Random Notes From What I’m Reading

The story of my life is the story of my faith…

Archive for November 2007

Getting Naked

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“We want someone to see us exactly as we are and still love us. It’s terrifying to let people see who we really are. To see the darkness in our hearts, our bad habits, all of the things we’ve done in the part that we regret. Our biases, our shortcomings, the things we aren’t good at.

Being naked is terrifying.

What would it be like to be with someone who loves you exactly as you are?

If you see me for who I really am, the me that no one else has ever seen, the me that I wouldn’t dare to show to anybody else on the planet, the parts of me that I’m not sure I want anybody ever to see, if I give you that kind of glimpse into the seat of my being, into my soul, will you still love me like you do now?

It’s our question for each other, and it’s our question for God.”

Author Unknown

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Written by Ryan

November 26, 2007 at 5:37 pm

Posted in Christian

Where is the Love?

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By Sierra McConnell

A favorite pastime between my best friend and I is to compare the culture we were brought up in with that of the one we are currently living in. We both come from fairly liberal societies in the north and, for the time being, are stuck in an ultra-conservative society in the south. We have both grown up learning to love everyone, regardless of who they are, where they come from, what they believe or what they look like. Neither of us were brought up by atheists, Satanists or any other “heathens” most people think our parents must have been. We were both taught that God’s Word is Truth and that the Father loves the entire world enough to send His only Son so that people could believe in Him. We both have left the church in pursuits of other things at one point or another in our lives, but we both still held these things we were taught throughout our wanderings off of the path. We were both very aware that when we arrived to our school in the south that people were going to be more conservative and we would meet a considerable amount of other Christians.

We never thought we would associate Christianity with unloving.

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Written by Ryan

November 19, 2007 at 6:01 pm

Unconditional

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By Emma Sciantarelli for Relevant Magazine

The best way to truly understand the miraculous nature of the love of God is to find one person with a heart harder than stone and love that person with all your strength. Only when love is completely one-sided—lavished abundantly yet refused immensely—will one begin to understand the heart of a God who loved us while we were still sinners.In recent times I have become involved in the lives of seven Nepali boys, ages six to 14, formerly residents of the street. A product of all things that are street life, my kids use drugs, lie, steal, cheat and fight on a regular basis. Most street kids become beggars before the age of six, marijuana smokers before the age of eight and users of heavier drugs—mainly smack—before the age of 10. Through the process of pulling my boys off the streets, enrolling them in school and giving them another chance, I have had my doubts. Will the boys ever be able to really change?True love is not motivated by potential results. Love does not choose to act when the risks are low and the benefits are high. Love loves because it cannot help itself—it has no choice but to give anything despite everything.

Although love has the power to foster change within the loved, it is not dependent upon this change. Love unceasingly thrives upon itself—no matter what reaction its presence warrants.

Opposition does not encumber true love. The defining character of true love is its ability to stand alone and unhindered, steadfast and resolute. Love remains constant in the moment of trial and unchanged amidst resistance. Although the object of love’s affection may push away, true love does not retreat.

There is a war within 12-year-old Rashon unlike anything I have ever seen in an individual. In a good moment, he is the most loving, considerate boy of them all. He works diligently in school, and his eyes shine with the goodness of a child. Yet, within a split second, the swelling rage of a vicious heart overpowers his goodness

“I no love you—I hate you!!! You no good guys. You no giving me smoking! I no like reading school; I want sleeping street every night! My life no good; I no care,” Rashon screams at me on the bad end of one of his many pendulum swinging emotional lows, “I want every day smoking! I sleep street and every day coming crazy and using.”

Rashon cups his hands around his mouth pantomiming the way street kids inhale glue before he bends down and lifts up a corner of the linoleum flooring of his room. In defiance, Rashon takes out a small bag of marijuana he has been hiding and smirks as he holds it before me. Almost as a challenge, he begins to roll.

My flesh wants to cry out, “After I have sacrificed so much of my life for you? After all I have done for you? After I’ve taken you in, built you a home, made you a bed, given you a life—this? This is how you repay me?”

God quiets my head and love forces me to look deep.

Did you become involved in the lives of these boys for repayment from them or out of obedience to Me? What is not clear about love’s unconditional nature? Before you cared for Me, I loved you. Even still you defy Me—you turn your back on My love—but My love for you remains steadfast. If My love for you had been contingent upon your response, surely I would have left you long ago.

Before me stands the same rage-filled child, yet seen by God’s eyes. I now see a little boy fully aware of the evilness of man but has experienced nothing of the goodness of God.

Suddenly my anger is replaced by a love not my own, and, despite that only moments earlier I wanted nothing more than to scold my rebellious kid, the only words that come out are, “I love you, Rashon.”

“I no love you,” Rashon continuing to smoke, throws his metal chest across the room. His clothes and books spill out as the box hits the wall. “I love you. If you smoke everyday, I will love you.”

Rashon runs at me and begins beating me with his fists in attempts to rid himself of this foreign thing called love. “I no love you. I no want you love me.” “Rashon, no matter what, I am going to love you. Break everything in this room, and I will still love you. If you don’t love me, that’s fine. I still will always love you. If you run away, I will love you. If you stop going to school, I will love you. Nothing you can do will stop me from loving you.”

“You talking, I no listening. You love me; I no care. I no love you,” shoes begin flying and posters torn from the walls. Before I knew God’s love, I wonder how many times my actions said the very same thing to Him.

And yet … “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, TNIV).

Written by Ryan

November 12, 2007 at 12:50 pm

Making Mistakes

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Many of us are kept back from spiritual progress and amendment of life because we fear the difficulties we are sure to meet and the effort it will cost us to overcome them. Nevertheless, the one who makes progress in the spiritual life is the very one who vigorously and strenuously strives to overcome these seemingly impossible obstacles. Both profit and merit are greater when we overcome ourselves and subject our will to our spirit. -Thomas à Kempis

I find that Thomas’ words haunt me. They challenge me to my core. I’m challenged because they speak directly to me. There are a lot of things I see in myself that I dislike. I think if we were honest, we would all say that there are things in our lives that we wish weren’t there, but for some reason we don’t know how to shake them. I think Paul summed it up well in Romans 7 when he said something to the effect of “the things that I want to do, I do not do, and those things that I hate, I do.” – William Nelson

Written by Ryan

November 5, 2007 at 10:33 am

Posted in Books, Christian

Time

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By Rob Foley

The view you will get right now from any window here in Maine reports imminent change; the leaves display a variety of colors from God’s palette, and the air outside is crisp and increasingly complimented by the smell of wood-burning fireplaces. Sleeved shirts wrap summer’s bare-skinned arms, and shoes now cover feet that recently ran unfettered across green lawns. With autumn here and winter quickly approaching, I am reminded that each day is a catalyst of time and that we are all subject to its progression. I’m also drawn to reflect upon how that time is spent–the seconds and minutes that, when summed up, create the years of our existence. If the Lord sees fit, we will wake up in the sunlight of another tomorrow, which could be a Monday or a Friday or a Sunday, but that will always be whatever day is next in line. Enough of these days gone by, we find ourselves having lived through yet another season.

What do we do with this time, you and me? We work, that’s for sure. We go to the grocery store. We watch the news, read the paper, take out the garbage and pay more than we should to put gas in our cars. We cheer for the home team, mow the grass, walk our dogs, and pay more than we should for a coffee down the street. We cook dinner, go to church, brush our teeth, and bed down for the night. We meet a neighbor at the end of the drive and small talk for a bit before we move on to the next thing. We drop a coin in a tip bucket for a street side musician and keep moving on. We kiss our loved-ones goodbye for the day or bump fists with our friends, and with the warmness of their faces still on our minds and our brown-bagged lunches in hand, we walk away to the next thing or person or place that requires our presence. We do these thing, and life goes on. Do we ever stop to listen to our lives, to hear the time as it is being passed, to listen to our footsteps as they coincide with the ticking and tocking of any clock that has a beat?

We often see our lives as a routine of organized dullness, and are sure that the going and coming commonness of them is so out-of-the-spotlight that there could be nothing very much Holy about them; just something upon which time has an effect. It is at this point that I think we have been dulled by a slow-moving, ever-inching lie of the world that tells us there is no grace and no hope, and that our lives are only lines of activity that abruptly end one day. But it is exactly grace that our lives are full of, and because of it that we have life to begin with. Author Frederick Buechner puts it this way in his memoir, Now and Then: “Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”

What might we hear if we do listen to our lives? What would meet our ears if we put them to the rails of our existence? I think we would at least hear the distinct sound of being human; being lost and in constant need of a savior to lead us, relieve us, and offer us an eternal out. We would hear fear, insecurity, fragmentedness and a craving for intimacy, but also joy, laughter and the satisfaction of friendship. The human condition is no doubt what we would hear, which, in a way, is itself a holy thing. God himself–the Holy One–created us, and what created thing does not reflect a little of its creator? I think God knew that if we listened long enough to our lives we would hear the dysfunction of human fallen-ness. He knew that it would be more than we can handle, which is why he provided Christ as the Messiah, who himself heard the same human condition when he listened to the woman at the well, to Zacchaeus in the tree, to Nicodemus in the dark of that ancient evening, and to the thief on the cross. To each of those people he offered himself as a response to what they heard of themselves, just as he is the response to what we hear of ourselves today.

We are no doubt subject to time’s progression–we cannot escape it. But time is subject to God. What if we were to interpret time more as a reminder of God’s constant presence as He was, is, and always will be on earth and in us rather than so much as a deadly countdown to the end? What if we could accept the ticking of time as Christ’s own heartbeat pumping through the blues and grays of our days, the high-rises and lattes of our lives? If ever we could stop long enough to let our minds stand still, away from the humming beehive of our mass culture, then we might be able to hear how our own heartbeats tell of a Holiness that was, that is, and is to come–that is the response to who we are and how we are.

Written by Ryan

November 3, 2007 at 10:33 am