Thursday, December 17, 2009

Voy a España

En acerca de tres semanas estaré en España para estudiar Español. Será un experiencia divertida pero estoy seguro que aprenderé muchas lecciones importantes sobre las que espero escribir aqui.
For those who don't know Spanish this says: In about three weeks I will be in Spain to study spanish. It will be a fun experience but I'm sure that I will learn many important lessons about which I hope to write here.

I don't know how well I'll be able to keep up this blog. I didn't do too well this last semester and I think I might have even forgotten a few times that I had a blog. This semester, however, hopefully I will do a little better for my own sake, since I'm considering that probably nobody takes the time to read my posts anyway.

I will be going here, Salamanca.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Choosing Joy

When we truly believe that God is life and only life, then nothing need have the power to draw us into the sad realm of death. To choose joy does not mean to choose happy feelings or an artificial atmosphere of hilarity. But it does mean the determination to let whatever takes place bring us one step closer to the God of life -- Henri J. M. Nouwen

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

More from Bonhoeffer

Here's a section that Bonhoeffer quotes from Luther (he writes as if Christ were saying it),

Discipleship is not limited to what you can comprehend-- it must transcend all comprehension. Plunge into the deep waters beyond your own comprehension, and I will help you comprehend as I do. Bewilderment is the true comprehension. Not to know where you are going is the true knowledge. My comprehension transcends yours. Thus Abraham went forth from his father and not knowing whither he went. He trusted himself to my knowledge, and cared not for his own, and thus he took the right road and came to his journey's end. Behold, that is the way of the cross. You cannot find it yourself, so you must let me lead you as though you were a blind man. Wherefore it is not you, no man, no living creature, but I myself, who instruct you by my word and Spirit in the way you should go. Not the work which you choose, not the suffering you devise, but the road which is clean contrary to all that you choose or contrive or desire-- that is the road you must take. To that I call you and in that you must be my disciple. If you do that, there is the acceptable time and there you master is come.

Friday, June 26, 2009

What's the Cost?

A quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer,

When a man really gives up trying to make something out of himself-- a saint,
or a converted sinner, or a churchman (a so-called clerical somebody), a
righteous or unrighteous man, . . . when in the fullness of tasks, questions,
success or ill-hap, experiences and perplexities, a man throws himself into the
arms of God. . . then he wakes with Christ in Gethsemane. That is faith, that is metanoia and it is thus that he becomes a man and Christian. How can a
man wax arrogant if in a this-sided life he shares the suffering of God?

Metanoia according to Wikipedia:

Metanoia in the context of theological discussion, where it is used often, is
usually interpreted to mean repentance. However, some people argue that the word
should be interpreted more literally to denote changing one's mind, in the sense
of embracing thoughts beyond its present limitations or thought patterns (an
interpretation which is compatible with the denotative meaning of repentance but
replaces its negative connotation with a positive one, focusing on the superior
state being approached rather than the inferior prior state being departed

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

To Be a Child is to Be Dependant

Tonight I went to the summer RUF meeting for college students in Nashville. At the beginning of his talk the speaker had us open up to Matthew 18 and Mark 10 (see below) and the topic was essentially what I've been meditating on and what I wrote about in the last entry. He also quoted C.S. Lewis, a different quote though. I thought it was a cool God moment.

He made some points that I need to add.

The main thing about children is they are dependant, completely dependent on their parents. And the word Luke uses means infant, not just child. So Jesus is even more radically turning the image around on the disciples. For one children were essentially discounted as not worth the time to teach high matters. But when Jesus tells them you must be like a child, he's saying you must be completely dependent on God. In a world where independence is so valued, dependence feels like a burden, but Jesus is saying the opposite: you will not be free unless you completely dependent on God. This seems the exact opposite of how we would think normally. An infant cannot feed themselves or care for themselves or move themselves. Infants can't walk (I'm realizing how the name of my blog fits in here). Infants can't change themselves, but rely on their parents to clean their messes.

We cannot help ourselves. We are completely helpless. To become childlike and dependant on God is to recognize our own helplessness to change ourselves, to be the ones who can work our way up, to be able to come to know the world solely by our own reason. We are infants. Becoming childlike is only recognizing that we are still children.

This is sobering but it is freeing at the same time. We can do nothing, but we don't have to. It's not up to us to be the ones who earn righteousness. Christ has gifted it to us, so that we, discounted children, might have a place as sons. Think about that, we can do nothing, but God has made us heirs.

Being childlike means we don't have to show ourselves righteous, but can be humble and show our mistakes, to boast in our weakness. It frees us to just live, everything is being taken care of. It changes our perspective not just in how we see God, but also the world; its all new and wonderful. The staleness of thinking we have this faith thing figured out would be gone, because we would know we are children and we are still learning and it's amazing.

What if we could live with the same wonderment children have towards the world around them, towards God and his coming Kingdom and what he has worked through Christ? What if we didn't care who saw us as we delighted in the Father and his wonders everywhere we went?

I have a 6 or 7 month old nephew. Having him around puts this more into perspective. I'm going to start watching him more closely to understand more of what it means to be like a child.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

You Must Be Born Again

I've been meaning to write on this for a while, but I finally figured that it would be especially good to do so now, considering it is my 21st birthday, and I feel like these thoughts apply. I don't presume to know completely what I'm talking about, but they seemed worthwhile enough thoughts.

I'm 21, an adult by all standards, and I now have the freedom to do pretty much whatever I want. And yet, that doesn't really seem freeing. That freedom isn't real freedom (maybe more on that later). I'm grown up, according to most, but what does that really mean growing older?

I don't really feel any older than the day before, or the day before that, or than a couple years ago. I'm different, yes, but a lot of times I still feel like a kid, and I don't really mind. Some time last semester I just went down on Davis field and swung on one of the swings for a while and that was one of the highlights of my day. Other times I've found myself simply exploring the woods and perhaps seeing a tree that would make the perfect fort, or feeling the urge to just run around for a bit, or in general just being silly (possibly involving dancing). Then I remember that I'm in college and there is someone nearby who may think me crazy or highly unusual if I continue, so I usually stop. Something in my head, good or bad, tells me that I shouldn't still be like a child or want to be like a child, especially if I want to be taken seriously. Now that I'm 21, I should start being more professional and composed, as adults are.

And yet at the same time, I see that there is a pull to hold onto things of your childhood. I've heard my friends reminisce excitedly, maybe more so then about other things, on memories from their childhood, such as favorite t.v. shows or video games. Perhaps some of these things may be worth letting go, even then it seems that everyone has a desire to be a child again, or to at least be childlike.

But then we also want to be grown up, to reach that age of freedom, 21, when we can do anything we want. We want to be smart, intelligent, and taken seriously and so take ourselves seriously. But is this true growth, is this freedom?

What does it really mean to grow older?

C.S. Lewis wrote about growth in an article entitled "On Three Ways of Writing For Children". Although he's speaking in reference to literature, it still seems to apply.

The modern view seems to me to involve a false conception of growth. They accuse
us of arrested development because we have not lost a taste we had in childhood.
But surely arrested development consists not in refusing to lose old things but
in failing to add new things? I now like hock, which I am sure I should not have
liked as a child. But I still like lemon-squash. I call this growth or
development because I have been enriched: where I formerly had only one
pleasure, I now have two. But if I had to lose the taste for lemon-squash before
I acquired the taste for hock, that would not be growth but simple change. I now
enjoy Tolstoy and Jane Austen and Trollope as well as fairy tales and I call
that growth: if I had had to lose the fairy tales in order to acquire the
novelists, I would not say that I had grown but only that I had changed. A tree
grows because it adds rings: a train doesn't grow by leaving one station behind
and puffing on to the next. In reality, the case is stronger and more
complicated than this. I think my growth is just as apparent when I now read the
fairy tales as when I read the novelists, for I now enjoy the fairy tales better
than I did in childhood; being now able to put more in, of course I get more
out. But I do not here stress that point. Even if it were merely a taste for
grown-up literature added to an unchanged taste for children's literature,
addition would still be entitled to the name 'growth', and the process of merely
dropping one parcel when you pick up another would not. It is, of course, true
that the process of growing does, incidentally and unfortu­nately, involve
some more losses. But that is not the essence of growth, certainly not what
makes growth admirable or desir­able. If it were, if to drop parcels and to
leave stations behind were the essence and virtue of growth, why should we stop
at the adult? Why should not senile be equally a term of approval? Why are we
not to be congratulated on losing our teeth and hair? Some critics seem to
confuse growth with the cost of /growth and also to wish to make that cost far
higher than, in nature, it need be.

So growth itself does not mean that we should necessarily throw out all of our childlikeness (I'll qualify this later), but that adulthood is building on what was good as a child, so we may grow and add the rings of learning. This means that even as we learn more, and grow in faith, and expand our tastes of reading to include thick volumes of theology, we are still able to have carefree moments and a childlike wonder at the world and are still able to play (I’m thinking more in heart than necessarily in action; old people may not physically be able to play but they can be playful), finding that we cherish these moments all the more now that we are older. When we lose the good childlike part of ourselves we take ourselves too seriously and lose enjoyment of simple things.

Oscar Wilde, once wrote, and G.K. Chesterton quoted him on it in, that "Life is much too important to be taken seriously"

Why should we cease to be like a child just because we grow older? I suggest that it is possible to be both, to be fully grown and wise yet childlike in heart. Some of the people who seem to be the most grown, loving, and enjoyable people I know are those who are still childlike in their hearts, and don't even try to hide it.

There is a huge distinction I have to draw here though. Being childlike can have two different extremes. Either one it can be the negative type of childishness that refuses to grow up and to change. I think it's probably evident to most that this is a problem without me needing to explain. On the other hand, fixating on adulthood and all that is supposed to come with it, however, may be just as much a form of childishness.

C.S. Lewis writes on this idea in the article as well.

Critics who treat adult as a term of approval, instead of as a merely
descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown
up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of
being childish; these things are the marks of child­hood and adolescence.
And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms.
Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even
into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested
development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been
ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly.
When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of
childish­ness and the desire to be very grown up.

So being grown may be exactly the opposite of what we think it should be. Instead of being a release of childish things which are embarrassments and an embrace of all things mature, true grown upedness seems to be a recognition that we are childish and we ought not to take ourselves so seriously.

Jesus placed a great importance on childlikeness.

In Matthew 18: 1-4
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who is the greatest in
the kingdom of heaven? He called a little child and had him stand among them.
And he said: “I tell you the truth unless you change and become like little
children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles
himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 19: 13-15
Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to
place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who
brought them. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder
them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” When he had placed
his hands on them, he went from there.

In Matthew 18, the disciples are worrying about who the greatest among them will be. No doubt they want to know what mark they need to aim for, so they can try to be the greatest. But Jesus turns their question around on them, and calls over a child in the middle of them who was probably shorter than their waists or maybe their knees. Here is this little child and, Jesus tells them you must change and become like a little child to enter the kingdom of heaven. That must have been a bit of a shock. To great you do not have to do anything, to be the super serious religious people, the Pharisees, who followed all of the laws who everyone would think would win favor in heaven. But Jesus says the greatest is the one who humbles himself like a child. For one, a child does not try to be humble, so it’s not about even making yourself abject. Children are simply just humble. Even in trying to make yourself humble that would miss the point if it was to make yourself great. Jesus is saying don’t worry about being great, just be like a child.

Little children are dependent on their parents, who they trust to take care of them, so they are without worries. Instead they can just take time to play and seem to find almost everything to be wonderful and amazing. They do not hold back, they are not self-conscious, or at least not enough to prevent them from saying and doing ridiculous things. The world doesn’t have to be rational, because to them it’s amazing.

If we are to become like little children then that God is our Father and we are his children is crucial.

God doesn’t want us to earn greatness, but to put our trust in him, our Dad, as little children trust theirs, to protect them, take care of them, and to teach them. What would it look like if we truly saw Him as our Dad and could rest knowing that our Dad is in control of all situations that come and that he truly gives us what we need? We can just be free to play, to rejoice, to not place our worth in our success or failures; we can be bold and not care about looking childish, since we are childish and do childish things including making mistakes. But even in mistakes we can take heart that our Dad loves us and wants what is best for us and will not leave us in a mess. We can trust his answers that he tells us and that he’s not making them up, yet we can also delight in that which is still a mystery without having to dissect it. We can have a childlike faith. We don’t have to be afraid, because our Dad can take anybody.

To grow in life we must build on our childlikeness.
To grow in faith and relationship with Christ we must become like a child again.

In John 3:3, Jesus told Nicodemus “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”

We must be born again. That is said a lot, but I’m not sure how much we think about it. To be born again, you become a new thing, a new creation in which the old has gone and the new has come, who has received a new name. Yet, also to be born again, there is the picture that you must reacknowledge you are a child, you become a child again. But this time rather than an earthly father who makes mistakes you have a heavenly father who will not mess up or let you go. He will never leave you or forsake you.

Psychologists will tell you that childhood is when you are most impressionable, you develop the way you approach life, according to your family who may pass down fears and negative thoughts to you.

In being born again, there is redemption of the lies we started to believe as a child the insecurities, the brokenness within our own families, and freedom from them as our true father passes down life.

We are not left to achieve this on our own though.

In John 3: 5-6 Jesus answers Nicodemus question of how this is possible with, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. ”

We become sons through the Spirit, the Spirit of the Son who God has sent into our hearts by which we call “Abba, Father.” He is the one who enables us to become sons, who are at once have faith and humility like little children but who are fully grown heirs.

If anything's unclear, just ask me. I'll try to clarify if I can.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Dogs Are Weird

It's been a while since I last posted. I've been a little busy with school work. They don't make it easy for you to have time to do anything that engages your mind outside of each individual class, which makes me question the validity of the education; if the work they assign only succeeds in overwhelming you to the point that you don't want to learn anymore, what's the point? The education system could definately use some major changes; I don't think man in general was made to grow based on a checking off requirements and living up to standards, even though we've made every system work this way. Where's the grace to fail? Maybe more on this later.

So dogs are weird. I might need to provide the background. I am currently back at my house from college, and my family has a dog, Jenkins--we're not really sure what breed he is. He is a great dog but he can be a little crazy.

As a puppy, or at least as a younger dog he was quite friendly and decently adventurous; my dad would take him to the park and they'd walk up the creek with Jenkins avoiding dry areas as much as possible, or my mom would take him out to her parent's land where there is a lot of space to run and explore. Jenkins enjoyed these outings. On one of the times out to my grandparents' land-- my dad actually took him that time-- he was riding back in the car sticking his head out the window and a little overenthused that he actually fell out the car window. My dad wasn't driving very fast so he was fine.

Now, however, Jenkins has gotten a bit strange. All these places he used to love to go to; he's afraid of now. He will barely get out of the car. He has a set routine of places he will go on his walk which only extends to a few blocks from the house down one street. And he likes to be near people otherwise he doesn't even want to be in the fenced in backyard. The basement has also become a no-go zone--with rare exceptions--due to barking of the three yorkies my brother and his wife have. The spaces which he will go are closing in. He has a comfort zone but it's more of a jail of sorts which he's made for himself out of his fears of unreal dangers. He's a little bundle of fears. Other times, he tries to attack one of us if we upset his space or if he thinks we're going to make him do something against his will. He rebels to get his own way, even if it means that he's putting himself in a jail of sorts by just lying around the house when we would rather see him enjoying going places.

How like this we are in our sin. We hold onto fears, comfortable places, or what we want so tightly that we hold the door of our own jail cell shut and maybe even get angry at anyone who trys dislodge us from our errors.

Jesus has already opened our jail cells though. So why do we still hold on to them? He desires for us to be free, to exult in our time with him, to live the full lives we were made to live, and not to be trapped in our prisons. We have nothing to fear, for perfect love drives out all fear. If we truly know this, can we even have a comfort zone? He has no limits. Through Him we can do all things. Life with Him is an adventure.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Kingdom Reconciliation

This is a prayer update from Musalaha reconciliation ministries. Thought I'd share.

To both Israelis and Palestinians, the current conflict in Gaza has brought nothing but pain and suffering. It has also caused friction among some believers as they choose to pledge sole allegiance to their own people group. Some are even expressing an unabashed hatred for the other side through articles, e-mails and graphic content on Facebook.

From the Israeli point of view they pulled out of the Gaza Strip in the name of peace and an Islamic regime took over. Israel’s justification for going to war was to protect its citizens against Hamas launching rockets on the communities in the Negev. Soldiers continue to mobilize along the Gaza border as they prepare to defend their people and country against terror. They claim that others would have acted more quickly and aggressively. Their reasoning is that it is necessary to attack now before Hamas has longer-range missiles.

The Palestinians claim that though Israel left the Gaza Strip in 2006, the army is still controlling the borders making it the biggest open-air prison in the world. In the last 18-months, 1.5 million Palestinians have been under siege and were prevented from receiving sufficient water, medical aid and food supply. For the Palestinians, Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza was just an excuse to expand their control in the West Bank and build further settlements. The Palestinians also believe they have a right to self-defense. For them, the Israeli reaction is disproportionate. The number of Israelis killed cannot be compared to the hundreds of Palestinians killed.

Each player in the conflict places the full responsibility of the cycle of violence on the other side. There is a general unwillingness to enter into peace talks on ideological or political grounds. For example, Israel will say Hamas is an ideological religious organization that doesn’t recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Palestinians, on the other hand, say the Palestinian Authority has entered into concessions and nothing substantial has evolved; all that increased were settlements and checkpoints.

So, what is our role as believers in this situation? How can we be a model of Messiah as we move forward in the reconciliation process? Are we too busy challenging the moral and ethical position of the other side that we are unwilling to take responsibility? Because our societies have chosen war and violence, there is a great need for reconciliation. We can accomplish this through taking on a priestly role of intercessor and prophetic role of speaking the truth.

While the conflict has divided some believers, there are those taking a stand and fulfilling their priestly role. I was greatly encouraged last week to hear a Messianic pastor lead his congregation in a prayer of repentance, especially emphasizing that in a time of war, repentance is necessary from both the Israelis and the Palestinians. We must begin by examining our own sins, failures and shortcomings and seek God’s forgiveness and direction.

Applying Joel 2, he read, “Return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning. Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity” (Joel 2:12-13). God desires us to grieve from within and turn our hearts back towards him. As we as believers intercede on behalf of the people in our societies we need to invoke the nature of God and beg for his mercy and compassion to fall upon us because we have sinned before him. We must also cry out for God’s mercy and compassion to fall upon the other side.

In time of war we are also called to take on a prophetic role. The prophet was a representative of God who brought a message primarily to effect social change. The prophet spoke the truth and reminded us to care for the widow, orphan and stranger. When speaking the prophetic word, we need to be blunt without any hidden messages, and we need to have the courage to speak out when our people are wrong. In the prophetic role we are reminded that we must not only speak out against the injustice which has been committed against our own people, but also against others. We have a duty to speak out against the misuse of power and the blood of the innocent shed whether it is Israeli or Palestinian.

The world views war as war. Some will say, “in war the innocent also die and we cannot help it.” My son was greatly distressed when his friend told him exactly this. I shared with him that in war we need to speak up for the innocent. We cannot justify the act of killing innocent people and say it was in self-defense. Yet, we cannot justify killing someone with a weapon just because they’re holding a weapon. Even killing in war for self-defense should be taken with caution and reverence. The enemy carrying the weapon is also a person who has also been created in the image of God. Especially in a time of war we need to speak louder and clearer against the misuse of power by our governments and their justification of power and violence. War doesn’t mean giving a free hand without any moral and ethical boundaries and limitations.

So, while we are in the midst of war, we need to honestly seek the will of God and be discerning. We must become intercessors for our nation, our leaders and the other side and ask God to pour out his mercy and compassion. We must also become the prophet and convey that message of injustice happening in our societies. We need to attempt to relieve the pain of the innocent even if we feel our side’s reasoning for war is justified. Instead of pointing the finger, let us look within ourselves and repent. Then let us look at the other side with compassion and love, with a love that transcends societal boundaries, rocket fire and airstrikes.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Mending Wall

This poem came to mind and I thought it was appropriate.

"Mending Wall" - Robert Frost

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance: '
Stay where you are until our backs are turned!'
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of outdoor game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors.'
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
'Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.' I could say 'Elves' to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, 'Good fences make good neighbors.'

Building Walls of Fears

Most people in the United States probably do not realize that there is a wall built around Bethlehem with American money, so that Palestinians in Bethlehem are trapped there in poor conditions. On the walls you see a haunting image of the anger and desperation of the people there.
Whatever you believe about Israel and the right for a wall to be built, the words of the sermon on the mount painted on this wall, "Blessed are those who mourn" are reminders that God cares for those suffering, Palestinians included.
"Where is the love?"

Written in one place is "How will you explain on judgement day?" Salvation comes not from us but God, yes, so we do not have to do anything to be saved. Yet, a passage comes to mind in which Jesus is telling of those who will come before him on judgement day and he will say that he never knew them because when he was naked they did not clothe him, when he was poor they did not care for him, when he was in jail they did not visit him. And they will answer "Lord when did we see you in any of these places" and he will say "What ever you did for the least of these you did for me." Might those in Palestine be included in this? There is about 40% unemployment in Bethlehem; enormous amounts of poverty, in the place where the Light of the World came into the world. Bethlehem should be a beacon of light, and yet you see so much desperation and hopelessness. Where are the lights? You cannot hide a lamp under a bowl. One thing that struck me was how churches throughout Israel and the world are beautifully built but so much effort throughout history has been spent on stones rather than people, children of God.

Simply enough, written in blue paint on the wall, is "Come Lord." I echo that prayer, "Come Lord" to see His kingdom come to bear in this world. His way is not ours, his way is reconciliation of us to Him, our world to Him, and us to each other.