Tuesday, August 30, 2005


i've been really grappling with why people lose their faith in God. i have had some free time this week, and have been storming thru the blogosphere, and i've been struck by how many bloggers are writing about their struggles with faith in God.

and i wonder, how do you get to that point, where you just sort of give up on God, or on the idea of there being a God? it's not that i haven't encountered this before - i had one very good friend several years ago who completely lost his faith.

for some, i have seen, it's because of the way the church (or church people) has treated them or others. they see an abuse of authority, hypocrisy, manipulation, and all manner of horrible things, and they walk away from the church, and at the same time, walk away from God.

for others, it has been a long search & struggle to find God... to meet with him, to know his presence, to walk with him. and for some reason, God did not speak to them in the way they were expecting, or God didn't act in the way they were hoping, or they simply could find no connection to God whatsoever, and so they let go of the hope/belief that God is real - and even if they still believe in a God - they have lost the hope/belief that he will ever speak to them.

i can truly understand the hang-ups that people have with church people. i've seen a lot of crap in the church. i grew up in a ministry family, and then went into ministry myself, and unfortunately i can tell you that some people who call themselves Christians can be truly horrible. but i guess that i dealt with that by comparing their behavior to the character of God that i see in the revealed in the Bible, and calling their behavior wrong. i dissasociated myself with those kinds of Christians, with those Christian denominations, with those churches, and seek to spend my time with people whose lives reflect the character of God. there are many who call themselves Christians who do not follow Jesus. i guess i just don't think that that means that God isn't real.

the other question is more difficult for me. there doesn't seem to be a good answer. on one hand, we could say that for some reason, God chose not to speak/intervene in these peoples' lives. but why? when you read the Scriptures, you see a God who is involved in the lives of mankind - the whole story is about how he walked with people, how he sought out a people, how Jesus came & lived among people - the whole story is God reaching out to mankind. did that only happen during Bible times? did the way God interacts with mankind change? i know that some people believe that. am i just misinterpreting circumstances in my life, things that happen, as coming from God when they really just happen randomly? am i just attributing the good things in my life to God while saying the bad things come from some other source?

i don't really have hard & fast evidence to prove that God is real, or that he interacts in my life. but i do have a relationship with him. would it be possible to fabricate that? perhaps.

the truth is that i believe. i have had many points in my life where i have questioned the reality of God, doubted his existence, doubted his goodness. and at each point there has been a decision to continue to trust him. and i'll admit that some of it is on faith. some faith is always necessary.

there are many reasons that i believe. one of the simplest to explain is because of what living a life of faith & obedience is like. i think it works better than living my life without faith & obedience. when i do what reflects God's character, or do what the Bible says i should do - life is better - it's smoother, my relationships with other people are more fruitful, i'm more fulfilled and happier. and it makes sense why that would be so - if God is real, and he created us, he would know what we really need, what is good for us, and so it should work better.

so i guess one last thing that i want to say is that living a life of faith doesn't mean that you're without doubt. it doesn't mean that you have all the answers. it definitely doesn't mean that you're perfect. living with faith is living with hope. it's living relationally. living with faith is walking with courage. but i don't think it has to be a blind faith. there are reasons to believe.

Sunday, August 28, 2005


i had a discussion with a friend recently, and i have to admit that i gave him a very poor answer. actually, i was just inconsistent.

you see, i was trying to explain that the goodness that he sees in me comes from God living in me. i was unwilling to take any credit for my character and the positive things he sees in me. and then he reminded me of the fact that i'd just told him that he is a good person too. so why am i unwilling to take any credit for being who i am, all the while attributing goodness to others? and how do i explain to him my whole worldview on the fallennes of mankind & yet the goodness that remains because we are made in the image of God?

because it gets very complicated. if i really believe that "but for the grace of God, that would be me" - i could be hitler, or a murderer, or just a bitter person with lots to complain about - how do i explain why God's grace has been applied so in my life, so that i didn't turn out to be hitler, or a murderer or a bitter person?

could it be that i actually made choices that brought me to this point? could my friend be correct in that i ought to take some credit for where i am, because i have chosen to some degree to be here? i am really uncomfortable with that thought, but that is probably because of the church tradition in which i was brought up.

but the truth is, now i see that there is much more an interplay between God's choices & mine. God seeks out his people, he pursues them, chooses them, sanctifies & redeems them. but each of us also has choices. and whereas growing up i would have given you a straight answer on how these things interplayed, now i cannot, for i do not know or understand how God's choices & my choices intermingle to bring me where i am today.

surely God has chosen me. just as surely, i have chosen him. he chose me first. he enabled my heart to be soft and my mind to be open to him. he has changed me from the inside out and continues to make me more like him. and yet - i too have made choices. i was also praying that he would change me & make me like him. i was the one to walk the (at times) difficult road of obedience to become more like him. i daily must choose to surrender my will to him & choose to follow.

and so my friend, you are right - my answer to you was inconsistent. to some extent, my choices have made me who i am. but i must honestly tell you that it is God who enabled me to make those choices. and any goodness within me is there because i am made in God's image - made to relfect him.

and goodness is found in every person, i believe, because God made mankind in his image, and each of us have that fingerprint of God in our lives. each of us to some extent reflects the character and attributes of God, who is good. So even those who do not choose to follow him still reflect a bit of him - and his goodness, just by virtue of being human. it is the nature of humanity to reflect the goodness of God, just as it is the nature of the painting to reflect the character and personality of the painter.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

i'm baaack!

i had a really great camping trip - lots of time for solitude... to think, pray and reflect on things. part of what i was doing was just processing the pain of losing my family again (they've moved away - a long, long way away). realizing that i am really on my own again - no one really looking out for me, no one waiting around to watch me succeed (cheering on the sidelines), no one who i know would drop everything in a heartbeat to be there for me.

the beginning of the trip was difficult, as i fought with my emotions. i have long been good at handling emotional pain, but tended to do so by cutting people out & surviving on my own. i was very good at it, and that response allowed me to survive some very difficult emotional times. but i was unhappy with the results because i didn't know people, and they didn't really know me - i ended up really only having surface relationships & not knowing how to get deeper.

a few years back, God really challenged that & thru several relationships, taught me how to love - to reach out & connect to people & give to them without expectation of return, and even knowing that the relationships may not be permanent. and that was good. more than good, actually - it was an amazing & miraculous work of God to bring healing to my life.

but i see now that it was incomplete. because i learned to love, and to give to others, and to let people in to a certain point. but that's not all there is to relationships. i do not really know how to allow others to love & care for me. my parents are really the only people i'm comfortable receiving from.

and so, as i struggled during the first part of my trip, that is what i was struggling with - how do i choose to allow other people to care for me? how do i choose to allow myself to need others, knowing that needing other people inevitably leads to hurt & disappointment? truth is, at an emotional level, i would rather not, at least in the short run. but logically i know that that's what i need, and in the long run, those are the types of relationships that i really want - mutual ones. i desperately need to learn to allow others to care for me.

and i'm in a great position for that right now, because i feel as though i'm basically at the end of my ability to give - i'm totally depleted. i'm hurting, and school is very taxing, and i have a lot on my plate - a lot to deal with. my normal response to people is to give 200% all the time, to give until i can't give anymore. and i do, too. but right now i feel like i don't have anything to give. so i'm in a position where i am forced to receive from others in order to have continued relationships, and that's really good. i'm praying that God will use this place that i'm at to bring further healing to my life & relationships.

the thing i long for the most right now is to be back when i was a child, and my dad would walk with me and hold my hand. his hands were so huge, and strong, and warm & soft. when he held my hand, i knew i was safe. i didn't always know the way - where i was going, but i did know that wherever i went, he would be walking beside me, and i would be safe. the idea of being enveloped in the protection of my father - i just wish i could go back.

so many years, i survived on my own - telling myself that i didn't need anyone to take care of me - i could do everything by myself, and as such, could do it without running the risk of being hurt by future separation. i'm praying that God will send people to fill in the gaps - to be his strong hands in my life - supporting, upholding, encouraging, protecting. i'm also praying that God will help me to know when to ask for help, when to seek out community, and when to be vulnerable with those around me.

it's a difficult place to be, yet a good one. because in the end i trust that God is good. i know that he is my father. i know that he is there. and i'm hoping & praying that the people that he would lead to be a part of this healing process would listen to his voice. i need them.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

a quiet restful place

well, i'm going to be out of commission for a little while, because i'm going camping. i was only going to take a couple of days to camp, but i'm feeling the need for a little bit more solitude & time to think.

i've got a lot of things to think through. first of all, i've just finished a year of law school, and haven't had any time to think about what i've been learning. second, there have been some pretty major changes to my family life this summer, and i have definitely not had time to process through the emotions of that.

so - i'm pretty hopeful about the week. i'm hoping & praying that God will meet me there, help me to work through these things. i'm looking forward to the time to regain my center, and hopefully will be able to return to school in the fall & have renewed purpose & vision for why i'm there & what i hope to accomplish. and the truth is, i've been very undisciplined about spending time with God since i've started school, and maybe even before that. i really have missed the closeness that i might have had in the past, and as i said before, i'm looking to reestablish that and get re-grounded.

so that's the scoop. i guess the only reason that i'm posting this is because it gives me a little bit of accountability with being purposeful about my time. so, i'll talk to you again soon.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

my mom just instant messaged me

why does loving people have to be so hard? i know that it's not always, and that there are good times. But for me right now the thought of loving is juxtapozed with loss. because at the end of every relationship is loss. and there is an end to every relationship, even if it's death that separates.

i've done a lot of leaving in my life - moving around, saying goodbye. and i've had a lot of people leave me.

and all the while i have longed for permanency - longed to be somewhere forever, with someone forever. but i know that even if i had that, it would still not be enough - because man is but a breath, and then he dies. separation is inevitable. pain is inevitable.

and so i wonder, is it worth it to love? and i have to answer, YES! life without love is empty, unbearable, lonely, separated, disconnected, pointless. but gosh, it hurts.

i know some people that are really happy... all the time, they see only the good in everything. and i really wish that i could do that. don't get me wrong - i look for the good in everything... but i also see the bad. and i'm too honest to pretend that i don't. i've seen too much life...i've seen too much pain to pretend that it doesn't exist.

and so, i cry out to God, to meet me in this place. and i want him to show up. and sometimes i sense his presence, and sometimes that is enough. but sometimes it is not... because looking to God in these situations requires faith to believe that he's there. and sometimes i feel like Thomas in the Bible - wanting just to touch his hands, and feel his side, to know that he is real, and that he is here. if only he were here and could hold me - and never let me go.

and even as i write, he does answer. he does hear me. my mom just instant messaged me.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

impromptu thoughts

Well, what can I say? While studying for exams I was thinking of all these things I couldn't wait to write about. But sitting here, after finishing my 5th exam in 4 days, my thoughts are pretty scattered, and I feel more like writing about feelings, or whatever comes to my mind, than about any one topic in particular.

I'm now officially 1/3 of the way thru my law school career. It's unbelievable how fast the 15 week semesters go. Only 60 more credits and I'm on my way to the bar exam, and then to practice. It will be over before I know it, and then I'll be doing something completely new & different - and I have no idea what that will be. I could end up almost anywhere, I think.

I didn't expect to go to law school, to become an attorney. I grew up thinking I'd want to be a teacher. Then I studied psychology in college - probably more to figure myself out than anything else. I tried social work for a while, but it didn't really fit what I wanted to do. And I could never get away from the desire to really impact peoples' lives - to live in such a way that they would see the reality of God's love & presence in me. But growing up in a ministry family, I had definite qualms about that as well, knowing how messed up the institutionalized church sometimes is - how wacked out are their goals at times, and how hurt people who work in the church often are. Sure enough, I ended up in ministry (I avoided it as long as I could, but eventually gave in). And sure enough, it turned out very badly. Mostly it was miscommunication between the generations... but it was painful all the same. And I left, still wanting to impact people, but wanting the freedom to do it in unconventional ways.

And then I really entered a period of the unknown. I really didn't know what to do with my life. I got a normal job, like people do, and was quickly bored. I have a personality that has to have meaning in life, or I want to die. I can't stand getting up every day and doing something that doesn't matter. But I didn't know what to do.

And then a friend found a law school nearby that had good scholarships. So almost on a whim, I took the LSAT. Actually, when I left inner-city ministry, I left still wanting to make an impact, but knowing that I would do it by opening up some sort of intensive residence/school for kids or by trying to change the systems that keep our at-risk youth oppressed. So law school sort of fits that second part... it just wasn't anything I had considered before - ever.

And now I'm in law school. And the funny thing is that for the first time in my life, I'm not looking ahead to the next thing - trying to figure out where I'm going to go or what I'm going to do. Always before there was something restless about me, knowing that there was something else out there, just over the horizon that I just had to walk toward. And it's not like right now I don't feel that I have a future, because I do. It's just that I know I'm in the right place right now. I KNOW it. And I am content. And I love school (I'm a total nerd). I love to learn. And I'm excited that at the end of all this, I get to use what I've learned to actually help people, or to change things that need to be changed.

Yes, I'm still idealistic. I'm growing older - idealism usually is lost somewhere along the way. But I have not been able to give up the thought, the hope, that my life will be worth something... that I will be able to change something, or to make something better... that I will be able to contribute something. The truth is, I'm not willing to live in a world where I simply accept the way things are & don't try to change them or make them better.

And so... here I am. I'm content. Actually, I'm happy. I'm walking down a path, and I don't see where it's leading. But it doesn't really matter, because I'm enjoying the process.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

i have not forgotten

I have not forgotten you!

It's just... I'm in the middle of exams.

I shall return.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Real People

I once went to a church where when you came on Sundays, you had to look your best. And all the people left all their problems at home. Problems were not allowed at church. We couldn't have the other families thinking that we didn't have it all together, right? I worked for a while with the youth group there, and will never forget when a 14 year old told me "you don't bring your problems to church!" His parents had taught him well - carefully paste on that Sunday smile, along with wearing your Sunday best, and off you go to church!

I have to be honest, I was floored when to hear a child speak that reality. Because somehow, I missed the memo. To be certain, my life circumstances were such that much of my spiritual formation took place in the quiet of my own home. My teen years were spent with much time alone with God, and in the Word of God, because I had no community to speak of. Circumstances prevented me from having a strong spiritual community at that time. So my spiritual development was very much a relational one. When I was hurting, I went to God, for he was all I had. When I read the Bible, I was trying to know God - to know who he is, what his character is like... I was trying to have a relationship with him.

And the funny thing is, I actually believed that the stuff in the Bible was true - that God actually wants me to be a real person. I actually believed that when God said that "man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart," that he meant it. I actually believed that God was more concerned with my inner attitudes and sumbission to him, than my outward expressions of worship. I actually believed that I - and all other uniquely created human beings, am deeply loved by God. I believed it all - and I still do.

So I approach my walk with God as a journey - a journey where God knows the beginning and the end. He already knows the very terrible things that I think or I do. Yet he loves me still. I do not suffer the delusion that I have to fool him, myself, or others into thinking that I am perfect, or even good. I am able to approach this faith journey as a real, authentic person - vulnerable... with needs... not invincible... not perfect... human.

And that is what I beleive the church needs to embrace, in order to reach our communities, to reach our world. We need to embrace our own humanness & imperfections, let go of the polish, and be real. We need to be real people, with real problems. Because it's there that the reality of God comes through. It's there that his power is unleashed & people come to know HIM, instead of simply knowing about him. It's there, in our humanity, that God's strength is made perfect, and that his love is made real. It's by demonstrating love and grace and peace to our brothers & sisters - our imperfect brothers and sisters, that others will be drawn to the love that we share.

When I started working in a regular job, after being in ministry for several years, it was shocking to me how refreshing the office environment was. And it's not that the people were especially nice, or really cared that much about meeting my needs, or even getting to know me, necessarily. What was refreshing to me was the fact that my co-workers were authentic. If they were mad at me, they told me to my face. If they didn't like something, they complained about it. They were real with their thoughts and their feelings. They were real.

Is it any wonder that none of my coworkers would have been comfortable at my church?

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Longing for connection

One thing that seems to be common among people of the pomo generation (post-modern) is their longing for relationships with others that are deep, and real, and personal. As I look back over my first few posts, that relational value just screams out at me. And personality-wise, I'm not even that people-oriented a person.

But my generation seems to value relationships, above almost anything else. We are longing for relationships - looking for them wherever we can find them.

Why is that, do you think? I have theories, of course - many of them.

Is it because we live in an individualistic society, where we have been taught that it is me, and me alone, that I ought to worry about? We value ourselves - our own beliefs and ideas above those of others. When making decisions we look first to see how it will affect ourselves, and those closest to us, before looking to others. This is very different from the community-centered cultures of Asia. Is this what separates us from others?

And what about technology, and the advances of our culture? We are becoming more & more a mobile society. We no longer stay at our jobs for our whole careers, but move from place to place. We move from city to city, or state to state, with far more abandon than our forefathers. Transportation has made this possible. And technology also provides us with a forum to be known in ways that are less than holistic. By writing on a blog you may be getting to know my inner self... but what do you really know about who I am as a whole person? What do you know about my true personality? Technology allows you to see but a fragment of my being, and that is all you know.

Technology also allows us to be much more self-sufficient. I have my own car. I buy my food at the grocery store rather than growing it in my backyard. I have everything that I need at my fingertips, and if I don't have it, I can buy it. This consumer culture has made me believe that all I need is money, and all my needs will be taken care of - at least all my physical needs. But because I don't have physical needs that I cannot meet myself, I am never forced to move outside of myself & build relationships. I do not have need of a community in the same way that past generations have.

And what about the general breakdown of the family unit? More and more families are divorced, blended, single-parent. We have learned unhealthy relationship patterns from our parents. And as a result of our parents' trauma, we are traumatized people, who often do not know how to have healthy relationships ourselves. So because we value relationships, we try, often with a lot of passion and spirit. But often we do not find what we are looking for, because we do not even know where to begin.

I am sure that I only begin to scratch the surface, and that it's not just one of these reasons, but a combination of all of them and others that have led my generation to the place that we are. We are longing for relationships. We value relationships above everything. But we are not finding them. We do not know where to look. And even when we find relationships, we don't know how to make them work.

This is where the church needs to be found at work. This is what the church needs to provide. If we can figure out how to make our church community a place where people can come & truly connect, we will go far in reaching this generation. We need to have a place where people can come, and be real. Gone should be the days where people come to church and feel like they have to wear their nicest clothes, and hide all their problems from the others in the pews. The church needs to be a place that real people are comfortable being. And the only way that will happen is if the people in church start acting like real people.