result of our sinful heart. But written on that same heart is God’s law — our conscience, our own moral standards. I’m most interested in storytelling, and so I see echoes of the soul yearning for the gospel all the time there.
The villains must always get their just deserts, because we know that sin and evil must be punished. The hero always starts out flawed or unprepared for the task, because we know that we aren’t perfect and need something or someone to make us whole, to prepare us for our destiny. The hero must always go through a great ordeal before succeeding, because we know that justice comes at a sacrificial cost. The hero always achieves the goal and overcomes the ordeal, rewarded with honour or revelation.
But these are just the standard givens of story structure, of the monomyth or infamous hero’s journey! Yes, but why? Why are they taken for granted, why is this what we want to see, why is it that if a story defies these laws, we are left cheated or unsatisfied?
After all, a story where the hero dies and the antagonist wins and the whole journey was for naught, is often considered a bad story, not a creative twist. We feel like we’ve wasted our time. What’s worse is that sometimes life is like that, intrinsically wrong and a waste. It’s that deep pit of dissatisfaction and despair.
I propose that at the root, we know in our core that there is a certain way things are supposed to be, and every human knows it. The gospel tells the story that is the balm to our souls. It doesn’t just give us hope and peace and love and fuzzy, flimsy emotions… it is a solid anchor to cling on to.
The hero’s journey example I just used is only one of many places I’ve seen the yearning for the gospel. There are more specific examples. Take the superhero boom. Of course many factors played into this, but at the root, I would say its appeal comes from our deep intrinsic need for a saviour with greater power or skills than ourselves. One, or a small group, must represent and save all of humanity from evil and tyranny. Or how about a show like Once Upon A Time? At the time of writing this, a saviour is being tempted in the wilderness to turn to darkness so that the laws of storytelling might be reversed — villains will get their happy endings, evil will reign, heroes are forever fated to fail and their redemption becomes a futility. Will she succumb and leave everyone without any chance of hope, or will she prevail and let redemption win? Or how about a movie like Jupiter Ascending that I just watched a couple hours ago? SPOILERS: it ends with the protagonist inheriting the Earth… Sound familiar?
I see elements of the human condition echoing the biblical narrative in stories, on TV, on the news, in movies, in people, in other worldviews… it’s everywhere! And I’m not surprised. In awe, definitely, but not surprised. The bible itself was written across centuries by different people in different contexts for different purposes through different mediums. Letters, instructions, songs, poems, historical documents, prophets, fishermen, tax collectors, priests. All this… and yet the common thread tying all these things together is the narrative of the cross. Everything pre-cross in the old testament points to it, and everything post-cross points to it. Prophecies of a Messiah, of a coming kingdom, meant as an encouragement to God’s people in the old testament, and a proclamation of what was done on the cross meant as an encouragement to the early church in the new testament.
My point is that, if the gospel is a common thread throughout the incredible diversity within the Bible, why should it be any different today? The existence of common threads among religions and worldviews isn’t discrediting the gospel, but rather reaffirms it in that we can all agree that we’re broken and need help — admitting this is the very foundation of our faith.
For some, this still doesn’t answer your questions or satisfy your stirrings, and this is to be expected. I couldn’t possibly explain everything because there is still a lot that I don’t fully understand. Even the apostle Paul said “I am perplexed, but not crushed” in 2 Corinthians 4. The guy who wrote most of the new testament still didn’t get stuff, so there’s no way I will.
However, I’ll touch a bit on why Christianity not being the “first” is not really an issue. Firstly, God understands what it is to exist outside of space and time, so linear thinking can’t really be applied here. I know that answer isn’t good enough for some of you, so I will go further.
Christianity didn’t “start” when we entered the story. The beginning wasn’t when humans finally understood what Jesus meant all those times after he died and rose again. It wasn’t when God showed us a virgin birth. It wasn’t when the prophets of Israel told God’s people that God was coming to humankind through a Messiah. It wasn’t when God himself told Adam and Eve that their seed would crush that of the serpent’s. No.
Everyone knows how it goes. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” In the beginning, God. He is the beginning, He is where it all starts (and ends, but I won’t get into that here).
God planned everything from before creation, whenever that was. He wasn’t surprised at man’s rebellion, He wasn’t scrambling to come up with a plan to save humanity after the rebellion… He knew all along. He planned all of history before time existed. The cross and Christianity pre-dates time itself.
Your acceptance of this answer inevitably depends on your own worldview of course, but there is no talking about faith without faith.
I guess if there’s a take away point at all from all of this, it’s that God wants a meaningful relationship with you and has programmed that desire in you. That programming has come out in, among other things, the value we place over spirituality, our eternal search for steadfast peace everlasting, and our intrinsic sense of justice and redemption.
CS Lewis describes this unique God-us relationship like this:
You asked for a loving God: you have one… not a senile benevolence that drowsily wishes you to be happy in your own way, not the cold philanthropy of a conscientious magistrate, nor the care of a host who feels responsible of the comfort of his guests, but the consuming fire Himself, the Love that made the worlds, persistent as the artist’s love for his work and despotic as a man’s love for a dog, provident and venerable as a father’s love for a child, jealous, inexorable, exacting as love between the sexes.
If you’re searching for steadfast peace everlasting that does not waver in even the worst of circumstances and that transcends a mere code or creed, I can only tell you that I have found it here in Christ and have not yet heard of someone who found the exact same thing elsewhere. Will you cave to the backwards instinct to fight and run away from the very thing you’re looking for, or will you be called a friend of a King?