greybeta: (Hedgehog Mirror)
It is said that the perfect number is seven. In Genesis, the good Lord created the world in seven days (he did leave a day for rest). In Revelations, there are seven seals. In between are the seven deadly sins and the forgiving of others seven by seventy times.

And so the official chronicles of my spiritual journey end here, even though it really never ends. At the beginning of this, I said I would seek the truth. After much meditation and prayer, I’ve come to a conclusion.

I don’t know why I believe.

While the answer is surprisingly simple, the explanation is not. After all, if it was that obvious, why wouldn’t everyone just believe in “the one true faith”?

I don’t know, but I can tell you why I make Jesus Christ the Lord of my life. I do it because of the things the good Lord has done for me.

Perhaps, I should call them coincidences. You can call me a fool for not calling them so.

When I was mired deep in my depression, I thought about killing myself. Everyone who has gone through some type of depression has thought about it. It’s just because it seems a lot easier to end it all then face another day.

One of my favorite questions to ask people is “Why do you wake up in the morning?” My electrical engineering advisor asked me this question once, and I started replying about politics and history. He then pointed out that if that’s what gets me up, then I should doing something that has to do with why I get up in the morning.

My engineering advisor didn’t care about the numbers of the EE program. He was trying to help me as a person.

I also have to thank my history research advisor. I’m actually a pretty lazy person and he didn’t bear down on me or set any deadlines. Nope, the undergraduate research program set the deadlines for me. He gave me the rope and it was up to me to hang myself.

Of course, I started not going to class for awhile. Out of concern, he kept calling me to go to his office. When I finally showed up, I told him that I felt depressed. He said he understood and invited the dean in. Everything would be taken care of.

But I felt, I don’t know, ashamed. Here I was in my senior year and I still didn’t know what I would be doing or what I even wanted to do. I was really confused. My research advisor told me not to worry about it and walked me over to the health center.

I was going through some difficult times, and I stopped believing. I even told my campus minister this, much to his disappointment. I sent out a few emails that I shouldn’t have, but perhaps they were more honest than I had been.

At that point, I felt like I had nothing to fight for anymore. I had lost everything. I came to college to find out what I wanted to do and I had basically just wasted four years of my life. There is not point in going on anymore.

It was good day to die.

Out of nowhere I recalled a conversion I had in high school with Mike, one of my closest friends.

D2: Random question. If you put a gun to your head, what would you do?
Mike: Daniel, if I put a gun to my head, I think my will to live would be so strong it would just say NO!

Fortunately, my will to live was pretty strong. And suddenly, I understood something. It’s difficult to describe, but a moment of insight clicked inside of my mind.

Before, I had been living my life the way I thought others wanted me to live it. A good guy, a studious guy and someone you had to respect. But that wasn’t going to make me happy.

So it seems obvious to live for myself, but that’s an awfully lonely life.

Then it remains that I should choose to live for someone greater than myself. It only made sense to make Jesus Christ the Lord of my life.

It goes like something from a Halloween special from the Simpsons. In it, the Simspon family gets beamed aboard a spaceship populated by Kang and Kodos type aliens. The aliens keep feeding the family, so they get unnaturally large. Lisa notices this and accuses the aliens of trying to fatten them up for a meal.

Lisa: You’ve been feeding us nonstop to eat us, haven’t you?
Cook: What are you talking about?
Lisa: What about this book, HOW TO COOK HUMANS?
Cook: Wait, there’s some space dust on that. Let me blow it off. Aha! It says HOW TO COOK FOR HUMANS.
Lisa: Wait, there’s still some space dust left on that. Let me blow it off. Aha! It says HOW TO COOK FORTY HUMANS.
Cook: Wait, there’s still yet more space dust left on that. Let me blow it off. Aha! It says HOW TO COOK FOR FORTY HUMANS.

The cook goes on to explain he was trying to be nice, but the family just kept taking advantage of his kindness. As punishment, the Simpson family is taken back to earth instead of the paradise that awaited them.

The analogy isn’t perfect, but I questioned God. I mean, He gave me all these talents and yet I couldn’t use any of them. I was really smart but I hadn’t figured out anything in four years in college. Was I here just for his amusement or something?

Nope, it’s all part of His plan. Hmmm, that sounds a bit condescending. You know, everything that happens is part of His plan, whether it’s good or bad. Man, why doesn’t He just plan good things so everyone believes him?

It’s because God doesn’t want a fair-weather follower. He wants me to follow him through both the good and the bad. But that doesn’t mean I am free from doubt or mistakes. Indeed, I am often full of doubts and make plenty of mistakes.

I had this misconception that God will take care of everything if only I truly believed in Him. But then I heard once that God only answers 50% of your prayers, and I began wondering. I could pray to Gaea or Buddha and get those same results.

My prayers were not in His Will. I know, that sounds like a rather convenient answer but I realized most of my prayers were about myself. Prayer is not about what I want, for it’s about what He wants.

I said I didn’t know why I believed, but that’s not quite right.

I believe because I believe God.
greybeta: (MTG Karn Silver Golem)
I have control.

I have control.

Those words mean a lot to me.

Look, I'm a type A personality and I want to control everything I'm a part of. Whether I like to admit ir or not, I'm a natural born leader. I gravitate towards leadership positions in every organization that I am a part of because that's how the good Lord made me. No more, no less.

But you know what? Sometimes I wonder what the good Lord was thinking when He made me. He must have known that it would be difficult for me to give up control in any situation. But to give up to a guy I don't even know? That's crazy talk!

Wait, hang with me a sec. Nobody thinks you are crazy if you talk to God. Nope, you're only crazy if God talks back. It seems like "God" has become synonymous with "receptacle for our worries."

Trash cans never throw the trash back, now do they?

Hmmm, but God works in mysterious ways, doesn't He? I mean, He has to work in ways that defy reason. After all, aren't miracles supposed to go against the laws of science?

That I'm not so about it. But in reading C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity, his response is this: faith and reason fight emotion and desires. The analogy is that of us being anesthized. Now we know logically that the doctor will wait until we are unconscious to begin, but do we still not experience an irrational fear when that mask is covering us? It's because of faith we sit down in the chair so obediently.

So what's the great temptation? To use faith to reason out all the "bad" things from our lives. The more we try to use introspection on ourselves, the further we drift away from the good Lord. We start trying to do much by ourselves that we forget that God put others here on Earth tu help us.

And that's when we lose faith.

But, I dunno, something deep in the recesses of my mind rejects Lewis's argument. I just can't articulate right now.

Perhaps someone else would like to explain my confusion?
greybeta: ([Xeno] Fei)
In the movie V for Vendetta, the main character addresses the notion of coincidence. The hand of fate can be felt throughout the movie, though it cannot be formalized into words. There are no such things as coincidence, which is symbolized by a very intricate domino set up. Things that are intuitively obvious can be the most powerful in shaping our world views.

A good Christian would say it’s intuitively obvious that there are no coincidences because everything happens according to God’s plan, both good and evil. Am I saying God premeditated the deaths of billions of people? No, I think it’s more appropriate to say that God can use anything and everything for His purpose.

Ah, wait, that sounds a bit too deterministic, doesn’t it? I mean, if God gave us free will, shouldn’t we be free to determine our own lives? What’s the deal with everything being connected to some sort of master plan?

The way I see it, we do have free will. But the power of God is that he’s able to use any of the choices we make to glorify Him. Does that sound a bit too self-serving?

I think it’s quite the opposite, actually. Part of the problem is we often think of God as this impersonal, omniscient force when we should think of Him as our Heavenly Father. Think about parenting for a second. Do we venerate the kids who grow up to make their own decisions or the ones who do what their parents simply tell them to do?

If the universe conspires to help me, I believe it is God lending me a hand. I think it’s a good omen when I meet someone new because God intended for me to meet them. And when something terrible happens to me, I remember that God has a plan and purpose for my life.

Or would you rather have me believe in coincidence?
greybeta: (Hedgehog Mirror)
Have you ever heard of the Clever Hans effect in psychology? Clever Hans is a rather famous horse who could do simple arithmetic and various other intellectual tasks. Wikipedia says, “The horse, Hans, had been trained by a Mr. von Osten to tap out the answers to arithmetic questions with its hoof. The answers to questions involving reading, spelling and musical tones were converted to numbers, and the horse also tapped out these numbers.”

How was Clever Hans able to do such amazing feats? A psychologist named Carl Stumpf set up a series of experiments to find out. Amazingly enough, Hans was able to tap out the correct answer to all sorts of questions. But the horse was only able to do so when it could see its questioner and the questioner knew the answer.

As it turns out, the questioner involuntary tensed up when the horse came close to the the correct amount of taps. When the questioner involuntary released his tension at the right number, the horse was able to sense that and stopped. Psychologist Oskar Pfungst had noticed that the horse was unable to get the correct answer when it was blinded or when the questioner did not know the correct answer.

Sometimes, I feel like Clever Hans. People ask me all sorts of questions and I can sense them tense up when I start responding. It’s difficult to explain, but I can “feel” my way towards the answer they want me to say through their nonverbal cues. It’s not as if I can read what they are actually thinking; rather, their facial expressions and body gestures belie their true thoughts.

What does have to do with my spiritual journey? Well, when it comes to spiritual questions, people tense up just like they do anything else. People can’t help but feel a bit frustrated when I don’t answer the way that they think I will. They cannot hide their genuine concern, nor can they shield their own doubts from me.

Of course, I do the same thing. Yet I feel like it’s something that distracts me when I discuss spiritual matters with other people. I’m so polite that I start giving out the answers that releases the tension in the other person.

Should I start being more rude?
greybeta: (Tylor - Tylor Kanchou)
In more hierarchical forms of Christianity, “godparents” are responsible for the assisting a child’s parents with regards to that child’s religious upbringing. Wikipedia, though, says “The modern definition of godparent is an individual chosen by the parents to take a vested interest in raising a more complete human being.”

Well, I have godparents, though I consider them more of my “American grandparents” since Brimstone Baptists don’t have godparents. Their names are Ralph and Jane, a kind elderly couple who helped my parents out when they first came to America. In fact, they named my sister and me.

From whenever I could begin to remember, I went to East Side Baptist Church. Ralph and Jane took my sister and me to church every Sunday. Supposedly, I was one of the most well behaved little kids they ever met. Supposedly.

They became a part of our family. I recall playing with their grandchildren when I was younger, watching NFL football with one of their grandsons who was my age. They keep up with my family, and we keep up with theirs. Now that I’m older, I drive over to their house to exchange Christmas gifts.

One summer, I asked to read Ralph’s memoirs from the time he served in World War II. Ralph is member of history’s “greatest generation,” the one that fought against the Nazis and their Axis allies. He was a tail gunner for a B-17 Flying Fortress. He dedicated his memoirs to the co-pilot of his B-17, who fell to some shrapnel from AA fire.

They have a lot of history, but never really talk about it unless they asked. No, they’re more liable to talk about Jesus and what our Savior can do for your life than anything else.

In a lot of ways, they’ve been a blessing for me. They always showed me cutouts from the local newspaper whenever my name showed up (and it appeared quite often). They’re quick to identify the positives in me, and they’ve seen enough in life to know when to be patient.

And, of course, they’re praying for me right now. Because they really care for me.

When I think of a “Christian,” they are the first two people who come to my mind. Even now, when they’re eighty-six years old, they serve the Lord. They wake up early every Sunday morning to take other elderly people to church, elderly people who have not gone to church since they were kids.

Why would they do that? You’d think at eighty-six you could retire from doing such work. But no, as long as they draw breath, they will cheerfully do the Lord’s work.

I remember asking them once why they would go through the trouble of doing what they do. They laughed as if the answer was obvious.

“Because Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, who redeemed us with His blood, asked us to do so.”

Can the answer really be that simple?
greybeta: (Tylor - Tylor Kanchou)
When I was in the fifth or sixth grade, WWJD bracelets became immensely popular. “What Would Jesus Do?” became seen everywhere. It started infiltrating all sorts of merchandise, from earrings to t-shirts. It was “cool” to wear a WWJD bracelet.

I wore mine just like everybody else did. Mine was a blue bracelet with black letters. I wore it everywhere, and there several times when I had to look on the playground for it after it slipped off my wrist when I was running around with my friends.

But it was just a fad. The market became oversaturated with the WWJD label and there were too many people trying to capitalize on it. As quickly as the fad grew among the youth of the Bible Belt, it even more quickly died out.

Yet, I always wore my WWJD bracelet. I wore it through junior high, high school, and even the first two years of college. It was a convenient conversation starter, as I explained to many an international student why I wore that bracelet.

One day, though, I lost it for good. I was running in the middle of a rainstorm and lost it somewhere on campus. There was no way I was going to find it. I was a bit sad, but then I remembered something.

We once had a speaker at the Baptist Student Union who asked if anyone still wore a WWJD bracelet. I was the only one to raise my hand. The speaker was a bit surprised, but then he made a point that Christians cannot be marked by something physical.

I then realized that people were very surprised to find out that I was a Christian. To live the life of a disciple of Christ, people should be able to see the one that you reveal inside yourself. People weren’t seeing the one in me…they were seeing me.

Me, me, me. I was living a selfish life, one that did not indicate that I had made Jesus Christ the Lord of my Life. There was a disconnect that I had to resolve.

However, as a heretic, I have to ask, “Is that so bad?” What is so bad about being comfortable in who I am? I feel tension when I try to say that I believe Jesus is the only way to heaven, yet I feel relaxed when I say that Jesus is my Lord and my Savior but that there are still other ways to heaven.

Has Satan deceived me?
greybeta: (Tylor - Tylor Kanchou)
I've decided to write about my spiritual journey at least once a week. After all, if I'm going to try to resolve my heresies, then I actually need to think about it. And I'm someone who likes to put their thoughts down in writing.

I'm just insane enough to let other people read it, even strangers whom I have never met. I don't have anything to hide in this case.

A good friend of mine, concerned for my soul, wrote a response to me about what it is that allows us to know that we are playing the correct notes on the piano. The sound of the music informs us if we are playing correctly. Dissonance on the piano is quite an easy thing to pick up on even for the least musically inclined people.

So, the only thing outside of our circular arguments is the world. We must use the world itself and our senses to judge what is right and wrong.

Let's take a look at Matthew 7:14-16:
"Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto
life, and few there be that find it. Beware of false prophets, which
come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
Ye shall know them by their fruits."

Ah, we shall know them by their fruits. Good trees bear good fruit, while bad trees bad fruit.

This leads us to Matthew 7:21-23:
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'"

I look out into the world and I see that people like Jerry Falwell and Fred Phelps are calling on the good Lord's name to drive out demons. I can't judge them, but somehow I feel that with God as my judge that their fruits are bad.

There are definitely evil people who claim to be Christians.

But what about me? I...don't know.

That's because the good Lord has not granted me the ability to use my power of discernment on myself. It's frustrating because I want to know who I am, and yet all I can see is who others are.

Sure, I sound arrogant when I say I can read people like an open book, but it's true. But I don't think it's something to marvel at. We're all given different abilities, and it's only natural for us to use them.

Whatever the case may be, I must bear "good fruit" if I am to be a true disciple of Christ. Yet, it seems like I am bearing no fruit at all.

I must be a city hidden on a hill.

July 2009

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