August 27, 2008

Through The Noise

"There are many kinds of noise in our lives...The doubts that swallow us. The depression that becomes our identity. Inside our heads, the world is shouting at us. And all too often- we listen."

- Adam Hardy and Elizabeth Kays, Through the Noise

As the Communicators for Christ Through the Noise program came to an end, I felt overwhelmed with emotion. All this inspiration to stand, act, and speak through the noise- yet no clear way to put it into action. The program blew me away, and it took what seemed like hours to gather together the scattered pieces of self so I could think clearly.

Only three days later, I found what it meant to be swallowed by doubt. And only now do I glimpse the extent that noise invades my life.

You wouldn't have wanted to talk to me at 10:30 last night. My doubts towered over me. I was stubbornly afraid that though I wanted to do something about hunger, I didn't care enough.

I thought about William Wilberforce, who spent nearly all his life to fight the slave trade. Then- I thought of myself. The pain I felt seeing the starving faces of children may have shot through my soul, but I wasn't agonizing over it. Sure, I wanted to start a project and write a persuasive speech against this incredible human suffering, but what good would that be if I just didn't care enough? Would my efforts be any good if, a year from now, when I had finished giving my speech in competition and community, I just moved to something else?

I wanted my mom to just tell me "it'll be okay- I know that you do care enough for it all to work out." But she didn't. Instead, she said that maybe I didn't care "enough." But, she asked, what was enough? She made me realize that even if I wasn't going to devote my life to fighting hunger, it was still worth doing something now. And perhaps, this doubt and depression was a weapon of the Enemy designed to prevent me from doing good.

Then, it seemed as if I could finally see again: I knew that I wasn't just devoting time to a cause for fun. I was doing this to please God, to fulfill his desire that we care for others' need for food. I realized: if I wasn't going to do something, who would? If there is a burning need, shouldn't I do something to take care of it?

God is good. He made me realize I can only find peace through striving for His glory, not my own.

* * *

Before we can stand through the noise, we must first identify what is preventing us from hearing the one Voice that truly matters.

What noise is in your life? Are your doubts or depression preventing you from bringing as much glory to God as you could?

August 11, 2008

Exposing myself

Sharing my thoughts with others is so intimidating. When I start to speak or write, I feel as if I put in the spotlight, all eyes fixed on me. And I am afraid. I'm afraid that if I speak what I think, I'll show myself to be an imperceptive, juvenile child. I'll fail in front of those I want to impress.

I don't mind sharing my views on morality - those are clear to me and I usually know what is right - but it's my opinions that are the hardest to say. My first instinct is to blame others, and say that years of people disagreeing with me have caused me to remain silent, but I know that shouldn't deter me.

The first part of this issue is fear. But what is there to fear? God has not given us a spirit of fear! I should step out boldly, knowing that I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

But compounded to that fear is my desire to look good in front of others. I've been wrong more times than I can count, and I don't like others to see my weakness and jump to a conclusion that I'm foolish and incompetent. But in my desire to let others see the "real me," unencumbered by my faults, I've actually only covered up who I really am. The "real me" is not an intelligent, witty, beautiful lady who never makes mistakes- it's a sinful human, who, by God's grace, attempts to bring beauty into a broken world.

God is my leader, and my goal should be to please him first. Even as I long for others' approval and attention, I know that earning those cannot be my focus.

However, as a debater, I desire to play the devil's advocate. Isn't there still a place for my desire for human approval?

I'd like you to give me your thoughts on a few questions:
  1. Why does fear exist?
  2. Is it beneficial to speak your mind even when you aren't quite sure of yourself, or would it be better to wait until you are reasonably certain?
  3. Can trying to please humans discipline you into a better person, or will it only teach you a wrong mentality of self-consciousness?

August 9, 2008

Writing (in the spirit of 22 words)

How can writers communicate a story with excellence, letting Christ and their Christian world view shine through, without sounding didactic or unrealistic?

Waiting and watching the crowd pass by

I hear a strange blend of sounds- a little girl asking her parents questions, the click-click of heels, the squeaking of flip-flops, the clacking of suitcases, loud footsteps on the escalator, and who knows what else.

I wonder, what are these people are thinking? A woman walks by and smiles at our dog. Does she ask herself why a dog would be here? A man talks loudly on his cell-phone. Why would he have this conversation in public? Perhaps he knows that I, or any who observed, would remain in his memory as nameless as he is in mine.

As the people pass and pause, I make eye contact with some. Yet seeing the "windows to their souls" doesn't help me glean much insight. Perhaps I just don't read people well (and I've certainly come to that conclusion before) or maybe they have trained themselves to keep those windows sealed tight, enshrouded by stiff curtains, so others can not see their vulnerability.

Some of the people look exhausted from a stressful day. Others have a blank stare, letting me know that the airport is a very mediocre place to be. But for some children I see, life is still an exciting adventure. They try to squeeze their small hands from their parents' firm grasp. A little boy is walking next to the baggage pickup, using the edge as a handrail, oblivious to the threat of germs or diseases.

Watching these people yields a strange sort of contentment. I will never understand their heart of hearts, but, perhaps, my naive and childish guesses will come near to the truth.

G-reader Blues

Update: I've gone back to reading blogs, just in a more limited way. And, as a side note... someone else feels the same way.

I'd invested a fair amount of time into my responsibilities for that day. I deserved a break...right? So I reach for the computer, sign into my email, and open my Google Reader. As I read the entries, I pause to read others' comments. While I'm at it, why not check out some of the links on the blog's sidebar? Before I know it, I've wasted 20 minutes in the black hole that is the blogosphere.

Sadly, this isn't just one isolated example. I'm ashamed to admit it, but it happens often. And those minutes add up.

Today, while following the link trail, I stumbled across a post about what not wasting your life looks like. It made me think- am I wasting my life? I hope not. Self-justification inevitably started to kick in. I'm devoting so much of my time to speech, debate, and my studies! I'm preparing myself for adulthood! But I realized that I could still make better use of my life today. I resolved not to waste my life.

Fast forward a few hours. I was again on the computer, reading some of my favorite blogs. This has got to stop, I thought. So I started work on this week's school. One of my assignments, in Money Matters for Teens, was about giving back to God. Somehow, every time the word money was mentioned, my brain substituted the word time. A commitment in the book read:

Dear Lord,
Thank you for providing me with an average income of $__ per __. By signing this note, I 'm acknowledging that I'm not the owner of this money; You are. You've appointed me manager of this money and all the other things you have given to me.
I'm grateful to you for my position. To acknowledge that it's your money, and to thank you for the opportunity to manage it, I'm committed to return __ percent to you on a regular basis for __ months.

This became a strong statement about time management- it's not really my time to waste. Slowly an idea formed in my brain. I finished the rest of the chapter, and again opened my G-reader. I canceled all my 19 subscriptions, except for my Bible verse of the day. If I do check my Reader, all I'll see is something worth spending time on.

* * *

Don't take this the wrong way. I love blogs. I appreciate how they encourage, entertain, and inform me. But I decided it was time to take a fast from my Google Reader.

I'm not going to waste my life.

"And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell."
- Mark 9:47