The Quest: Part Seven

WHAT IS LOVE?

This is the second most important question anyone can ask. I want to quote a scene from my favorite movie Frozen.

The scene is set in a room in the Arindelle castle. Anna is with Olaf (the talking snowman). She is freezing, literally.

Olaf: Where’s Hans? What happened to your kiss?

Anna: It wasn’t true love.

Olaf: But we ran all the way here.

Anna: Olaf you can’t stay here you’ll melt.

Olaf: I am not leaving until we find another act of true love to save you…any ideas?

Anna: I don’t even know what love is.

Anna makes what I call the Great Confession. She doesn’t know what love is. We’re all in the same boat: We don’t have a clue!

I strike a snag here because I can’t explain love. Love is not explainable. You have to have it revealed to you. Through another person sometimes, or of course through God. But I’ll use two illustrations to help as much as I can.

Firstly, Anna’s story is a good one. She’s been shut out for years but she still has hope that things could be different. She slowly moves from blaming her sister, to accepting their differences, to appreciating said differences, to offering to start over with a clean slate; when still refused, understandably she doesn’t know what to do next. She has no idea what else she can try. Let’s return to her conversation with Olaf.

Anna: I don’t even know what love is.

Olaf: That’s okay, I do, love is putting someone else’s needs before yours.

With childlike simplicity Olaf sums up the basis of true love. We could just park right there because none of us are doing it. I don’t, you don’t, not all the time. When was the last time you did something for someone that didn’t benefit you in the least? Anna’s later act of true love is a perfect example. (SPOILER ALERT: She sacrificed herself for her sister.) Up till then she got something out of it if her sister, Elsa, returned, but that was the moment she put Elsa before herself. Just as Christians believe Jesus did for us on the cross.

Selah. (Pause and consider.) I have no words for how beautiful that kind of love is.

Example 2: “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures all things.” 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7

Is love a feeling? It can be. The Bible is full of scriptures like “My delight is in her” and “I am Zealous for Zion…with great fervor.” “Let me see your face let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet and your face lovely.” (There’s some more manly verses for you guys, don’t worry.) I used to think love was all feeling, then I thought it wasn’t feeling at all. Now I begin to think it is both. Choosing to love will eventually turn into feeling; and if you keep it up you can begin to enjoy the other person, even one who used to drive you crazy.

But first you have to let go of needing everyone to want you and need you. You’ll never get it by whining about it or thinking about it constantly. Only one person can fix the leaky place in you that feels alone even around friends; or empty, when the day before you felt full; or afraid, when you were feeling bold as a lion. If you know you need the kind of love described in the two examples, then you know what I’m going to say. Or maybe you’ve never heard of that kind of love before, well now you have. And it is real, I know it. T.T.F. N.

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Fear vs Love

“Heart beats fast, colors and promises, how to be brave? How can I love when I’m afraid?”– A thousand Years. Christina Perri

I watched a YouTube video by Blimeycow called “What is the opposite of love?” The answer was fear. That really hit home. It’s difficult for me to talk about. For much of my life I lived in fear, and I felt unloved, I felt alone, I felt no love for others. All because of fear.

I hate fear, but it’s comfortable, and I wonder how I can be brave and love.

God promises me He will make me brave and give me courage. The verse I believe God has given me to live my life by (Christians call it a “Life verse”) is Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” I learned this verse sometime in my elementary Sunday School years, and I’ve never forgotten it.

Love hurts. I have found that out. There’s always a person close to you who you don’t see eye to eye with, a lot hurt feelings and misinterpretation of things ensue. I have grown in loving this person, and it has increased the pain. Yet, even pain from love is better than the numbness of fear. I can atestify to that. Still, who wants more pain?

When I turn to God, sometimes I feel better, other times I don’t. But one thing I learn is how I’m really acting and what I want to be like. I’ve cried over failure and ranted in anger but my actions don’t always line up with what I thought I wanted, and sometimes that’s good and other times it’s bad.

Jesus is my answer. His name offends many, but when I hear it, it means something special, that I can’t really describe. Like the names of your family members do.

I am not as brave as I want to be, but looking back to how I was, I’m amazed at the change in me. There are still a few fears that plague me now but many fears are gone. The trouble is often Christianized fear. The one that masquerades as I-just-don’t-want-to-hurt-anybody. Usually not doing something because you’re afraid to hurts people more than doing it, but that never made a fearful person feel better.

I have dreams, ones fear will never let me accomplish. Dreams of changing things, of loving people even when they hate me. Of loving the unlovely, the unwanted, the ugly, the alone. There was a time when I was not afraid to do those things. Fear is not normal. Science now shows our brains are wired for love and not fear, fear is toxic. (I could’ve told them that.) God is love and there is no fear in Him.

When God talks to me about fears (and I’ve not heard a voice from heaven or anything) it comes back to faith and trust. No pixie-dust, but that old Disney rhyme has a grain of truth. I wonder why I’d stay in fear if I had a choice; but like I said earlier it’s comfortable. The fact of the matter is love has no guarantees except that it’ll be there. A fearful person, any person actually, wants guarantees. Security. And God is our only security. He is with us wherever we go.  Now for a few revelations. Health is not with us always, the police are not with us, fame, fortune, food, money, (ooh big one) friends, family, churches; none of these are with us wherever we go. They are not guaranteed, though many a time they are provided.

In conclusion, living in fear is just plain stupid. If God is for us. Now if God were against us it’d make perfect sense. So the simple solution is get on God’s side if you aren’t already. It’s my solution anyway. For more on overcoming fear watch for my upcoming article The Quest part 7. Until then, “Fear nothing when you’re in the right!”–Jack, Abbot and Costello’s ‘Jack and the beanstalk’

I’m Natasha and I’m a homeschooled kid.

So I was watching these videos on YouTube about homeschooling misconceptions, and I think it’s hilarious.

You could say “I’ve been a transfer student” and it would be less weird then “I’m homeschooled.”

I just want to write this to say I’m grateful my parents homeschool me. Now it’s not a project, though it may sound like that, it’s really just life. Which is what’s great about it.

I think being educated at home has given me a better view of what really matters. I’m not caught up in all the drama of who likes who, who’s the nerd, who’s popular, and will I get failed in this class? Seriously, why? I’ve failed once or twice but I don’t lose my self esteem over it. I get to ask the question, why is it so important to be popular? Aren’t we all nerds or geeks in some way? If you aren’t you probably don’t have a life.

Being homeschooled (or Home Ed. for short,) means you can’t run from your problems by the usual means. It’s really not about the schooling itself. It’s why.

I like learning. There, I said it. I like trivia games, word games, and games that require me to think. Honestly, it I went to a regular school I don’t think I’d like learning. I need space, to figure out things myself. One time when I was younger I figured out how to add multiplies of ten, without my mom’s help. I was exhilarated. It was a small thing, but it gave me a confidence that I could figure things out myself and come to a correct conclusion.

There are pitfalls. It’s easy for me to feel smarter than the “average” teenager. Superior brain power people! Of course anyone who’s heard me debate whether Barbie and Ken should be together might have their doubts.

That’s another thing about Home Ed. I ask  the question “Why?” Why do we think this way? Why do people do that? The tagline for this blog is a question and answer. Asking “why?” has given me a perspective I don’t take for granted. I know it has a lot to do with my parents and them taking the time to explain why they believe certain things. Also I read a lot.

On the weighty side, I knew about problems like politics; poverty; spiritual conditions; and  foreign diseases; all earlier than perhaps I needed to know. Yet I have been able to ponder the answers better because of it. My life view has always been pragmatic. I never have believed in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, or any fairy. St. Nicholas was a real person and parents put money under your pillow and presents under the tree. I get strange looks when I tell people this. I don’t get it. Doesn’t knowing this help you to know your parents better? What is so bad about that? Why do we need to believe fiction? (Not to sound angry or judgmental, it just doesn’t make sense to me. And, hey maybe you never had that problem, just ignore me in that case.)

Less compromise. My mom calls me “Miss justice.” Unfairness makes me a little crazy. No argument or debate is too small or too big…right?

No, I’m not brainwashed, indoctrinated, or otherwise told what to think. I am a Christian and so is my family and they have been all my life. Kids do not believe everything just because their parents tell them it’s true. Come on, give kids a little more credit than that. Kids stop believing their parents if their parents lie to them. Like telling them for years about Santa Clause and then saying “Um, yeah, he’s not real.” Any kid could then reason: “Hey if my parents lied to me about him, why not about God?” I’m not saying it’s just the parent’s fault, I’m saying the opposite. I always knew it was my choice to believe. I’ve considered the different views. Just because they’re my parents doesn’t mean they can’t have it right. Nothing else has ever made a whole lot of sense to me.

The funniest thing about homeschooling is socializing. I’m one of the few homeschoolers I know who has never been in much of a co-op or group (we tried it, but it fell away). So mostly I hang with my siblings and parents; and kids from my church. I’ve seen as much of regular school social life as I ever care to, and I prefer my siblings to a superficial sort of friendship. Not all school relationships are that way, but too many are. Socializing with people you’re around all day is hilarious.

Schooling is about learning when you’re ready and learning well and knowing how to use your knowledge. I highly recommend it, and I will homeschool my kids if at all possible.

Happy learning!

A good day to die hard

No, this is not about the movie. (Which I’ve never seen but my dad has, and the title is cool.) Actually this article is about an awesome, unpopular, and nonpolitical topic.

I’m starting with a quote: “Is there anything today, even in the imagination of the Christians, for which we are willing to pay the price of self-sacrifice? Any ideal left, any clear cut goal, any control of passion?”– Elisabeth Elliot, Passion and Purity.

She thought so, and so do I. Her words awakened a feeling in me, a remembrance. All the good, especially the great, Christian authors I’ve read agree that self-sacrifice is crucial. But let me define a few terms:

When I use the term self-sacrifice I do not mean self-harm, self-neglect, nor self-hatred in the emotional sense. None of those are biblical, or healthy. I mean denying yourself something you do not need to stay alive, that you enjoy, and is something you only get something out of but do not give. (Naturally I refer to giving good things.)

When I use the word denial as relates to self, I mean withholding a pleasure that you find you depend on too much or proves a distraction from more important things. I do not mean denying emotions or food and water. That’s another topic.

Religious means a belief-system based on doing good works in the manner I’m using it in.

Okay. Now I can proceed. Sacrifice. Are we willing to go through with it? I know it strikes some as odd, overboard, fanatical, and religious. It doesn’t have to be. For me it’s not just refraining from physical pleasures but it’s biting my tongue when I’m about to say something, apologizing when it’s the last thing I feel like doing, or not wallowing in self-pity. I think that out of all the aspects of love, self denial is the most crucial because it makes God’s love different from any other.

I wish there was a way for me to capture the beauty of self-sacrifice. But those who have a better understanding of it would do a much better job. But I’ll try.

Outwardly a lot of self denial seems pointless. I mean, most folks could see why I shouldn’t watch a show with cussing in it, but why I would choose not to watch the show because of the ideas it encourages–little ones even, like mediocrity? Another example: Refraining from drinking alcohol is understandable, but why would someone refrain from eating sweets (someone who had no physical reason) or drinking coffee? It’s not what you sacrifice, it’s how you sacrifice it; then again, the opposite is also true. I’m afraid I’m not explaining it well. What I mean is: the thing itself, big or small, doesn’t matter, it’s the obedience that God desires. But along with obedience we need the right attitude. Don’t lord it over other people when you refrain from something they agree with but don’t do themselves, nor be ashamed if they laugh at you (all easier said than done, as well I know). Once you understand these two things I believe you are on your way to understanding self-sacrifice.

If what you’re doing doesn’t hurt it’s probably not much of a denial. To be specific about what kind of hurt I mean, let me give an example: You know how it is when you get to a certain point underwater and it feels like your head is going to explode unless you come up? To me, that’s what it feels like at it’s worst; it’s this desire (sometimes big, sometimes not so big, depending on how deep in you are) to let go, relieve that pressure. It’d feel much better, it’s just one time, etc., until you feel like you’ll burst with longing. You don’t know denial till you’ve resisted this. To add yet another thing to this equation: self-sacrifice doesn’t usually pay off right away. I won’t say it’s not really a sacrifice. Refraining from a certain thing will at the very least mean you miss out on something you like, there could be worse consequences. All this being said, I repeat Elisabeth Elliot’s questions. Is it worth it? Or more accurately, is it worth it to you. I say yes. There is something that makes this all worth it.  Partly because I fear the Lord, but there is more to it. Why do people give up what they know would make them happy? what drives them on when apparently they’ve lost everything (I speak of the Elliot’s here). In a word. Love. We do it for love, and is it worth it? Oh yeah. It’s all or nothing.

At times I see clearly that I could never stop following God. You see, it’s a choice, yes. In following Him you have to make choices. Minute by minute. But He is so wrapped around my life that without Him I really wouldn’t have a life. Oh, it’s war all right. But what makes a person decide which side they’re on? Love. Love of the law perhaps; of what is right. Love of the fellow men who believe the same, or in my case (no offense anyone) love of the person leading. (Love motivates all actions selfish or unselfish. So I cannot leave it out of what I’m writing about.)

There is another reason sacrifice is worth it, but to describe it is impossible. Still I must try: Because I love God I trust (have faith) that my sacrifices are not in vain, and I hope for what is yet to come. I think I can best describe this by using this example. Picture a time when you’ve had a good day, even a great day, or sometimes a perfect one by earth standards. And you’re happy and content, but there was a longing you couldn’t describe, could hardly perceive, yet it filled your being. But it was a happy longing; you enjoyed it. (C. S. Lewis called it Joy, I do not, but I understand why he did, because as he said, to even remember this longing is better than to have anything else.) For me, a lot of times this  longing or remembrance comes while looking at the horizon or the sky and beholding a beautiful scene (there are many different scenes: the oceans, the mountains, the sunset, the stars, even a field will serve) and enjoying the beauty of it, maybe you’ve been there, even looking back to your early childhood can cause the longing to go somewhere… But not to any place on earth. You were happy at that moment. You were content to stay where you were. Yet you almost ached with longing. We’ve all felt this. The circumstances themselves doesn’t create this feeling, they give you awareness of it. Now what does this have to do with sacrifice? I bet I’ve kind of lost you huh? Well, in one of his letters Paul wrote that he counted all worldly things as loss for the sake of Christ. This deep longing reminds me that the things of the world are really empty. Even so, sometimes it’s hard to give them up. So let me reassure you as much as I can. Whether it’s a boyfriend or girlfriend, a food, an electronic device, a job, whatever it is; sacrifice is worth it. Whatever rewards you see will be personalized to you so no predictions here.

One last note: Contentment can be defined as “You wouldn’t ask for more, but you know more is coming. You are willing to wait and to do whatever you need to do and enjoy doing it.” And that is the best I can do at explaining sacrifice. Keep pressing one, keep fighting the good fight.

The Quest: Part six

It has been said that the greatest question anyone can ask is “What is truth?” This really ought to have been the first question in the series, but save for number five, I’ve put these questions in the order they seem to be asked. Sadly people wait far to long to ask “What is truth?” Some never ask it.

It is strictly necessary to address moral relativism here. Because this blog is about absolute truth, relative truth has no place here and I want to explain a little bit about why.

In one line moral relativism can be summed up: “If you believe something is true then it is true for you, therefore everyone has a different truth that works best for them.” Apparently then, this statement must work for everyone otherwise it wouldn’t be a statement but a suggestion…right? Right. How do we know that if you believe something is true then it’s true for you? By observation?

Well this statement really doesn’t work for me anyway, I don’t know about you. Though it is partly correct. If you believe something is true then it is true for you in that you could act upon it, tell it to other people, and live by it and you would not be guilty of hypocrisy or deceit. But that would not mean it was good or right. Suppose you convinced a child that slapping people was a way of showing gratitude. The child might believe you, but I bet it wouldn’t take long for him to figure out that his actions had adverse results.  At this point the child becomes responsible for choosing whether to believe it still or to move on.

That’s our choice friends, we are not guilty because we believed our culture’s lies. We are guilty if, after it becomes clear that it (the way of thinking) doesn’t work, we continue to believe it.

I think moral relativism clearly doesn’t work. It’s unreasonable because it denies reason’s existence. It is immoral because it denies that morality can exist. Think about it. If everyone’s truth is different, then everyone is always right, if everyone is always right then everyone is also wrong. What this will turn into is that the strongest will force their will on the weakest, because hey, there’s no other way to settle anything and man will not and cannot fight forever. I’m using reason by the way and I hate any philosophy that says my reason is worth nothing, why do I have it then?

Now I don’t mean that truth can never be personal, on the contrary the Bible clearly teaches that some things are left up to person’s own conscience. But mark this, things like what to eat, drink, and wear are left up to man–more or less, depending on which testament you’re in. Things like sex, worship, and words (far more important than most of us know) are not left to personal interpretation. There are clear wrongs and clear rights, and few people would argue about them nowadays. (I refer of course to people who believe in morality.)

In part 5, I discussed man’s need for God. Man’s need for God is demonstrated in man’s need for truth. Even the worst people make decisions based on absolutes. I take steps because I believe the ground will hold me up, that’s an absolute. Removing absolutes is like trying to walk on air. Who’d try it? In their right mind anyway. It grieves me that many of the elders of our time (represented primarily by the entertainment and public school administrations) are indeed teaching school kids that they must try to walk on air–that is to live while believing in no absolutes– they do try; but, as with all man’s attempts at flying; sooner or later they must come down. Often they crash.

People who don’t want God to tell them what to do will ignore Him. Using disbelief as an excuse. Others shove God into their own little box. Yet, they are miserable. You can train your brain to think with faulty logic, until it is nearly impossible for any real logic to get through, but you will never train your heart to not want solid things. How can there be depression or unhappiness if there are no absolutes? If that is the case then that’s the way it is, what is there to be unhappy about? But we are, aren’t we? And we’re scared too. One man has said “Either there is a God, or there isn’t, both (prospects) are frightening.” For my money, no God is much scarier than God. But for a lot of people God is the scariest idea because of morality. You see, people don’t like being bad, they like being selfish. Isn’t it true?

I could end there. But where would the hope be? If you believe in absolute truth, it probably saddens you that so many do not. But take heart, people do hate truth, but they also love it. There is a common ground between all men, that even bitter enemies may be friends for one moment, if they find one thing to agree upon. The same man who ignores truth may suddenly advocate it, and despite the seeming hypocrisy, that does give hope. Evil cannot win because man cannot be entirely evil.

To wrap this up, what is truth? A lot of adjectives come to mind. Truth is absolute, truth is good, truth is powerful (truth is power itself, every lie started with a true thing) but what is it? No man can make it, so either there is none (which cannot be or we would not seek it) or… or what? If something is real, but not of man, then I must conclude it is of a Being higher than man. God. God is truth. Pure truth. “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6)

And I’m back

I had a great time at camp.

Truly it was the best I ever went to, miraculous things happened right in front of me.

Things you couldn’t explain in the natural.

That may sound really creepy, but it isn’t, we’ve all had things in our lives that couldn’t be explained. It’s just part of living.

My perspective is no longer quite the same, my beliefs haven’t changed, I just believe it even more than before. That happens when you’re honestly convinced of a thing. (Like that you hate a certain type of music more each time you hear it.)

I have writings on some less talked on subjects that I want to post soon, I appreciate all the views by the way, I got a ton while I was gone. Don’t worry if you like my quest series because I plan to finish it. I might even start trying to upload images but I’m not sure how to do that so don’t hold your breath.

If anyone wants to know what the single most important thing I tool away from camp is, then I’ll try to sum it up:

It’s not impossible. Whether you think of your own private problems or of large scale ones involving other people, it is not impossible to solve it. Completely. You need the power that comes form Someone bigger than any problem.

I know that’s not very exciting sounding at first, but imagine every problem and trouble you have right now, what if you were just told the answer? Or what if it was just gone? That would be exciting