The Future is Now

The future will be better.

That’s what I tell myself when school feels irrelevant, or life seems dull and unchanging, or I seem dull and unchanging.

In high school, I wanted to go far away to college to gain independence and maturity, to finally start the rest of my life.

In varying degrees, I had the same expectations when I transferred to the Upland campus, when I interned at Focus on the Family, and each time I changed my major. Now, YWAM is that grand, life-changing future that’s surely better than the monotonies and the stresses and the insecurities of the present.

But I don’t want to pin all my hopes and dreams on any one future experience, be it an internship, a spring break trip, or even a five-month DTS. I’m very much looking forward to these things, it’s true, but I don’t want to just slide my way through the weeks and months in between, rushing through them as fast as I can to reach the next high that much sooner.

My DTS could be more than a year away. That’s 5% of my life. That’s significant. That’s too much time to just sit out.

So much can happen in these months, so many opportunities, if I widen my vision a little and expect God to do big things.

I’m notorious for starting my end-of-semester countdown early, and for Excel-ing my next-semester schedule months in advance.

But life isn’t about just getting to the next thing.

It’s not about skipping past all the parts that seem boring or hard (a la Joey and his life clock :)). I don’t have to wait until college is over to start my adventure with God; He can work just as well in small-town Indiana as He can overseas. “Familiar” doesn’t have to equal “boring.”

Don’t just dream about the future. Live in the present.

Healing Begins (and other songs)

This is my “short list” of encouraging, inspiring Christian songs. Some of them fall clearly in the “worship music” bracket; others are more Christian contemporary or something else. They may go about it in different ways, but they all bring me to a more worshipful mindset, and remind me of my need for God.

  1. City on our Knees (Tobymac) “If you gotta start somewhere why not here? If you gotta start sometime why not now? If we gotta start somewhere I say here. If we gotta start sometime I say now. Through the fog there is hope in the distance, from cathedrals to third world missions. Love will fall to the earth like a crashing wave.”
  2. Healing Begins (Tenth Avenue North) “There’s freedom waiting in the sound, when you let your walls fall to the ground … This is where the healing begins. This is where the healing starts. When you come to where you’re broken within, the light meets the dark.”
  3. Get Back Up (Tobymac) “There’s always scars when you fall that far. … You may be knocked down, but not out forever.”
  4. I Will Go (Starfield) “Let this life be used for change. I wanna live for You, go where you lead me, I wanna follow you.”
  5. Sound of Melodies (Leeland) “Can you hear the sound of melodies, oh, the sound of melodies, rising up to You, rising up to You, God.”
  6. Made to Love (Tobymac) “Anything, I would give up for You. Everything, I’d give it all away.”
  7. As it is in Heaven (Matt Maher) “Come and let Your glory fall. … I will sing, sing a new song to the Lord. … Every eye proclaim the mercy of Your name on earth as it is in heaven.”
  8. Beautiful Scars (Steven Curtis Chapman) “Turning the marks of our pain into beautiful scars.”
  9. My Will (dc Talk) “You are my shelter, all the strength that I need.”
  10. Untitled Hymn (Come to Jesus) (Chris Rice) “Weak and wounded sinner, lost and left to die. O, raise your head, for love is passing by. Come to Jesus … Come to Jesus … Come to Jesus and live!”
  11. Be Thou My Vision (Twila Paris) “Thou mine Inheritance, now and always: Thou and Thou only, first in my heart. High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.”
  12. Sometimes by Step (Rich Mullins) “And on this road to righteousness, sometimes the climb can be so steep. I may falter in my steps, but never beyond Your reach.”
  13. Great Expectations (Steven Curtis Chapman) “Lord, I come with great expectations!”
  14. Next 5 Minutes (Steven Curtis Chapman) “I’m living the next 5 minutes like these are my last 5 minutes.”
  15. I Thank You Lord (Rebecca St. James) “I thank you Father for the gift of your Son. I thank You Jesus for the things you have done. I thank you Spirit for the peace that is here in my heart.”
  16. Be Still (Newsboys) “We’ve been running without a direction. We’re afraid to get there late. What we need is strength just to kneel down and wait.”
  17. Consuming Fire (Hillsong United) “Lord have your way with us.”
  18. When You Called My Name (Newsboys) “I slip into the night, then stumble towards the light. Wake up and try again. When you called my name, I didn’t know how far the calling went.”

~*~

What songs would you put on your list?

“For I do not do the good I want to do…

… but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” (Romans 7:19)

I just finished a wave of projects in most of my classes. Now I don’t have any major assignments due right away.

This is my danger zone, and not just because of the procrastination factor.

“I don’t hafta, so I don’t wanna” becomes my mantra during these lulls. I sleep in late, I park myself in front of my computer, I don’t do much of anything … especially not what I most want to do. It’s the worst in the summer, when I have week after week of unscheduledness. It’s not the stretching, satisfying route, but it’s the easiest and the safest.

We all need times of rest after periods of intense work, but it’s easy to drop too many things during that rest, and to wait too long to pick them back up … or to gravitate toward the wrong kinds of rest.

I think it’s pretty obvious what you should not drop during times of rest (or busyness too, for that matter): God.

The most effective way to grow and mature is not to look at all those areas of your life that you fall short in, but to walk with God.

It’s simple, but it’s not easy, and you can’t expect to jump from 0% to 100% just like that.

It’s a process, a day-by-day journey, and you will fall down sometimes. But falling down doesn’t equal defeat, a going back to the very beginning, video game style.

It’s spending that free hour wrapped up in God and not yourself. It’s learning to let God infiltrate your thoughts and conversations. It’s not letting doubt or fear grow uncontested. It’s praying without ceasing. It’s letting your spiritual life expand beyond “quiet time.” It’s not waiting for the perfect time, but coming as you are.

Exploring Doubt

I need to stay away from the IMDb message boards.

One minute, I’m on the page for the movie “End of the Spear”; the next, I’m reading “You Know You’re a Fundamentalist Christian When…”

Debates about religion and especially Christianity rage in message boards and the comments sections of articles, YouTube videos, blogs. And probably Facebook posts too, but I lead a sheltered Facebook life.

In these mostly anonymous arenas, atheists and agnostics whip out their arsenal of “reasons why Christianity is absurd.”

Those debates trouble me, and not just because I’m saddened for those who don’t understand who God is.

They trouble me because my arsenal of “reasons why Christianity is the answer to everything” is smaller, and I hold it with less confidence. In those moments of attack, I cling to it with shaking hands, hoping, hoping, that it doesn’t turn to dust in my weak arms.

I wish I were stronger. I wish I had all the answers to every question raised. I wish I knew more with my head. And I wish I knew more with my heart, to fill in the holes that head knowledge never could. I wish I could stand undisturbed when the arrows rain down around me.

Books like “Mere Christianity” and “Reason for the Hope Within” are faith-bolstering, encouraging, inspiring. But when I read the persuasive counterarguments, I remember that kernel of doubt in my heart.

It’s hard being in the minority. It’s hard knowing that there are so many people smarter than I am who reject Christianity.

This summer, I wrote an editorial about illegal immigration. It was an agonizing experience. I spent hours researching the issue, but made little progress in formulating an opinion.

How do you choose a side? You pick the one with the most evidence, of course. But how do you do that when both sides use facts and statistics and precedents to argue their case, and your knowledge of all those things — of the lengthy legal and historical documents, the raw data, the scientific experiments — is all based on the analyses and interpretations of biased intermediaries?

Yes, biased. We all bring our own biases to the table when examining evidence. Ultimately, though, we have to decide whose interpretations to trust, since we can’t all be experts in everything. But those experts have biases too. Science can only go so far in explaining how the world works. History can only go so far. And with these imperfect resources, our imperfect minds can only go so far as well.

In the end, it all comes down to faith and belief. Yes, I want to strengthen my intellectual “arsenal,” but my prayer is that what I wrote a few weeks ago would remain at the forefront of all my pursuits:

The Christian’s surest reason for belief is experiential knowledge of God, above and beyond all the intellectual reasons.

Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.