YO(How)LO(Will U Go)?

Have you noticed that YOLO–the newest variant of our youth-oriented-society’s anthem–does more to stand for nothing more than it does to stand for something?

By saying, “YOLO!” we are making an admission of how senseless we are willing to live. (“Yo, it’s cool, I was just looking for a high!”)

We are confessing that we have made a leave-of-sanity and we need no excuse to maintain this state. (“After all, what’s life about if it’s not for wasting! I don’t want anyone to tell me what my life is supposed to be–I can make it whatever feels good to me.”)

Think of the occasions in which YOLO–You Only Live Once– is used:

It is a reason for driving the car through the garage door because, if I don’t, how will I ever know what that feels like?

It is a frame of mind that compels me to not waste time doing what only normal people do when I can be seeking out exhilaration in the form of binge-drinking, stifling every moral inclination and undoing my potential for greatness by merely settling for being startlingly cool.

It’s the avoidance of committing ourselves to the pursuit of a significant life legacy that we might, instead, be in favor of an easily-earned stupidity award!

The wonder of YOLO’s popularity is that, as humans, we don’t find it hard to act out a tragic misuse of our lives. Sad to say, even all by ourselves we’ve got that mission down pat! What we really need is wisdom, to seek to have our desires transformed, until we set ourselves on only the purest forms of good.

If you’re backing away from your computer or iPhone/iTouch/iPad as you read this, hold on! I’m not against fun and I’m not trying to condemn the enjoyment of oneself. Those things are part of what we were designed to experience as humans–God wanted them to be a part of who we are and how we live our lives.

It’s just that, contrary to what most of us think of ourselves, we don’t really know how to play to the full or enjoy pleasure in a lasting way. We have a relentless obsession with happiness that is only skin deep, recognition that lasts almost as long as a wisp of cotton candy once put in our mouths and substances that enable our souls to know peace only to the extent that they can successfully diminish our senses.

If we really knew what God intended to forever belong to our souls, we wouldn’t give YOLO a second thought. Rather, our steadfast conviction would be that YLAL is the fullness of human delight and significance: You Lord Are Life.

God: Giver of freedom or Minder of minions?

Does that second definition resonate with you? I know it has for me. When it came to God, I felt no welcoming to come and know Him. I felt a calling, yes, but to me it was a brutal thing that clawed at me almost mercilessly in any moments I had–as unusual as I tried to make them–of relative repose.

Do you labor, like I did, under the burden of believing that God is a hard task-master and an undesirable companion in your life’s journey? Do you hear, at times, pleasant things about God and find yourself wishing they were true–if only what you knew of God were not so? Do you understand God to be nothing more than a judgmental tyrant? Do you wish there was some way you could negotiate with Him for a level of amnesty? Not so that there could be a greater possibility of closeness between you–there is no way you would be so audacious as to seek that; instead, you desire to quiet down the battle-hype between you and God.

I can understand this penchant for seeing God with that dominating proclivity for casting humans into despair with His unyielding expectations and crushing judgments. It is such a bad thing for us to think these things because if we had an acquaintance who demonstrated even a sprinkling of these characteristics, we would not be in anyway confusing our relationship as a friendship. We would resent the day they came on the scene of our lives. If they stay, we can be sure that they will ruin everything that we happen to love.

Considering the weight of these conclusions we have about God, it’s no wonder that we try to keep God from being close–we don’t want to be any nearer to these negative distinctions than we have to. But would God have it to be this way? Does He want His person to leave you with such an unappealing impression? I used to think He didn’t care. This was obviously the way He wanted things to be.

But, if we’re trying so hard to maintain a significant distance from God, how can we really be sure of what He’s thinking or wanting in regard to us? If we engaged in this type of relationship-management with anyone else, any objective observer would find it necessary to challenge the untested assumption we had about the other. It would not be sufficient to look at there actions of days, months or years past to make present-judgments. We would be required to explore the matter and gather more recent facts and conclusions. There is always the possibility–with our human counterparts–that with time they have changed. What we thought they were at one time may have been accurate, but today it may be in need of a revision.

Too often we conclude God is so different from us–different enough to make Him appalling in His starkness. But why do we think this? Where do these perceptions come from? For many of us, it must come from more than circumstantial evidence, since our shared part with God in this state has been minimal, at best. Would you be inclined to consider that we were born with this broken perception–with this desire to keep ourselves apart from God, apart from and before the interactions we’ve had with Him and His world.

This is going to take a lot of work to sort out. But there is truly nothing we have more time to sort out. This is the main thing we were meant to decide with our lifetimes. But don’t be discouraged if this sounds like something that is out of your league. It’s out of every humans league but for the fact that God calls out to us with every intention of making Himself known, if we are willing to receive Him; if we will but he made to learn and then distinguish who He is from what we’ve thought and what we’ve been told by other sources.

I wish I could tell you right now all that I know He wants you to hear. How He wants His love to break in on you renew your mind with joy and peace. How He has good plans for you that are deep enough to include everything in your history and present circumstances you have considered to be nothing less than the pitiful reflection of a bad plan or an equally bad Planner. God wants you to know–to accept into the deepest places of your soul–the reality that His love is not simple nor scripted; rather, it takes a lifetime of basking in (or abiding as the Bible calls it) to even begin to understand it, to trace out its waves of light that convey energy and hope to the human that depends on it.

There is so much more to say, but I trust that God will say it. He’s always speaking to you, anticipating the joy He will share with you when you turn attend Him, when you bring your heart in full to share with each moment He gives you. When you discover that He gave you life to encounter Him, to experience Him, to disclose yourself fully to Him and find Him complying. That is just a tiny picture of who God is. If you didn’t catch the steadily growing whisper of freedom in the words, ask for God to change your perceptions of Him until they are true and delighting.

The God-Practice of heart change seen in reverse

God sure doesn’t go about changing the heart’s of people the way I would! If I were capable of such a God-activity as monitoring and manipulating the seats of personalities, I believe I would be looking to accomplish a lot less than what He sets out to do with you and me.

Rather than aiming at setting up a relationship between us and allowing our hearts and wills to collide, I think I would keep my distance and busy myself prescribing various avenues of cure — avenues that I would not have to go down myself.

As for methods of affecting the transformation needed by my patients, I would most definitely be seeking out the most uncomplicated and unharmful — for me that is! Two of my favorite “care” options would have little to do with me exercising care — you can be assured.

So far I have come up with two very simple processes I would like to call the zap technique and the extention technique. The patient would be given some measure of choice in the matter, but my recommendation would ultimately decide their fate.

According to the zap technique is designed to treat extremes found on the sin spectrum. A particularly good or abhorably bad would be speedily be transformed into the absolute in divinely inspired perfection with the press of a button.

Then for the more centrally located populace, I would get the exercise out of my heart-alteration practice by constantly hounding the illegitimately holy for all their missteps and then roughly making the corrections in their person as needed.

No one would voluntarily come to me, I can be sure; but I would not voluntarily help them either. My patience would be thin as a strand of floss and love for the sinner at my mercy would be non-existent.

Now, I say all these things because I am amazed that God is not just so with me. By all accounts of my sin, even with His forgiveness, His response to me should leave little room for error. Yet, God is not as like me as I would like to think He is. He loved me when I was just a figment of His perfect imagination, and so He created me and gave life to my little body.

In the full exercise of good plans He gave birth to my God-reflecting image and intelligence. And to this He added freedom that I might be crippled as something like a toy or a tool that can not move or speak on its own. He loved me down to the faculties that gave me expression — whether that should be good or evil.

Therefore when He goes to change me, it is not to start over or to set limits on what I can now be, but to open wide those avenues that I have closed with my willingness to turn away from Him. Now He walks in and takes my hand, saying, “Child, come with Me. I am going to show you what it means to be a boy/girl who does only the best of what she is capable of.”

Just that I might see His glory

How much the Lord encouraged my heart last tonight! I went to a young adult meeting at my church for the first time in months, and I got to see how He has been working in ways that I have not been at liberty to be involved with or aware of until now. The group there is growing in number, variety and passion for the Lord Jesus Christ. Praise God!

As we sang and listened to the message that followed, the Lord impressed upon my heart a few things that I needed to hear.

He showed me that He was fully aware of the thoughts and questions that I have had on my mind the past few difficult days. If I would listen to His voice, He would do for me what I asked earlier as I prayed:

Lord, please clear up some of my confusion and doubts about what You are doing with my life. I know that my heart has to be re-set on You and how my needs point me to because I will not be filled and made content any where else. Only You can bring my trials into proper perspective.

He began to show me how He saw things — with me and my position being represented so differently than I saw them with my own eyes.

“You have not been caged, Elaine,” He said, “Where you find yourself is not some kind of detention from the good things in life. You are not in a position so difficult that all you can do is sit around and feel sorry for yourself as you wait for someone to rescue you. I do not need to make your life absolutely carefree for you to recognize the presence of the freedom I have given you in your life. I have not left you with any remaining constraints that will mean your doom. I have given you life to know in the fullest through Me, and sometimes I choose to let you see how amazing this gift is by letting you see in temporary sufferings how great a wealth of suffering you have escaped because of My death that defeated hell’s right to torment your soul forever.

“Quit waiting for the bars to be removed from a prison that doesn’t exist for you anymore. I am not holding back any joy, peace, hope or purpose from you in allowing you to wade through the uneasy waters of this trial. Neither am I letting this hardship be in vain — I am developing from it invaluable fruits. The fruits of My Spirit can only be witnessed and exhibited by My people who know Me and abide in My love no matter what their present difficulties may say to the contrary. Your faith in Me and what I am doing even when you can’t see right now, is what will cause you to grow strong and confident and able to more fully understand the realities of My death and rising-again that are greater than you do now.

“The sorrows you know now are small compared to what you would know without Me. Since you have not realized this the freedom that I have awarded you is from sin and soul-slavery to Satan and a destiny spent in hell, you have trivialized what real freedom looks like.

You do not need to feel good all the time, or get out of the house on a consistent basis, or be oblivious to troubles in your life. You need life that includes Me and lacks nothing of spiritual abundance. When you appreciate that, when you hold Me as the awesome backdrop of your life, you have the strength to deal with whatever else lies in the foreground of it.”

The meaningless mystery of unexplored life

Just how balanced are the two?

This weekend I spent some time exploring the philosophical tenants of Yin Yang. Now, I won’t pretend here, I did find it more than a little disconcerting. If you are unfamiliar with this worldview, let me share with you some of what I read (I have chosen to include a lengthier portion of the Wikipedia article so that you may be as informed as is immediately possible):

the concept of yin yang…normally referred to in the West as (yin and yang) is used to describe how polar or seemingly contrary forces are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world, and how they give rise to each other in turn. Opposites thus only exist in relation to each other

Yin yang are complementary opposites that interact within a greater whole, as part of a dynamic system. Everything has both yin and yang aspects, but either of these aspects may manifest more strongly in particular objects, and may ebb or flow over time…

There is a perception (especially in the West) that yin and yang correspond to evil and good. However, Taoist philosophy generally discounts good/bad distinctions and other dichotomous moral judgments, in preference to the idea of balance. Confucianism (most notably the philosophy of Dong Zhongshu, c. the 2nd century BCE) did attach a moral dimension to the idea of yin and yang, but the modern sense of the term largely stems from Buddhist adaptations of Taoist philosophy.[2]

In Taoist philosophy, ying and yang (☯) arise together from an initial quiescence or emptiness (wuji, sometimes symbolized by an empty circle), and continue moving in tandem until quiescence is reached again. For instance, dropping a stone in a calm pool of water will simultaneously raise waves and lower troughs between them, and this alternation of high and low points in the water will radiate outward until the movement dissipates and the pool is calm once more. Yin and yang thus are always opposite and equal qualities. Further, whenever one quality reaches its peak, it will naturally begin to transform into the opposite quality: for example, grain that reaches its full height in summer (fully yang) will produce seeds and die back in winter (fully yin) in an endless cycle.

It is impossible to talk about yin or yang without some reference to the opposite, since yin and yang are bound together as parts of a mutual whole (i.e. you cannot have the back of a hand without the front). A way to illustrate this idea is to postulate the notion of a race with only men or only women; this race would disappear in a single generation. Yet, men and women together create new generations that allow the race they mutually create (and mutually come from) to survive. The interaction of the two gives birth to things. Yin and yang transform each other: like an undertow in the ocean, every advance is complemented by a retreat, and every rise transforms into a fall. Thus, a seed will sprout from the earth and grow upwards towards the sky – an intrinsically yang movement. Then, when it reaches its full potential height, it will fall. (emphasis mine; material cited: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yin_and_yang)

As interesting and plausible as any of this may seem, it does not agree with the witness our Creator has given us of this world we dissect. This theory is surely a comfort for those of us who have no frame of reference for why evil exists and how we are subject to it. So long as we are in confusion we will seek for ways to simplify. What gore threatens us we will subjectively redefine. Without the keys to engaging these mysteries we will consistently manifest fictitious realities that we can approach with confidence.

The problem with each of these approaches is that they never free us to fully investigate life. Ignoring the Cause of things forces us to covering up mystery does not make it less of a reality, it just reinforces our fear of the truth. There is no question the truth is unnerving and sometimes exactly what we don’t want to hear, but it can never be said to bind us. Truth leads to more truth, freedom to more freedom, while lies and half truths keep us bound in a specific pattern that we might not disturb the whole.

We were meant to be free and unfettered. Although some will say that God is the Only One who can keep us from such an existence, quite the opposite is true. In fact, without God the idea of someone having any freedom at all is a myth.

Then what is the truth and how does it free us…

and how does it contain God all at the same time?

The truth tells us that we are broken,

that this world is to hard and evil for us,

but even though we are part

of the problem,

we discover

freedom

for

the first time

in knowing

we don’t have to

stay here.

Forever God —

who is good and

Oh, so full,

full of mercy —

is reaching out to us;

He wants to calm our fears

to bring to us healing help

known to us

only when

the residence of His presence

claims our hearts today.

He will hold nothing of

peace and grace

back from us,

so long as we

open our souls

up to Him —

our Generous Father…

God.

The Way We Were

Remember way back when, when you first discovered Christ? What was your response? What did you think He was all about? Or were you too distracted by the offenses you had against His followers to look as far as the Guy this whole thing is really about?

I hope that was not the case. I hope the main object for you never really was His followers, but Who is to be followed. Not a consideration of whether you could really “do” following Him, or whether you wanted to be connected with this bunch that come with Him, but whether Christ really mattered, whether He is the Way, Truth and Life that He claims to be. The One who won’t let you get by without letting you hear His voice.

And, no matter what your original response was, I hope that isn’t all that remains now. I hope you haven’t stayed with a “yes” or a “no” that is so old it has grown stale. You wouldn’t even know that it ever had relevance because it has lost its affect. Does what you said then line up with what you live now? Have you learned anything in the interim that should have inclined you to search deeper into what is true, and is really worth believing, or have you ignored a multitude of opportunities to discover a reality you never knew?

Have you rationalized that there is no more to God than you already know/believe because you don’t want to hear any more? You are determined that you will not set yourself up to receive any kind of information or influence that will potentially discredit your ideas or pressure you to adjust what you’re grounded in?

But, isn’t the final decision for what you believe one that rests with you? With all this power and responsibility weighing on you, wouldn’t it be best to research the options you have as much from the inside as you can? To refuse to investigate the truth, we will always be satisfied with lies that are just close enough to the truth for us to be at home but not too unnerved.

That is no place to live out a lifetime, no place to put down roots and declare ourselves firmly established. If we do, we are deceived.

We were not meant to be masters of our own fate so much as we are told by others who want this quantity of independence so badly. We were meant to have the fullness of life in dependence. I know, this can sound like an oximoron. But it only fails to apply to our lives when we see our lives in the wrong light.

If we still believe we can have everything here and now on our own and be fully satisfied, then we truly do not have any need for anything else to further “complicate” our lives. But, if we are people who can agree that we have any need at all, then we must confess that we are needy people.

We cannot look at our lives as a million different pieces of a puzzle that must be all in place for us to enjoy life at all, or as a youthful lark that we need make no provision for, but as an adventure, which must be planned for and fully entered into to be fully enjoyed; an adventure that would make no sense if it ended in a deep, dark hole with no one at our side because we just followed where the road took us.

No, instead, we have options when we set out on our way. You may be saying at this point that you’re not really interested in adventure right now. Well, the truth is, whether you see yourself as the adventurous-type or not, you have been born into an adventure that is already in full swing. Your job, since you were ushered into this, was to make the most of where you are, using everything you have to find out the whole point of what is going on all around you.

Don’t be fooled by philosophers and their pets who tell you that this is all there is and you are not to dream that there is any meaning behind what you can see with the naked, physical eye. There is so much more — whether you find it or not, it is still there, dictating the deepest realities in life, holding you together in spite of yourself.