“Enjoy.”

Illustration: http://etc.usf.edu/clipart

I was in the Dining Commons the other day when I overheard one person ask another, “Did you enjoy your meal?” The phrase struck me weird, and I thought about it.

We can like something without enjoying it. Food can taste good, and we can fail to enjoy it. We can spend time with our friends, and not enjoy it. We can walk outside on a gorgeous sunny day… and not enjoy it. In this context, our good friends Merriam and Webster define “enjoy” thus:

enjoy en·joy (verb) in-ˈjȯi To take pleasure or satisfaction in.

It is possible to be in a thoroughly enjoyable situation and not enjoy it. I do this all the time! I’ll be with some of the most awesome people in the world, in a nice warm heated room at a college where I’m learning to do something I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid… and be completely apathetic.

A guy named Clive Staples Lewis wrote a handy book called The Screwtape Letters, fictitious letters of advice to a “junior tempter” named Wormwood from his uncle Screwtape, a more skilled tempter. It’s basically the Christian equivalent of the CIA intercepting a bunch of letters from the KGB giving advice on how to best trick Americans into losing the Cold War. Anyway, about halfway through letter 15, Screwtape gives Wormwood this advice:

We want a whole race perpetually in pursuit of the rainbow’s end, never honest, nor kind, nor happy now, but always using as mere fuel wherewith to heap the altar of the future every gift which is offered them in the present.

Screwtape ends the letter, “And anyway, why should the creature be happy?” Continue reading ““Enjoy.””

God & Smiling

“The greatest honor we can give Almighty God is to live gladly because of the knowledge of his love.” -Julian of Norwich, c. 1342 – 1416

I was reading a book last night called The Good and Beautiful God: Falling in Love with the God Jesus Knows, and I came upon that quote. The book was excellent reading, and messing with me in some very good ways, and that quote was quite good. Then I ran into this quotation, a rephrasing of Julian of Norwich’s original statement:

What God most wants
is to see you smile
because you know
how much God loves you.

I stopped and reread that sentence. My eyes flew uncomprehendingly back and forth across it, my heart hardly daring to believe the words my eyes were seeing. God? Wanted to see ME smile???

Rewind about four years Continue reading “God & Smiling”

Things I Need to Remember When Life Gets Confusing

I found this in my prayer journal. It was dated June 12 2010 at 1:30 AM, titled “Things I need to remember when life gets confusing.”

Jesus is the answer to everything, especially the confusing questions that He couldn’t possibly be the answer to.

Grades aren’t everything.

Friends are a phone call away.

Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.

God is not confused. He never punts. He has no plan B. There is no such thing as an “outside chance.”

Loving is more important than being right.

Things are seldom as bad as you think, and were rarely as good as you remember.

Hold Me Jesus” is appropriate ALL the time.

Love at first sight is silliness.

Time spent with God is never wasted.

Be yourself. Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.

Rely on God for everything.

This isn’t a complete list, but it’s everything that was in my prayer journal. Not sure why “love at first sight” was in there… and the Be Yourself quote was from Dr. Seuss.

Fear Not

It’s been a while since I last blogged about fear. Quite a while.

The place was packed. I’d never seen this many people at Union Church, even close to Christmas. There were extra seats and everything, and even the extra seats were being filled – every single one. A few minutes after I arrived, they said to give the people around you a hug. The lady to my left had said “Good morning” instead of “He is risen indeed,” so I figured she was just a Christmas-and-Easter Christian and simply shook her hand. Then I went back to sending text messages to all my friends and a few acquaintances that said, “They could kill Him, but they COULDN’T KEEP HIM DEAD! HE IS RISEN!” After a few rounds of this, the nice lady beside me tried to shut my phone, smiled warmly, and said, “Stop texting! You’re in church!” (She really was smiling warmly, and wasn’t being old and mean). I flipped down to the message I was sending and showed it to her, grinning larger than was necessary. She smiled and left me alone after that. I slowed down the texting to sync with slower parts of the service… but wow. It was mostly worship songs after that, and it became increasingly difficult to send out text messages with my hands in the air. I accidentally bumped into the upraised arm of the nice lady to my left while I had my hands raised and eyes closed. Guess I’d made a bit of a happy mistake. She loved Jesus, too, or so it seemed.

I actually wasn’t planning on being at Union Church this morning, but because of the Dining Commons, Wendy’s, and Burger King all being closed, I ended up in a long line at McDonalds and heading toward being a half hour late for the church I’d intended to attend. That meant that, because this was one of those multiple-services-that-all-have-to-be-short churches, I’d miss the worship. I didn’t want to do that, not on Resurrection Sunday.

On the way to the other church, I saw a sign for N 200 E, where I’d have to turn to go to Union Church. I have no idea how these things work, but I just had a feeling or decided (I never figured out exactly which) to go to Union Church today. Maybe it’s just because they started at ten and it was now 9:57, but who knows? I slowed down fast and made the right turn to go to Union Church.

They sang a lot of songs. The service was about freedom. They performed the “Set Me Free!” skit, then the pastor came up and said that the theme for the morning was freedom – freedom from whatever it was was holding you, and then listed off a bunch of things that can hold us humans captive. He preached for a while, then gave an invitation.

They were giving out broken chain links to take home, as a reminder of spiritual broken chains, to everyone who went forward. As usual, I assumed that the invitation was not for me, but for somebody else, and that I would cheer them on. I didn’t have anything I needed set free from. God had already…  …Crap. The whole process of going from”I’m-okay” to “okay-maybe-I’m-no-okay” took about five seconds. I had a chain I needed freedom from. It was called Fear. Continue reading “Fear Not”

Instructions for Living in the Empire

There are a few “fringe theologians” who disavow friendship with the United States of America. Some, like Shane Claiborne, refer to the USA as “Empire” and disavow it, trying to live “off the grid,” away from the realm of America. The idea that the church is this Kingdom of God that will never be destroyed or conquered, and that all other kingdoms will crumble into nothingness (Daniel 2:44) and that, as Christians, we should live away from it and wait for it to fall. It makes sense in some ways… which is why it’s such attractive heresy.

Last night, I was reading in Jeremiah 29 from The Message and found a few lines that were, at least for the moment, more fascinating than verse 11:

This is the Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies, Israel’s God, to all the exiles I’ve taken from Jerusalem to Babylon:

“Build houses and make yourselves at home.

Put in gardens and eat what grows in that country.

Marry and have children. Encourage your children to marry and have children so that you’ll thrive in that country and not waste away.

Make yourselves at home there and work for the country’s welfare.
Pray for Babylon’s well-being. If things go well for Babylon, things will go well for you.” (Jeremiah 29:4-7, MSG, emphasis mine) Continue reading “Instructions for Living in the Empire”

Forgiving God

I’m a long way from orthodoxy on this one. 

I’ve been asking around, but concrete answers are hard to find. Everyone seems to think that I should do it, but no one (including me) likes the notion or thinks that “forgiveness” is the right word, but I can’t seem to find a better one.

I guess maybe I should tell the story, first. I’m not sure where the beginning is, but I’ll try starting at the first “offense.”

Continue reading “Forgiving God”

Happily Ever After, Part 2

Ree has a magnet on her refrigerator door. The first time I saw it, I thought it was Really Insightful. Since walking away from that moment, I’ve been gradually realizing more and more what it means and how true it is.

“For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin – real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, or a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life. This perspective has helped me to see that there is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way. So, treasure every moment that you have and remember that time waits for no one. Happiness is a Journey, not a Destination.”

Continue reading “Happily Ever After, Part 2”

No Happily Ever After

There is no happily ever after. 

The ingraining begins young. Little girls watch Disney “Princess” movies where love’s first kiss or fitting a slipper is part of a storybook retelling that ends “…and they all lived happily ever after.” (At least until the sequel.) Fairy tales end in Happily Ever After. Many romances are built on dreams of Happily Ever After. (“I’ll love you forever and forever and forever!!!”)

But smart, intelligent, thinking people know better. We can tell the difference between fairy tales and real life. …Can’t we? And if anyone would know that Happily Ever After is a fairy tale, it would be Christians, right? Well… Yes and no.

Continue reading “No Happily Ever After”

Controlling God

I wrote this paper for my Intro to Digital Media Arts class. The paper is confusing. So is that class. This paper has been modified from its original version. It has been formatted to look good on this screen. I have split long paragraphs to increase readability. Also, sorry it’s so long and “scholarly-looking.” Enjoy!

Christians are optimists. We’re insane optimists. We worship a Guy Who got brutally murdered on a Friday and Who we believe came back to life that Sunday morning. We believe in the impossible, for sure. We honestly believe some kid with a slingshot took out a dude who was big enough and strong enough to eat the toughest modern “ultimate fighter” for lunch. We go through life thanking God when parking spots just happen to miraculously open up in front of us.

So it’s not too much of a stretch for us to think that God will work some miracles, and not the least bit of a stretch for us to write stories about Him doing it. Because we think God needs Public Relations agents, (not witnesses), we attempt to help God do what He refuses to do for Himself. When we can “control” God (and, in our fiction, we can), we tend to make Him Nice. We tend to make Him the way we want Him to be.

The first time I saw an Alex Kendrick film (director of Flywheel, Facing the Giants, and Fireproof), I was in love. Flywheel wasn’t cinematically ugly or excessively preachy like so many of the other Christian abominations that I had seen; Flywheel’s message was just “Come to Jesus and everything will get better.” It showed a God consistent with what I had heard preached, so surely it was a good Christian film, and the plot seemed reasonably believable. It was exactly the kind of films I had always dreamed that maybe, someday, I could make, too. I even tried to get an opportunity to work with them before I considered Huntington University.

Continue reading “Controlling God”

Beauty Will Rise

I wrote this and posted it for homework, but it was important enough that I thought I should put it here, too.

Right now, I’m listening to the title track of Steven Curtis Chapman’s latest album, titled “Beauty Will Rise.” For anyone not familiar with SCC, he’s been an icon in Christian Contemporary Music for.. quite a while. I think it was within the last year, though, that he lost one of his children in a tragic car accident. A month later, Chapman wasn’t sure he’d ever be able to sing again. His latest album has shown that not to be true. But now… now his songs have a depth they didn’t have before.

From http://www.stevencurtischapman.com/music.htm

“It is weird for me to even call this a record because it is just my personal psalms from this journey that we have been on,” says Steven. “After we lost Maria, I did not know if I would ever write anymore songs or if I would ever sing again. The last thing I wanted to do is turn any of this into a song. Then you realize “God, this is what has happened to us and now what would you have me to do with it?” Slowly songs began to just come out as ways for me to try to process what I was thinking and feeling and what my family and I were walking through.”

Continue reading “Beauty Will Rise”