Tuesday, 8 July 2014

When God Won't Spoon-Feed You

One of the toughest things to come to grips with is that God won't always spoon-feed us. It sounds funny, but many of us unintentionally approach the faith that way: as if God is some wish-granting genie. We question his existence when we don't get what we want.

Of course, God is not indebted to us AT ALL. But he chooses to answer our prayers anyway out of goodness and love. After all, he DOES invite us to, "Ask, and you will receive; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you." - Matthew 7:7

But if we think God will answer our prayers in the package we're expecting, think again. In fact, sometimes his refusal to answer us directly or immediately is THE answer in itself. What we think we want is not always what we need, so God finds other ways to give us that.

This means that God won't always spoon-feed us. It's a tough pill to swallow, but he won't always give us the easy solution. He won't always keep us from getting hurt. But that's because we need to GROW. It's like taking the training wheels off a bike or learning how to walk. We have to fall in order to learn how to pick ourselves back up. We have to leap in order to learn how to fly. We have to get hurt in order to learn that wounds can heal. And all of this allows us to find God in the process. 

This is what we call spiritual maturity. When we first begin our relationship with God, all is fine and dandy. Like the "honeymoon phase" of all typical relationships, we're on fire with God's love, absolutely certain of his presence, reassured of his goodness. But as we mature spiritually, God challenges us to take our faith further: to trust in him even without consolation of positive feelings, to believe in his love for us even when it feels so far away. That is True Faith: one that no longer relies on feelings.

To end this off, here's a poem called "And God said No!" (not sure who wrote it):

I asked God to take away my pride, and God said "NO." 
He said it was not for Him to take away, but for me to give up.
I asked God to make my handicapped child whole, and God said "NO."
He said her spirit is whole, her body is only temporary.
I asked God to grant me patience, and God said "NO."
He said that patience is a by-product of tribulation, 
it isn't granted, it's earned.
I asked God to give me happiness, and God said "NO."
He said He gives blessings, happiness is up to me.
I asked God to spare me pain, and God said "NO."
He said suffering draws you apart from worldly cares
and brings you closer to me.
I asked God to make my spirit grow, and God said "NO."
He said I must grow on my own, but He will prune me to make me fruitful.
I asked God to help me love others as much as He loves me,
And God said "Ah, finally you have the idea!"


Friday, 4 July 2014

Delayed or Right on Time?

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Have you ever had a situation in your life where no matter how much you prayed, no matter how many goals you made, no matter what actions you took, your situation just wouldn't change for the better?  Like all your attempts were being throttled, leaving you feeling like you were constantly swimming against a tide you could never beat? 

Have you ever desperately wanted to be at a different point in your life but were stuck in the same place instead? Have you ever fought against life's "delays," these periods of waiting where no change comes, only to find yourself running in circles, winding up right back where you started? 

All I can say is perhaps these situations that we struggle against, the ones we try to resist, aren't being taken away because we have to be in them. Perhaps there's a lesson to be learned. Or maybe we must accept them. Perhaps things don't change because God doesn't want them to change  -- at least not for the time being.

Maybe the delay will make our faith stronger. Maybe it'll refine us, correct us. Maybe it'll help us grow in humility, patience, and virtue. Maybe it'll change our perspective, making us realize that what we thought needed changing are actually how they should be. Maybe it'll make us wait a little longer until we, or that opportunity, are ready. Maybe whatever we're waiting for will never come, and that God is using this period to redirect our desires to be aligned with his will. 

The grueling thing about these delays is that we never really know why they happen until after the fact. We just have to stick it out for the time being. And quite frankly, the process is difficult. But to give it meaning is to give it value, so rest with the assurance that none of this will be in vain. 

Although things seem delayed, trust that everything is right on time.  

"Faith is centered in who God is, not in my circumstances ... that is why there is always hope. I have a constant sense throughout this storm that God arranged it. He's been in control of every little step. I have deep conviction that, with God, I am right on schedule." - Anonymous

Habakkuk 2:3


Tuesday, 17 June 2014

When Nothing Falls Into Place

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You know what I mean when I talk about those people who seem to have everything together: they know exactly who they are, exactly where they're headed, and are miraculously able to balance every part of their lives -- from work, to school, to spiritual growth, to relationships, to personal health, to well-being. Of course, no one is actually "perfect" -- some people just seem to be. And if you're one of those people, that's great. Celebrate it. It's worth being proud of, especially if it's taken you so long to get there. 

But for some of us, things don't seem to be coming together AT ALL. As in nada. For some of us, it's like the puzzle pieces of our lives are still scattered, nothing falling into place. It's like the dots are sporadic, not yet connecting. It's like every door we try to enter slams shut in our face, or all our ventures wind up being dead-ends. It's like every shoe we try on doesn't fit, or every opportunity we take is like squeezing ourselves into a role we were never meant for.   

Some of us have found clarity and direction; others have found nothing but murkiness. Some of us have found lasting joy and peace; others just feel persistent restlessness. We all go through different seasons. We all have different life stories. This is natural. 


Not much, truthfully. Only to have faith that one day things will be different.   

That one day all of this will matter in the end and not a single detail will be insignificant. That one day, all those dead-ends will redirect us to the paths we were meant to take. That one day those closed doors will lead us to other doors we were meant to enter. That one day all those scattered dots will connect into a beautiful picture in hindsight. 

One day we will discover that the restlessness in our hearts was an inner refusal to settle for less than God Himself. One day we'll realize that the times we refused to settle for people/opportunities that just weren't "right" for us were worth all the people/opportunities that were. And one day we'll learn that the uncertainty we dealt with was God's way of teaching us how to trust in Him. 


Monday, 2 June 2014

Moments of Impact

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"My theory is about moments, moments of impact. My theory is that these moments of impact, these flashes of high intensity that completely turn our lives upside down, actually end up defining who we are. The thing is each one of us is the sum total of every moment that we’ve ever experienced with all the people we’ve ever known. And it’s these moments that become our history. Like our own personal greatest hits of memories that we play and replay in our minds over and over again.” -The Vow 
If you've watched The Vow before, you probably found that quote familiar. That's because the whole movie's centered around this idea called "moments of impact" -- unforeseen moments that change one's life unknowingly. Moments that result from 'colliding' with other people's lives, from two separate paths converging for one reason or another. Sometimes these paths stay crossed for a long time; other times only for a short while. But they did cross, once. Nothing can change that fact.

When you think about the people who've stayed in your life for only a short time, or those who've been present for a long while but have since then left, it's easy to wonder: Why did it happen? What was the point? What was the point of investing so much time in a friendship/relationship that was never going to last? Why couldn't God just spare you from having to meet that person if it was only going to wind up like this in the end? 

Because that's how life works. People come, people go. But even if they’re no longer present in your life, you  know deep down that they’ve impacted you in a way that can’t be undone. You are who you are because, at one point in time, your path collided with theirs. And although your paths have since then diverged, your shared memories can never be erased. 

NOTHING IS POINTLESS. Even the most insignificant detours in life can have the most meaning. The most fleeting encounters can change us for good. So never regret the "collisions" in your life -- because as one person says, "Some people aren't meant to be in our lives forever. Some are just passing through to to teach us a lesson."

BE GRATEFUL. The past is what it is. It's played a part in shaping who you are, who you will become. Even the worst experiences can make you stronger. 

BE PRESENT. Stop regretting the past. Stop worrying about the future. Be fully present with whoever you find yourself with now. Because you can't predict how things will pan out -- whether that person will be there forever or be gone tomorrow -- but it's always worth the risk. Because these collisions, these "moments of impact," make life that much more meaningful. 

They are meant to happen. 
"A moment of impact has potential for change—it has ripple effects far beyond what we could predict. Sending some particles crashing together, making them closer than before, while sending others spinning off into great adventures, landing where you’d never thought you’d find them. You see, that’s the thing about moments like these: you can’t, no matter how hard you try, control how they’re going to affect you. You just got to let the colliding particles land where they may, and wait until the next collision.” - The Vow
Ecclesiastes 3:1-15


Monday, 12 May 2014

Put Your Crown Back On

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First of all, I'd like to apologize for not blogging as often as I used to. It's been crazy these past few months, having had a ton of essays to write for school (#universitylife eh?). But apart from that, I have to be honest with you: I've been finding it difficult to write anything 'insightful' or 'inspiring' these days because I, myself, have been uninspired for quite some time. I'm  like a well that's run dry: kind of hard to fill any buckets when I, myself, am empty. Why I'm admitting this, I don't know yet. Maybe because honesty is the closest thing to freedom I've got right now. And so, with humility, I'd like to request your prayers.

Thank you.

Don't worry. This isn't going to be an "emo" rant. I just wanted to share a few things I found impactful, things that reminded me to have hope. I cannot say that I am providing this from a place of "having-been-there-and-have-overcome-it", because I am still in the process of figuring things out. Maybe just like you. So I guess you could say that we're in this together -- directly or indirectly.

I attended Beyonce's concert several months ago (yes, I just brought up Beyonce LOL) and was greatly moved by an interlude video of hers called "You Are a Queen." Unfortunately I couldn't find a good quality video of it, but you can search it up on YouTube. It's really so much more impactful if you see the actual video! But for now I will just write down the words she spoke in the voiceover -- words that were moving in and of themselves:

"Everything around you has changed.
Life as you know it no longer exists. 
Nothing looks the same.
Nothing feels the same.
You dance to keep from crying
But the tears still come. 
You've become unrecognizable
Even to yourself.
But the clues to who you were
Who you are
Are all around to guide you. 
Isolation brings revelation.
You start to peel back the layers
You see every part of yourself
Confused. Joyful. Fearful. Courageous.
You fight yourself in order to find yourself. 
You are the General and the army.
Using your heart, your mind as your compass
You remember who you were 
And who you were born to be:
You are a Queen." 

The video shows her crying, confused, and lost. She picks up a crown and examines it like an artifact that's completely foreign to her. But eventually, as she puts the crown on and stares at herself in the mirror, she begins to realize that the crown's not foreign to her at all; it's part of who she is.

A Queen.


The point is that there will be times when we, too, will forget who we are, and it will be painful. It will feel as if we have lost all sense of ourselves, and it will seem as if nothing makes sense. But stay strong. Trust that no matter how long it takes, we WILL find our way, we WILL regain our strength, and we WILL remember who we are and who we were always meant to be: beloved children of God. It's okay to forget sometimes. Part of life's great journey is re-reminding ourselves of that fact.

Put your crown back on.

"See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is." - 1 John 3:1-2

Monday, 5 May 2014

Fear (Part 1): Best Friend or Worst Enemy?

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Fear is a funny thing -- it protects us from potential dangers, but also keeps us from seeking things that might actually be good for us. It causes us to avoid things that could be harmful, but also keeps us from the very things that could make us happy. And ironically, as much as a life spent avoiding fearful situations is "safer", it's also "emptier" -- lacking in excitement, purpose, and meaning.

The truth is that most of us are confused about what we're actually afraid of. We fear loneliness, but we also fear love. We fear limitations, but we also fear possibility. We fear monotony, but we also fear adventure. We fear predictability, but we also fear uncertainty. We fear being unnoticed, but we also fear being noticed. We fear restrictions, but we also fear freedom. We fear losing oneself, but we also fear being oneself. We fear hopelessness, but we also fear being hopeful for something that might not come.

This is why we keep doing things we don't want to do. Not because we're crazy, but because we "want" what's not always "safe." We want to trust others, but it's not always 'safer' to. We want to try, but it's 'safer' not to if we aren't guaranteed results. We want to believe that we are capable, but it's 'safer' to convince ourselves that we aren't. We want to make things happen, but it's 'safer' to make excuses for why it can't.

In a strange way, we're afraid of what we want.


When this happens, we must must choose which route to take: the less fulfilling route that guarantees safety, or the one that involves risk yet also the possibility of having what we want. Both options come with their own set of costs and benefits -- it's up to us to decide which one is worth more of the risk.

One thing I've learned is that PURPOSE is crucial for conquering fears. If we have no purpose or sense of direction in our lives, fear starts to become our main motivator; that is to say, we make decisions based on which option involves less risk. Our movements are not directed towards getting anywhere, but are based on avoiding our fears.

It's the difference between someone playing tag and someone running a marathon. Both people are technically "moving", but one is simply fleeing rather than getting anywhere in particular, while the other's movements are directed towards reaching the finish line.

In the same way, when we have purpose or direction, we are more likely to face our fears because we realize that the benefits are worth more than the costs. Purpose gives an incentive TO face our fears, because we realize they are just challenges lying on the path to our ultimate destination.

So there it is. Find your purpose. It might just be the very thing that enables you to conquer your fears rather than be enslaved by them.

1 John 4:18 

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Sunday, 13 April 2014

(Im)Perfect Christians

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In some ways, I think the reality of our Christian faith is broken down by false notions of what it means to be a “perfect Christian.” Sometimes we have this idea that ‘perfection’ is the prerequisite to belonging in the Church, that anything else would make us unworthy. And maybe we know in our minds that this isn’t the case, but we often forget that in the way we live our lives.

Because we all mess up.  We're all sinful, sometimes for extended periods of time. And our hearts can grow so cold, so hardened, so afraid of returning to God, convinced he wants nothing to do with us anymore. In our minds we are hopeless cases, fallen too far from grace, impossible to be saved. And when it happens, we run. We hide in shame. We distract ourselves with other things, unwilling to turn back to God. We feel that no matter how crisp and clean our Sunday mass attire is, we can never hide our true ‘stains.’  That if we continued to serve, we’d be nothing more than hypocrites. And sometimes we’d rather drop out of church altogether than be hypocritical -- at least that way we wouldn’t have to 'pretend' anymore.

But that’s the thing: Who said we had to pretend? Who gave us this crazy idea that we could only approach God when we were at our absolute best, when everything was right in our lives, when we were ‘spiritually high’? We fool ourselves into believing that we can only approach God when we are pure, clean and presentable, unstained and pleasing,  like we can only let him in when all the clutter is swept beneath the rug.

But that is false.

There's a quote by Abigail Van Buren that carries some partial truth: "The church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints." Yes, the church is a hospital for sinners; but the saints were sinners too. They were just sinners who never gave up.

I came across a quote by Paul Hudson that immediately struck me as true and powerful: "Intimacy requires you to expose yourself, to show your true colors. It requires you to be vulnerable and to place all your cards on the table. True intimacy is a complete unraveling of all your defenses. It's allowing someone else to see us for who we really are, not just for who we let on to be." 

It's easy to apply this quote to our deepest, most meaningful relationships. But when it comes to our relationship with God, it suddenly gets harder. Yet Jesus doesn’t want a pretentious friendship with us; he wants that. That kind of intimacy that dares to show the ugly, dares to speak of the unspeakable, of the brokenness, of the pain, but also of our joys and aspirations of life. EVERYTHING. He doesn’t want the polished up versions of ourselves; He wants us.

Even when we run away, God says, “Even now, return to me with all your heart …” (Joel 2:12-13). It's a perpetual message of, "Come back." To focus only on our brokenness is viewing only one side of the coin. Flip it over and see the other side.

Maybe then we could experience first-hand what Christopher West means when he says:
"The 'call to perfection' is... the recognition that I am loved as I am, in all my imperfection--and as I open to it, it's that love that transforms me, "perfecting" me step-by-step. In this way, "I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself" is transformed into "I was at peace, because I know God loves me; so I exposed myself." 
It's Holy Week now, only several days until Easter. Let's not miss out. Return to God, regardless of where we've been or where we are now. We might've gotten used to rolling around in the mud, but God can make us clean again. Just trust. He can take it. We just need to make that first decision to get out of the mud.

I'll leave you with one last quote by blessed Mother Teresa to ponder about:
 "Jesus wants me to tell you again ... how much love He has for each one of you -- beyond all you can imagine. I worry some of you still have not really met Jesus -- one to one -- you and Jesus alone ... Be careful of all that can block that personal contact with the living Jesus. The Devil may try to use the hurts of life, and sometimes our own mistakes -- to make you feel it is impossible that Jesus really loves you, is really cleaving to you. This is a danger for all of us. And so sad, because it is completely opposite of what Jesus is really wanting, waiting to tell you. Not only that He loves you, but even more -- He longs for you. He misses you when you don't come close. He thirsts for you. He loves you always, even when you don't feel worthy. When not accepted by others, even by yourself sometimes -- He is the one who always accepts you. My children, you don't have to be different for Jesus to love you. Only believe -- you are precious to Him. Bring all your suffering to His feet -- only open your heart to be loved by Him as you are. He will do the rest ... "I thirst" is something much deeper than Jesus just saying "I love you." Until you know deep inside that Jesus thirsts for you -- you can't begin to know who He wants to be for you. Or who He wants you to be for Him."