Sunday, August 28, 2016

My Friend, Jesus

Uhg, people, I'm dead.

I'm staring at this computer screen, screaming "I CAN'T THINK, I CAN'T THINK!!"

So, yeah, I think that's a good enough introduction for this post. Or, maybe, it could function as my ending, too.

Guys, I can't write about God anymore. Ok, well, not really, but I need help. Due to my last minute procrastination and overall state of panic, I can't even decide on a topic. Well, actually, I did. I tried to be on top of things and starting writing it last night, but after reading it this morning, nope. Time to try something new. There's seriously nothing more discouraging than a looming deadline and a blank computer document. 

I mean, sure, I could just not post today. But wouldn't that mean I'm a failure??? I mean, I promised to post every Sunday, it'd practically be a sin to just not do it. Right? 

Wrong. Well, I don't know. The whole point of setting deadlines was to make sure that I sat down, at least once a week, and actually wrote something for the blog. 'Cause I have a tendency to forget things, as evidenced by the fact that I'm writing this at 8:17 Sunday night. 

But what happened? I used to be on top of this, I had so many blog posts pre-written, they were coming out of mah ears! I used to be dying of impatience waiting for another week to roll by, so that I could share with ya'll what I had written.

Maybe, I've forgotten. I've lost focus. After all, I started this blog for a purpose. I didn't start it just to become popular and have a gagillion of followers. It's evidenced in the very name of the blog. 

Lux Filii - Light of the Son

I wanted to spread the light I saw in my own life. I wanted to spread my joy of being Christian. I wanted to be positive, when the rest of the world seemed to be filled with darkness. 

I want to show that life is worth living. I want to share my struggles, not to prove that they really are challenging, but that they can be overcome.

This. This is me. Being who I was, being Christian, I had to share it. Every time I wrote, it would come pouring out. I knew something was there, something greater than me. I couldn't just put a cap on it, to keep it for myself.

It seemed whenever I put myself into the words, whenever I shared it freely, I could feel something at work. I can feel it now, driving me forward.

When I see the beautiful life I've been given, I need to share that. We're meant to be mirrors. When you know that God's light is real, it doesn't matter what you go through. I always tried to put everything I went through in perspective, to see what the pains, struggles, and confusion really were.

They're opportunities to love God. To love God, even when it doesn't feel good, when it makes no sense. To let go and trust in Him. That utter dependence to Him, truly is a great blessing and a cherished freedom.  There is no greater proof of our love when God apparently vanishes from our lives and we still say, "I believe."

I'm not an delusional optimist. Yes, there is evil in this world. The struggle is real. Nor am I a hopeless pessimist, because, in the end, our suffering will turn to joy and tears shall turn to laughter.

Let His name be my last word. There never was a greater story told. The story where God became Man, so that He might dwell among us and set us free.

The Man, who died that I might live.

My friend, 


Sunday, August 21, 2016

One Step at a Time

Do you ever feel like you're wandering? 

As if you're heading for the right destination, but you just don't quite know the way. 

For me, I've been a person who has a lot of dreams and ambitions. I like knowing what I want to do with my life, after I leave school. I've got it all figured out. I'll be a Church Organist/Film Composer/Independent Artist/Husband/Blogger who's Financially Stable and Deeply Spiritual. 

To be perfectly honest, that's the first time I've ever typed it out. Doesn't it look all nice and neat? The problem is, so far, I've figured out what I want to do with my life. Now, I need to figure out what God has planned for my life. And that's what's scary.

'Cause God doesn't really fit into our neat boxes, labels, and to-do lists. I don't know about you, but it seems God has a tendency to throw a well-placed and quite necessary wrench into our orderly plans. These plans are not just wishful thinking, they're tightly held dreams that, in my case, have become partial realities. Of that list previously mentioned, four out of five of them are already true to my life. I do play organ for Church, I do compose music for films, I have started to release my music, and, obviously, I've become a blogger. (But no, I'm not married yet! ;) 

But those are things I do now, am I meant to continue with them for the next 50 years? Will I really still be blogging when I'm 65? (Which, incidentally, would come out to be 2,600 blog posts, if I posted every week.) 

Even now, it can be a struggle just trying to juggle everything together. And sometimes I just want to give up. And maybe I should, because I'm having trouble seeing which way I should go. 

Wouldn't it be easier if God just came out and told us what to do with our lives? A nice detailed overview of our vocation, career, who we should marry or whether we should at all, how long we have to live, what is necessary to stay on the right track to heaven, that all came as a package deal, along with our birth certificate and social security number.  

And He could, if He wanted to. After all, God is all-powerful. Unfortunately, we have a tendency to forget that God is also all-wise. All gifts that God gives are blessings and all gifts that He doesn't give are blessings just the same. 

Sometimes, God will say yes to our prayers. Other times, He will say no, but only because He wants to say yes to something greater. 

God doesn't give us a cheat sheet to life for the same reason He only gives us our "Daily Bread." Have you ever noticed that? We never pray, "Give us today, our yearly supply of bread...", but rather, only bread for the day. There's a reason for that and it's a good one. 

If God did give us His plan for our life, we would both lose our greatest strength and glorify our greatest weakness. We would forfeit our dependence on God, so that we could rely solely on the gift, not the Giver. God did not make life to be a treasure hunt, where He'd give us a map and turn us on our merry way. Life was meant to be journey between us and God. The Lover and the Beloved. 

If God gave us a lifetime supply of bread, then we would have no further need of Him for our daily sustenance. If we have been given directions, how would we ever turn to the Way, that is Christ?

 We weren't meant to teach ourselves, to just figure it out on our own. The whole point of existence is to know God! It's not to do all the "right" things, to have it all figured out. Living Christianity means living for Christ. All Christ wants is for us to have that critical relationship with Him, otherwise, nothing makes sense! If we had a truly, pure, total, self-giving love for God, we wouldn't find our trials and tribulations sacrificial or hard to bear. 

If we're madly enthusiastic about something, do we feel hardship because we must give up something lesser in order to enjoy it fully? 

God created us for to know, to love, and to serve Him and to be with Him forever in Heaven.

He gets us there by simply taking us by the hand and leading you and me home. 

One step at a time.   

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Day One

Life can be tempting sometimes. 

It's so easy to just turn away and say, "Nah, I'll get to that tomorrow."
And it's things like that, which result in me sitting here in the morning, trying to get this blog post written. And every time I'm thinking, "Geez, Thomas, why didn't you start this earlier?"

And I protest because I don't even know what to write about! At this very moment, I have about no clue where I'm going with this post.  Maybe I should actually get a plan together, maybe I should actually be responsible and write with purpose. 

Because in life, we're often fed a great lie. It's a lie that says: We've got time tomorrow. We've got time to write this blog post before Sunday, we've got time to prepare for that recital, we've got plenty of time to change our lives. 

The fact of the matter is we do have time, but we might not have it tomorrow. If you live each day like it's your last, well, one of these times you're going to be right.
I find myself always hoping to simplify my life, to pray more, to write more. But it's just too late to try right now. I know I have to change sometime, but I'm sure that everything will just fall into place.

I reasoned, if any good we do is achieved solely by the grace of God, what part do I play in it? If prayer was uncomfortable or difficult, then I must be doing something wrong. I thought grace was supposed to carry me completely in this journey. I used to think that way, but I'm starting to realize more and more, that's not how it works. After all, I would struggle with even the smallest acts of prayer. 

But the race to heaven, to perfection, is not a sprint. It's the longest marathon we will ever experience. If I live till I'm exactly 100-years-old, that means I've still got 85 years left to struggle through. The problem is that we can look at holy people around us, true paradigms of Christian living, or the lives of martyrs and saints and be tempted to just give up. 
But if life is a journey, then we need to train for it. We shouldn't expect to go sprinting for miles at our first try. Your body couldn't handle it and if we treat prayer the same way, then we shouldn't be surprised at our failures.  

If you're anything like me, we need a schedule, a gameplan. We need to strategize, to problem-solve. If that means starting small, then it means starting small. The key word here is start. We can't just improvise through our spiritual lives, doing what we can and failing at what we can't. This is our eternal destiny, blame whoever you want, but in the end, the choice was yours. We need to take this seriously. And pushing it off till tomorrow won't help. 
Wishing for tomorrow means you've written off today. You've got to make use of the opportunities that you have today. If you don't use it, then you lose it. If you say you don't have any time, then you need to figure out your priorities. Whatever it is, what's most important is to take the first step. That could simply be praying for God to show you the way! 

It might be hard, or it might be easier than you thought. Failure is only another chance to start again. After all, what have we to lose?
Pretty much everything, I'd say.

So let's make today, day one.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Idling Forward

Sometimes, I don't understand. 

Why does it seem like everyone around me is hurting and yet, I'm doing just fine? 
Looking around me, I see good things and bad things. And, as usual, the bad things tend to appear bigger than good ones. 

All around me, there are people hurting, families tearing apart, uncertainty, financial worries, loss of a loved one, and squelched dreams. I see people trying to overcome the storms that threaten their faith. 

And for me, I feel like I've never been tested. 

Yes, I have experienced some of the aforementioned trials, but never in a way that made me seriously question the faith that I've always been raised in. It was hard, sure, but never quite in the same way I've heard or read about. If life is a road to Heaven, then, of course, I've encountered obstacles on the way. I've tripped and stumbled and it hurts a lot. But through all of it, I've never thought about turning back or finding a new path. 

Which leaves me with two possibilities. Either my faith is stronger than I think it is, (unlikely), or the trials I've experienced are as small as I think them to be. 

But I feel the question is, Why hasn't my faith been tested yet? Am I not mature or strong enough yet? Am I just not ready for it?

It's not that I'm asking for a catastrophe to happen, but I just want to know how deep my faith truly is. It's hard to measure something if you've never traversed its limits. How can I tell someone how far I can run unless I actually attempt running as far as I possibly can?

But what if I'm wrong? What if I've been looking at the wrong angle at this? After all, it's much easier to be dependent on God when you actually have need of Him. When you lose every shred of security, you have nothing left to get in your way of God. God is our surest refuge, a foundation to stand upon when all others fail. The problem is, we seem to always seek out our Saviour as last resort, a sort of fail-safe measure when everything else fails. God seems to have become our fairy Godmother, a forgotten fancy that appears only when all seems to be lost.

When the storms hit, God becomes a lot more evident in our minds. Great evil requires a greater good to overcome. That's just simple math. But when the sea is calm, we can tend to leave God below in the ship, sleeping undisturbed.

What if the greatest challenge to my faith is not my belief in it, but rather my commitment to it? 

One of my favorite aspects of Africa is that it was hard. I saw the good, the bad, and the ugly every day. I saw the beauty of human faith and trust in God and the despair and desperation of poverty. There were things that made me squirm, cringe, and want to turn away. Sometimes, I probably did. But each experience, regardless of whether it made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside or confront me with the reality of human suffering, was a powerful experience. A good experience, not in the sense that it was fun, but that I needed to see this.

In Africa, things challenged me, made me confront the problem of pain, allowed me to see just how much I could take.

Back home, it's not hard. I can take things easy and not many people would even notice. No one begs for my water, I don't have to witness the nature of poverty, I don't even have to take cold showers anymore!

In Africa, all I had to do was shift into neutral and let God push me. I was idling forward. He helped me get started, but now I have to pull my weight. That means work. Sacrifice. Patience. Commitment.

I can't just drift from one spiritual high to the next. I can't just glide along, complacent. If I'm not moving forward, then I'm just going to fall right back to where I started. Perfection is a pursuit of the infinite. We have Jesus as our measure, our role model.

I don't know about you, but that's a very high bar to reach! And while it's one that we can't make on our own, we still have to give it our very best. We still have to work, we still have to suffer. Because if all we're going to do is idle forward,

Then we're going nowhere.

And we're going to get there fast.