Song of the Week: “Rich Young Ruler”

1 11 2014

This week’s song is “Rich Young Ruler” by Derek Webb.

This song is an incredible reminder of the kind of people we’re called to be. Not to mention the fact that Jesus isn’t after our resources, our ‘cash and coin’– He’s far more interested in how we’ve used those resources. He’s interested in our Hearts.

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” (1 Cor 13:1)





NaNoWriMo 2014!

1 11 2014

Well. With great horror this Halloween evening, I have realized NaNo is once more upon us and I have done nothing but procrastinate all month. So this post is more than just an update: I’m literally planning how to proceed in my novel right now on this blog. Because clearly I’m insane, ha.

 

In all seriousness, though, I’ve known pretty much all year that I was going to work on my main project, Conquest, this November. I haven’t decided yet whether or not I want to post my progress here (i.e.: post whatever I type that day– provided it’s a fairly substantial amount– in a new entry each day) or if I want to just make everyone wait until I have a full chapter. I suppose I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

 

To be perfectly honest, I’m not really sure what I want to do with the next few chapters. Although I’ve been working on Conquest since 2011, these next parts are completely new. So, wish me luck on that. Hopefully I won’t end up writing myself into a corner like I did with my first draft. As always, comments and (polite) criticism are certainly welcome in the comments.

 

If you’re really confused and have no idea what I’m talking about, NaNoWriMo is an abbreviation for National Novel Writing Month. It’s an annual event every November where writers around the world commit to writing 50,000 words in a month and I absolutely recommend it for everyone because it’s really fun! And not nearly as difficult as it sounds, provided you’re willing to put in a little work.

 

–Amanda





Song of the Week: “Prodigal”

22 10 2014

So, as I said before, I have posted a Song of the Week, which is viewable on the right panel over there. I will hopefully continue to do this because, like most young humans, I love music. Songs are one of the ways I use to connect to God and my hope is that others will as well.

This week, I’ve chosen “Prodigal” by The Michael Gungor Band, from the Ancient Skies EP. I actually put this CD in while driving this week because another song, “God is Not a White Man” was stuck in my head and I wanted to hear it (and will likely find a place on this blog one day in the future). I had forgotten all about this gem.

The reason I love this song so much is… well, there are two of them. The first is that, the first verse reminds me of myself so often, but especially the way I was the last few months. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it is the definition of my Easter this year. There was just this feeling of ‘meh’ written all over my heart. If that sounds horrible, it should, because it was. So, I definitely immediately identify with the words there (as, I think, many of us do at times):

I’ve tasted Your glory

and I left it there

You poured out Your spirit

and I didn’t care

And then the best part:

But still You loved me

But there’s another reason why I love this song. And that’s the second verse coupled with the chorus. He says “I could die like a martyr or live like a saint…” Which is to say, I could do incredible, wonderful things, things that would echo throughout history, all over the world, simply to show my love to you, God, but, “nothing compares to what You’ve done for me.” The greatest love we can imagine, the most love and praise we can offer, will always pale in comparison to God’s love for us.

It’s seriously a very beautiful song and you should all listen to it at least five times today. Maybe once more tomorrow for good measure. I hope you enjoy.

–Amanda





You’re Gorgeous!

21 10 2014

A few nights ago as I was driving my friend April home, before heading off to my own, we pulled over into a turn lane and waited for the light to change. While we were waiting, a white car pulled up beside us filled with a group of rowdy young men, all sort of shouting at us with their windows rolled down. April and I laughed as we struggled to understand what was– well, frankly, what was wrong with them!

Then one of them said, louder than the rest: “Roll down your window! Roll down your window! I wanna tell you something!”

It was fairly late at night and these were, so far, some pretty strange young men. Needless to say, I was a touch apprehensive. I’m also rather naive and fairly compliant, however, so I did as they said.

One of them in the back seat had his head out the window and he said, “Has anyone ever told you you’re gorgeous?”

I didn’t know what to say at first. What? Was this some sort of joke? (I have, in fact, been mocked in manners similar to this.) Was it a scheme? “No, I don’t think so,” I replied tentatively.

“Well, you are gorgeous. Every woman in the world is gorgeous.”

“Well, thank you,” I answered, rather stunned.

“Is that a woman behind you?” another asked from the front seat.

“Yeah, she is.”

“Lean forward so we can see you.” April leaned forward with a laugh.

“You’re gorgeous, too!” they chorused.

She thanked them as well. Just thinking about it makes me smile. And in hindsight, I wish we had met up with them at the Whataburger later: I would have liked to express my gratitude more articulately and tell them that what they’re doing is bringing a light in the world. Instead I said a prayer for them.

As I thought about it more, I began to realize that sometimes your ministry doesn’t have to be something as complicated or serious as giving food to the poor or traveling overseas to help the sick and orphaned. Sometimes it’s as simple as saying a few words.

Our speaker at church Sunday morning recounted the story of the Good Samaritan. He pointed out that the setting for the story is along the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, which wasn’t the safest of roads, reminding us that Jesus calls us to be a people that walk dangerous roads. He said sometimes the most dangerous roads are those of interpersonal relationships, whether it’s your family, coworkers, friends, or even strangers.

Sometimes people are hurting inside, aching for love like they’ve never known and all it would take to help is for us to take time to say something kind, to remind them that God loves them and that we are there for them. Sometimes a few words will make all the difference.

–Amanda





Let’s Try This Again

21 10 2014

I don’t remember when I started this blog, but I know it was a long time ago. Since them, I’ve gone through some changes, learned a few things, and am currently in the process of re-organizing my life. In many ways, I’m still the same person that began all this, but I’ve grown up and, to some extent, settled down. But reading some of the things I had posted here earlier on… I had to make some of it private for now because, man, was I a crazy kid. Still, I also left much of it, either because I still agree with it, or because I never want to forget the kind of passion I had then.

In light of these changes, I decided to revive this blog, so I’ll have someplace on the internet to share my thoughts– even if I’m only sharing them with my future self. (And even if that future self comes back and says ‘Dude, seriously, I have to delete half of these because you’re so crazy!’) I guess it’s important to look back and remember where you’ve been, even if you have to view it between your fingers as you facepalm your own idiocy.

Anyway, the blog should retain its original concept, which was, as I’ve already said, a place for me to share my thoughts, but also somewhere for me to put the things I consider important, whether it’s songs that inspire me, quotes, book recommendations, conversations I’ve had, whatever. Anything and everything in my life that could possibly be important to someone else. This being said, I will probably add something like a ‘currently reading’ feature and maybe like an ‘anthem of the week’ or… something.

So, to kick all this off, let me offer you the first entry in my new journal– the new version of the old Blue Book (which can still be read if you click on Thoughts up above and then click the link at the top of that page), only this one’s not blue, it’s black with a sort of faux leather cover with a picture of a pen and the words ‘just keep writing’. Which is advice I’m trying very hard to take. But enough of my endless rambling, here is the entry (with some added notes in brackets):

It’s been a long time since I wrote about God. At least a year and a half– maybe longer. Recently, I had this painful period of doubt. Not the angry non-doubt of my late teens. This was more subtle, and yet in some ways far worse. Most of the time, I didn’t even think about God. When I did, it was as though recalling some distant memory or recounting a fairy tale. Fewer still were the times I realized this distance, grappled with it, only to end up defeated. I didn’t feel God there the way I’d become accustomed to feeling Him. I wanted to. [In fact, many times I argued with myself– ‘you know the Truth, and you know you want to believe it, so why are you trying to turn away?’] The times I doubted, I still couldn’t help but think the Gospel was the only way my life made sense, the only thing that gave me meaning and purpose.

I had lost all hope, all meaning, all the love in my life– the love I had so often worshiped, praised, longed for, rejoiced in– seemed as far away as Pluto. I was angry at people just for existing. I was tired, downtrodden all the time. [There were times I would think to myself “I want to go home” and then realize I was already there.]

Eventually, I got tired of who I’d become; I was through with stagnation and hopelessness. I realized nothing would ever change if I didn’t [make the first] move. Christ had already set me free and yet for some reason I’d crawled back into that dungeon. For what? Because it was safe? Because it was easy?

I turned on the music that had always brought me close to God in the past. I started looking for answers about the purpose for which I was intended. And I found a stunningly active, faith-based, mission-minded, loving church that I could get involved in[/call home].

 

–Amanda





Saved.

6 12 2011

It’s two o’clock in the morning. It’s dark and cold here, but I’m alive with one particular mission in mind: to once again remember, without poetry and in simple honesty, the manner in which the Lord called me back to faith in one of the worst years of my life.

 

It was dark and cold that night, too, as I sat on the grounds of my college patiently awaiting my mother. My heart was heavy and broken as I shivered in silence. But I wasn’t sad; on the contrary, I was on the brink of rediscovering the majestic glory and grace of God.

 

See, that same year began with a fervent hatred of God. I had spent some time considering His existence and had decided it must not be true. Rather foolishly, I had let the radical minority speak for the majority and I let their hatred fill my heart. My atheism was never simply a lack of faith; it was very similar to the way C. S. Lewis describes his frame of mind during his time as an atheist–

 

“I was at that time living like many atheists; in a whirl of contradictions. I maintained that God did not exist. I was also very angry with God for not existing. I was equally angry with him for creating a world. Why should creatures have the burden of existence forced on them without their consent?” (source)

 

I decided that since I didn’t believe, no one else should, either. I joined an online community of believers with the intent of mocking them and destroying their faith. I considered myself to be superior to them because I had figured out the truth.

 

Eventually, I finally gathered enough courage to announce my disbelief on my blog to be read by my oldest and dearest friends. To my great surprise, they regarded me with a generous dignity and kindness. From that day to the end of my atheist year (and beyond) I carried on a lengthy and at times rather ugly discussion with Lindsey on the topic of morality and God.

 

Meanwhile, within that community I had joined, I engaged my brothers and sisters in even uglier debates. There were many among them who stepped forward with kind intentions and kinder patience. They made their cases and moved on yet still I remained unpersuaded.

 

In my discussion with Lindsey, I had gone from being a moral relativist to hedonist to finally discovering Soren Kierkegaard and his subjective truth. In Soren, I found a sort of solvent for my disbelief. His writing was striking, fascinating, and made sense to me.

 

Somewhere in the midst of all this, I began reading Madeleine L’Engle’s Time Quintet. It happened one day while I was still stuck deep in my hatred that I was standing on the sidewalk outside my work reading one of her books. Suddenly and inexplicably, I was hit with this overwhelming desire to get on my knees and praise God. To bow before His perfection and goodness.

 

But no. I was an atheist. I shook it off and tried to forget it ever happened. The fact that I’m still telling the story nearly five years later proves I wasn’t able. It was a powerful and inspiring event. Still, I managed to ignore it for several months.

 

In my discussion with the community, I had found myself particularly curious about one argument. If God knows everything, then conceivably, He had created me knowing He would send me to hell later. If God knows everything, He knew I would reject Him. But I was struck when one of the members, Yves, commented, saying, “Maybe He didn’t create you to reject Him; maybe He created you to repent.”

 

Maybe He created me to repent.

 

I don’t know if you know or not, but Kierkegaard was the man behind the expression ‘leap of faith’. He said, basically, that no objective proof of God will ever bring someone to faith. That doubt was essential to faith. That in order to believe, a change must occur on the inside, not the outside.

 

I had learned that I could just as soon prove God’s existence as I could disprove it. I had come to that point of which Kierkegaard spoke. I stood at the edge of a canyon. On one side was me and my stubborn disbelief. On the other was God and faith and love. I knew that on one side of the canyon, you cannot know God or have certainty; you must first trust in Him and then you are given unwavering faith. Like Abraham, we are to wander up the mountain with our sacrifice in tow. We are not given the certainty that the angel of the Lord will intervene. We just walk up there and cling tight to our trust in Him. God doesn’t prove Himself to us until after we have proven ourselves to Him. I had a choice to make.

 

For a long time, I said, “Are you insane? I’ll fall in!” I thought about it constantly. I told myself I just wasn’t ready. I whined about how it wasn’t fair that I should have to trust blindly.

 

But then there I was one night, sitting in the darkened cold, on the edge of a deeper reality. I got up and went into the computer lab and asked my online community for prayers as I prepared to make that most desperate of leaps. Later, as I prayed for God’s guidance at home, I was taken back to a time long ago when I had made that first real choice to follow the Light, reminded of the contrite plea I had made at twelve years old, and of the joyful, broken newness I was given. I knew this night would be no different.¬†Since then, God has led me into deeper and deeper union with Him, lending me new and greater wisdom with each passing year.





Liar, Lunatic, or Lord?

6 12 2011

So, there’s this really awesome quote by C. S. Lewis that I really want to share. You may have read it before. Maybe not.

 

“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on the level with a man who says he is a poached egg – or he would be the devil of hell. You must take your choice. Either this was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us.”

– C. S. Lewis, from Mere Christianity

 

I found myself thinking about this quote last night. Actually, I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. Jesus really didn’t give us the opportunity to shrug him off. When you hear his story, you’re automatically presented with these three options.

 

But I want to pick at it a little. Because… as wonderful a thought as it is, it can be taken even further. One could object to the statement and say that perhaps the apostles invented this idea that Jesus was the Son of God. Maybe they made it up. But if you really think about it, that doesn’t make any sense at all, does it?

 

At the time the gospels were written, the Jews were under the authority of the Roman Empire. At the time, Caesar was the ‘Son of God’. Caesar was the ‘Savior of the World’. People were expected to bow down and worship him. To refuse to do this, and what’s more, to point to some other person and say they are the Son of God, wasn’t just an unpopular thing to do in their day. It was a crime. People were crucified for saying the things the apostles were saying. So in what universe does it make sense that they would make it up?

 

If we continue in this train of thought, though, we find all these other Christians as well, who were being converted on a daily basis. For every one Rome stamped out, another five would pop up. As the old quote says, ‘the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church’ (Tertullian). But why would so many people find themselves willing to believe and avow something that would end up getting them killed? I find it unlikely that so many people were just crazy or stupid or liars.

 

And then along comes Paul on his road to Damascus. He’s travelling along to go arrest and persecute Christians in the city when he’s approached by a vision of Jesus that leaves him blind for three days. I find myself wondering what it must have been like to be Paul at that exact moment. To be so suddenly and magnificently caught in your sin. And yet to also accept Christ and be so freely forgiven. I suppose we all experience these feelings, but… wow.

 

Anyway, the ¬†point is, something happened to Paul on his way to Damascus that changed his life forever. And it wasn’t because he was trying to deceive anyone and it wasn’t because he was simple-minded. I mean, this is Saint Paul we’re talking about. The author of the Pauline Epistles, some of the most thoroughly examined and relied-upon texts in the scriptures. Possibly–probably– the greatest theologian of all time. And, like the others, he didn’t choose his path because it was easy or popular or anything of the like. He constantly found himself in prison and ended up being beheaded.

 

So what was going on with all these people? Why were so many willing to sacrifice their lives and even the lives of their families? And what about Jesus? What are the possible explanations for his radical claims? What exactly went on in the first century?

 

It seems the most logical answer that Jesus was precisely who he claimed to be. And it seems most logical that the disciples were telling everyone precisely what they themselves had witnessed. And it seems most logical that the people at that time were confronted with the Truth. And these people were completely and totally transformed by the grace of God through Jesus of Nazareth.

 

– Amanda