Category Archives: Faith

I Want to Be Like Me When I Grow Up

I don’t recall someone ever saying that. In fact, this is the first time I’ve strung those ten words in that particular order. I’ve always used someone else in place of “me,” whether it’s one of my parents, a famous person, or someone who chose to do something I consider extraordinary or worthy of respect — perhaps even awe.

“I want to be as successful as that person someday.”

“I want to be as kind and generous as that person someday.”

“I want to write like that person someday.”

The list is endless, and we’ve all said something similar. To the point it’s cliche.

I’ll bet the people we admire, and who we believe have reached the pinnacle of what we deem as the perfect life, have likely said the same thing at some point in their lives. Mentors have their own mentors, and heroes have their own heroes.

Don’t get me wrong. We need heroes, mentors and leaders, because they more often than not inspire us to reach further toward our own dreams and desires. The downside of that, however, is inspiration can twist into envy and jealousy. We can pay so much attention to those we admire, we soon reach the realization that we can never be who they are. In that, we will fail, because we are not them, and never will be.

I am me the same way you are you. No one can be me anymore than I can be you. We can have similar dreams and aspirations, but the similarity ends there. How I reach my goal will be far different from how you reach yours. Our sucesses and failures will be as unique as our DNA.

What brought this thought about was reading an entry by an author I admire. His words seemed to flow off the page (screen), and I thought, “Why can’t I write like that? To have his wisdom, and eloquence?”

Then I remembered something I had written decades ago: Selling Me Short

Adding to that:

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.
How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.
They cannot be numbered!
I can’t even count them;
they outnumber the grains of sand!
And when I wake up,
you are still with me!

Psalms 139:13-18

God made me the way he did for many reasons, not just one. His gifts to me are for specific purposes that no one can steal, copy, or take over.

The reverse is also true. I can’t steal, copy or take over anyone else’s gifts or life goals. Or their successes. I must always be cognizant of what inspires me, and avoid the too-easy twist into envy, because doing so ignores and can possibly destroy the dreams God has made for me. In the end, I fail at being me — the way God meant for me to be.

The same is true for you, so go out there and strive to be you when you grow up.

My Beautiful Crutch

I’m attending an interesting Bible study on Wednesdays at my church.

Atheism came up in the conversation last night, and someone said how an atheist friend once told him, “People use religion as a crutch.”

I’ve heard that before, too. Then it occurred to me. Yes, religion — faith — is a crutch.

And that’s a good thing.

Would we tell someone with a broken leg to not use crutches to get around, or a paraplegic to not use his/her wheelchair? That would not only be idiotic, but insulting. Perhaps even cruel.

Just as anyone injured or handicapped can’t move around and be independent without their physical aids, people of faith can’t function at their best — be independent — without depending on God.

It seems counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? How does one live independently while depending on God?

Part of faith in God is admitting we’re weak. We don’t have all the answers, we can’t control everything, sometimes not even ourselves. That’s a tough one to admit, because especially here in the States, we are taught that we can control our destiny. We have so many choices whether it’s who we marry, who we associate with, schools, colleges, and career choices to name but a few.

Yet we can’t control when we get a cold, if we’ll contract a fatal disease, if someone decides to commit a crime against us, runs a red light and injures us, nature’s wrath, when our loved ones pass, when a friend breaks a trust, the list is near infinite.

Faith teaches us that control is an illusion. It teaches us that control is not what brings us hope, joy or courage. It’s God, and the decision to depend on him and his wisdom instead of our own flawed, human understanding of the world around us and beyond.

For instance, without my faith, I wouldn’t have had the courage to broach a difficult subject which resulted in the birth of our son (long story, that. I’ll tell it another time).

Without depending on God, I wouldn’t have the courage to write this entry, let alone seek an agent for my full-length novels.

So, yes, God is my crutch, and I shout it proudly.

He’s my unfailing, beautiful crutch.

Sky Wizards and Flying Spaghetti Monsters

I have a few friends who are not only atheists, but are outright hostile to any belief in a higher power.

More than once, I’ve heard them describe God as a “Sky Wizard,” or “Flying Spaghetti Monster.” Even as a Christian, I find those descriptions humorous, even though they’re designed to insult. The latter one is my favorite.

To a person who doesn’t believe God does — or even can — exist, to pray to a non-existent entity is beyond foolish. It gives an individual’s power away, and — according to them — is used as an excuse to not act so that they can be their own answer to prayer.

For instance, someone might pray for healing. The atheist assumes that by praying, the person isn’t seeking medical help for that healing. And if they are healed, that person should be giving the doctors credit, not some imagined creature who lives in the sky.

I’ve seen people complain how so many are praying for those harmed by the latest hurricanes and western state forest fires. They assume that since those people are praying, that’s all they’re doing. They’re accused of thinking God is going to wave his magic wand and fix everything, and those praying don’t have to do anything themselves to help.

First off, that’s false, because I know many who have prayed, but have also sent money, goods, and even gone down there to help. So, yes, we are often our own answers to prayer.

I and many others have also seen miracles that can’t be explained by science, but that’s an entry for another time.

And what about the times God doesn’t answer our prayers? Doesn’t that alone prove he can’t exist?

Truth is, God is not Santa Claus, nor is he a genie. He knows what’s best for us a lot more than we do. I have prayed for many things when God said no, and in looking back, I’m so glad he did. I could give plenty of examples, but that would make this entry too long.

Prayer is also not just about what we receive, especially when it comes to the material, whether it’d be our finances or our health. Prayer changes us, because we’re open to not only the possibilities, but it’s also our best way of communicating with God, and building a relationship with him. Every relationship we’ve ever had, and ever will have, changes us. Sometimes for good, sometimes not. With God, however, it’s always for our good, even if we sometimes hate him for it. For a time. Or maybe that’s just me . . .

Wouldn’t you get annoyed if the only time a person came around was to ask for something? Pretty soon, you wouldn’t answer the door anymore. But if that person also tried to build a relationship with you, and not ask for something in return every time, then you’d be more inclined to help when they are in need. I don’t think God is much different.

All of this, however, will fall on deaf ears to those who refuse to believe God exists, and that he cares enough to want to build a relationship with us. They first have to consider the possibility before it becomes a possibility.

For instance people used to believe the world was flat. Based on their experience such as looking at the ground and the horizon, it’s flat. Therefore, the earth is flat.

Yet some considered the possibility that the world was round, and then set out to prove it, such as Christopher Columbus. For him, the idea — the possibility — came before he could step onto his ship to seek out proof.

That’s how faith started for all of us believers in God, aka The Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Clarity of Rules

I once said that we often read articles or follow certain people, not because we want to learn new things, but to reaffirm what we already believe.

There are other times, however, we stumble across something we knew almost instinctively, but couldn’t articulate. There’s a sense of elation and even relief. Like we returned home after a long and arduous trek through a mountainous desert.

I see a lot of “questions” that present only two possible responses. For instance, I engaged in a discussion on Twitter about the “morality” of eating meat. Here’s part of the discussion:

Me: In short, I don’t think anyone should feel guilty ‘cuz they eat meat, anymore than a vegan should be made to feel guilty for not eating it.

B: Those are two very different consumer realities. One choice requires the funding of mass slaughter, the other does not.

Me: A bit tongue in cheek: Both require slaughter, because we also kill plants when we eat them.

B: Plants are not sentient. If you had to choose between eating your dog or eating a piece of corn, what would you pick? Prolly the corn, right?

Knowing this was an entrapment question, I nonetheless thought about it and responded:

Me: I’d use my dog to help me hunt for rabbit, duck, goose, and/or pheasant, and make a meal with that and the corn to share with my dog.

A lot of the arguments presented to Christians to either defend or condemn contain the same type of either/or options. They’re not designed to start a discussion, but to entrap. Memes like this one is an example:

Christians are supposed to study Jesus’ life so we know how to best live our own. That includes debating with Christians and non-Christians alike.

The Pharisees tried to entrap Jesus with their questions time and again, and he always found a “third way” that included scripture to show them their flawed thinking. He didn’t argue using their rules, and it is one reason they conspired to kill him.

The article that brought all this to clarity for me can be read here:

Statement on Critical Theory and Unity in the Church

If we Christians want to win people over, and avoid people entrapping us with our own arguments, we need to quit playing by mercurial societal rules, and instead play by God’s rules.

Define Freedom

Today’s writing devotional asks what freedom means to me.

I didn’t want to tackle this question. Still don’t really, but to write is to explore. That includes exploring the darker, scarier places, whether they be in the mind or our surroundings, and to explore what makes us uncomfortable.

I don’t want to discuss what freedom means to me, and to me alone, because then it’s a matter of opinion only. I prefer facts to opinion, unless that opinion is informed with facts. That includes my own.

Yet I don’t want to cut and paste the Webster’s definition of freedom and call it a day. Your time is worth more than that.

I look to every controversy and question today’s society asks through two specific lenses: The importance of the individual and my Christian faith.

To define freedom I look to those two perspectives.

I didn’t get into trouble (much) growing up. I did far less than what my mom expected of both my sister and me. My mom said it was due to both of us having a strong sense of self-interest. Not selfishness, but in taking care that whatever we did wouldn’t have an adverse affect on our health and safety. We made mistakes, certainly, but nothing serious or permanent.

I boiled it down to something my mom told me when I was an early teen: “You can do whatever you want, but you will accept the consequences for them.”

Because my mom gave me the freedom to choose my actions, it put the fear of God into me (to use a phrase both literally and figuratively). Her words made me stop to consider what possible consequences I could face before, and not after I acted. It also meant my parents would not protect me from those consequences. They were my sole responsibility.

That’s what freedom truly is — not only the ability to decide our actions, but the necessity of accepting the consequences and responsibility for those actions.

My faith works the same way. God will not always stop me from making both good and bad choices, but he does expect me to take responsibility for them. He saved my soul, certainly, but he won’t always save me from the workings of this world. My actions are still my own, the consequences mine to accept, and I am to blame no one for them except me.

“Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct.” — Galatians 6:4-5

What Matters

What Matters

I received an email congratulating me for signing up at http://www.writing.com, a website for writers who want to review and be reviewed by other writers, twelve years ago today.

Twelve years. It seems like a long time, but at the same time, not long enough.

I wondered at how much I have accomplished in that time, and I felt a little twinge of almost regret. When I started here, I had the singular dream of being published. Now, twelve years later, I’m still unpublished (mostly).

Have I wasted those twelve years?

Then I read the next email. Someone kindly reviewed one of my items:

Hello vivacious [my username on the site] ,I’d like to wish you a very happy account anniversary, may you have a magical day. I chose this item to review for your anniversary because I thought the title and the item description were very curious. I think this poem is very short on words however it packs with it a powerful message in which I totally agree with.

I think this is an easy to understand and very special poem. it makes me feel like I am glad to be alive and that I am but a child being guided through life by an all powerful God. I did not see any mistakes with your writing.

Thank you for sharing this item with me I appreciate your talent, you keep writing and I’ll keep reading God Bless You

The item in question I remembered was a poem, but that’s it. After looking at the date I added it, I knew why: 2006. Eleven years ago.

It’s short enough, so here it is:

These are not my words.

This is not my voice.

These hands are not mine.

Count this not as wisdom from me.

Only to God.

Only to God does this all belong.

These last twelve years were not a waste. Quite the opposite. I’ve touched many people here (figuratively speaking). I’ve made many friends that I keep in contact with both here and on other sites. Perhaps my words have encouraged and even blessed others.

Best of all, the review and the poem together smacked me across the face (figuratively speaking). It was God’s way of not allowing me to feel sorry for myself. My words matter. I matter, because he created me.

Regardless of how many years of my life passes, God will use me in ways both seen and unseen. Whether my own lofty dreams come to pass In the time or ways I want and expect them to is not important as far as eternity is concerned. What matters is that God’s will be done when it needs to be done. Not too soon, and never too late.

Christian Hypocrisy

It seems with many today, those two terms are redundant and interchangeable.

No matter what we say or what we do, people will call us hypocrites. For instance, part of our faith requires we help the poor, the orphan and the widow, yet there are countless examples of many Christians who don’t.

We consider adultery and lying sins, yet we support leaders and politicians who have. Scripture warns against gossip, yet how many of us gossip all over the place?

I submit that to be a Christian is to embrace our own hypocrisy. In many ways we can’t have one without the other.

Paul even said (Romans 7:14-25), “So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good. So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.

“And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.

“I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.”

Christians are required to acknowledge two things: That Jesus is the son of God who died for us, and that we are sinful creatures. As long as we live we will never be sinless. Sure, we try not to sin, and many times we succeed, but as many times as we refrain, we also give in. We simply can’t help ourselves. I still gossip. I envy and covet, and I too often take the Lord’s name in vain. I even hate, which as far as God is concerned, that’s murder (See 1 John 3:15).

Jesus knew this, which is why he told us not to judge (see Matthew 7:1-6). He once convinced a crowd not to stone an adulterous woman by saying, “Let the one who has not sinned throw the first stone.” (See John 8:1-11)

Aside: I don’t think the irony of Jesus being the only one qualified to throw that stone was lost on him.

The problem with people’s perception of Christians these days (sometimes deserved, sometimes not) is that we focus too much on people’s wrong-doings. We appear to forget that Jesus never pointed out a person’s sin without first offering them grace. The adulterous woman is one example, but also the Samaritan woman at the well (see John 4:4-38), and many others, man and woman, rich and poor.

After all, Jesus didn’t walk into my room one day, give me a list of all my horrible thoughts and deeds and say, “Clean all that up first, and then I will forgive you.” Quite the reverse, actually.

Am I a hypocrite? Yes, and worse. But that’s irrelevant, because I still try to be the best person I can be. Not because it’s required for my salvation, but as an expression of my gratitude for Jesus saving me when I wasn’t being the best person I can be. Hell, I’m still not even close, but at least I’m working at it. Either way, it doesn’t erase God’s love, nor his grace.

Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.

But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. (Romans 3:18-22)