Brief essays on life, religion, and anything else I might think about when I have the time.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Joy in the Evening

I went to Singspiration tonight after vespers. I usually don't go because the music, which goes on forever, is so loud that I can't understand the words. Tonight I went because more people that caucasians from New England complained about the volume so something might have been done about it. Something had been done about it, the accompaniment wasn't so loud, the lyrics were intelligible, and the song service only when on for half an hour.

They had a time for people to share what God had done for them recently and I wanted to share. Unfortunately so did a lot of other people. I didn't get to tell AUC what has been going on in my life and what God has done for me, so I thought that I could tell all of you instead. I think I need to say it and this way I know that it won't be about me as I will never know who ends up reading this.

This past week has been awful. Wednesday was the first of the clinical days with the "hard" instructor, and she was! I thought I was beginning to be competent with what I was doing until I had her and then I felt like I know nothing about anything. I also had a care plan that I forgot about that was due on Wednesday for the same teacher, so I spent 4 hours on Tuesday working on. The teacher never had anyone present them. While I was working on a project that it turns out I didn't need to do I wasn't studying for my first exam in Med/Surg II. This is a very hard class in that there is just so much information that you have to know inside and out.

I didn't feel like I had studied enough or perhaps it was that I hadn't studied the right information. I was planning on going to bed as early as I could on Wednesday and getting up between 5:30 and 6:30 to study a little extra. I went to bed at 11:30. My alarm either a. didn't go off (not likely) or b. the volume got turned down until I couldn't hear it at all (more likely as it's happened before). I woke up a 7:00 for a test at 7:30.

I haven't gotten my results yet but I understand that half the class failed.

That is the background to my story. My story is this...

Praise God because He gives peace and because He gives joy. Today was a wonderful day. I can't say it was because of this or because of the other thing. I was just happy all day long. I studied in the morning, I cleaned my room and did laundry, I got ice cream for dinner, I saw a flutterby butterfly today that flew right around me, I got to spend time with friends that are both new and old, and on top of everything I got to go to vespers service and it was communion. I was joyful all day from nothing that I did myself.

God is very kind to me. Today lifted my spirits and lighten my load, not because I was super efficient and got a lot done; when you're in nursing there is always more that you can do, but because everywhere I looked there was joy. I can't seem to even say how much it meant to me to have a time where I wasn't worrying or stressed about every thing. A day where I did what I could but didn't worry about the things I didn't get done. A day where I had the time to notice the butterflies around me instead of just rushing from class to clinical to work to studying.

I also just started studying the bible again, really studying it instead of just randomly picking it up and reading a chapter here or there. I'm looking up the verses abut love because I don't love people or God enough. I just started but i think that because I'm starting to put God back as a priority in my life he has permitting to do lovely things for me. Or perhaps because I'm paying attention to Him I'm just noticing what He has been trying to do for me all along.

However it happened, today (well, yesterday now) was a gift straight from the hand of God.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The way that I am?

While I was in the car this morning I was listening to the radio when a praise song came on. It went "You love me. You love me. You love me just the way I am." Repeat. Repeat. That little song got me thinking.

Well, first I didn't think I just reacted. It irritated me, annoyed me, made me flick off the radio. Then I did what all melancholics are made to do best. I analyzed my reaction. Why did this song peeve me? It wasn't because it was untrue. God does love everyone no matter who they are or what they are like. That, I think, is God's greatest allure.

It wasn't (just) because it was repetitive. There are some songs that I like a lot that are just as repetitive. Repeating something over and over is a good way to learn important ideas, to have them permanently ingrained in your thoughts and actions.

No, the reason I had a problem with that little song wasn't what it said or the way it was said but what it didn't say. It didn't say that because God loves you the way you are, you never have to change. It didn't say that you have a free pass to do what you want. But it implied it.

I may well be reading way too much into the song--farther than any normal, sane American would. However it's possible that without "logic-ing" it all out the average American may unknowingly come up with the same conclusion. Let me explain.

Picture a young couple canoodling under the stars and skies. "I love you" the young man whispers. "Oh! I love you just the way you are!" The girl smiles and leans into the embrace, secure in the love that is expressed. She goes home and calls her friend. "He said that he loves me, that he never wants me to change" she confides.

The next day they go out to eat and when the girl orders a quarter pound cheeseburger her love says, "You shouldn't eat that, it's not good for you. Why don't you get something that won't cause a heart attack when you're thirty?" Turning to him with indignation shining in her eyes she says "I always get this, it's my favorite! You knew that before and you said you loved me the way I am; that you wouldn't want me to change. Well, you're trying to change me so you obviously lied! Did you lie about loving me too?" Whirling around, she grabs her lunch and storms out leaving her bemused lover behind.

The young man didn't lie. He never said that he never wanted her to change. But he did use words that are culturally synonymous with that idea. It was understandable for the girl to think that "just the way you are" translates into "don't ever change" although she severely overreacted.

People do this all the time with God. He says something and people interpret that as something that, while similar, isn't what he said and then when it seems like he lied they extrapolate that "deception" to every other promise given.

On inspection of my reaction to the song I realized the problem was that God does expect us to change and that he also does love us just the way we are. How can such a simple song explain that Gordian knot?

How can it reveal the heart of God who loves us unconditionally no matter who we are or what we do and yet, somehow within that unconditional love, expects and even demands change of us? Even change that is for our best and makes us healthier and live longer seems at odds with our human concept of love.

Just as the young man wanted his love to be alive when he was old, God wants us to be with Him and for that to happen something must change. The conflict comes when we say, as we have, that if someone loves us as we are they wouldn't want us to ever change. While God doesn’t force us to change He is always inviting us to change. If we never accept that invitation He won’t stop loving us, neither will he love us less. He will just keep offering.

Conversely, if we do change as He asks He won’t love us any more than He did before because he can’t. He already loves us completely. When we change we’ll just get to enjoy His love forever.

To simplify such an important and confusing idea is to invite misunderstanding and the disappointment with God that follows. A better song might be something like this...
"God loves me.
God loves me.
God loves me just the way I am.

God change me.
God change me.
God change me into what You are."

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Genesis 1 Revised

I have been reading "Journey of Desire" by John Eldredge and last night after I finished reading for the night and the lights were turned off I thought about what I had read. Eldredge says that what we think we want probably isn't what we really want. How many times have you craved something and thought that if you could have it then you would be happy or content or fulfilled and one you got it you weren't? He says this is because what you are wanting isn't you deep desire, the underlying longing that you try to fill with your surface desire. He challenged me to find out what it was I really wanted.

I thought that this whole concept made a lot of sense. It is so much easier to decide to find out what you want out of life than to actually figure it out. The best that I could figure out was that I wanted a life that was filled to the brim with joy. I followed that thought down the subsequent twists and turns of my mind, which I won't even try to make you follow, and surfaced at the end with a new picture of Creation.

The typical picture that I have of Creation is God as an old man with a long white beard and a flowing robe pontification the world into existence, probably using the Latin names of all the plants and animals, too. After my journey to discover the joy I wanted and where it was found that image is laughable. Now in my mind creation is a feminine activity (Genesis 1:27 and all that). Watch with me.

A girl or woman, it's hard to tell which, is standing with laughter and glee shining in her eyes. They way she holds herself makes you think she has a wonderful secret that she can't wait to share. There doesn't seem to be anything around her, but that doesn't matter because you can't take your eyes off her. As you watch her laughter finally bubbles up and, flinging out her arm she starts to spin.

Joy flows from her fingertips like visible light. Around and around she dances and as she dances mountains and oceans appear. She takes delight it all she sees and dances on. Flowers and birds, animals and trees are flung into being by the force of her joy. Her laughter becomes the song of the birds, the crash of the tide, and the wind through the trees. Her pleasure is perfect so all you see is perfect. Creating all that surrounds you leaches none of her joy from her but adds to it, just as the abundance around her has added to her beauty.

In her dance of joy she has been dancing alone but now her joy is so full that she must share it. The wells of delight are gathered and flung into a being, in to humans that can share this happiness and dances with her forever.

What this blog's about

Over the past 2 weeks or so I have had several things on my mind that I wished I could share. However A Concinnity of Excursus didn't seem the appropriate venue as it covers lighter topics, such as what my life is like. So I started a new blog for my ponderings which I suspect will be religious in nature. I can't and won't say that they will be theologically correct but they will be mine.

I don't know how often this will be updated because I will only write when the inspiration strikes me. I hope you find something to think about here, even if you might not agree.