The A of Q&A

Wednesday, I gave commenters the opportunity to ask questions that I would respond to today.

Floyd of But By The Grace of God asked:

What is the biggest event to happen in your life that brought you closer to God or set you on the path to where you are now?

Great question!  Now can you define "event"?  Sometimes a single day or moment impacts us forever.  Sometimes it is a certain experience that impacts us, but this experience was spread out over the course of a period of time.

My time spent serving at and being ministered to at my old church in West LA was one of these types of experiences.  It was the first church experience that I could really say was "mine."  I experienced what it was like to live in close community with other believers, what the "one anothers" were, and what they looked like.  I was able to open up to others: learn to trust and be trusted, learn to love and be loved.

This experience brought me closer to God by bringing me closer to the people in His church.  The Holy Spirit resides in each person, and when multiple people come together to minister to each other, the Holy Spirit does the ministering.  Church community is a great and beautiful thing because when one ministers to another within the church, it is an expression of the presence of God Himself.

As to other, more singular discrete events that brought me closer to God, I have to attribute a lot of spiritual growth to an unlikely combination of books.  The first was John Piper's Desiring God, which I read in the end of high school.  The second was Donald Miller's Blue Like Jazz, which I read as a freshman in college.

Although they are vastly different in authorship, tone, and content, these two books helped me see and understand a sort resides in the Christian faith.  I learned that Christianity was a beautiful and intricate thing, and that I could find joy in serving God and marveling at the complexity and grandeur of His plan for mankind.  I learned to be baffled and amazed.  I learned awe and zeal.  It is not that these things were previously lacking in my faith, but these books definitely developed those responses in me in a way that has impacted the way I interact with and think about God.

How about you?  What event(s) brought you closer to God?  Answer in the comments!

Q & A!

A couple days ago, a commenter left a few questions at the end of one of my posts.  I would like to take a week or so to write out a thorough response as a separate post/ post series, so in the meantime I won't be coming out with new material for the blog.

Instead, I'd like to open up the floor to you, the readers.  Do you have any questions for me?  It can be about anything at all: life, spirituality, Christian education, law school, living with a stigmatized medical issue, my favorite fish recipes, etc.  The only rule is that if you ask a question, you have to either answer the same question or tell a random fact/ story about yourself.

Ask in the comments, and I'll answer on Friday!

Verses for the discouraged

If I take into account the dream this morning that left me in a cold sweat, it seems I was carrying a lot more anxiety than I thought I was.  Spiritually, I have been struggling for quite some time on a number of fronts, and it just seemed I was getting nowhere.  Somewhere along the line, I stopped reading the Word- funny how that happens, as that's probably the worst thing to do.

I finally picked up the Bible this morning.  Going back to my read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year plan wasn't going to cut it given the amount of time I skipped, so I went to Colossians.  Nothing like reading through an epistle to get back in the habit, again.  When I did, Colossians 1:11-13 really stuck out to me  Power when I feel powerless. Strength and might when I feel weak.  Paul's prayer for the Colossians is easily one I can pray for myself.  It also reminded me of Philippians 4:4-7:

The verses are really quite similar. Take a look (color-coded for your convenience):

Combining these verses, God gives strength and power to endure with joy.  We may rejoice because the Lord is at hand and has delivered us from darkness.  God has done so much for us.  We are drawn into closeness with Christ and are given peace with God.  We therefore can be at peace with our circumstances and respond in thanksgiving.

What comforting promises!  What verse(s) has/ have encouraged you in a time of spiritual drought? 


(eqqman of flickr, CC2.0)

It's hard to maintain the semblance of a facade of being in control when you're sitting alone in your apartment contemplating half a dozen life decisions that need to be made in the next week, while your broken toilet flushes itself every five minutes. (A hypothetical situation, of course.)


(Tommy Nguyen of flickr, CC2.0)

And what of the sleep of colorless green dreams?

Anatomy of a curl: all or nothing


(stelogic of Stock.xchng)

I discovered that I don't like casino gambling.  Maybe this is something I should have figured out about myself beforehand, but I also have a "try everything once" mentality (within reason).  So when I got dragged to the casino with my extended family, I decided to gamble a bit to see what the hype was about.  Suffice to say, I did not see what the hype is about.  It's not a "moral turpitude" thing for me; I just didn't find it entertaining.

It's not that I lost money- I did not gamble more than I was willing to spend- but rather I hate risking resources on a pursuit with little purpose and little probability of gain (no matter large the potential).  Earlier I said that one of my mottos was "Take chances, make mistakes and get messy."  I still stand by that sentiment!  But certain chances are worth taking and others aren't.

I took a chance switching career paths because I found a cause I believed in.  I take chances in my relationships because vulnerability and trust go hand-in-hand.  I take chances with my faith because I know that whatever God has for me goes beyond my ability to see.  But gambling?  No thanks.  It doesn't jive with my personality.

Do you gamble (figuratively or literally)?  Under what circumstances?  What motivates you to take risks?

Telling Stories

Continuing from Monday, when we experience trauma, heartbreak, or disappointment, we cannot change the past.  Maybe something we did spiraled out of control.  Maybe we never had control to begin with.  Either way, the past is set in stone.  There's no going back.  What we can do, however, is choose how to respond.

This has been something that has been on my mind, but watching Kung Fu Panda 2 with my family this weekend really put my thoughts into words.

Your story may not have such a happy beginning but that doesn't make you who you are, it is the rest of your story, who you choose to be.

You got to let go of the stuff from past, because it just doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is what you choose to be now.

Our lives tell stories, but whose?

Many let "life" dictate their stories.  Their circumstances define them.  The people in their lives define them.  Their tragedies define them.  

Others choose to tell their own stories.  As these quotes from KFP2 indicate, these people respond to the past by choosing to write their futures.

However, I believe there is a third choice.  Maybe it's a lifetime of fighting circumstances I can't overcome.  Maybe it's my more recent incident of coming down with Tourette Syndrome.  Maybe it's a personality thing.  It's probably a bit of the above.  I choose option three.  I won't merely be a victim of my circumstances, but I don't believe in writing story, either.  It's not that I won't.  I can't.  I'm a poor author.  I'm Moses, in the desert with sheep and a bad stutter.

There is a turning-point.  That point at which a person decides not to let life toss them in every-which-direction.  But I also believe that I'm not the person to take back control.  There's a better person for that job.  It's not my story, and it's not about me.  It's all about God.  It's His story, and I'm just a part of that.  Whatever story he wants to tell with my life- I've decided that I'm OK with that.  In the moments that I'm not- and they come- I decide that I will be OK with it.  

There is a difference in simply allowing life to happen, actively authoring one's life, and actively allowing the Great Author the room to write.  Don't confuse the three.  The journey itself is a story, but it's one worth telling.

Setting Fires

After reading AWP's post last week, I took another look at Adele's song, "Set Fire to the Rain." Or ten. I think it's one of my favorite songs now!

"Set Fire to the Rain" has become a personal anthem of mine because it speaks to my experiences. People will disappoint us, and it will hurt. We may cry. But we may use that pain to motivate us. We can set fire to the rain.

However, raw motivation is a two-edged sword, something I saw demonstrated in Kung Fu Panda 2, when I watched this weekend. In the movie, both the protagonist and the villain experienced trauma in their pasts. Both use those experiences to motivate them. Both set fire to the rain.

Fire, however, has two natures. The villain harnesses the power of gunpowder to forge a (quite literal) path of fiery destruction. The protagonist, however, uses his newfound motivation to protect those he loves, like a warm campfire preserving life in the wilderness.

Pain is powerful, but even more powerful is the resolve that can come from it. Go ahead. Set fire to the rain, but first, ask yourself what kind of fire you want to start.


Photo taken from my Blackberry, and for the first time in my life, I wish I had an iPhone.

Keep your cool

(Credit: tomergabel of flickr under CC2.0 and re-released under CC3.0.)

Taken from an actual conversation between my friend CS and I about job interviews.

Set Fire to the Rain

Today, our fabulous guest poster brings A Writer's Perspective.  When I first met AWP, I didn't quite know what to make of her.  However, after a year of living with her, I felt like I've known her forever.  I love that I can always count on her to bring a fresh and different perspective into the conversation.  (Even if she thinks that making minor references to movies in the fantasy/ sci-fi genres makes her a "nerd" when she can't even remember Samwise Gamgee's name.)

What I love about AWP is that she doesn't mince words.  She's a tell-it-like-it-is person.  No beating around the bush.  A let's get down to business (and defeat the Huns) kinda gal.  The following post reflects this sort of life-approach.  Enjoy!

Set Fire to the Rain

The other day, I was watching “So You Think You Can Dance” – undoubtedly the best show on TV during the summer, but I may be biased because I love dance – and Adele’s song, Set Fire to the Rain came on. The choreographed routine that went with it was alright. It wasn’t anything to write home about. However, Lady Gaga’s critique that followed it was. She said something along the lines of fire being the complete opposite of rain, and how the two create an imagery of separate forces working against each other.

To most people, it seems obvious that… well, fire is the opposite of rain and that the two are opposing forces. Very much like Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, or Frodo/the fat hobbit and Sauron [I promise I’m not a nerd… however, live long and prosper]. But I’m the type of person who doesn’t see literary “obviousness”, much like I’m not the type of person to realize anything’s wrong with me until someone points out to me that I’m obviously wrong. In this case, that person telling me something was wrong was Lady Gaga.

OK. So, we didn’t have a heart to heart convo, and she didn’t personally tell me something was wrong. But outside the realm of her critique brought to light an issue that had come up during the year – there was something off about my relationship with God.

Now, my question to you is this: we all go through good and bad times. Now, when it seems like God’s pulled the rug out from under you only to leave you with brokenness, how much of what you do is out of trust that God will lead you out of it? And, how much of what you do is out of spite?

Personally, I belong to the camp that’ll say – without a blink of an eye – that I trust God to lead me out of whatever situation He’s put me in. I trust that He’s put me there for a specific reason, and that I’m there to grow. I trust that. I really do. And, I really believe it. I find that I’m closer to God when I’m hurting – I pray more, I read His words more, I depend on my brothers and sisters more. I’m closer, and He always leads me out of the darkness sooner or later [but never sooner or later than He intends for His purpose].

Well, I find I’m closer to God, except for these little instances. I’m closer, until I find myself driving 85 miles per hour on a 65 mph road. Or, I find myself trying out ciggies even though I don’t smoke. Or, when I go for a three mile run when I have a sprained knee. Or, when I find myself throwing down shot after shot of alcohol, even though I know better. Or, any other time where my actions are reckless and scream out loud, “F*** you, God. Look at what I can do. I can throw my own life away, even though You saved me. I’m taking back the control. How do you like them apples now?” And, I do this while quoting Romans 5 on church at Sundays.

Talk about things being like fire and rain. Talk about setting fire to the rain.

Now, I know this is the part where I’m supposed to expound some grand knowledge about what I’ve discovered through the Bible. I know I can use alliterate phrases to help you remember what I want to teach you. But I’m not exactly sure what I want to teach you.

Well, except maybe this little tidbit I learned this spring when hope really did lead to perseverance, and where perseverance never failed: during the praying and during the rebellion, God was still with me through it all, and He stayed by my side when it felt like all my dreams and all my hopes and all I’d been fighting for had suddenly vanished. He never leaves, even when I do. And when I return – a blessing from God for pursuing me even though I’m a little turd, and I don’t – it’s always like the first breath of air you take after you think you’re going to drown and die in a deep, dark ocean with no one around you.

Refreshing, like rain is to the fire.