We Win or Lose, Together

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks for the world, full of sorrow for so many, and I have been trying to process all that I am feeling. The following (long and not so organised) thoughts are the result of some of that.

My extended family lost two men over two days, one after the other, both from heart-related conditions, both sudden and completely unexpected. There are no answers for the anguished question of “Why?” that can assuage the grief that those closest to them are feeling.

At least 51 others lost loved ones over the two days prior, to senseless and hate-filled violence. Again, there are no answers, no reasons that can make what happened seem reasonable in any way. There is much grief, as there ought to be.

Death is never easy. No matter the circumstance, we grieve, for death was never part of the Plan. It will happen to us all, but death always brings grief because we were made for Life.

No one tragedy surpasses another, yet the world is grieving for the 51 known victims of gunfire violence this week not simply because they died, but because they were killed by hate and bigotry.

There is little we can do to keep Death at bay, for it comes for us all in time, but there is much we can do to prevent death from coming by human hands. I do not know what motivated the two gunmen to open fire on the individuals they killed, nor am I making excuses for them, for there are none, but what I will say is this: Love breeds love, and hate breeds hate. We must pursue love, give love, fight with love. And that applies to everyone, but especially those whom we disagree with or dislike, and those who have done unthinkable things, for they, perhaps more than any, are most in need of Love.

Presumably, both the man who shot and killed Christina Grimmie and the man who shot and killed 50 and injured many more at the gay nightclub in Florida also left behind grieving relatives and loved ones. “How could he do such a thing?” is a question being asked not only by the victims’ family and friends and the watching world, but also by the family and friends of the perpetrators. While they grieve the loss of their loved one, they also grapple with the hate and anger we all feel over what he has done and struggle under the weight of knowing that the whole world is angry with their father, brother, son, friend.

We like to vilify murderers, rapists, attackers, and all those who in unthinkable ways violate the innocent. We think that by stirring up hate for the person, inseparable from the terrible thing he has done, we are somehow reclaiming ground, restoring justice, painful step by painful step. But as long as we harbour hate for people, we possess the capacity to hurt people. As long as we think of people – not all, just certain types of people or certain individuals – as problems, we will never see love win.

Love wins only when we are able to see that hateful people are hurting people in need of love, that restoring Justice involves far more than making sure that those guilty of a crime get what they deserve but extends to eradicating the very conditions that led them to commit that crime in the first place, conditions that allowed such hatred to fester and take root. Love wins when we recognize that we all could use a little more love and that love can be learned and hatred unlearned, so instead of denouncing those who hate and becoming hateful towards them ourselves we fight to figure out how to love them anyway.

We all lose when we allow our world to operate based on hate and fear, when we stand silently while fellow humans suffer, when we respond by closing our doors to protect our own instead of opening them to shelter those in need.

In our fight for equality and justice we too often fight in ways that turn us against our fellow man, as though if we could only gather all those who see things the way we do, who value the things we do (which are the things that should be valued), we will win the fight. This is not true. We are all part of the same human race. If we want to see this world changed for the better, we have to open our doors and our hearts to all.

All, including not only the victims and their families, but even their killer and his family, as well as those who celebrate his actions. It is a difficult sympathy – one that simultaneously decries and gets angry over the injustices done while it grieves over the state of this world that produces people so broken that they view murder and hate as the best course of action.

We either win together or we lose together. There is no in between. Here’s to working for victory, all of us together.

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Resolutions

Every new year brings with it the impulse to try harder, start over, or otherwise make things right. We take stock of our successes and failures of the past year and determine to have more of the former and less of the latter in the coming one. We make resolutions to exercise more, eat healthier, be better people.

As Christians, our resolutions often include things like “do my quiet time daily”, “pray more”, “read my Bible every day”, “go to church regularly”. And while all those intentions are great, we need to remember that Jesus comes to us in the chaos. He saves us out of the mess that is our day-to-day lives. Sometimes I wonder if God celebrates the new year. He created time, but the calendar didn’t come to make us new: Jesus did. And that newness is ours to take hold of every and any day of the year, not just annually on January 1.

Jesus comes to us in the chaos and the mess. He saves us out of all our failures and abandoned resolutions from years gone by, our weakness and our best efforts, our tiredness and our bursts of zeal. He comes when we make these resolutions, but He also comes when we fail to keep them. The only difference is that when we fail, we sometimes let Him come closer.

Jesus doesn’t ask us to try harder. He asks us to rest.

Psalm 46:10 says “Cease striving and know that I am God”.

He invites us to rest in what He has done for us on the cross, and what He is continuing to do in us each day. Our efforts are not wrong, but our efforts can earn us nothing because Jesus earned it all for us when He gave His life on the cross.

So this year, I resolve not to try harder, but to instead embrace my grave inadequacy and, in turn, the all-sufficiency of my Saviour. Instead of resolving to finally get it right, I resolve to walk with Him as He makes it right. Instead of determining to get better, I determine to get closer to Hm through His Word. Instead of making lists of all I want to accomplish, I want to notice all that He is already doing and join Him in that. May Jesus alone be my righteousness, my goal, my reward. May I always know my need for Him.

2014: Looking Back

My dad pronounced (I get to use that word here because he is a pastor and his voice is very pronounce-y) this blessing over me as time creeped into a new day and year and we watched fireworks explode from Taipei 101:

May you have the hindsight to know where you have been,
the foresight to know where you are going,
and the insight to know when you are going too far.

The end of the year is always a good time to take stock of the last 365 days gone by. I have to say that 2014 has not been my best year in terms of accomplishments or noteworthy anything’s, really. You may have noticed that this blog has remained suspiciously stagnant the whole year.

I entered 2014 in limbo, waiting to hear back about a job I eventually rejected, not really sure of ‘what I wanted to do with my life,’ unable to give concrete answers to all the aunties who so frequently asked. I worked part-time throughout the year, wrestled with questions about what I should be doing, and twice refused full-time jobs I could have had because they just didn’t seem right at the time. There’s a lot more I could say about all that, but perhaps in another post.

Today, I enter 2015 still in limbo. By society’s standards, my achievements – or rather, the lack thereof – officially qualify me as a bum or a failure. Unlike friends who have celebrated or will soon celebrate their first anniversary with their new jobs or a second graduation, I find myself a year and a half out of college, still not fully employed and, truthfully, with little desire to be so employed. As a number of friends my age tie the knot and begin a new chapter in their lives, I struggle to tie up the loose ends of a year conspicuously lacking in definite milestones.

But here’s the thing. Even though my performance the past year means that I would have completely and utterly lost in the game of LIFE! and I feel like I’ve just gone in one big fat circle and ended up right back where I started last year, 2014 has been so rich in so many other ways that arguably matter much more.

This past year, I feel like I have finally begun to understand the amazing grace and love that have been poured out upon me and are continually being lavished upon me every day. It has been a year of questioning the extent of that love and grace, of pushing the limits, of challenging the One who claims to love me, and of being met time and time again with the undeniable truth that, truly, He loves me. He loves me when I am the farthest as I could be from who I think He wants me to be. He loves me when I try to do the right thing and fail. He loves me when I don’t even care about doing the right thing or honouring Him or not displeasing Him. He loves me when I rebel. He loves me when I don’t love Him back and feel no remorse about it. He loves me. He loves you too.

I have searched and searched for the will of God, trying to determine what job to pursue, what opportunities to seize, what life to live, and I have found that none of that will put me in the centre of God’s will if I do not understand the simple truth that He loves me. His will is for us to know Him. Think about it. God could have saved us with a snap of His powerful, divine fingers without ever leaving His throne. Instead, He sends His dearly beloved Son to this cruel place called earth where He was rejected and despised and lived only that He might be put to death by the very ones He came to save. So why did He come? To save us – yes. But why save us? The answer is because He loves us. Jesus could have come and grown up in some deserted corner of the earth, like some genetically-bred piece of meat, until the time was right for Him to die, but instead, He walked among man. He discipled men. He had compassion on people and healed them. He built relationships.

God’s will is for us to be in relationship with Him. It’s not about just walking along some path that He lays out before us. That’s only relevant when we walk the road because we are walking with Him and He leads us down it. He is the starting point. The Alpha and Omega.

By all measurable means, I should feel like a failure. I tried to do everything right and got nowhere. But then I gave up trying, did everything wrong, and found grace and love. And that is the victory that I claim – one that is given to me every day. We don’t have to be perfect to come to God. We don’t even have to be good. Jesus is our goodness and our righteousness. We just need Him. God loves more than we give Him credit for. We tend to think that He will only really love us or like us when we are at least trying to do right by Him – we don’t have to succeed, but we have to at least try. I’m learning that that’s complete bollocks. He loved us before we could even try to do right. He loves us still, when we don’t bother. HE LOVES US!

So I end the year thankful for 2014, for all its questions, struggles and anguish helped me to see God a little more clearly. Praying that 2015 will be a year filled with more of the transforming, redeeming, furious love of the Father. May I learn to extend grace as I have been shown grace, and to love as I have been loved.

Maybe to know suffering is to know Jesus.

“You know, the reality is that once we get to heaven there is no suffering. Our time on earth is the only time we get to know Jesus in our suffering. It’s the only place we get to know the depth of what He rescued us from.”

#StainedGlassDec

This isn’t the version of this part of my story that I wanted to share for this series. I had written something different — something hopeful and full of resolve and reflective of everything God has been teaching me in the last year and a half. Then God, like He does, interrupted this part of my story this week. It’s not the end of the road, I guess. In fact, I have no idea where the end of the road is. But I know I it seems like the rug was ripped right out from under me this week.

So today I’m still in process. Today I’m still in pain. Today I still feel like all those pieces of me are being broken in order for Him to rearrange them into something beautiful.

I got a call from my doctor last night. He told me my most recent blood test indicated…

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Monday’s Truth

There is grace for our brokenness. Read this. It’s so good.

A Girl Like Me

I’ve read it over ten times. Day five. This post in my devotional book is one I go back to. One that no matter how many times I’ve read it, it somehow always brings me to tears. It’s a message my soul needs repeated. It’s a message I feel you need to hear.

So I’m sharing it with you today. Day five. My breath of grace. My hope for today. I hope you are blessed.

kels (9 of 165)

DAY 5: CURED AND CLEAN

Taken by: Comforts From the Cross (by: Elyse Fitzpatrick)

“His disciples said to him,
“You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say,
‘Who touched me?’”

MARK 5 : 3 1

“Excluded. Unclean. Defiled. For twelve desperate years she had struggled against her body. Blood poured from her, and that blood not only brought about personal distress but also made her a societal outcast. If she was a…

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Interstellar

It’s been quite a while since I’ve written here, but I felt like writing something, so here I am. It won’t be long.

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I watched the premiere of Interstellar tonight, courtesy of a friend who works for Shaw. It started out a little slow, and I wasn’t quite sure where it was going, but I’m glad I watched it till the end (not that I would’ve left – though I did make a quick run out to relieve my bladder… it’s a long show). I wouldn’t say it was stunning in an in-your-face, over-the-top kind of way, and I’m not even sure if I can articulate why it left an impression on me, but it did.

It’s about space travel and time travel and saving the human race with lots of physics and equations that I will never understand, but two things stood out to me that are really only tangentially related to the movie’s plot:

1) The vastness of the universe.
Something I really appreciated about the production was the silence. There was a lot of silence – so much so that I had to pause my popcorn crunching. These moments mostly happened during these long shots of outer space: Earth at a distance, the galaxy, stars, other crazy things that most of us don’t think about on a regular basis. It instilled a sense of awe and wonder, which is exactly the kind of response we should have in the face of the universe. It is so much bigger than us. And God sees it all. He rules it all. And still knows each of us intimately.

2) The desire to ensure the survival of the human race.
This is something that really made me stop and think. The whole movie orbits (ha ha) around this need to save the human race from extinction. It’s not questioned at all. I’m not suggesting that it should be questioned in the movie – it isn’t the point of the plot, but it struck me as fascinating. It’s not the only movie based on this premise. Why? We see the same thing today with NASA trying to send people to Mars to see if it could potentially support human life, in preparation for the day when our resources on earth run out. The question in my head is this: Does that desire stem from arrogance or some sense of altruism or nobility? Or perhaps arrogant altruism? Is it arrogant of us to think that the human race is so special that it deserves to be preserved? Well, Jesus did die for us, which does make us special and worthy. But does working to find ways to prolong the existence of the human race ignore the possibility that it is simply our time to go? If we are not meant to fear death, should we fear extinction? What does it mean for us to trust that all things happen according to God’s plan and perfect timing, in an imperfect world? What do we do in the meantime?

“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
Dylan Thomas

Just some food for thought.