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Posts by Savannah
I haven’t known exactly what this would mean for me, but I’ve had a sense of needing to find out who I am. Not so much “what am I going to do with my life?” or anything especially profound, but just to know who I am when everything that isn’t me was stripped away. To go beyond everything I’ve known to know who exactly I am. This wasn’t a well-developed thought, just a vaguely conscious idea. I didn’t consider it much. I didn’t wonder much about what I would find when I “found” myself. Maybe I thought, “oh, this will one of those heart-warming and uplifting stories of self-discovery like you read about in books.” I should have applied the lesson I learned long ago—life has a way of being far more disturbing and disconcerting than books. It can leave you a little breathless and dazed. Life has a way of shaking you up. Like when you were a kid and coaxed someone into winding your swing ropes up, then let you spin round and round; you twirled until you fell unto the ground, then stumbled around for what felt like hours before the earth stopped buckling underneath you. So when life does something very similar to this, it takes some time to get your bearings again.
The Lord did this with Israel many times. After forgetting who they were or refusing to accept who they were, after being brought low, after their world fell apart, the Lord would remind them of their history, full of grace and mercies. A poignant example of this can be seen in the book of Hosea. Hosea was commanded to take a prostitute for a wife, in order to demonstrate the faithfulness of God to an unfaithful people. Hosea 2 begins with a description of his wife’s adultery. The passage transitions into describing Israel and their adultery towards God. Vs 13 says, “I will punish her for the feast days of the Baals when she burned offerings to them and adorned herself with her ring and jewelry, and went after her lovers and forgot me, declares the Lord.” But vs 14 startles us with a completely different tone, “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her.” There are a couple things that surprised me here. One is the overall sense of this verse. It is loving, compassionate, and patient. God is going to “allure” Israel, not just drag them away kicking and screaming. He is long-suffering with their wayward hearts. But the other thing that struck me was the apparent incongruity of bringing her “into the wilderness.” I mean, basically the Lord is courting the nation, and being invited into the wilderness doesn’t sound very, well, alluring. So what is this about? After delivering the nation from slavery in Egypt, God led them into the desert. And there they spent a long time wandering around. God made Himself known to them during that post-slavery time in very powerful ways. The pillar of fire by night, the cloud by day. Revealing part of Himself to Moses on the mountain. The examples go on and on. And He provided for them in amazing ways. Parting the Red Sea. Sending manna. Water from the rock. This was a time of marvelous provisions and experiences. So in Hosea, God is basically saying, “let me take you back to that place where you first began to know Me. The place where you could smell freedom in every breath you took. When you could feel the the power of liberation in the sand beneath your feet. When my love was new and beautiful to you.”
And in a similar way, I think we are called to remember our own wilderness. When the darkness of our souls and the darkness of the world make us tremble and wonder, then we must be brought back to where we have been and what we have known.
I felt like this was something I needed to do. Of course, the most natural thing was to write my way through the wilderness. And I wanted to share it with you. I am not sure why. Just because.
Never forget that there’s so much more inside a person than what you know. This is true. Because I remember a time when I was raging against God in my mind, but I didn’t really look like it. I remember a time when I was running away from God as fast as I could. When my mental and emotional strength was consumed in shaking my fist at the Lord of the universe. Why? I don’t know if there was a specific reason. Some people rage after tragedies. Some people try to usurp God when it appears as if life has gone horribly wrong. But nothing happened to me. I had a good life. There was no reason to not accept God. But I think that being intellectually honest, I realized that acknowledging Him meant I would owe my life to Him. I think maybe I realized the implications of a sovereign God and could not submit myself. And so in my head I was running away, and yet He wouldn’t let me go. I’d have these fleeting, haunting thoughts. Thoughts of death, thoughts of judgement, thoughts of eternity. I would be completely engaged in my studies or work or whatever the task was at hand, and then would suddenly wonder, “if I died at this moment, what would happen to me?” It made me shudder. I tried to chase the bothersome ideas away, but they kept coming back. I tried to comfort myself by knowing I was young, so it wasn’t likely I would face death soon. But I know that was foolish. Young people die every day. There is absolutely no guarantee of another hour, yet alone a day. The “probability” of a long life is no comfort in a world of uncertainty. I would get caught up in this complicated maze of thoughts, trying to escape from the reality facing me, and like a lost wanderer walking in circles, I kept coming upon the same truth. I was going to die at some unknown time. And what would happen to me then? I was persistent in trying to evade these thoughts. But God was more persistent.
I eventually got to a point where I decided to figure this out and come to some sort of resolution. But I didn’t really know what I was talking about. I could talk about the Gospel. I could talk about faith. But I had no idea what it meant. I had not yet encountered grace. I kept searching inside myself to find approval, to find a reason to believe I was saved. This gets incredibly complicated. Believe me. Some introspection and self-examination is good. But too much of it is simply overwhelming. I got so confused and discouraged by trying to figure out if I truly “believed.” What if I was just doing it to look good? What if I was fooling myself? What if this was a false belief? What if? What if? What if? It never ends.
And I can’t say I got myself out of that mess. Because I didn’t. God just suddenly opened my eyes. Opened my heart. I finally “got it.” Faith isn’t this life of looking inside and wondering, “Do I believe? Did I really believe yesterday? Was that false security? Have I been lying to myself and the world? What if that is just further proof of never being saved? What about today? Do I really have faith today?” Faith is knowing that you’re a sinner and there is a gracious Savior who died on your behalf. That’s it. Stop over-analyzing. Christianity isn’t about this downward spiral of introspection and self-questioning. The Bible doesn’t say to look to yourself, but look to Christ. And that is such a glorious thing. Because I actually knew peace in my soul. I was at rest. I wasn’t running away. I wasn’t fighting my God. I wasn’t struggling under the weight of trying to find righteousness in myself. I was just trusting Christ. There was such freedom in not trying to make everything right myself. My salvation does not depend on myself so I don’t need to look within but without. It is that simple. Christianity is glorious in its simplicity.
And I think since that first experience of total peace and freedom, I’ve gone back to my wilderness a few times. That metaphor is such a beautiful thing to me. Christ went into the wilderness to be tempted. The Israelites were severely tested in the wilderness. It was certainly no luxurious resort location. It wasn’t a lush or materially pleasant place. The wilderness isn’t an obvious source of comfort. But God has a way of being incongruous. The rocks that must have been so hard and forbidding to the Israelites poured forth life-giving water. And just as it was for the Israelites, so I think we find our most poignant moments of comfort from God when we are surrounded by the very tangible presence of evil. When we are afraid of the power of this darkness, when we feel so helpless and weak, then it is that God gives us strength. When our prayers are wordless groanings of the soul, when our hope fails, when there is absolutely nothing we can, then it is that God lifts us up and breathes His grace into our hearts. When our wilderness closes in around us, then it is that God sets Himself as a pillar of fire to guide our way.
We can forget these moments all too easily. We forget how low we have fallen because we can keep up a respectable appearance. We forget when we were undone because we can manage to keep the pieces together—most of the time. Then sadly, when we forget where we have been, we forget what God has done. When we think we have it together, we forget who truly holds our lives together.
God uses all sorts of things to allure us back to that wilderness where we can worship Him once more, devoid of our own “goodness,” the distractions left behind. But whatever the means, the important thing is that we are brought back there, to remember who we are, and more than that, who our Lord is. And someday there will be no need to allure. Because we will at last be perfectly satisfied in Christ. Someday there will be the love and glory of the wilderness, without the struggles, temptations, and trials. Someday we will never go astray. Someday there will be no evil threatening us. In the words of one of my favorite Future of Forestry songs,
“Someday the light will be your sonnet
Someday the song will cover over you
Someday the time will be forever.”
In Hosea 2.18-20 God goes on to promise His covenant blessings to His people,
“…And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety. And I will betroth you to me forever. And I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord.”
After surviving some crazy times at work a couple weeks ago, I decided it was time to figure out what I’m doing with my life. Well, I have some things figured out, but I mostly needed to get my education plans in order. I can go just so long before I get so restless in my mind I can’t stand it. I think I have a problem with addiction to knowledge or something :)
Anyways…I’ve had a really amazing week of learning. First of all, I decided I needed a more effective way to manage my work. I found a great app, iProcrastinate, that has worked out quite well so far. Not really crazy about the name, since my whole point in using it is to avoid procrastinating, but that’s ok. I can see what tasks are due in the next day, couple days, week, or indefinite future. I can set assignments to repeat every week. I can divide a task into steps, so that even before the entire assignment is done, I can feel like I’m making progress and track what is left to do.
So I had a great app…the next question was, what to put in it? I had a few things I knew I definitely wanted to do, such as:
Continue Western Civ course from Liberty Classroom
Start Western Literature course from The Great Courses
Continue Duolingo Spanish
Continue Khan Academy Geometry
Start Khan Academy Chemistry
Continue with yearly reading program
And then I discovered some other things I wanted to add:
A course from Edx.org on Ancient Heroes
An Intro to Operations Management course from Coursera
After reviewing all this, I decided that this must be one of the most eclectic education programs ever. I don’t think there is one subject which I haven’t already studied or am not planning to study. This makes my life a little confusing sometimes. When you’re listening to a lecture on the Epic of Gilgamesh, then watching a video about the Roman Republic and then reading the Iliad, it can get a bit muddled up in my head. Which is ok.
You may realize that there’s a theme of ancient studies here. It all started when I signed up for Western Civ from Liberty Classroom. It is a fantastic overview of Western Civ history, but I felt like I needed to get a little more in-depth. That’s what I love about being an autodidact or self-learner. I have no deadline for finishing this, I can learn at my own pace. So I’m hoping to get through the Western Civ course in the next year. But I’m going to take my time with the art and literature supplemental courses, just because I want to make this really thorough.
I really enjoy having so many different sources for my education. It is great experience in figuring out how different programs work. Some, like Liberty Classroom and Khan, are very self-directed and flexible. Others, like Edx.org offer more structure. Some, like Duolingo, are just downright fun and addictive. My Duolingo app on my iPod is more fun than Angry Birds. Not that I play Angry Birds much, but I’d far rather “play” my Spanish app. Yes, it is that fun. So I just like being exposed to different technologies and approaches because it helps me stay adaptive.
Let me say something about the Edx.org course. It is called The Ancient Greek Hero. And is an utterly fantastic class. It is taught by Professor Nagy from Harvard and explores the theme of heroism and how the Greeks expressed their conception of heroes in works of literature such as The Iliad. I like the structure, everything is clearly defined and explained so I know exactly what I need to do. I like the approach because Professor Nagy focuses on learning how to read out of the text as opposed reading into the text. For instance, you could read a feminist agenda into a Greek story where no such concept existed for the original author and audience. Instead, the emphasis is on understanding the text in the way that it was intended rather than interpreting it from our modern perspective. While I don’t think we can ever completely remove our modern mindset from reading, it is definitely a goal to aim towards. I also like the idea of slow reading and fast reading. Professor Nagy selects certain texts from The Iliad to slowly read during the week, and then will assign several scrolls to read quickly. The slow reading is just that…taking the time to appreciate the nuances of the language, the specific words being used, the details of the text, and everything associated with that. The fast reading is more like speed-reading…skimming over the text to get the main “gist” of it. Doing a slow reading of the entire Iliad would be overwhelming to me, so having this balance between my normal speed-reading mode and a more thoughtful analysis of specific passages is really good for me. The course also focuses on the “big picture” of the story…what the texts tell us about the worldview of the characters, how this is relevant to us now, and other more broad themes. This is what I find most interesting about anything I study, so having that perspective in this class is great.
Why am I saying all of this? Maybe you’re interested in taking some courses or want to continue your education in a rather unconventional way. I thought I’d share some of my resources and what I like about them to give you ideas of what you can do. We live in a time when knowledge and educational sources are literally a click away. And it doesn’t cost a fortune. It would be tragic to neglect these incredible benefits of our technological revolution. There is absolutely no reason to not take advantage of these things. It would be like going to banquet but bringing our own peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Or going to the beach but never touching the ocean. It doesn’t really matter if it is “practical.” If it happens to be useful in a pragmatic way, that’s great. But just as there are mountains to climb for the sheer joy of conquering the peaks, there is this world of knowledge to explore for the sheer satisfaction of doing it. We learn to lose ourselves in the wonder of a world so vast we can never reach the edge.
Sometimes, or maybe most of the time, we can’t avoid the hardships of life. There will certainly be long days, sleepless nights, heart-wrenching experiences, turmoil within and turmoil without. You will become so exhausted you will try to think of ways to escape. But it won’t work. You’ll question your ability to survive. You will feel like crumbling or running away. And you might give up. But sometimes there just isn’t a way to give up. So what happens when you desperately search for the strength to endure and realize there is none? You may realize that our innate source of strength is so pitiful. And sometimes we don’t realize this until we are completely emptied. Then we must look to another. And there is an abounding source of strength and peace from our Lord. When there is nothing but wordless groanings of the soul, God can supply strength upon strength. When you look across the future, whether a few hours, a few days, a month, or years, and wonder how you will traverse that path, you will suddenly realize that through Christ you can do all things.
What am I trying to say here? I think part of growing up is realizing you won’t be able to do everything your way. When you have made a decision or gotten yourself into a rough situation, you can’t look to someone else to extricate you. You have to face it yourself. Then sometimes it just isn’t possible for you to do it on your own. But for the Christian, there is need for fear. I’ve struggled with fear in my life. Fear about a lot of things. Fear of situations that would overwhelm me. Fear of stupid things that don’t deserve anything like fear. But I’ve discovered this amazing truth of Christianity. When we are in the hands of our sovereign God, there is absolutely no place for fear. There is no need to dread the future or escape the present because there is nothing that can hurt us. I have found unimaginable sources of strength, not from within, but from my Lord. The Christian has no need for fear, only victory through Christ.
In our Sunday School sessions, we’ve been studying the Sermon on the Mount, which has been really good. One thing I had never really considered was the underlying theme of the sermon. The Sermon on the Mount is all about the heart. Jesus constantly reminds us that externalism just doesn’t work, and that it is the attitude of our heart that matters to God. So it is not surprising that we only got to Matthew 5.13 before the topic turned to a discussion of externalism and what it really means to live out the Christian life. And this is where we’ve been for several weeks and probably will be for some time yet. There have been many thought-provoking conversations which inspired me to write about it myself. And then I realized this fit into my “rebel” series since this is another downfall I am passionate about trying to avoid. Why is this such a big deal to me? It gets to the core of the Gospel. Did Christ come to whitewash us into nice, respectable people who live neat, tidy lives? Is the essence of the Gospel about changing how we look or transforming who we are?
Externalism also tends to distract us from the root of sin. For instance, it is easy to look at our entertainment-based culture, with people living in front of their televisions and computers, and bemoan the fact that this is such a wicked generation such as the world has never seen before. Really? Are we saying that television causes sin or is a tool of our own sin? We can talk about all the statistics, the evil content of the television shows, the appealing and addicting nature of it, etc…but all we’re saying is that people are more depraved because of television, when the reality is that the television screen is filled with wickedness because we are depraved. It may seem like a subtle point, but it is important. Think about it this way. If television and modern technologies cause us to sin, the logical argument is that any cultures prior to this generation would be less sinful. Hardly. My recent studies of ancient Greece and Rome prove otherwise. For instance, when the ruins of Pompeii were found, there were certain rooms hidden from the public because of the horribly wicked and depraved images painted on the walls. And to this day (according to Wikipedia) minors can only access these areas with a guardian’s permission. So the fact that our modern world even recognizes the evil of these scenes to some extent seems to suggest they are truly dark and evil works. My point in this is that even in the ancient world people managed to find ways to unleash their depravity. One might argue that while those things existed in ancient times, they were not as numerous as the flaunted depravity of our day. But this argument doesn’t really hold up when you consider that we have very few remains from ancient days. So there is no way for us to compare the current times to an era of which we know very little.
The core point is that evil comes from within, not from without. We all realize the futility of monks through the ages as they sadly thought they could isolate themselves from the world and therefore isolate themselves from sin, not realizing their very existence was the source of sin.
Externalism is such a tempting viewpoint because it is so much easier. It is easier to look at others and say, “oh, I’m better than that person because I do this spiritual thing, while they do that worldly thing.” It is easier to feel “good” when you’ve created a list of external rules. It is easier to follow a list of external commands than attempt to bring your heart under the submission of God. Externalism is easier because we can appear holy on our own. We don’t really need Christ’s grace to put on a show. Externalism gives us superficial comfort. It distracts us from having to consider the true state of our soul. We can stay so busy following our rules and condemning others for not following our rules that we don’t have to think about the sin still lurking within.
So, what do we do? How we do not fall into the trap of externalism?
To me, the biggest distinction between discernment and externalism is motivation. Why are you doing this thing? For instance, people can eat for the purpose receiving emotional comfort, purpose, or satisfaction. It can get their mind off problems, just as people can use drinking or drugs to avoid facing their life. This is not a wise use of these substances. But what if someone just enjoyed eating? They took pleasure in food because it was a demonstration of God’s love and creativity towards His creatures. Would this be wrong? I think not. So there can be instances of people engaging in the same activity for completely different motivations, and it is sometimes extremely difficult to discern the heart of another. And is it really our business? I mean, why are we here on earth? To glorify God. Do we glorify God by being preoccupied with judging other people? Do we glorify Him by spending our time trying to divine the motivations of other Christians? This isn’t the reason we’re here. If we can help others along the way or encourage them to greater sanctification, that is a good thing, but it doesn’t really involve holding other people to our own scruples.
For the Bible is clear on moral issues. And we have a duty to admonish others to live by the laws of God. But there’s an awful lot God doesn’t specifically tell us about. Like watching television. Or listening to secular music. Or how to raise children. Or how to dress. And so we have moral principles that we must each apply as we are given understanding through the Holy Spirit. We simply have no authority to hold other people to our own standards on these issues.
So let’s spend more time cultivating the fruit of the Spirit in our own hearts instead of trying to conform ourselves and others to a set of external human standards. What’s more important, growing in love and and joy or making sure we listen to only “Christian” music and PG movies? Other religions are external. Christianity isn’t. This is what will set us apart. If the world sees our genuine love and peace, this will make a bigger difference than any of our own superficial efforts.
The Gospel isn’t about what we do, it is about what Christ has done for us. We must never forget that Christianity is grace. If we lose focus on God’s grace, we will become self-satisfied moralists, not sinners saved by grace alone.
“For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)
There’s a lot I could say. I think this post is so delayed because whenever I think about writing I wonder where in the world I’ll start. I guess the logical place to start is where I am right now. And I’m actually in the lovely town of Auburn Alabama, enjoying the Austrian Economics Research Conference at the Mises Institute. Yes, I know you’re jealous. It is amazing. Seriously. I think we sometimes get really distracted by our circumstances in life. We get caught up in where we’re at and forget where we want to be. Sometimes we need to be grounded and reminded, “ah, yes, this is what I love and this is my passion in life.” Because, honestly, how many people are true to their passion? Sadly, not many. It is far to easy to live forever trying to get along, doing all the little mundane things, and never considering how that might fit into our dreams. So I don’t think it is unusual to need this “regrounding” in a world which is about fitting in and achieving mere mediocrity. Getting back to AERC, it is reminding me of what I am passionate about, and although I haven’t the slightest idea how or when I’ll end up realizing my dreams, this is what I love and I can’t forget it. There’s just nothing like the intellectual stimulation of the Mises Institute. And the best part of AERC is that it is all about the work that needs to be done yet. It is like, “oh, here is the complete and exhaustive exposition of the Austrian School of Economics.” Far from it, nearly every lecturer says at some point, “and there is much more research to be done on this subject.” Which inspires me because that means this is an alive thing. We’re not talking about a static body of knowledge. This is an area that is constantly expanding in knowledge, interpretation, and application. So as a young student, this inspires me to consider what advancements will be made in my own lifetime, and hopefully I will make my own contributions someday.
I ended up coming to AERC 2013 on my own for the first time. Which meant getting a bus to O’Hare, flying to Atlanta, and then getting a shuttle to Auburn. It was a really long ordeal since my plane was delayed by about 3 hours. I distinctly remember the first time I ever flew on my own. It was actually a year ago, for ASC 2012. I was terrified. For weeks ahead I imagined every single thing that could possibly go wrong, and of course each potential problem seemed like such a catastrophe. It was incredibly nerve-wracking, to say the least. By the time I arrived home safely I decided it was actually almost enjoyable, although it took me some time to recover from the terror I had inflicted on myself, haha. But this year was completely different. My initial reaction to the thought of doing the entire trip solo was, “wow, this is going to be such a fun experience!” I even resisted printing out maps of the airports and plotting my way ahead of time. I made sure I had the necessary info with me (boarding pass, shuttle reservations, etc…) but refused to worry about anything until I actually crossed that bridge. And instead of panicking when I was told my flight was delayed, I was just like, “oh, ok, let me call the shuttle company and move my reservation.” And I got to walk around O’Hare about 5 times in my extra time, haha. It was actually fantastic. I used to hate changes, being incredibly OCD or paranoid or whatever, and on Tuesday I changed my hotel arrangements, and then my flight was delayed, so two major changes in my plans, and yet oddly enough, I wasn’t bothered by any of it. The entire trip is just a grand adventure, no matter what happens. So definitely a good experience. And I get to do it all again on Sunday!
On a more serious note, I think the most thought-provoking theme I’ve encountered at AERC so far is the question of, “why did the Industrial Revolution happen when it did?” After realizing how civilization didn’t really progress all that much for thousands of years, and then suddenly in the past 200 years there’s been a dramatic transformation of culture, one has to ask, “why?” We understand the technological advances that became the Industrial Revolution, but the deeper question is, “why did those things happen at that time?” Or more precisely, “why didn’t the Industrial Revolution happen sooner? Why did it take thousands of years of little progress, relatively speaking, to get to that point?” Several speakers at AERC have offered their thoughts on this, and it has made me extremely interested in the subject. I don’t think it is an issue of pure historical speculation, I think this is relevant to modern times. How so? Well, if we understand what caused the Industrial Revolution, we would also discover how that progress could be reversed, and knowing this would allow us to hopefully prevent such a tragedy. We should all be interested in ensuring that society doesn’t regress but continue improving.
I will probably be blogging about this again in the future, among other subjects that I’ve thought about since being here, so you’ll hear about it again, I’m sure.
The other thing about AERC is being able to talk to like-minded people. Nothing compares to being surrounded by people who are discussing monetary theory, the business cycle, ethics, philosophy, and pretty much everything else. It is a place to talk to people who are interested in intellectual pursuits, and although everyone comes from diverse backgrounds and have their own unique interests, we are able to share our enjoyment of these subjects. We don’t agree on everything, but we all are here because we like learning and discussing new ideas. To me, that is what really matters.
Well, that’s about it all for now. I may get time for another post this weekend, but if not, I doubt I’ll get a chance to write for the next couple weeks. I have a feeling life will be really crazy once I get home. But I’ll be back…eventually : )
Life has a way of not happening the way we expect it to. I’ve just begun to figure this out in the last couple years. We have everything neatly plotted out, and then something comes along which challenges everything we’ve figured out. Sometimes other people do things which surprise us. And then sometimes we surprise ourselves. We wake up one morning and realize we’ve somehow turned our world upside down. We suddenly know we don’t know everything we thought we knew. The cherished assumptions we’ve held for so long are now looming question marks. We can’t explain it. We just know something has happened. Maybe it was the result of an instant epiphany. Or the culmination of imperceptible experiences. Who can know? All we’re left with is the certainty that we are now different. And that there’s no going back.
There are some things we know without a doubt. There’s the rock solid foundation of our life. Some things don’t change. But there’s a lot of other “stuff.” Assumptions that aren’t a necessary consequence of our foundation. Sometimes we believe things just because. Maybe because that’s how it has always been. Or because we thought it was right at one time. But those things can change. And maybe they ought to change. Because it is ok to say you have changed your mind about something. It is ok to let your assumptions and principles evolve over time. It is the foundation that matters, the core objective truths we can never deny. The way these truths work out in our lives will change over time. Because every experience changes us. Each day can make us cling more stubbornly to our presuppositions. Or each day can make us realize that we don’t know everything yet, and that there’s this enormous world out there to explore. Each experience can make us close up even more and determine to never change our opinion about anything. It can be terrifying to realize that things will always happen to challenge our dear principles. We can decide to never change. Or we can see it as an opportunity to grow, to become a fuller, stronger, wiser person. And that choice is completely up to us. We can’t blame anyone else for anything in our life. No matter what happens, we are always in control. It is our choice to let experiences drag us down or use them to become better people. No one else can determine what we do.
And those are my recent reflections on life :)
Ummm…what is happening to 2013? January 1st feels like yesterday. A sobering reflection. The days slip away and we’re left wondering what happened to our lives.
It is funny how life has a way of doing things that we do not expect. I fully intended to get back to my blog right after Lakeshore, but I guess that was not the plan. So here I am, a few weeks later!
Reflections on Lakeshore…
It was an amazing week. The fellowship and sense of unity as we worked towards a common goal in the kingdom of God was, well, an inspiring and beautiful experience. I tried to convey this sense in my final review of the week at the Lakeshore blog. I was honestly a little apprehensive about the event, as an introvert it was definitely out of my comfort zone, but God used it as a very good lesson for me. I learned a lot about myself, got pushed out of my shell, and actually discovered it was fun to be extroverted (sometimes)!
Reflections on 2013…
God is good. It is easy to take this for granted. We take so much for granted. It is an interesting experience to grow up. We are growing up through our entire life, it just happens more suddenly when we’re not children anymore. But I think back to those life-defining events of my childhood, and now in perspective they seem so trivial, but they aren’t trivial things to me then. That reminds me to never discredit the sorrow of others. I think it is easy for adults to belittle the crisis moments of kids. I don’t want to be that kind of person. I want to be the kind of adult who can empathize with the seemingly small sufferings of those younger than myself, because someday their trials will be big things to me, and they need someone they can trust to be there for them.
It is also natural for us to dread the trials in our life. True, who wishes sorrow and suffering on themselves? But sometimes we are so fond of comfort that we are not willing to go through the tribulations that we need. Because we grow the most when we are hurting. We feel closest to God in those moments of darkness, despair, and fear. It is when we feel everything is crumbling apart that we cling most passionately to the Rock of Ages. It is when our heart is so aching and broken we realize our own inability to help ourselves and we trust God, fully and without reserve. It shouldn’t be this way. We should be as willing to surrender ourselves to God in the pleasant times as in the hard times, but this isn’t generally how things go. And although the Word of God is full of promises of grace, it isn’t until we actually experience this that we gain a new level of faith and assurance. It is one thing to read of God upholding the believer, it is another thing to have this happen in your life. So what I am learning is that although it is never easy to embrace trials, there will always be grace to endure, and God will always give bountiful blessings to those who rejoice in all things.
I am discovering that there will never be a place of stability or equilibrium in this life. That’s hard for me. It is difficult for me to rejoice in change. I want everything to stay the same. I don’t expect perfection, I just want things to be constant, because then I can deal with it. But I’m finding that this is impossible. We are in a state of “becoming” here on earth, and we will not be pure “being” in a state of constant rest until Heaven. So self: just give up on the making everything stay the same. It simply won’t happen. You will change. The people around you will change. The world will change. You’ll just have to deal with it. Don’t look at it like a bad thing, but a challenge, a mystery, something that might make your life richer and better if you have the right attitude.
So far in 2013…
I am thankful for the Lord’s preserving strength and mercy. For His faithful grace to all those who seek to glorify Him.
I am thankful for the Scriptures, that we can actually know about the God we serve. It never ceases to amaze me when I think about God becoming incarnate, dwelling among man, and leaving us with the revelation of who He is. We do not serve a capricious god who leaves us to guess at his law. We do not serve an impersonal and far-removed god who refuses to reach through the boundaries of finiteness. We serve a great and glorious God who will humble Himself and stoop to our level so that we may know of Him, so that we will not grow discouraged or weary.
I am thankful for the many ways in which God ordains our lives and gives us grace through indirect means. Sometimes God uses people and situations to uplift us, and I am so thankful for this. It reminds me that I should never be so closed-minded, so wrapped up in my own life that I don’t see the opportunities God has put before me to be this encourager and means of helping others.
I am thankful for all that has happened and excited about all that God will work through and in me during the rest of this year.
Posts are going to be a bit scarce for the next week or so. I’m currently in Lakeshore, Louisiana participating in what is called The Lakeshore Project. For a week every January since Hurricane Katrina people have come from churches all over the country to help rebuild this community, reach out to those in need, encourage the local church, Lakeshore Baptist, and have fellowship with other Christians. This is my first year participating, and so far I’m greatly enjoying it. I’m on the media team and primarily responsible for the Lakeshore Project blog, so if you want to know more about the project or just want to keep reading my posts, head over there! See you here again sometime next week!
As I was thinking about doing this post, I realized I needed to get some thoughts out there about 2012 before moving on. So here goes 2013…
This is going to be a good year. How can I know this? you ask. I know this because all things are ultimately good. Even what is intended as evil God will use for good. Nothing is random or by chance, all things are directed by the hand of our sovereign God.
And related to that, I know that 2013 can be a good year because I have the ability to make it so. What I mean is that even though something really hard and painful might happen, if I can recognize God’s purpose and praise Him even though the rough times, I can make it good. My happiness or satisfaction in this year doesn’t depend on other people, I can’t blame others if I spend the year grumbling and complaining, it is my fault and my fault alone.
I want to make this a year of God-seeking, self-discovering, and world-exploring. I want to continue my mission of rebelling against mediocrity and pragmatism. I plan to keep thinking, questioning, challenging, and searching until I discover what is real and true, rather than just believing everything I’m told. I want to make this a year of joy and peace. Taking time to do the things that refresh and reenergize me so that I do not grow discouraged and cynical. Remembering that this is not our destination, that this will never be a perfect place, but that while I’m here I need to live with passion, love, and happiness. Living with less worrying and more peace. Less apathy and more passion. Less fear and more courage. Less self-pity and more happiness. There are enough people out there worrying about the little things, enough people anxious about the unimportant details, enough people fighting wars over nothing, enough people creating crises and conflicts out of minor differences; the world needs more dreamers, more people wise enough to fight the real wars, more people brave enough to trust God, more people courageous enough to take the road less traveled.
I was going to write about this year, but I thought I’d just share some of my accomplishments of 2012 and some of my thoughts on the year.
43 blog posts have been published here, which comes out to a blog post every 1.2 weeks, on average! Of course it wasn’t very steady or regular, but at least I somewhat made up for it through the year! And I have to say, most of my posts tend to be pretty long, so 43 posts is pretty good, in my opinion. And in case you were wondering, I have published a total of 405 blog posts since the creation of this site!
I have read over 70 books. It wasn’t till about halfway through the year that I decided to try for 100 books per year, so I’m very happy with the 70, it comes out to 1.3 books a week, which is nice! Still have an ever-growing pile of books to read. But considering that I buy 5-10 books every month, and I buy used books on a regular basis, there is no chance I will catch up with my reading. Which is ok, because I’d hate to sit down to read a new book one day only to discover I don’t have any.
I attended the Ligonier National Conference and the Austrian Scholars Conference in March. In May I went to a Young Adult Christian Conference in Pennsylvania, and I actually had a real vacation to Missouri in September. Other exciting things included going to a Future of Forestry concert and seeing Les Mis on Christmas Day!
I completed Khan Academy’s Intro to Chemistry this year! That was a huge deal since I had been trying to do it for a couple years. Also made progress on Geometry (hoping to finish it by the end of this spring semester), and embarked on my Western Civilization history course which I don’t anticipate finishing for at least another year. And just a week or so ago I finished the Mises Academy’s World War I course.
Overall…2012 was a year of many new things. I forced myself out of my comfort zone to do things like fly to Ligonier and ASC, along with the 12 hour road trip to Pennsylvania. I tried to focus my learning more. I started the year trying to do chemistry, physics, computer science, geometry, astronomy, and about 5 other subjects, along with extensive reading, and other projects. After a lot of thinking, I realized it was better to focus on a few things, so I dropped all other sciences besides chemistry until I got that done. I also tried to be more purposeful with my reading, by selecting a wider range of subjects, making a point to read more Puritans, and make sure that my reading was well-rounded. I figured out a new plan for reading the classics so that my approach is more structured, rather than being like, “oh, I think I’ll read The Epic of Gilgamesh this month! And then maybe Faulkner next. And throw in some Aquinas. Then try Herodotus….” well, you get the point.
Reflections on the year…
It is easy to spend our days trying to make people happy. There is a cacophony of voices out there trying to tell us what to do. Sometimes they are right, sometimes they are wrong. And we can’t possibly satisfy everyone. So we have to be wise and not lose sight of our purpose: to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. I learned it is easier to fit in, to be mediocre and “normal” but it is more rewarding and glorifying to God if we pursue what we have been called to do, whether or not that fits into the conventional expectations for us. And I learned that there is no point in doing something if you don’t do it with all your heart. This world has no need for more mediocrity, there’s an overabundance already. What this world desperately needs is the example of someone living with the passion to transcend mediocrity.
This world is so full of sorrow, hatred, heartache, suffering, and misery. It is easy to grow bitter and cynical. It is easy to lose our faith in God and wonder what sort of cruel place this is, where right and wrong are turned upside down. It is easy to stop caring. We can shut ourselves up and refuse to participate in the sorrows of those around us. And neither of these responses, cynicism and apathy, are good. Christ had the greatest reason to grow resentful and cynical. “He came unto His own and His own received Him not.” He came to offer Himself as a sacrifice, and was killed by the very group of people He spent His life preaching grace and salvation to, yet He asked God the Father to forgive them. Christ saw so much misery and suffering while He was here. But did He ever stop caring? Did He ever tell everyone to go away and stop asking Him to help them because their plight didn’t really matter to Him? Of course not. He always took the time to care about those around Him, even those such as the woman at the well, who weren’t proper Jews. So let’s never stop caring. Let’s never stop showing compassion, even when the pain hurts and the sorrow seems overwhelming. It is easy to close our hearts, but we are not here to do what is easy, we are here to glorify God and show the world the truth of God and His mercy.
I learned that God is good, regardless of how the situation looks to us. And we will never find peace or happiness until we rely totally on Him for all things. Sometimes the things we take for granted are the things God removes so that we will trust Him more. The future is never certain. Praise God in all things, and enjoy each moment, for you know not what a day may bring. And on those days when we wonder how we will survive, He always gives grace to keep going. And He will answer our prayers and our needs in ways we never could have imagined. This year I was reminded that God’s plan is always the best, and it makes me thankful for His sovereignty over my life because I certainly would have botched it up by now.
Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.” – Isaiah 26.4