Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Away From Home

I am from Missouri. I was born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri. Even though I've lived in different states at different points in my life, I've always claimed Missouri as my home. Presently I live in Las Vegas. Even though there are many things that I enjoy about life in Vegas, it still remains that my family and I are living in a distant land (a desert in fact) far away from the place I call home. I realize that Nevada is still in the same country as Missouri. It's not like I'm on the complete opposite side of the globe as my hometown, but there is enough distance between where I live now and where I grew up to feel like I am far away from home.

I feel compelled to write this post because of the emotions I'm feeling in light of the destructive tornado that swept through Joplin, Missouri on May 22nd 2011. Even though I never lived in Joplin, I have had friends and family who lived in Joplin (and in the surrounding areas). Having driven-through, visited and done ministry in Joplin on several occasions, I was deeply saddened when I learned about the destruction. I was struck speechless seeing photographs of Joplin just hours after the fatal storm leveled most of the town. I almost felt sick to my stomach. I was deeply saddened as I saw images of desperate residents rummaging through the remains of their homes as they searched for missing loved-ones. At the point of this writing the death toll now stands at 116 with expectations that it will climb dramatically. Additional severe thunderstorms are expected for the next couple of days with chances of more tornadoes touching down. I have and will continue to offer my prayers to God for the citizens of Joplin and the friends and families of those who lost their loved-ones.

The strangest thing occurred in my own heart as I was watching the news channels report on all the damage. An obscure passage of Scripture popped in my head as I was wishing so badly that I could be back in Missouri to help those poor people. The passage that came to mind was Psalm 137. Now, for those who aren't overly familiar with the Bible, Psalm 137 has been called by more than a few scholars "the worst psalm" in the entire psalter. That is rather strong language for people like myself who claim to have a "high view" of the Bible. Without going into too much detail, I'll simply explain that there is an entire category of psalms that scholars classify as lament psalms. Lament psalms are psalms of lamentation. Approximately 1/3 of the entire psalter are lament psalms. These psalms were written in circumstances of disorientation where the psalmist would often express that he felt distant, forgotten, neglected or even betrayed by God. Psalm 137 is considered by some to be "the worst" of all the psalms, because even of lament psalms, Ps 137 is perhaps the most visceral, angry and voilent cry for God to bring divine, retributive justice. The context is the psalmist writing after his homeland of Israel (aka "Zion") was invaded and overthrown by the wicked, pagan Babylonian Empire. Many Israelites were taken from their homeland and forced to live as exiles in Babylon.

I know this is starting to sound like a Bible lecture, but here is where all the dots begin to connect...

The opening verses of this Psalm read

By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept

when we remembered Zion.

There on the poplars

we hung our harps,

for there our captors asked us for songs,

our tormentors demanded songs of joy;

they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!

The following verse is what came to mind when I was aching from a distance for my fellow Missourians. When asked by their captors to sing a song from their homeland the psalmist writes

How can we sing the songs of the LORD

while in a foreign land?

Even though Vegas isn't technically a "foreign land" as I mentioned before, it is far enough away from home to sometimes feel like it is. While I was in my safe, dry, air-conditioned living room with my wife sitting beside me, and my beautiful 2 yr old daughter peacefully sleeping up in her room, the lives of people from my homeland (Missouri) were in shambles. Some were mourning the deaths of family and friends. Others were frantically looking for missing sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers. Some are still trapped under the rubble. The rest were surveying the damage and seeing how their entire lives and homes now lay in ruins. And even though I was still enjoying the blessings of protection and luxury, my heart was breaking. I truly felt the sentiment of the psalmist who wrote "how can we sing the songs of the LORD while in a foreign land?" I am grateful to God that me and my family are healthy and safe under the roof he has given us, but on the inside I do not feel like singing--instead I feel like mourning and grieving with the people of Missouri.

I hope that in the coming days, weeks, and months that God will be merciful on Joplin, MO. I pray that many more of the people still unaccounted for are rescued. I pray that the outpouring of God's blessing and favor will out-do the destruction left by the winds and the rain. I pray that the work of rebuilding Joplin will be but a mere foreshadowing of how God intends to renew and restore Joplin. I pray his kingdom would come and his will would be done in Joplin, just as it is in heaven. In fact, there is a lyric in an old hymn that summarizes the downpour of God's blessing that Joplin needs. It says, "Showers of blessing, showers of blessing we need. Mercy drops 'round us are falling, but for the showers we plead."

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Pestering Prayer

I feel as though I am awakening out of my blogging hibernation. As you might expect, I feel a bit drowsy and disoriented. The reason for this post is because I have certain thoughts and feelings welling-up inside of me that need an outlet. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, I need a safe environment to express my doubts, my complaints, and my struggles as of late and this seems like the perfect venue. (I have shared bits and pieces of my thoughts with a few people but haven’t thrown the full tantrum yet.)

What I’ve been thinking about has to do with the idea of connecting-to and relating-to God in prayer. Probably the best word that I can find to describe the nature of my relationship with God for the last several months would be the word wrestling. Not really wanting to (or even needing to) divulge too much information about what has been happening in my personal life, I at least feel compelled to share some of my thoughts and feelings that are arising (present tense) out of what I’m experiencing. This means that I claim no infallibility for what I will share. I’m merely trying to interpret and articulate the reverberations I feel from the quaking in my soul. Were I a poet, I would write a poem. Were I a musician, I would write a song. But I’m neither. As a pastor/preacher/teacher who is simultaneously plagued with being nothing more than a mere man, all I have are my words.

My idea springs from a parable that Jesus once told and is recounted in Luke’s gospel. In Luke 18:1-8 Jesus is trying to motivate his listeners to be relentless in their prayers to the Father. It reads:

And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. 3 And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ 4 For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” 6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7 And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

If you spend a lot of time in conservative churches you’ve probably discovered that most of us have effectively isolated ourselves from the “real” world and created our own little sub-culture bubble to live in. (Going into more detail on this would require an entirely separate blog post.) One of the things we like to do inside our protective bubble is exchange very nice-sounding, heart-warming platitudes about God/life/faith. I’m not exactly bothered by this except for the fact that many of our platitudes simply aren’t true (or at least not always true). Some of these platitudes are about prayer—and these are the ones that have been bouncing around in my mind and have left me disappointed time and time again.

If God is truly a person—and I don’t mean a human, but a being with a literal personality, emotions, feelings, thoughts, etc.—and if he is truly the almighty, all-powerful, infinite and eternal sovereign God of the universe as the Bible describes him, then some of us would be wise to reevaluate the ways we attempt to relate to him.

Have you ever thought about the length and depth and number of thoughts that occupy the mind of God in a given day? (I understand that God is not limited to or bound by the physics of time, but that is all our mind can comprehend…so go with me for a minute for the sake of argument.) If it’s true of him what it says in Hebrews 1:3 that he upholds and sustains the entire universe “by the word of his power,” that means that for every moment since the beginning of time he has been involved in the activities of every molecule on every planet, star, solar system, and galaxy in the entire known (and unknown) universe. It would seem to me that a God infinite in power and wisdom can (and has) handled all this quite effortlessly. If this is true; if God is no more taxed in sustaining the universe than you or I would be in twiddling our thumbs, imagine what occupies his mind while he’s doing this. Imagine if he decided to sit down and really do some hard thinking. What would he think about?

When I lived back in Missouri, it would take me about 2 hours to mow my front and backyard. I didn’t mind those two hours of work that would come around every couple of weeks because it was always a good opportunity for me to stick in my earphones and listen to a sermon or lecture on my iPod (I know that sounds ultra nerdy, but back off!). Usually I could cut my grass in an aesthetically pleasing pattern, listen to an interesting talk coming through my earphones, and simultaneously drift away into my own deep thoughts. I know that doesn't sound too impressive to most of you, but the point of the illustration is to think about God in this way. Consider what God spends his “days” thinking about.

Let me get back to the subject of prayer…

I’m thinking lately that many of us in the church don’t know how to handle unanswered prayers. (Wait for it…… did a knee-jerk, churchy platitude pop into your mind?....yeah, mine too.) Lately I’ve been thinking that because we don’t know how to handle a “no” in response to our prayers (or even worse, dead silence), we tend to pray very boring, predictable prayers for things that are probably going to happen anyway, so that when they’re “answered” we feel like we’re doing well and maintaining a good batting average.

I’m wondering if God isn’t overwhelmingly bored with many of our prayers. At the risk of sounding sacrilegious, I’m wondering if—as a true and infinite person—God isn’t relatively unmoved by our prayers and unmotivated to act in response to them. I have the suspicion that God is waiting and listening for someone who is going to stand up in prayer and challenge him, pester him, wrestle with him and say like Jacob “I’m not going to let you go until you bless me.”

I can’t help but wonder if we’re not supposed to be taking our cue from the widow in this parable when we pray. Perhaps we should continually “bother” God with our requests and pleas for justice. The moral of the parable seems to be that we are to give God no rest in our prayers. We should pester him day and night. We are to drive him to the point of weariness by our continual coming to him. He seems to be waiting for someone to impress him with his or her indefatigable persistence. THIS, according to the parable, is what evokes a response from God.


I am feeling like—as best as I can understand this parable—Jesus is inviting us…challenging us…daring us to awaken God out of his slumber of indifference and boredom, and grab his attention with our incessant prayers and requests. And what we know from the stories of the Bible is that God is not offended or annoyed by this…he actually loves it! I think he is WAITING and WANTING for someone to pray to him like this.

So pray. Pray with all your might. Get very bold and daring and aggressive in your prayers. Risk your life and your safety. Put it all on the line and demand to be seen before the Judge, and never relent in presenting your requests to him. This, I believe, is how Jesus would have us pray. Who knows? If we took prayer this seriously, there’s no telling what kind of miracles might invade our circumstances.

* If I have spoken more crassly than some of you are comfortable with, I apologize. This is simply what I am feeling at the moment. I’m much more concerned with transparency and authenticity than I am in preserving our platitudes.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

My 3D Review of Avatar

Let me begin by saying that I am aware that this review is merely one in probably thousands already out there online for you to read. I'm not feeling especially profound or insightful, which means that I probably won't say anything that you couldn't find in other better, and more thorough reviews. With that disclaimer, I'd like to give you my likes and dislikes of the blockbuster hit Avatar.

When I first saw the movie trailers for this movie I knew nothing about the film, but I knew I wanted to see it. Even though I'm not what I would call much of a Sci-Fi junkie, I love stories/books/films that have to do with other, alternate worlds. I don't know if it's just because I lack creativity and admire those who are creative enough to dream up entire worlds (i.e. Lewis, Tolkien, etc.), or if it is because such creative works broaden my ability to imagine what an afterlife might be like in an entirely different world. Perhaps it's both. Regardless, I was very excited to see the film.

Avatar was my very first 3D movie experience. I've been told that 3D nowadays is much better and more realistic than in decades past. That certainly must be true because watching Avatar in 3D was a breathtaking event. Those who know me well understand that I'm not the type given to much gushing or exaggeration. With that in mind I'd like to make an admittedly rare confession: Seeing Avatar in 3D was the best movie experience I've ever had. I'm not saying that I loved everything about the movie (I'll explain the aspects I didn't like momentarily). Nor am I saying that in my opinion Avatar is the best movie I've ever seen. I'm merely admitting that the fascinating other-worldliness of the movie, combined with its 3D special effects, bizarre yet beautiful landscape, and exotic creatures made for one incredible night at the movies.

For those who haven't seen the film yet, I'll give a brief nutshell summary. The movie takes place in the future when humans have landed on a planet called Pandora. Pandora is a wild, undeveloped, hostile, jungle-like planet inhabited by a native people called the Na'vi. The Na'vi are a mystical, nature-loving people. The humans have discovered a type of metal called unobtanium on Pandora that doesn't exist on Earth. They are wanting to mine this precious metal because it sells for about $20 million per kilo back on Earth. The humans are having trouble satisfying their greed for this precious metal and realize that the largest deposit of unobtanium rests right under the home of a large tribe of Na'vi. So in an attempt to convince the Na'vi (either diplomatically or by force) to relocate, the humans send in test-tube grown Na'vi/human hybrids called Avatars. Jake Sully (lead character) is a marine who lost the use of his legs in combat. Jake is the only non-scientist who gets to walk around out in Pandora in a neurologically controlled avatar. Jake is privileged enough to become very familiar with the Na'vi people's way of life out in the wild. Once Jake begins seeing the beauty of Pandora and the glorious simplicity of the Na'vi way of life, the exploitative greed and blatant disregard of the humans becomes all too clear to Jake. The inevitable war between the humans and the Na'vi finally breaks out, and Jake is caught right in the middle. I won't ruin the rest of the movie for those who haven't seen it yet, but this description should suffice for now.

What I liked about the movie:
  • Aside from all the special effects, I have already admitted that I love any kind of story that broadens and deepens my imagination of what life in another world would be like. I understand that most people probably view thinking about life in another world as a waste of time, but my worldview has at its center a God who created a world and populated it with a variety of creatures. I believe that this good and beautiful world that God created has been corrupted by the evil and greed of mankind and is therefore experiencing the decay and unraveling of what was originally intended. I believe that God himself came in the person of Jesus to rescue and renew all of his creation by standing in our place and taking on his shoulders the shame and death that belonged to us. I believe that someday Jesus will return to finally make all things new, do away with all evil and corruption, and restore his created world to the life and beauty that he initially designed for it. I believe all that, and watching the magnificent world that James Cameron created in this movie makes me long all the more for the new and everlasting world that God has promised will someday come.
  • As alluded to before, I appreciate that this film did a fair job displaying the depravity of mankind. Human beings, though created in God's image, are remarkably fallen and corrupt. I, being a human, found myself rooting against the humans in the final battle--which means I was rooting for my team to lose because we were so clearly the bad guys. I appreciate the artistic honesty of James Cameron to portray mankind as he did.
  • Anybody who saw the movie and knows anything about world religions saw that the Na'vi were textbook Pantheists. (Pantheism is the belief that God and nature are one and the same...or better put, that God is in everything and everything is God.) I am certainly not a Pantheist, but I'm also not a Darwinian Naturalist (the belief that there is no God, and nothing is divine). It was nice to watch a movie that admitted--albeit in a very distorted way--that there are echoes of the divine in everything we see. ("The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork." Psalm 19:1, and "For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands." Isaiah 55:12)
  • Other interesting tidbits in the movie like when Jake is learning about the beautiful life of the Na'vi they tell him that everybody has two births, and once a person has gone through the second birth (or new birth), they take their place "among the people" forever....hmmm, sounds very familiar. I just find it interesting that in this beautiful, perfect world that everyone in the audience wishes they could be a part of, it is described in such a way as only being entered in to by way of a new birth.
What I didn't like about the movie:
  • Again, because I'm not a Pantheist I cannot rest content with the worship of nature. Though I believe there to be traces of the divine in all things, I believe God to be a separate, unique being and all worship rightfully is his. So, though I can appreciate certain aspects of a movie like Avatar, I cannot deny that the worship of nature is nothing more than tribal paganism. I would have been much happier to see the prayers and praises for such a beautiful world not gone to the creation itself but to an eternal Creator.
  • I also did not like how the aggressive exploitations of the Na'vi by the humans reminded me of the same types of atrocities that were inflicted upon the Native Americans by some of the European explorers. This is not a criticism of the movie, I just never enjoy having my nose rubbed in that horrifically tragic time in our country's history.
...And that's about it. Sorry to disappoint the haters out there, but I liked far more about the movie than I disliked. I'd also like to apologize for such a lengthy blog post. I know that you all have much better things to do with your time, so I'll try to make my future posts less lengthy. All in all, I loved the movie (because I was able to filter out that which I do not believe to be helpful). If you haven't seen the movie yet, I say spend the $15 and watch this extraordinary visual spectacular. And I hope that in this blog post you see that I can wholeheartedly recommend a movie without endorsing every aspect of the film.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

My Experience Listening to Pearl Jam on New Year's Day

Back in my high school years, I was an enormous Pearl Jam fan. Looking back, I can't really place why I liked them so much. My guess was the cool hair, "deep" lyrics, grungy clothes, and their general beef with society that sounded so compelling to me as a teenager...all that plus the unique and unforgettable singing voice of Eddie Vedder. I collected all their albums, and was even a fan of the songs that didn't get played on the radio--a true fan indeed. My love for Pearl Jam's music followed me to college. However, right about my sophomore year, my loyalty to the band was dealt a seemingly fatal blow. I had experienced a major spiritual transformation that year, and began walking down a different road than I had in previous years.

While trying to pursue all things "holy" and simultaneously trying to loose myself of all things "secular," I took down my Pearl Jam posters and stopped listening to their music. It wasn't as though Pearl Jam's music was some colossal hindrance for me, rather, I was simply becoming a different person. Everything about me (for the most part) was changing--not excluding my love and devotion to Pearl Jam.

Fast-forward about 10 years.

Aside from the occasional moments of nostalgia, I really haven't listened to much of Pearl Jam's music since my spiritual transformation. However, tonight I was surfing around online looking for a particular documentary on PBS's website. (Go ahead and take a minute to make fun of how nerdy that sounds...what I find interesting might bore the rest of the world to tears, but I don't care.) I couldn't find the footage that I was looking for, but while on the site I did see an hour long recording of a live concert that Pearl Jam recently gave in Austin, TX. I had heard that they came out with a new album and were touring again, but hadn't actually heard any of their new stuff. Curiosity got the better of me so I clicked on the video and watched the concert. The whole point of me blogging about the experience was because of how surprised I was at how much I enjoyed the concert.

You see, today has been a great day of relaxation and contemplation for me. As I thought about the passing of my 2009 and the potential of my 2010, I had several moments of hope-filled prayer to God about what I'm going to do differently this year and what I anticipated God was going to do in me. So in the spirit of New Year's resolutions I felt very revived in my commitment to live life with more focus and intentionality. Today I spent some time reloading my Amazon.com wish list; I watched more of my beautiful daughter playing than I did the tv; I did some catch-up reading; I even spent some time online reading articles and watching videos of a particular scholar that I enjoy...which is what led to my hunt for the aforementioned documentary.

I hadn't planned on getting sidetracked with a Pearl Jam concert video, but that's what happened. I very much enjoyed the show and for some reason was acutely aware the entire time at how much I was enjoying it. I was surprised that the level of my enjoyment of this concert did not diminish one bit all of my new feelings of spiritual hope and renewal. The hope I had in God for this next year and the measure of my enjoyment of the Pearl Jam concert seemed to compliment each other. This perplexed me. I would have guessed that (according to my old categories) the two could not have coexisted, but should have ended up competing with one another.

Perhaps I'm over-thinking the whole matter. But if not, then I guess you can consider this blog entry to be my way of trying to work out the surprising harmony of feelings that I've had today.

Why did I enjoy the concert so much? It is certainly not because I've now decided to endorse everything that Pearl Jam stands for and represents. I absolutely do not endorse much of what they say and do. (But to be fair, neither do I endorse much of what I say or do.) I also don't think that I was merely having a flashback moment with an old, favorite band. I think my enjoyment of the concert was rooted in my admiration for the creative genius of talented musicians....my increasing respect for artistic expression (through the lyrics in this case)...and my developing appreciation of the imago dei (image of God) that I am learning to see in all people—regardless of race or creed.

So what's the point of this blog entry? Sorry to confuse or disappoint you, but I'm not sure it has one. I wrote all this to say (mainly to myself) that I feel
like I’m headed to bed this first day of 2010 with a renewed heart. Renewed in the sense that I want to honor God and savor more fully his infused glory that I see in the world all around me. Whether it is his glory I hear ringing out in music or in the carefree babbling of my precious little girl, I'm ready to live my life to the fullest this year.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Hitch in Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens is a popular author, journalist, and political commentator. To say that he is an atheist is an understatement. He calls himself an "anti-theist." His most recent published book is the New York Times Bestseller God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. He is one of the key figures in a movement that is being called "the New Atheism" (along with Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennet and Sam Harris). A nutshell summary of the new atheism--as it is disctinct from the "old" atheism--is that these thinkers go behond disagreeing with the idea of belief in God, but actually become quite hostile toward it. They seem to be unashamed in their ridicule and mockery of those who claim to be people of faith. They wish to undermine the credibility of belief in God and institutional religion, and replace it with pure Darwinian Naturalism.

What I have found absolutely fascinating about much of what Hitchens has said or written, is that he in no way wishes that he were wrong. This is, I guess, another distinction between the old and new atheists. The old would say "I would like to believe that there is design and purpose to the universe, and that there were some kind of eternal cosmic being, but I find the evidence for such entirely lacking." The new atheists seem repulsed by the prospect of not being alone in the universe and are very glad to live in a meanlingless, godless world. To Hitchens, the best of all possible realities is a universe arranged by totally random, unguided processes of natural selection, which yielded a world of complex biological creatures that have no promise of meaning, morality or purpose to their existence, have no hope for life after death (because there is no soul or eternal diety), and are awaiting thier complete planetary annihilation. (To be fair, Hitchens does argue for a kind of morality in a meaningless world, but time and time again he refused to give the foundation for such a morality. He has been asked on several occasions how one can find a standard of morality in a meaningless, purposeless, godless, naturalistic world and he never gave a clear answer. He would usually dodge the question as though it were ridiculous to ask, or would answer the question with a counter-question--none of which were very convincing.)

Why would such a brilliant mind prefer the meaningless over the meaningful; the purposeless over the purposeful? Throughout the fair sampling of his lectures, debates, and articles that I previewed, he explained in various ways why he is so repulsed by the prospect of a universe with a "cosmic dictator." He said in one debate that he is relieved that there is no God because, "If there was one, he'd be able to convict me of thought-crime; and it would be an unanswerable, unchallengable, totalitarian dictatorship." Hitchens was very clear that he did not like the idea of a God who knew all of his thoughts and could convict him of his failures. An audience member asked him during a Q&A session that if there was a loving God, what would it take for him to be convinced of his existence. He said, "If I believed in God, I would have enough respect for the idea of an omniscient, ineffible, omnicompetent, omnipotent, omnipresent diety NOT to be pestering him with demands for an explanation of himself. It would be enough...the explanation wouldn't be available to me; my brain wouldn't be big enough to understand it." He concluded his answer by stating, as though it were obvious, that there clearly is no loving and compassionate God. He said that the worst kind of patronizing authority is the one that says it is controlling you for your own good.

Hitchens is obviously quite confident in his intellectual positions. What I found troubling was not so much that his views differed from my own, but that he was frequently guilty of what he is so critical of in religious thinkers. His denial and distortion of historical facts, his choppy, inconsistent reasoning, and his proof-texting of certain biblical scriptures left me less than impressed with his message. Yes, he is a very smart and eloquent man with a clever wit about his personality, but in the end his "intellectual" arguments sounded like nothing more than anti-religious propoganda--argumentum ad hominem at it's finest.

So, I wondered how such a sharp-thinking, well-educated, well-read person could be so closed to an idea that most of the rest of the world seems to find very plausible. Is it that he is seeing something that I am not? I don't think so. The main difference that I detected was his perception of the nature of God. He sees God (if he existed) as an unloving, harshly-critical dictator. I see God as a loving, creating, merciful, gracious and compassionate Father. Hitchens doesn't see how God could possibly love or care about us. I see that God, at great cost to himself, proved how much he loves and cares for us in the life and death of Jesus the Christ.

So how do I account for somebody like Christopher Hitchens? According to my worldview, such a one is perfectly described in the New Testament when Paul writes in his letter to the church at Rome of men who "by their unrighteousness suppress the truth" (1:18). And again (1:21-23) such ones who suppress the truth are described as "they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles."

I will pray for Christopher Hitchens. But at the risk of sounding self-righteous, I must also pray for myself. I am no better of a man than Mr. Hitchens--we are both sinners in need of grace. My prayer for Mr. Hitchens will be that God does in him what he has begun already to do in me--call me out of the darkness into his marvelous light.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

My Two Cents....if that

Dear Entire World,

I hardly feel as though I have anything worthwhile to contribute with this blog. I'm not even sure why I created it. I can't imagine why anybody would want to spend their non-refundable spare time reading my "online journal." Maybe it is merely for my own benefit. Perhaps there is something therapeutic in taking the time to write out my thoughts. But why "publish" them for all the world to see? Do I really want the world to know my thoughts? Maybe on occasion I'll have a novel idea or interesting thought--those will probably be the days I decide to blog. But what about my bad days? What about my thoughts that are tainted by my own biases and selfishness? Will I blog on those days? My guess is that I probably won't. But how will I know the difference? I like the idea of people reading what I write and telling me how much they liked it. But, on second thought, that is probably the last thing that I need. So I'm back to the question "why did I create this blog?" Am I doing this for you (reader) or for myself?

It feels a little bit presumptuous to create one of these blogs. It feels like I'm presuming to know that the reading of my random thoughts will be a good use of your time. It feels like I'm suggesting that your life will be better off if you take the time to read and learn from me. To be honest, I'm not all that confident that subscribing to and reading my blog will be the best use of your spare time. And yet, here I am...creating a blog hoping that lots of people will read and comment on it. If it is presumptuous to create a blog believing that you'll somehow change the world, then I'm probably not in a position to cast any judgments...I guess I should let he who is without a blog cast the first stone!

Why do I feel so self-conscious about this blog? Is it because I'm afraid of what others will think? What if nobody reads it? What if those who do read it don't like it? What if I write something believing it to be insightful and inspiring, and then somebody's comment proves that I really don't know what I'm talking about? Am I really that afraid of rejection? Do I really care that much about what others think of me? I never thought I did. I have, however, always been afraid of being thought of as dumb. Maybe that explains my blog-reluctance. Maybe I don't really care what you think of me so long as you think that I'm smart. Or maybe it's not so much that I want people to think that I'm smart as much as I just don't want to be thought of as boring.

Now we're getting somewhere.

So how can I relieve myself of all this pressure? Maybe I'm over-thinking this whole thing. Maybe this is not near as complicated as I am making it out to be. Maybe I should just shut up and start blogging (interesting paradox). After all, I've gained a tremendous amount of benefit from reading other people's blogs! I don't have any notion that these are flawless people with perfect advice--and yet, I still frequent their blogs. Maybe I'm not anybody special....or maybe each one of us is special. Either way, if other flawed and biased people have blogged their way right into my heart, perhaps there is hope for me. Even though I am a nobody, perhaps my meager blog might be of some value to other nobodies out there.

Having hashed all that out (and posted it for everyone to read), I think that I'm ready to start my blog now. Let me begin with a disclaimer:

I am a work in progress. I make no claims to be any kind of authority on any kind of subject. I admit that I see the world through a very white, middle-class, 21st Century, American lens. I try my best to be as objective as possible, all the while recognizing how impossible that is. I tend to be opinionated but I always stand ready to hear-out different viewpoints, and will always welcome healthy discussion. It seems unavoidable for me to blog about life from any other vantage point than my own. Therefore, I will write about things as I see them, but will try to do so in a way that is modest, humble, and considerate of those who might see things differently than I do. I will try my best to admit when I am wrong, but I can't make any promises that my posts will be agreeable with every person that reads them.

With that being said, I'd like to welcome myself (since I'm not sure if anybody else will ever read this) to the blogosphere. Let the journey begin!

P.S. Thanks for letting me get all that off my chest....I feel so much better about blogging now.