Aim: Deletion. Result: Nevermind.

I guess its a good thing I’m not a computer whiz. If I was, I would’ve been successful when I planned to open up my blog and delete it within approximately 3.26 minutes. But now, here I am, unable to delete and writing my first post in over a year.

Part of the reason I wanted to delete this blog was because I don’t like the idea of spending so much time on the computer or even being a blogger. It’s a big commitment to do it well. Lately though, I’m trying to let go of “doing things well.” So I guess that means I shouldn’t care about how committed of a blogger I am. In that spirit, I am going to take a different approach to this blog than I did the last time. First, I am not going to force myself into a standard of how many days I will publish a post. Second, I am mostly just writing for myself and not for any intended audience. If there is one thing I have learned about writing over the years it is that the best work comes from writing without the audience in mind. Of course I appreciate any feedback from you as an audience, though I will still try to delude myself into pretending that no one is actually reading these confessions of my inner thoughts.

I am looking at this blog simply as a space to write. Writing is another thing that I am afraid to confront, but I can’t deny my attraction towards it. I am also in the last semester of my undergraduate career, but I have a lot of reading and writing to do before its over. So I figured it wouldn’t hurt to have a place to share some of the things I read, write, and learn in this time. Thanks to any of you who choose to join me along the way (though I’m still pretending you aren’t here).

 

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Sleepy Dreams and Eccentric Reality

The theme this year for chapel and our University Ministries organization is “eccentric.” Pastor Judy spoke both last Sunday at collegelife and Wednesday in chapel to introduce this theme to us as students.

photo from http://www.geekologie.com – sunrise over the pacific ocean

But I need to stop before I get ahead of myself, because the truth is that my brain is not really flowing well at the moment. I honestly don’t feel like doing much but going back to sleep, which is partially why I didn’t get around to posting consistently this week. Some people struggle with temptations like lust, selfishness, greed, or gluttony. Although I am not immune to those things, my current trap lies in complacency. This is my third year at the same school, there isn’t a lot going on for me this semester, and all I want to do spiritually is nap. Why not right? I’ve worked hard the last few years, gotten through many challenges, and encountered God in all new ways. So I would be fine to rest for awhile where I am right?

Blue Like Jazz: the movie, the story, and the truth

This weekend I finally got to see the movie version of the book Blue Like Jazz, by Donald Miller. I must say that this is one of the best book made into a movie transitions I’ve ever seen, which is funny because the essential story and plot was completely different. However I think the filmmakers captured the essence of the book and the central meaning it was trying to convey; to me that is the most important element of making books into movies.

Besides all that though, the movie inspired me in a whole new way than from when I read the book. I saw things differently and got new things out of it, which was entirely refreshing.  The best thing about this story is that it has the one quality any good book or movie really needs: relevance. The audience can see themselves in the story, understand the emotions, and be connected by the words and characters in a way that lets them know they aren’t the only ones out there feeling a certain way. Donald Miller speaks to so many dilemmas our world faces — messed up families, dealing with hypocrisy in the church, feeling abandoned by God, the shame of misrepresenting Jesus, and searching for overall meaning in our lives — that anyone can find something that speaks to them, pulling the heartstrings with a camaraderie of truth.

For me, I saw a young man who is lost in the brokenness of our world, feeling uncertain and alone. Don questions the world he grew up in by literally rebelling against it in every way, which is a familiar case to many college students these days. I too have felt this urge, but it has manifested in a different way, a way that looks to many people as if I am simply saying no to everything around me (read the last two posts to hear that story).

I have been questioning everything and seeking answers, which means I do have to say no to many things in order to better understand what I’m saying yes to. As Blue Like Jazz illustrated so well, college is the time of life that most people do this. Not to say that others don’t encounter it earlier or later, but for many of us it occurs when we are forced out of the world we grew up in and into the harsh reality of somewhere new.

However, I realized that although I technically grew up in a Christian family, that wasn’t the world I let influence me. Instead I lived in a world of superficiality, of material need, of popularity contests and tainted self-image. Then when I came to college at North Park, I was blessed to enter into a real Christian world. Thus, in a sense, I experienced the exact reverse of the Blue Like Jazz story by rebelling against the cultural world to enter into the Christian one. So questioning things has turned into my rebellion, but somehow I have been surrounded by God’s grace enough to see that it isn’t Him, or Jesus, or the church, that I have a problem with – it is the rest of the world and our culture that brought me down.

Although that seems like a nice way to do it, I know that the experiences I had to deal with in high school and before were not easy things. I certainly rebelled in different ways then, but God’s grace has allowed me to see the value of the pain in bringing me back to Him. The hard part is for us to remember not to define God by our circumstances then, but to let God define our circumstances. By doing so I have learned that God never lets our rebellions, whatever form they take, go wasted. Simply because we are broken, does not mean God isn’t taking care of us – instead he uses every hurt to bring us closer to Him.

We are all broken in different ways, and Blue Like Jazz is one of those stories that brings such brokenness to light in our lives. Understanding that we are not alone is often the first step in realizing God’s grace and love for us.

I’ve spent the last few posts wandering through my up and down emotions of where I’m at in life right now. Thank you for bearing through it with me, reminding me that I am not alone. I feel better being honest with my writing and where I’m at then trying to pretend as if everything is ok. Hopefully the truth of these ponderings is something that you too can find relevance in. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of me, of yourself, and everything around you – asking questions is the only way to find answers.

Tomorrow I return to Chicago for another semester of school. Although I am in the midst of a lot of hurt and uncertainty, I am trusting God that those are not unnecessary pains. He will make all things new, and I know that I am not alone on the journey of discovering what those answers will be. Stay tuned :)

“Jazz is like life because it doesn’t resolve. But what if we’re not alone? What if all these stars are notes on a page of music, swirling in the blue like jazz?” – Donald Miller, Blue LIke Jazz

Ripples in the Water

Where does confidence come from? Or how do you get it back? See lately I feel as if I’m losing confidence, but then I wonder if I ever even had it in the first place.

I’ve been open in previous posts about my struggle with this whole blogging thing, and unfortunately it is still nagging me. Yet, now I have come to a crossroads because I must decide whether to continue with this endeavor as I face starting school again and a much busier schedule.

Since I’ve been home from my trip to Alaska, which is a magnificent place by the way, I have felt myself slowly melting in body and spirit. That could simply be the Southern California heat, but I recognize that my purpose and goals for the next few months are incredibly unclear. In fact, my goals for everything ahead are unclear; I like to think that saying I simply want to follow and serve Jesus will be enough to get me somewhere, but it is hard waiting to find where that is.

In my attempt to find clarity I have pondered my conundrum of confidence and even my motives in why I am writing at all. At my brother’s wedding a week and a half ago, which was also incredible, my Uncle confronted me about this blog and some of his thoughts on my writing. He said a great many things, more than I could completely retain, but there was one point that stood out among the rest.

He said to me “You are at an age where you are finding the power of saying no.” As he spoke the childlike spirit I remembered in him stood in contrast to this older wiser man. It might be that as I become older my relatives are able to have more serious conversations with me, but somehow I still didn’t expect it.

He continued, “So you say no to sex before marriage, and say no to Hollywood movie hits, or say no to all these things you find to be wrong; but I want you to acknowledge the fact that you also have a greater power – the power to say yes.”

Sex and Seventeen

For some reason, even though we have cancelled our subscription and no longer pay for it, every few months a Seventeen Magazine lands in our mailbox. The pop of color and twinge of teen no longer interest me the way it used to, but yesterday in a moment of boredom I decided to flip through its contents.

One article caught my eye: The Sex Files


The feature included confessions and reflections of senior girl’s feelings about their sexual encounters. The noble aim was to help girls have some background knowledge to make decisions that won’t get lost in the heat of the moment.

Here are the statistics that stood out to me:

– “You may think you should just ‘get it over with,’ but 84% of girls say its okay to graduate high school as a virgin.”

 

 
– “59% of girls who have hooked up have regrets about it.”

 

 
– “The younger girls were when they lost their virginity, the more likely they were to regret their decision.”

It is interesting to think back to my view of sex at seventeen. It wasn’t really too long ago, in the grand scheme of time, but I have crossed big mountains and borders in my opinions  over those years.The funny thing is that the year I was seventeen was probably when I first started on that trip, because I started that year with one point of view and ended up in a completely different camp.

Summer before my senior year I turned 17 (I have one of those annoying late birthdays compared to everyone else). I was dating a guy who was a year older than me so he was about to go to college in the fall over 2000 miles away. We were optimistic, or at least I was, about the possibility of long-distance success. Sadly though, I would’ve done almost anything to please him. I realize now that my self-confidence at the time was down in a crater somewhere, but a womanly word would rocket me up to feeling important in his eyes. I was also under the impression from my high school peers that you had sex when you were in love, but I still waited because I was never really sure.

Thanks to God, the relationship ended. I am incredibly lucky it did too, otherwise I probably would’ve been one of the 59% who regretted their decision. I thought I had been in love, so the breakup shattered me into confused pieces, but God gave me a ladder to climb out of my crater and find what true love really was.

The next summer, before I turned 18, I was dating a new guy and felt like a new person too, but this time it wasn’t because of him that I felt different, it was because of God. For once I felt that I was on a path God lead me towards, even though that meant leaving in the fall to go to a small Christian school over 2000 miles away. My view on sex and love had flipped because it no longer depended on some guy, but on God.

Seventeen Magazine found that 84 percent of girls say it is ok to graduate high school as a virgin – though I doubt that is what they think their peers would say. Yet I wonder how many of those girls actually did graduate as a virgin. My guess is not all of them, and I bet that their regrets about that decision is probably why they say it would be ok for others to do so. They know that in high school, we are just too young and naive to really understand what love is, which is why we don’t understand sex either.

It took me awhile to realize it, probably because my youth group didn’t talk about sex more than telling us not to have it, but now I know what real love is because I haven’t had sex. Waiting has given me clearer vision to truly understand God’s love and plan for my life.

Last week we talked about how we must decide our reasons for abstinence on our own for it to really stick. That can be helped by mentors and friends, but it truly is a decision we must formulate for ourselves.

My own personal reasons could ramble on forever but I will summarize them in four short points:

  1. I should reflect God’s image and holiness in everything I do, especially how I conduct myself sexually.
  2. I better understand the commitment of marriage to last forever when I know that sex is what unites two people into one representation of God’s love and commitment to us.
  3. I can’t trust my hormones (aka the “natural feelings of attraction”) to tell me what love is because things can change.
  4. By not having sex I am better able to understand what love really looks like with God and with each other – love that is selfless, love that can stretch across thousands of miles, love that can truly last forever.
There are a lot of points in between those points, and I certainly still have a lot to learn, but I hope this helps you to think about your own reasons for waiting (or not). Don’t follow the definition of sex and love that culture or your friends tell you – again this is why it is important to go to the boundaries and redefine those things for yourself.

What are your reasons for waiting or not?
How has your definition of sex and love changed since you were seventeen?

Followup – the Morning After our Sex Talk

Ha sorry I just need to laugh for a moment at that title…. that should certainly grab some attention.

Anyways, thanks to those of you that shared your thoughts on yesterday’s post “Let’s Talk About Sex.” The length of some of the comments proved this is a very complicated topic inside many larger discussions. Also, it is completely dependent on your personal religious values and beliefs.

Personally I am a Christian – so I believe that Jesus Christ was the son of God, who came in the flesh to proclaim the good news of God’s love and mission to restore all of humanity back to a relationship with Him, and who then died on the cross to be resurrected three days later to save the world from sin in a triumphant victory over death.

That is the text book definition though, and we all know that a mere definition doesn’t include all the rippled effects of what being a Christian means in my life. Please remember that your connotation of Christian might be completely different than who I actually am (remember my post on “Define Christian”) – we must all erase our pre-existing understandings if we are truly to meet in the middle on anything.

On that topic, I have no problem with you believing something different than me. I am always happy to hear your thoughts so keep them coming, even if it doesn’t necessaily match my point of view.

Back on the topic of sex, it is becoming clear to me that in order to truly spread a message about the importance of purity or waiting till marriage to have sex, we need to move past the answer that we don’t have sex simply because the Bible tells us not to. Making it a rule isn’t going to enforce the reasoning needed to supplement our reasons for what decisions we make.

I am currently a college student, so my peers and I are experiencing one of the times in life where we leave our parents rules and reasons to create our own – and it is both a dangerous and a wonderful thing. It is dangerous because it feels more natural to rebel and do what we want, or what our hormones tell us we want. Then we take those things and create our reasoning for why it is right, turning it into our own reality and truth. In the Relevant Magazine article titled “(Almost) Everyone’s Doing It” Dr. Jenell Williams Paris explains it this way:

“A young child may follow [the rule to look both ways before crossing the street] solely because of the power of her parents’ authority, which is appropriate.” However, “As she grows, the child [continues to look both ways] but for a deeper reason that she owns herself. She sees the broader context of traffic, understands the benefits and dangers and makes choices accordingly. Rules are external and authority bound: Maturity requires knowledge of why to do the right thing, not just what the right thing is.”

Once something is rooted in as our own personal reality of good or bad it is much harder to change that opinion or go back. These roots form the branches of our life, they ground us in to our beliefs, to our values and even connect us to our culture so that we may grow as individuals intertwined. It is good for us to form personal reasonings of why we do things, then we are more likely to commit to them and make them our own.

I feel that this is where our answer to the sex issue starts: we must decide for ourselves the reasons why or why not to have sex, believe in them fully and then commit to living them out. No abstinence program or sex education will be fully effective if we simply tell kids what to do and don’t allow them to think for themselves. No sermon or small group message will make an impact unless we allow it to grow on its on terms. We can plant seeds, but we must also disturb the soil to challenge pre-exisiting definitions and cultivate discussion. That is my hope here.

Stay tuned and next week I will give you my personal reasons why I abstain from sex, and hopefully we can all grow together a little more in the process :)

What are your personal reasons why or why not to have sex?

How did you come to that decision – was it on your own

or because someone else told you to?

Other thoughts?

Let’s Talk About Sex

Less than a year ago I started diving into some burning questions I had about what purity really means, especially as a college student. I have spent hours pouring over blogs, books, and articles looking for a perspective that addressed all the frustration I was feeling. When I couldn’t find that perspective, I realized that the frustration came from a sense of being left behind. Why wasn’t anyone speaking to the college students, those of us who are facing one of the most challenging sexual periods of our lives? There were things covering purity in high school, in marriage, or being celibate and single. Some articles tried to address the issue of college relationships, but they were all written by older campus pastors or professors who have since been married. Their point of view was, of course older and wiser in most ways, yet it also left out the genuine struggle of being stuck in this period of waiting. After all they were past waiting, but I am looking at several more years of virginity and patient frustrations.


So I am going to start talking about it. This is a blog about how we define things and how God defines things. I want to challenge how we define sex, love, purity, and relationships to find out how God defines it. This means I am going to head for the boundary lines; the first one being the line between the Christians who simply say sex before marriage is bad and the other people who don’t believe that’s true.


Go ahead and give me your reasons. I am standing with one leg on each side, ready to hear everything you’ve got. Don’t try to convince me to come to your side though, agendas don’t build friendships and a tug of war means I might lose an arm. I want to know because I want to listen to you first. I know what I think, and I won’t change my mind, but I still care about what you have to say. This is a place for discussion, so let’s hear it.


Do you think sex before marriage is wrong? Why or why not?


What’s your opinion/definition of sex in general, or of love?