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Pensées on Love, Homosexuality, and the SCOTUS ruling

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The recent SCOTUS ruling that made same-sex marriage legal in the United States of America was met with a flurry of rainbow-themed avatars and #LoveWins hashtags. There was also a proliferation of warnings of apocalyptic destruction and the empire’s downfall from others. These two messages filled the air waves and polarized people in two camps. Social media was quick to highlight the tension between these two camps. Messages of love, hate, compassion, and confusion intermingled with one another forming an amorphous blob of simplistic explanations and pithy aphorisms.

There were many Christians who went out of their way to define and describe what love is. Some even reminded their audience of Jesus’ unconditional love for them. However, this was also coupled with a fairly lengthy caveat of sorts that turns into more like a disclaimer notice one would find in most contracts. I think it’s very important to make sure that we communicate what we truly mean. I would say that’s a basic given in trying to communicate with others. Yet, I feel like if you have to explain what unconditional love is by adding so many conditions to it, then it fails to be unconditional love anymore. If you have a son who is a drug addict, would telling him “I love you” mean that you are condoning or endorsing drug behaviour? No. If you have a daughter who got pregnant out of wedlock, would telling her “I love you” mean that you are condoning or endorsing sex outside of marriage? No. It means that even though they may have committed actions that you do not condone or endorse, you are not going to withhold or refuse to offer them your love. Displaying unconditional love means that our expression of love for another person is not based on what they have done but based on who they are.

In the Scriptures, we constantly see Jesus interacting with the marginalized and the oppressed. They were the bad people that society says we should never associate with: prostitutes, tax collectors, and cheaters. There is something startling in the way that Jesus dealt with those on the fringes of society. What startles me is not what Jesus said, but what he didn’t say. He never utters a single word of condemnation or what could even be interpreted as a “loving sermon.” He treats them with kindness, dignity, and dare I say it… love… that is so shockingly simple. This was not a love that needed lengthy explanations. This was a love that was simple and clear. It needed no further ramblings on what it meant. It was given purely. It was received purely. And it had the ability to transform their lives in ways that verges on the unfathomable.

When unconditional love is given, no words can properly define it. Why? Because unconditional love is intensely experiential. It arouses feelings within that we didn’t even know existed before. It is an incredible experience that defies logic. It may be difficult to put into words but it also unbelievably clear. There is no confusion in it. There are no doubts. Only clarity.

If we, as Christians, truly have this type of unconditional love for homosexuals as we often say we do, I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t have to go to great lengths to give them a detailed explanation because they would know what it means. The fact that we do makes me stop and pause for a minute and wonder if this is actually true.

Maybe it is best if we just said this: I love you. Period.

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Flashback Friday – My hatred for the term “man up”

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Hey everyone,
For today’s Flashback Friday, I’ve decided to re-post something I wrote back in the day (Feb.2, 2011 to be exact). While time have passed since I first wrote it, my feelings about it remains unchanged. I still hate the term “man up” and I still think it’s meaningless.
If you are going to comment, please remember to refrain from being mean, sarcastic, condescending, and other negative attributes. If you can’t be nice, don’t post it. Please keep that in mind when you’re commenting. Thanks.
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A response to all the “There are no Christian men” blogs/posts
Introduction

While the bemoaning of the fate of Christian men (where are they?) by men and women have gone on for a very long time, I have a sense through the recent proliferation of blogs/posts by those within my social circle, that it somehow has reached some sort of tipping point. Many more people are talking about this not-so-old complaint. And so, I just wanted to add another voice, albeit probably a different one, in the conversation.

First of all, I have sincere and complete disdain about the term “man up.” While there are many societal and cultural conceptions of what man is, those things are ultimately bound up in its own cultural expressions. While I do not advocate some sort of relativization of definitions, I think it is important to realize that the concept of “man” is bound up in earthly descriptions that seek to promote its own cultural mandate for what a “man” should be.
If we truly believe that Jesus came down to earth to show us what true humanity looks like, I think it would be more appropriate to say “Jesus up.” The word “man” is bound up in too many semantical, linguistic, cultural baggage that it can sometimes be difficult to ascertain which qualities we are trying to call forth when we say the word “man up.” I would like to think that calling someone to “Jesus up” is synonymous to the call that Jesus has on both men and women to be more Christ-like.
Aside: when I see a woman who does not really exemplify a Prov. 31 woman, I don’t exactly write blogs/posts about how they need to “woman up.” If there is a challenge for men to be more like men, shouldn’t women be also challenged to be more like women?
In Christian circles, this type of thinking can lead into statements like, “real men pray” or “real men treat their wives well” or the like. While I do not disagree with such statements, what happens if I didn’t pray for a day. Is my masculinity negated by such an act? Is being a “man” a question of doing, or a question of being. Donald Miller, during an interview, probably said it best when he defined a man as “someone who has a penis.” (With recent medical changes, I would qualify that as someone who was born with a penis. I know that that definition could probably be re-visited for hermaphrodites, but I digress. Hopefully, you got the major point!)
Is there such a thing as Biblical manhood? While I have not read Piper’s book on “Recovering Biblical manhood and womanhood,” I would hazard a guess that most Christians would probably say that there is such a thing. At this point, I would say that the rules and regulations that God has given to humanity apply to both sexes. Obedience, submission, leadership are areas that God calls each and everyone of us to participate in and instill in our daily lives. While the expression of these things could potentially look different (complementarian vs. egalitarian), it does not negate the fact that no man or woman is exempt from exemplifying such attributes in their personal life.
Yes, I do believe that most XY individuals over the age of 18 yrs. old do not act in a responsible manner that traditionally such an age would call for. I also do not think that the Church has done a great job in discipling and mentoring young men to help them mature in their own Christian journey. It is a problem and it is an epidemic. We have created a generation of irresponsible, uncouth, selfish generation. (Of course, each generation have always looked down upon their youths. Egyptian artifacts would testify to this fact. So no, this is not a new problem kids.) However, instead of bemoaning and “challenging” men to be more like men, why don’t you help foster and create an atmosphere of encouragement for men to learn what it’s like to be men? Clearly, most of us have no friggin’ clue what it is to be a man. Does that mean you just keep on reminding us that we should be something that we don’t even know what it means to be what you are calling us to be? How can we be men if no one teaches us how to be one?
And this ultimately goes back to my hatred of the word “man up.” It points to no one and to nothing. The word “Jesus up” points us to be more like the Human Being that we all aspire to be.
I also think that women should be called to the same standard of being a woman as men are called to be a man.
Inconsistencies
One of the complaints being re-iterated is the fact that men are not leading and how women need/want to be led.
The passages in the Bible that most people look to for this type of thinking concerning the role of men and women are passages that advocate for male leadership within a marriage context. While I do not disagree that our cultural expectation is for the male to lead and for the female to follow, I do have problems when Christians exegete a passage improperly and not maintain logical consistency.
This is what I mean. If somehow you are going to promote an idea that a man must lead in a relationship (outside of a marriage context), then it follows that the woman must also submit to the man. Most women I know say that the idea of submission should happen within a marriage context and anything outside of it is outside the purview of those specific Biblical passages. In this, I agree with them. However, if you maintain that a man must lead in a relationship, then it must follow that you should be willing to submit to them in said relationship. You can’t have it both ways.
Secondly, each individual, either male or female, is responsible for their own personal walk with God. it is a PERSONAL relationship after all. That being said, a man or a woman, irregardless of their sex, should not expect another person to come along to lead them to Christ. That’s the Holy Spirit’s role. Yes, God gives help-mates along the way… but they should help, not initiate, a relationship with Christ.
In a romantic relationship, it is advisable and highly encouraged and recommended, to find a mate who would lead you to a better understanding of Christ and who would challenge you to be more Christ-like. Yet, when we die, we are called to take account for our own personal words and deeds, not the deeds of others, not even our spouses/lovers.
Conclusion
Men, we are called to look to Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, and follow in His ways. Likewise, women, you are likewise called to the same high calling. All of us, men and women, are called to be Children of the Light. If one of us is not quite there in our Christian walk (and really, who isn’t?), let us exhort one another and encourage one another to be like Jesus, the ultimate model of what humanity should look like. We are ALL called to the same standard – and that standard is Jesus Christ.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
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Pensées on Suicide

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There’s just something about suicide that just hits me to my core. My heart just goes out to people who carry what must be such unbearable pain that they feel that the only way to make it go away is to choose death over life. I can’t even begin to think how isolating and how lonely that must feel. I know that some people think that it is the only way to escape the immense hurt they are going through. Some choose death not because they don’t think that life is not worth living… they choose death because life is simply too much for them to bear. Suicide notes usually tell the people they leave behind that they have nothing but utmost love for them and tell them not to berate themselves for what happened. It wasn’t their fault.

Once you factor in mental illness in the picture, it becomes an even murkier picture. Schizophrenics are prone to hear voices that tell them to commit acts of aggression against others, or even against themselves. The line between what is real and what is not real becomes blurred. The constant struggle can be burdensome. In that one quick moment when you lose that fight between reality and illusions, the outcome can be tragic and irreversible. As someone once said, “suicide is a permanent response to a temporary problem.” However, I just find pithy statements like that to be so cliché that it verges on useless. I find that statements like that tend to make something painfully real into something abstract. Suicide is tragic. Suicide is heart wrenching. Suicide is soul crushing.

When I heard what happened to my friend, I was shocked. I was speechless. Immediately, you think of your last interaction and wondered if there was something you could have said or something you could have done to be an encouragement or bring a smile to their face. When faced with the reality and cruelty of death, we are forced to remember the fragility of life. We are forced to think of our priorities in life and what matters most to us.

As a Christian, the reality of death also confronts us with the reality of the afterlife. According to the Christian worldview, heaven and hell are the two places where one might end up when we die. Suicide, in particular, makes us wonder where the soul might go. I think it is only important to remind people that in the end, only God knows the eternal fate of our souls. It is good to be reminded that it is not up to us to determine where others shall go. Whatever your thoughts may be on the matter, it is probably better for you to keep it to yourself. Since you’re not God, your opinion/speculation doesn’t matter at all.

To those left behind, suicide is extremely hard to bear. It’s hard not to blame ourselves for what we could have done to prevent it. What if I said/did something that drove them to do it? Why couldn’t they confide in me? Why did they think that this was the only way to fix the problem? I can’t even fathom the emotions that a grieving loved one feels. There are no words to adequately explain the depth of hurt and pain etched in their faces and engraved in their hearts.

To those who feel that suicide is the only option, I want you to know that it isn’t. There is help available to you and for you. Please talk to a family member, a trusted friend, or if needed, seek professional help. There’s nothing wrong with that. You don’t have to go through the loneliness alone. This world is a better place because you’re in it. Please don’t quit on us. You are loved more than you can ever know by the One who made you. God doesn’t make mistakes and you are not a mistake. You are the apple of His eye.

For the rest of us, let’s not be stingy with our praise and encouragement of others. Let’s cherish each other’s presence. We can never say “I love you” too many times. Let’s make sure that the one time we do say “I love you” is not the one time that the person can’t hear it anymore.

To my friend, say hi to the angels for me. May you rest in peace in the bosom of the God who loves you.

 

The power of the tongue

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With a new year upon us, I think it’s always important to take the time to reflect on the past year and think of how we can forge ahead in the new year to come. One of the things that I am ever so mindful of, and I really want to implement in 2013, is the power of the tongue. This is what I mean: I am a firm believer that the power of life and death is in the tongue. The words that we speak over our own lives and the words that we allow other people to speak in our own lives have tremendous impact on how we live our lives. I know that personally, I am very good at negative self-talk. Words like “you’re such a failure”, “you won’t make it” or “no one can ever love you for who you truly are because you’re worthless” are unfortunately, a major part of my vocabulary. Who needs enemies when you clearly are your own worst enemy! Studying the Sacred Scriptures has helped me realize how wrong this is. Hatred, either directed towards self or others, should never be tolerated nor condoned. In the same way that these negative self-talks have profoundly affected me and given me a warped sense of self, it is the positive affirmations from others that have helped restore my heart and my soul. I remember when my friend told me that she thought I was wise and how my actions do not go unnoticed. Or when another told me that he appreciated me for who I am. I still remember when I got an e-mail from my professor who I asked to be my Ph.D. thesis supervisor and was talking about doing future collaborative projects with me. I remember thinking “I can’t believe he wants to work with me!” I guess I’ve looked down on myself for so long that I was astonished that someone would want to work with me.

I admit that it’s hard to believe the positivity that other people say about me. However, I am working hard to receive the good words that they have spoken over my life. I am also working hard to make sure that I eliminate saying negativity over my own life. I find it way easier to encourage others than to encourage myself. That needs to change this year. I will be making a more concerted effort to celebrate my mini-victories as I work towards my end goal. I need to re-conceptualize what success means to me because it will definitely NOT look like what others view as success. I want to make sure that I am running my own race and not get so focused on running the race that others want me to run in. At the end of the day, I am accountable for the things I have done and not what others have done. I am responsible for myself and what I do with the time and talents God has given me. It does me no good to get sucked in to ideas of conformity to others’ expectations, as good as they may seem. The words we speak over our lives can be our destiny. Let’s make sure our destiny is one full of love, hope, and redemption.

Wednesday Writings – 12.12.12.

Hi Everyone,

Welcome to Wednesday Writings on this most auspicious day! lolz Just think, on 12.21.12, it will all be over! hahaha If only the Mayans are correct, then that will save me a lot of money that would go to buying Christmas presents 😛

Today’s poem was inspired during the Ramadan season when I was living in North Africa. During this time, there’s a special night called “Night of Power” or “Night of Destiny”. Basically, during this night, your prayers count more than usual. As the people around me stayed longer in the mosques and devoted themselves to prayer, it gave me time to also think and meditate. This is the result. Hope you enjoy it!

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Night of Destiny

Darkness, light withheld, solitude
The road so isolated, the path so obscure
Trusting that He has called you, the calling so loud and clear
Only His voice reassures you, comforts you, calms you

The voices within scream so loudly
Humiliation, rejection, threats of failure
The fear so strong, the doubts so sure
There’s no way that you can get out unscathed

Then the beatings begin
Words that inspire confusion, acts that inspire destruction
Quenching the hope, obliterating the dream
Only the Accuser comes at you, laughs at you, throws distractions at you

Darkness, light withheld, solitude
The road so isolated, the path so obscure
Forgetting that He has called you, the calling so faint to hear
His voice so far away, far away, far away

Light, darkness withheld, joy
The cloud of witnesses, the narrow road so obvious
Answering the call, the call implanted in the soul within
His Words leaping in our heart, a response to its Maker

The Accuser accused
The Accuser displayed
The Accuser accursed
The Accuser defeated

If the Answer is so true, why do my feelings feel that it is false?
If I know the Outcome of the situation, why do I live in fear?
If the Accuser is defeated, why do I live in defeat?
If I know the Son has set me free, why do I still live in bondage?

The moon, the glorious orb, the night
In its light, radiant light, solemnity envelops me
In the coolness, He breathes new life
For this night, it is the night

This night, this night, this glorious night
Destiny reveals its purpose

Night of Destiny pt. II

The thunder rages
The lightning strikes
The rain pours
Could this be divine sorrow?

How the heathens rage
How the kings conspire
How the people rebel
Yet, the rain falls on the just and the unjust

Your love extended
Your grace freely given
Your mercy pourèd
How long will they grieve your heart?

Sing to me of the plans that You have
Sing to me of the purpose that You have
Sing to me of Your unfailing love
Sing, lest my soul loses all hope

God of all nations, hear my cry
God of the Gentiles, I call unto Thee
God of the Chosen Nation, see this nation’s plight
May You draw us near, nearer to God, to Thee

The thunder rages
The lightning strikes
The rain pours
But it is You, Who calms the storm

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Wednesday Writings – Dec. 5, 2012

Welcome to this week’s edition of Wednesday Writings!

I have some exciting news! I started my Facebook fan page for this website! Please click on the “f” logo up top and it will directly link you to the page. Click on “like” and tell others about it too! I wanted a forum to speak to you as my readers because I really appreciate the fact that you took the time to read my stuff. I would love to continue this conversation over on yonder Facebook page and hear more from you! =) (For a limited time, I have also added it on the sidebar for easy clicking!)

Background story about this poem: I wrote it awhile ago. It was inspired while I was on vacation. Sometimes, we need time to get away for the creative juices to start flowing. In terms of inspiration, Greek mythology ranks second only to Christianity as a constant theme in my writings. I have always been fascinated by the gods and goddesses with their capricious whims and avaricious desire for power. Supernatural creatures with unfathomable strength or special abilities. This poem is my personal reflection on our fragile human nature.

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Credit image: Ulysses and the Sirens, J.W. Waterhouse, 1891, Oil on canvas

Portrait of a human

Riding the waves of this ocean called life
I am lured by the Sirens’ beckoning call
Slowly but surely, I find myself moved
Ever closer to their rocky shores.

Come and see, such pleasures for thee
Come and live out your wildest dreams
Come, for I can fulfill your every fantasy
Come, take hold of me, for I am truly Yours.

Logic escapes me, when faced with such a temptress
Reason flees, my mind lay bare naked
No matter how hard I tell my feet to escape
Step by step, they bring me closer to my fate.

If I then shall give myself wholly
What names shall I say, of those who bested me?
They looked at each other, faces confused
“Poor mortal,” they said, “have you really no clue?”

We are called by many names, but nothing changes
Time and time again, our wares render you helpless
Though warnings and alarms about us may abound
No human is immune, even the pious are defenseless.

We three, the unholy trinity of yore
Will ever devour you to your very soul
Mortal tongues cannot begin to describe us three
Money, sex and power – your names for we.

Suddenly, mine eyes began to see
It was as if a veil was lifted, their true forms they revealed
The lustrous hair, the luscious lips, the virgin smiles were but a mask
What was hidden underneath, too ghastly for any man.

I cowered in a corner, what destructive monstrosity!
There are no words to describe the fear, my heart rapidly beating
For there it was, I could not deny
Their faces unmasked – their faces were me.

Encouragement of the Day

“Christianity began not as a religion, but as a way of life shaped by the gospel. The pattern of that way is the loving service of Jesus, consummated in his self-giving on the cross. Paul made it clear that Christian worship is our own self-giving in similar service, enabled by the Spirit who dwells within us.” – Canon Hugh Wybrew