Tag Archives: Faith

Echoed Promises

Standard

Today:
Anonymous potentiality.

Today:
It may determine the rest of my life
Or at least the immediate tomorrow.

“Behold,” I say, echoing Jeremiah in his youth,
“I do not know how to speak.”

But in the quiet darkness, I hear a voice—
A familiar voice.

He, as usual, is silently loud, and
His words reverberate an ancient promise:
“Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’” He says,
“Because everywhere I send you, you shall go,
“And all that I command you,
You shall speak.
Do not be afraid of them,
“For I am with you.”

Today I rest
With touched lips.

Endless Questions & The Oprah Magazine

Standard

DISCLAIMER: This is more or less an exaggerated rant written for the primary purpose of getting my thoughts out in an uncensored fashion. Please don’t e-mail me with questions about my sanity or overall well-being. As Orlando Bloom’s character in Elizabethtown said, “I’m fine.”  =)

***

Yesterday I was standing in line at the grocery store, and this caught my eye:

Due to lack of time, however, I didn’t bother picking it up. (Okay, and maybe secretly I didn’t care, since this is, after all, Oprah—and yes, for those wondering, I’m not a fan.) Regardless, the title got me thinking.

Calling.

I sometimes detest that word. Thank you, church culture, and—more importantly—thank you, Northwest University! In all honesty, though, the general overuse of the word is not my problem; my problem is the lack of clarity when it comes to its definition.  Forget asking the question: ‘What is my calling?’  What the hell is a CALLING, anyway? If I were to ask a handful of people, I’m positive I’d get a handful of definitions (in fact, this has happened already). And therein lies my issue with the concept of calling.

Four years ago, I thought I knew what my calling was. But four years ago, my definition of ‘calling’ was synonymous with my definition of ‘vocation.’ And while I’ve learned that the two are separate entities, I still haven’t quite figured out what ‘calling’ means.

All I know is this: as of this very moment, I’m not where I should be. If the ultimate goal is to love God and love others the way I love myself, then I have quite a few miles to travel—especially since I don’t love myself right now.  I look at the person I’ve become and cringe; I’m often bitter, full of doubt, angry (at myself, at others, and sometimes at God), unmotivated, and overall uninspired.

What happened?

What happened to the girl who made it her mission to push through the harsh circumstances? The girl who once embraced life’s challenges and still managed to walk forward? Where is the girl who had dreams, goals, and aspirations, who once knew how to set goals and move toward them? Where is the artist who looked at her life and the lives of others and found raw, creative potential there?

And where on earth did this person come from? This person who always wants to hide, who tells herself constantly that she’s never going to be good enough, whose eyes are suddenly on herself and hardly ever on others? How and when did I become this person? And how do I find my way back to the right path? (Whatever that means.)

Perhaps I’m thinking too hard again, and perhaps I’ll one day look back at today and laugh, but right now, this all feels just as unpleasant as a sleepless, insomnia-infused night.  It’s like my very soul has insomnia, and no matter how much I toss and turn, the restlessness refuses to retire.

I have more questions than answers, and the more I seek out answers, the more complex my questions become. And as a result, I find myself shying away from everything—questions, answers….everything—until I’m completely numb and hopelessly immobile. But immobility is a dangerous disease, a type of cancer, really. And I loathe myself for getting to this point.

Once again, there’s a pretty significant chance I’m just thinking too hard. I do that often.

Anyway, I was reading Amitabh Bachchan’s blog earlier, and he opened his entry with these words. They really caught my attention:

“It is the simple things in life that move us the most. It is the common things in life that affect us the most. It is, I have discovered, life itself that touches us the most. I wait patiently for life to present itself to me. I wait till it summons me to notice. I wait in expectation of that which shall unfold itself, and having found it, expect more.”

Thinking too hard or not, I seem to have caught some sort of strange amnesia when it comes to being moved by the simple, common things in life. The “big things”—life altering circumstances, etc.—keep pushing me down. And my general expectations—for myself and for others—are terribly low.

But I’m so damn tired of that! I’m tired of crawling out of bed each morning with the sole purpose of making it through the day. Simply surviving. I want to have higher expectations and I want to be able to find meaning in the small, normally unnoticed aspects of life. Only then can I discover and grasp the bigger notions: my purpose, my calling.

Fear will paralyze you if you let it, and I certainly have. But it’s now time to arise, to make new discoveries, to move toward something new and fresh, whether that “something” is big or small. Head held high, no turning back.  But the daunting question remains: how?

***

“Wake up, O sleeper,

—rise from the dead…”

orphan (says the heart)

Standard

You need to write a blog.

Those words have been echoing in my mind for weeks. But every day procrastination overtakes me. I am naturally a procrastinator. Most people know that. But this time is different. This time I’ve been procrastinating on my writing because of the subject matter at hand:

the death of a parent.

On Friday, August 27, 2010 I lost my Nani, who was very much a parent to me—even more avidly than my actual parents. Cancer and several other health issues are to blame.

Grief is a strange (and, in my case, very foreign) concept. I’m practically an expert when it comes to other emotional phenomena: anger, bitterness, excitement, even depression. But grief is unfamiliar and therefore scary.

In all honestly, I half-expected Nani’s death to send me back into depression; I know I’m in a completely different place (both spiritually and emotionally) than I was in 2007, but I guess I thought that the shock of losing someone I loved so dearly would drive me back into that deep, dark hole again. Fortunately, though, it didn’t.

I’m not depressed, just confused and…well, lots of other emotions I haven’t really processed yet. I’m often quite scared to be alone with my thoughts, because whenever I am, I find myself missing Nani so much that it literally, physically hurts. I finally understand what that phrase means: “I miss you so much it hurts.” But I wish I was still ignorant to it, ‘cause I’m telling you: it sucks. Am I in denial when it comes to my feelings? Perhaps. Will time eventually break/heal me? That’s for God to know.

And how is my relationship with the Lord? That’s a touchy subject. Let’s just say that grief has a way of coloring your faith in hues you didn’t even know existed.

I still love Jesus, but—to put it lightly—I’m frustrated with Him. However, I promised myself that no matter what, I’d stay with Him and tell Him how I really felt. After all, what’s more meaningful in a relationship than total transparency and honesty with your companion? I could’ve cut myself off from Him like I did a few years ago, but I refuse to wander down that path again. Besides, He’s a big God; He can handle my brutal honesty.

At this point my main focus is to survive each day, despite my grief. Not an easy task, by any means. But thank God for coping strategies! What is my current “coping” strategy, you ask? Old Hindi films. Haaaa!

When you really think about it, though, it makes perfect sense: Nani was a daily—and very vivid—reminder of my Indian roots, something I otherwise ignored (sometimes unintentionally, but other times purposefully). For example, I always called her “Nani”—the Hindi word for your mother’s mother. If I really wanted to, I’m sure I could’ve called her “Grandma”; after all, I call my mother “Mom” and my father “Dad.” But “Grandma” just never seemed to fit her. Nor did it fit the relationship I had with her (a relationship that was definitely driven by some cultural undertones). So she was and will always be my “Nani.”

Also, these movies bring back memories of a better time; I remember being five or six years old and watching them with my mom and Nani…and then running around the house, singing all the songs and reciting the dialogue! While everyone else was watching The Little Mermaid, Star Wars, and The Princess Bride, I was watching Amar Akbar Anthony and Hum. (Ok, fine, I watched the aforementioned English movies, too, but they still pale in comparison to the aforementioned Hindi titles. Am I biased? Maybe a tad bit!) Even now, though, I can hear Nani’s amused laughter in my head when the oh-so-amazing Amitabh Bachchan does something ridiculous on screen…oh, what I would give to [literally] hear her laugh again!

And finally, the most shallow reason for making this coping strategy my personal method of choice: Amitabh Bachchan is effin’ hilarious. Seriously, Hollywood’s finest comedians–past and present–have nothing on this guy. I’ve been watching several of his flicks from the 70s and 80s, and all I gotta say is: Eat your hearts out, Steve Martin and Betty White! And thank you, Mr. Bachchan, for making me laugh so genuinely, despite the current heaviness of my heart…also, thanks for reviving my interest in the Hindi language and for giving me a newfound love for Hindi music! =)

I miss Nani terribly. I know she’s in a much better place, but that doesn’t eliminate my constant longings to have her physically back in my life. I hate going downstairs, seeing her things and her living space, and knowing that she’ll never inhabit that space again. Of course, then I find myself thinking about the amount of pain she was in during her last days, and I feel like smacking myself; why would I or anyone in their right mind ever want her to suffer like that again? ‘Cause at least now she’s free of that pain.  And, so, the cruel cycle repeats itself. (Oh, and did I mention that my insomnia’s back? Yeah…stronger than ever, too. Uggggh!)

But regardless of the current cloudiness of my mind and emotions, there are two things I know for sure:

First, that my grandmother was a beautiful soul and a true saint. She set the bar higher than anyone else I know, and I can only hope that I’ll one day leave behind a legacy that’s as rich as hers: a legacy of unconditional love, complete perseverance through any and all circumstances, and childlike faith that never wavered.

Thank you, Nani. You don’t even know how much you’ve impacted my life and faith. You are the ultimate example of godliness. Who needs the Proverb 31 woman when they have you to look up to?

The second thing—and I’ll close my entry with this: Amitabh Bachchan kicks ass!

Sainted Faith: a poem of remembrance

Standard

[Wrote this for my grandmother, Subhabya Devi Mudaliar, who passed away on August 27, 2010. R.I.P., Nani. Love you and miss you terribly.]

***

Subhag; Amma; Nani—

How can we express in words (a failed medium) our gratitude?

For your life, your love, and most of all, your faith—

Your faith in us, your faith in others, and most of all, your faith in Christ.

Time strangles and limits all that needs to be said, but we want you to know

That we’ll never forget you—

Your life, your love, and most of all, your faith—

Your faith in us, your faith in others, and most of all, your faith in Christ.


We’ll never forget the times when you suffered,

How you quietly took the abuse

Of a husband who was supposed to love and protect you.

We’ll never forget the times when you got up early, body battered and bruised

Yet you cooked, cleaned, and took care of your family.

We will never forget.


We’ll never forget the time when you left everything behind

And moved to a new country—

How you answered the cry of your hurting daughter & grandchild.

We’ll never forget your love, or your selflessness,

Or your unwavering loyalty to others.

We will never forget.


We’ll never forget the day when you forsook the idolatry of your forefathers,

When you gave your heart to Jesus;

How you prayed and how He answered.

We will never forget.


We’ll never forget the times when you cradled little children,

How you fed them, changed them, wiped their tears,

And shared with them the incredible love of Jesus.

Yes, this, we will never forget.


And we’ll certainly never forget all those times

When you held us in your arms and in your heart,

How you laughed with us, how you encouraged us,

How you cried for us

And how you prayed for us.

And most of all, how you always pointed us toward the One

Who will always hold your heart and ours.


Thank you, Amma, and thank you, Nani,

For all the times and in all the ways that you lived and loved

And displayed your faith in Jesus.

We will never forget you.

Never will we forget your life, your love, and most of all,

Your faith in Jesus.

We will always remember.

***

On Evangelizing…or not evangelizing

Standard

It’s not a religion; it’s a relationship.

How many times have you heard this once-witty-now-cliché statement? I swear, people—Christians—toss this one around like it’s a beach ball! I know I’m guilty of it.

I recently had a conversation with a friend about religion. It started out pretty harmless; she was asking about my parents’ arranged marriage and how the hell my parents ended up as a couple. So I gave her the reader’s digest version of my family’s history and my mom’s desire to marry a Christian…how my grandfather very sternly promised her that he’d disown her if she ever made that request again…and how he proceeded to find her a husband who was the farthest thing from a Christian: a Hindu priest in training. (Way to go, Grandpa!)

My friend then asked, “what’s the difference between Hindu and Christian beliefs? Don’t all religions have the same basic foundations of love and treating people how you want to be treated, etc?”

My initial thought was, “Yes.” Because she has a point if you really think about it. But the next thought that popped into my head was this: “It [Christianity] isn’t a religion; it’s a relationship.” And then I wanted to shoot myself, because I’m so flippin’ tired of hearing people say that! What does it even mean? I mean really?

The rest of our conversation consisted mostly of me rambling like an idiot about why I think Christianity is different from all other religions…but you know what? In that process of rambling, I realized how utterly pathetic I am when it comes to witnessing (with my words, I mean). Here I am: a Jesus-loving, Bible-believing, Christian school-attending, church-going person, and I don’t know how to witness. I don’t know how to tell someone my reasons for believing what I believe.

Why am I a Christian?

…because God is alive, and I see Him in the world around me.

…because He created me for the sole purpose of worshiping Him, and through worship, I can reach my full potential.

…because I’ve realized the incredible sacrifice that Jesus Christ has made for me.

…because life without an intimate relationship with Jesus is meaningless.

But seriously…how does one convey those ideas to someone who just doesn’t see Christianity as anything other than a religion? How DO you convince a person that Christianity truly is about a personal relationship with Jesus and not merely a list of ritualistic rules or dos and don’ts?

I have no idea. Honestly. I don’t.

I walked away from that conversation feeling rather miserable and wondering if I had failed God. Yeah, yeah, I know I didn’t fail God, but I couldn’t help feeling as though I had. And sure, I can pray for my friend to truly know Christ—for God to have a supernatural encounter with her that will leave her wanting nothing more in life than Jesus, and I will; I will pray. But here’s the thing: it really bothers me that we Christians have become so caught up in our Christian sub-culture…our Christian t-shirts, CDs, and bumper stickers, and our Christianized/sermonized/“Jesufied” church lingo that when it comes to talking to real people with real questions about faith, we just become tongue-tied. I’ve always had this pet-peeve, but this conversation was a fresh reminder of said annoyance.

Now, I know that God is ultimately the One who can speak to my friend’s heart. It’s ultimately not my witticism or excellent rhetoric (or in this case, lack thereof) that will change her mind about God or faith or Christianity or religion. But I still think we could be trying a lot harder. I’ve been at Bible college for five bloody years, and before that I was heavily involved at my church, my youth group, and my Christian school. But have I ever really learned how to explain my beliefs to someone who may be searching, or even just curious? I can’t say that I have.

It’s not a religion; it’s a relationship. While I believe that statement to be true, I still rather detest what it stands for, or the overall attitude behind it. And as far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t accomplish a whole lot in terms of practical evangelism. At least not in my experience.

So, fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, let me close this rant by asking you perhaps the simplest/most complicated question that exists: how do you tell people about your faith?

World Community Arts Day 2010: “Peace for the Nations”

Standard

A few months ago, I was lurking on Matthew Vasquez’s Facebook page (for those who don’t know, Matthew is the lead singer of Delta Spirit—a band that I am highly fond of), and I came across a Facebook event called “World Community Arts Day 2010” for which he had RSVPed. The title of the event immediately caught my attention, so I clicked on it, and behold! I discovered a fascinating phenomenon that apparently began a few years ago and is slowly becoming a global interest.

World Community Arts Day began in 2007 by a group of people who had a dream to use art on a global scale as a catalyst to raise social awareness in all sorts of contexts. We all have “global issues” that concern us: world peace, environment conservation, poverty, modern-day slavery, racial prejudice…the list goes on. So the idea was for people everywhere to consider a social issue that was important to them and to create an art project that related to said issue (in whatever medium one preferred). Fast-forward a few years…it’s now 2010, and people in various countries are making it their annual tradition to participate in World Community Arts Day.

Being an artist myself, this clearly struck a loud chord in my own heart. So I decided to participate this year. Well, today is World Community Arts Day, and this afternoon, I spent some time doing one of my favorite activities in the world: art (my chosen medium was charcoal + pencil sketching).

My afternoon began at the Laughing Ladies Café in Shoreline. With a 12 oz. hazelnut latte and my iTunes by my side, I sat down and began sketching, not entirely knowing what the result would be (that’s usually how it goes when I pursue any sort of art project). But you know what? I’m rather happy with the way my piece turned out:

I titled this one “Peace for the Nations.” (The Hindi inscription spells out the word “peace.”) And no, it’s not designed to raise awareness about world peace. Personally, I’m not sure that world peace will ever be obtained. But that’s another discussion for another time. So what is the drawing about, you ask? Well, it mainly represents a personal issue that, lately, has persistently been on my heart. It seems that everywhere I look, bad things keep happening, and as of late, the “bad” keeps moving closer to my own borders. And I’ve realized that the only “solution” to any of these issues is God’s gift of peace. And it’s just that: a gift. Not something I can obtain on my own. But here’s to hoping that I do obtain it at some point, and also, that I may serve as a sliver of peace to those around me. Perhaps this is a stepping stone. I can only hope that my art, as imperfect and insignificant as it is (like me), somehow serves as a catalyst for peace.

Insomnia, Haiti & Other Things

Standard

Here’s a little piece of advice for ya: if you plan to get a significant amount of sleep at night, do not drink caffeinated tea (especially black tea…higher caffeine content) or coffee after 11pm. Why? Because if you do, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll end up staying awake till at least 2am. Believe me, I’m speaking from experience. To be honest, though, my sleeping patterns lately have been pretty fudged up, and I don’t think caffeine is to blame. I blame life. Life and its various manifestations of crap. The “why is this happening to me, and how much longer will I have to put up with this?” question haunts me on a nightly basis. And sometimes I really detest myself for it, because I hate it when people throw themselves these ridiculous pity parties—yet I find myself so often behaving exactly like “those” people. The bottom line is, I just want the problems and the pain to go away. And for once in my life, I just want to be able to turn off my restless brain and get some decent sleep. (I know, it’s never that simple, but the thought is endearing).

Speaking of my restless brain…

Late at night is typically the time when my thoughts decide to run a marathon. I’ll lie there and think (way too hard) about all the different things that are currently going on in my life—especially all the negative things. And then I get frustrated. And it’s this vicious cycle that never stops.

But lately, my “thoughts of restlessness” have mostly been about Haiti. And you know what? It’s actually a refreshing change—refreshing in the sense that my mind has become preoccupied with something other than me, myself, and I. Like I said, I hate the concept of self-pity, yet that road is such an easy one to wander down. And I swear, it’s like Pandora’s box: once you open it, it takes an enormous amount of effort to lock it back up. So why do I even bother going down that road? I don’t really know. Selfishness, I guess. See? Even now…me, me, me. Enough with that, already! Back to Haiti…

As is probably the case for a lot of folks, I just can’t seem to get away from what happened. In my short years of life, I’ve heard a number of stories about hard-hitting natural disasters—Hurricane Katrina, the Asia Tsunami, etc. But I don’t know, none of those have ever impacted me the way that this one has. My heart is really broken this time. Perhaps it’s a result of simply knowing that even prior to the quakes, the Haitians were dealing with rather significant amounts of instability as a nation. Or maybe it’s something else. At any rate, my heart breaks for those who have been affected by the earthquakes. I know I’m doing a poor job of expressing it, but it’s true. I’ve never felt so strongly for another country as I do for Haiti—almost to the point where I find myself appalled with the people who don’t seem to share my brokenness. Like Saturday morning: I logged on to Facebook and a friend had posted a status message about getting a pedicure. You know what my first thought was? Why the hell are you wasting your money on something like that?! You totally could’ve donated that money to charity! I even found myself annoyed when another friend said that the Hope for Haiti Now telethon seemed like a cheesy event. How dare you! They’re raising money for a great cause and are probably being more productive at it than you’ll ever be! Please don’t misunderstand me…I’m not at all saying that I’m right for having these thoughts. I’m not. By no means is it my place to judge. Perhaps my friend who decided to get a pedicure has already donated to the Red Cross, World Vision, or other charity of her choice. And the anti-telethon friend may have done the same. But even if they haven’t, who am I to judge?  We all have different convictions, different things that compel us or tug at our heartstrings, and just because my two friends don’t feel the same as I do doesn’t mean they’re suddenly “bad” or heartless people. I guess what I’m really trying to say is this: the situation in Haiti has really made an impression on me.

And then, to add to all this, I recently wrote and contributed an article about Haiti to Girls by Design (an online network/blog for teen girls). This meant I had to research some specifics about the country and its current catastrophe (the goal of the article was to raise awareness among teen girls about Haiti’s situation and to offer them some suggestions on how they can make a difference in the relief efforts). So once again, my mind started working, and my heart continued breaking.

When it all boils down, here’s what I’ve realized: I want to go to Haiti. Badly. In fact I don’t think I’ve ever felt such a strong urge to want to go on a mission trip. Considering the amount of time I’ve spent in the church (basically my whole life), I really haven’t gone on many global mission trips. I’ve traveled but not really for missions purposes. But every time I see an image of the rubble-covered streets of Port-au-Prince, every time I read an article about the broken-bodied survivors and orphans, every time I watch a Youtube video, or hear people discussing this disaster, I feel like dropping everything—school, work, life—and heading over there.

I posted a status about wanting to go, and a friend/mentor responded by saying, “You should listen to those promptings.” I don’t want to over-spiritualize and assume that this is God’s doing, but at the same time, I wonder if perhaps the Lord is behind these promptings. I certainly don’t want to dismiss that idea. God’s done stuff like that before in my life and in the lives of people around me.

I know I’ve complained quite a bit over the last few months about feeling stuck in my current existence. With graduation coming up, I know “change” is upon the horizon, but I still find myself feeling discouraged and confused and doubting just about everything in regards to my future. But maybe that’s exactly the problem; maybe I’ve been spending too much time thinking about myself, my shortcomings, and the uncertainties in my life. The truth is I’ve spent all this time hiding in a hole. Ever since I resigned from my worship leader/youth leader position at Westgate, I’ve built this wall around myself and have somehow convinced myself that I’m too week, too blemished, and too incapable of doing something “great” again. But as I look back at the “happiest” moments of my life, you know what I see? That those moments were never about me; I was happiest when I was involved in helping/serving others.

Perhaps happiness is the wrong word, though; what I’m really after is joy. I’m tired of the emotional ups and downs—the unpredictability that comes with happiness. I’m tired of the late nights of lying awake, wondering how I’ll make it through another day, week, month, year; tired of just surviving. I want to tap into my full potential again. I want to know what God really has in store for me. What is my calling? I want a fresh start. And maybe I won’t get that fresh start until I get up and do something about it…like going to Haiti. So here’s my prayer: God, if this is Your will—if You are the One placing this desire in my heart, then (a) give me some sort of confirmation, and (b) turn this desire into reality.

Of course, actually going to Haiti would require a serious miracle. I definitely don’t have the money, resources, or even the time to just get up and go. But guess what? I happen to serve a God who is quite fond of granting miracles. So who knows? It’s certainly not impossible.

This may sound super cheesy, but I can’t help but think of the old song, “This Little Light of Mine.” I grew up singing it in church (complete with the choreographed hand motions and everything!), but I don’t know if the song’s “point” ever truly sunk in for me. One of the verses talks about not hiding our lights under bushels. Looking back at the last five years of my life, I realize that that’s exactly what I’ve been doing. And now I’m finally realizing…it’s time to stop hiding.

An Apology

Standard

Dear Blog,

Let me begin by saying that I am terribly sorry for neglecting you these past few months. As you’ve probably figured out by now, I have been dreadfully busy. School consumes my life and leaves very little time for anything else. My social life is almost—not totally, but almost—nonexistent. But that’s okay, I suppose, because I’ve never been an exceedingly social person, anyway.  However, a number of thoughts, ideas, frustrations, and the like have been on my mind lately, and I think it’s time I tap into them. So here we go:

1. Let’s talk about school. I love most of my classes. Like, really, truly LOVE them. Of course, they are challenging and can be frustratingly difficult at times, and the work is insanely time-consuming, but you know what? I’m actually quite okay with that. Why? Because I’m learning so much right now. Aside from one class (which shall remain unnamed), I’m finding the material to be useful, interesting, and worth my money, my time, and my efforts. That, dear blog, is an incredible feeling! So…yay, school!

2. Church. I moved to a new church. Yup. After wanting to do so for nearly two years, I finally went through with it. This was definitely one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made. At first, I actually felt guilty for going through with it. I had some issues at my last church, but I’m a firm believer in fighting through life’s difficulties…so in some ways, leaving my former church felt like the cowardly thing to do. (I kept thinking of my favorite quote by J.R.R. Tolkien. He once said, “Faithless is he who says farewell when the road darkens.” I did not want to be the person who checked out simply because a bunch of problems were staring me in the face. But then there’s the whole “enough is enough” policy, too. How much was I willing to handle? Hmmm….)

Here’s another thing: I’ve never been very fond of “church hoppers.” You know who I’m talking about—those individuals who bounce around from church to church, never really finding a place to call “home,” because they keep finding something wrong with every church they visit. No place ever seems to meet all of the items on their “checklist” of church requirements; perhaps each church doesn’t have the right style of preaching, the right style of music, the right kind of non-Sunday activities, or the people don’t dress “right,” and whatever else. So they become nomadic church-goers.

I hate to think that I even have a checklist, but at the same time, doesn’t everyone? I mean, ultimately, we’re supposed to be at church to serve: to serve our local community, and to serve God through our worship, through our giving, and through our commitment to the body of the Christ. And how can you really do that if you’re primarily focused on what church can do for you? Regardless, though, I think many of us have a checklist. We walk into church on a weekly basis, expecting to “get something” out of it. And so often, when we stop “getting something” from a particular congregation, we just decide to leave. I guess I initially felt guilty for leaving my previous church, because I felt like I was just running away from something that was less than “perfect.” But let’s face it: NO church is perfect. Because churches are made up of people, and people are flawed.

Anyway…plenty more to say about that, but I’ll keep moving.

The thing is, church (at least to me) is essentially about community; it’s about coming to a certain place on a weekly/multi-weekly basis in order to fellowship with others who share your beliefs, people with whom you can honestly and openly share your faith, your struggles, your dreams, your desires. In other words, it’s a family.

And my last church stopped being a family years ago. It just became a building that I went to on a weekly basis. So, after many arguments with myself (and with my mother for that matter), and after a great deal of prayer, I finally did the one thing I’ve been dying to do for years: I left.

I’m now at the Westside Church in Ballard (www.westsidechurch.com), and I absolutely LOVE it!! It’s exactly the fresh start I needed. It’s small, intimate, the perfect mix between traditional and contemporary in its style, and has great pastors who are committed to preaching the Truth in a new, relevant, challenging, and theologically sound manner (okay, so I guess I DO have a checklist). Overall, Westside is full of vibrant people from all walks of life who love Jesus and are there to serve Him. Is it perfect? Absolutely not. No church is. Is it “better” than my last church? No. I think the people at my previous church love God just as much as the people at Westside. But Westside is significantly different than my previous place of worship—not better, not worse, just different. And “different” is exactly what I need right now.

And, amazingly enough, the doors to get involved with music ministry are already wide open at Westside. All I have to do is walk through them! I didn’t even have to go looking for the opportunity; God just dropped it in my lap!

I have to be honest, I was beginning to think I’d never get involved again. At times, I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to (especially after my last couple of “ministry opportunities”). But new doors are opening; a new season has begun, and after basically sitting in the background for so long, I think it’s time to step it up and do what God is asking me to do—to lead worship again. It’ll be scary, no doubt. I have many bad memories attached to music ministry. But you know that old saying, “God is in the restoration business”? I absolutely believe He can restore my heart and motives towards worship leading again. If that’s where He wants to use me, I fully believe He can change my attitude. He’s already started, and something tells me there’s plenty more “change” on the way.

3. Family stuff has been…the usual. It’s rocky, unstable, and flat out infuriating at times. I’m now at the point where I just keep my distance. School, in that regard, is truly a blessing in disguise. Yeah, the long nights of homework, lack of sleep, and commuting to Kirkland every day can be a drag, but school keeps me occupied; I’d much rather be there than at home where I have to deal with the constant chaos. And ironically, despite the hellish summer that I had (which caused me to return to school in an already burnt-out state), I’m doing better in school this semester than I ever have! My grades have improved immensely, because I’m applying myself more this semester than I did in previous semesters. And I think the main reason I’m applying myself to this extent is because I’m trying to keep myself busy. Is that good or bad? Whatever. The point is, I’m doing well in school, haha.

4. On a happier note (as far as family goes), we’ll be spending our Christmas in California this year! YEAH! SO excited…I can’t even begin to express my excitement. Can someone say, “Christmas in Disneyland”?! Disneyland is already the most magical place on earth; add Christmas to the mix and BAM! And I’ve never been there during the holiday season, so I’m pretty thrilled about that. And not only does Christmas in Cali mean Disneyland; it also means…Christmas with Ashley!! The last time I saw her was in March, so I’m very excited about spending the holidays with her this year. I’m sure we’ll have a blast!

So, my dearest blog, that’s basically all that’s been going on in my life since August. It is now November, and the end of the year is upon the horizon. I’m looking forward to it. 2009 was, beyond any doubt, one of the most draining years of my life, and I can only hope and pray that 2010 will be better. I’m sure it will come with its own set of challenges—what year doesn’t?—but there’s just something invigorating about starting a brand new year. It’s fresh, it’s new, and it’s a chance to basically “start over” again. And I’m definitely ready to start over.

Sincerely,

Jessica

Roller Coaster Christianity

Standard

I don’t want to be a roller coaster Christian. You know what I’m talking about—the kind of Christian who runs to God when she feels like she’s at the bottom of the slope…but then, when things are at an all-time high, she just goes with the flow; she keeps her eyes fixed on her own agenda, her own priorities, without so much as even bothering to give God the time of day.

It’s simple and perhaps even instinctual to run to Heaven’s throne when things aren’t going so well…or rather, the way we want them to go. In those moments of desperation and despair, when everything around us is crumbling, going to God is easy—second nature. We go to Him; we cry out for mercy; we ask God to grant us immeasurable amounts of grace and the strength to make it through the trials and tribulations. We pray for refinement, saying things like: “Oh, Lord! Use this experience to shape me into the person You want me to be. Let this time of distress be a tool that You use to make me more like Christ.” But then when life becomes manageable again, when the cup passes, God takes the back burner. Our Bibles find a home on the bookshelf and begin to collect dust. Prayers become routine, thoughtless graces spoken before meals. What happened to the heartfelt conversations we once had with Christ? Those desperate pleas we once offered to God?

And so we go on with our Christian lives, hastening to the throne when things get bad and doing exactly the opposite when things are okay. Circumstances drive us. Complacency eventually sets in. Then a new wave of suffering crashes over us: some new unfortunate situation that knocks the control right out of our hands. And thus, the vicious cycle continues.

Am I the only person who does this?

I’m currently at a very low point—the valley, or the bottom of the slope if you will. Waking up each morning isn’t exactly appetizing, and it’s God’s grace and only His grace that allows me to face another day. So naturally, since things aren’t exactly peachy keen at the moment, I find myself praying and thinking quite often about God: His character, the mysterious ways in which He works, why He would allow these horrible things to happen in my life and in the lives of my family members, why my prayers seem to disappear into some unknown void, etc. But regardless of the nature of my prayers and meditations, the fact is, right now, it’s easy to go to God. It’s easy to lay my burdens before Him and wait for Him to grant me a miracle or at least an answer. But I have to wonder: when He does grant me that miracle or provide me with an answer…when this season of despair passes and when things go back to being ‘normal’ (whatever that means), what will become of these questions, these prayers, these heart examinations? Will they just fade away? Will I once again place God on the back burner?

What will it take for me to find consistency in my walk with Christ? When will I learn to push past the feelings, to let my relationship with Jesus be driven by love instead of emotions? Or will I merely go on for the rest of my life as a roller coaster Christian?