Tag Archives: change

In Case You Were Wondering…

You may have noticed that there is no longer a tree-and-starry-skies motif going on around here.  Instead, there is a brightly colored amalgamation of Precocious characters, ponies, puppies, and my friend Bryce’s face.  Allow me to explain via screenshot:

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The Meh Generation

Ask someone what their passion is and most people will respond with a hobby, like, or interest.  “I’m passionate about writing,” they’ll tell you eagerly, or “I have a real passion for the poor”, but how many hours of struggle and frustration and exhilarating effort have they really dedicated to writing that novel or raising money for those orphans that they’re always talking about?  How many nights have they been unable to sleep because they can’t stop thinking about that project, that person, that injustice that consumes their mind?  How can we claim to be passionate for something when we spend all our lives doing just about everything else?

We’ve sliced the meaning of passion to ribbons and ripped all of the action out until the word is just a sliver of its former self.  To our generation, passion means to find something interesting or desirable, love means to enjoy, hate means to fail to enjoy, and awesome means mildly impressive.  We are a passive people, and the devaluing of our emotional vocabulary is just one symptom of the apathy in our hearts.  Deep down, we don’t want to do anything.  We don’t want to engage our hearts, we don’t want to engage our minds, and we don’t want to take action or responsibility for anything.  We want to sit back and watch, to just take life in, and as a result we don’t know what passion is anymore.

Here’s how a friend of mine put it: “‘Passively taking it all in’ is exactly the attitude and behavior that disappoints me most about my generation – and is something I try to discourage the next generation from doing. Hatred and vitriol may be more frightening, at the first sighting, but apathy is harder to combat and correct. Some refer to the collective problem as a Me Generation, but I’m slightly more afraid of a Meh Generation. At least narcissists exhibit human emotion.”

This phrase, “Generation Meh”, has been tacked onto twenty-somethings lately, and it’s  a perfect description of our greatest downfall.  We can hardly bring ourselves to do more than acknowledge something’s existence and express our approval or disapproval thereof.  We can’t be bothered to feel deeply about it, we can’t be bothered to think deeply about it, and we certainly can’t be bothered to do anything about it.  Most of our responses amount to little more than a dismissive “meh” and a change of topic, even if our “meh”s are sometimes put a little more eloquently than others.

In the days when emotions held weight, when people cared about things, passion meant something over and above the norm, an almost unbearable emotional reaction that lead to a physical response, such a strong desire for some goal that they would overcome any obstacle to reach it.  Now, when most of our emotional reactions and psychological responses are as bland as rice milk, any real mental and emotional engagement with anything is stronger than anything we’ve ever felt.  So we call it passion and talk about it for a while, and our friends say “that’s cool” or “good for you” until the emotions are gone and we’re still on the couch, our most pressing goal to keep doing what we’re doing and try not to be bored.  Words don’t change things, passionate people do, and until we reclaim true passion for the things that truly matter, we’ll never accomplish anything.  I pray that God will fill young Christians today with His Spirit, that He will revive our comatose hearts with a hunger for action, because I don’t want us to be remembered as a generation of indifference.  I want us to be remembered as the generation that made a difference.

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Song of the Week: “Rediscover You” by Starfield

Today was a day of prayer on the Moody campus.  We gathered in the morning for two hours of corporate prayer, then the regularly scheduled 11:00 classes met and devoted the entire hour to praying together, and after lunch bro-sis floors came together in different locations around the school to worship together.  The change in atmosphere was palpable as we all stepped away from our normal daily routines and focused completely and heavily on God, and I noticed something as soon as the first morning session began.  I was uncomfortable.  I was fidgety, unfocused, and I felt like a fake if I tried to sing and pray like everyone else.  Somehow, in the most spiritually charged environment I’ve encountered in a long time, I felt out of place.  At that moment I realized a harsh truth, one I didn’t want to admit but simply couldn’t ignore.  Despite studying the Bible at a Bible institute, my passion for God is weaker than it’s been in years.  I’ve thrown all of my energy and devotion into other things, easing my conscience by making little efforts to make my relationship with God a higher priority.  Today He reminded me that He doesn’t want to be a higher priority.  He doesn’t want to be number one on my list of top ten passions, He wants to be my only passion.  He wants to pervade every area of my life and bring it under His dominion.  And, faced with my selfishness in blinding contrast against His unrestrained love and absolute worthiness, I realized that by stealing the focus of my life for myself, I was running headlong toward meaninglessness, and that the only life worth living is one lived for the glory of my Creator.  I made this song, “Rediscover You” by Starfield, my prayer, asking God to take away the things that steal my love away from Him and help me regain my passion for the Lover of my soul.

I need to just admit
My faith is paper thin
I’m feeling so burned out on religion
I say an empty prayer
I sing a tired song
I need to just admit
That the passion’s gone
And I want to get it back

You told me
Look for you, and I will find
So I’m here
Like I’m searching for the first time
Revive me, Jesus
Make this cold heart start to move
Help me rediscover You

I want to learn to pray
The way that David prayed
I want my soul to burn
When I hear Your name
I want to feel like new
I want to hunger for You
Bring me back to life like only You can do
‘Cause I don’t want to stay the same

CHORUS

Lord, I want to be Yours today
I want to know the passion of the saints
And how they were changed

I want to burn for You
Bring me back to life
Jesus, help me rediscover You

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Back to School

It feels strange to be sitting back at my desk, thinking about homework and listening to the sounds of Super Smash Bros. emanating from room 1211.  I spent less than 48 hours at home, but it still feels like a big transition going back to school.  Of course, I brought a few things back with me from home.  All of my candy is sitting in a bag on the floor, tempting me with its chocolate-and-almondy goodness, and Billy the Martian is sitting on my desk, not in a bag, staring at me with his red-rimmed eyes and toothy grin.  His tongue is shaped like a heart, so I guess that’s why he was on sale around Valentine’s Day, but he isn’t really that romantic of a fellow (you’ll agree after you see his cameo in tomorrow’s vlog).  Still, my favorite part about home, namely home itself, is still exactly where it was, four and a half hours away.  Is that a bad thing?  No, I have my own life to live (and a lot of studying to do) here at school.  Still, it’s impossible to be with the people that you love and not miss them when you leave.  Changes are tough in all of their various shapes and forms, and when you have a secondary home competing with the primary, it gets even more difficult.  Yet when I remember that every home here on earth, no matter how precious, is temporary, it’s not so hard to move from place to place, from one group of friends and family to another, because I know we’ll all be together forever one day.

I realized just now that I haven’t had a question of the day in a while, but since the theme of my last several posts has been family and home, here are a few questions to cover them all: Do you have a secondary home?  Where is your favorite place to be besides home?  What’s the biggest change you’ve ever had to face, and how did you deal with it?  And what’s the best birthday present you’ve ever received?

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Spotlight

When I decided to tackle the PostADay challenge, I knew that I would learn a lot about writing, and maybe a little about myself in the process.  I wasn’t expecting the learning to kick in so quickly, though, and I wasn’t expecting it to be quite this demanding.  I thought that maybe I would grow better at meeting deadlines or thinking on the spot, but the lesson that I’ve already learned isn’t one of language and creativity, it’s one of character and lifestyle, and it started with a question:

Why am I doing this?

Actually, it was worded more like, “Why are you doing this?”.  The Holy Spirit has a way of asking these potentially convicting questions at the least convenient (yet most important) times, and this time I was sitting in front of my computer again, checking the stats on WordPress and YouTube (again).  Here’s how the conversation more or less played out:

“Why are you doing this?”
“Doing what?  Checking the views on my blog?”
“Well, yeah, but I was being more specific.  After all, why are you looking at your stats?”
“Because I want to see how many people are viewing my daily posts.”
“Now, theres the issue I wanted to get at.  Why are you writing these daily posts?”
“(Awkward Pause).  Rephrase the question, please?”
“Don’t play stupid here, just think about it.  Why did you start on PostADay?”
“For the creative challenge.  I wanted to stretch myself.”
“Fair enough.  New question, then: why are you doing it now?”
“(Convicted Pause).”

One of the obnoxious things about being human is that the sin nature tends to creep in and ruin things.  What begins as a fun idea is slowly infused with pride and selfishness, and that attitude begins to spread into other areas of life.  Fortunately, one of the fantastic things about being redeemed by Christ is that the Holy Spirit is always there to see things that we are too oblivious to notice – or that we are purposefully ignoring – and He’s never too bashful to point them out.  Once He does reveal a problem, though, it’s up to us to do something about it, and that’s where I am now.  We’re only three weeks into PostADay 2011, and I’m already becoming a statistics addict.  My focus is drifting toward how I can get more views, how I can present myself better, how I can be more noticed, and I’ve started to stake a small portion of my happiness on how many people want to hear what I have to say.  I want to know that I’m heard, that I’m liked, that I matter.

It seems I’m not alone in feeling that way.  Everyone is clamoring for everyone else to come and listen to them, we believe that every thought that passes through our heads is worthy of attention and we have more platforms than we could ever exploit to help us bring those thoughts to the masses.  That’s not what this blog is, or should be, all about.  I write, vlog, read, study, work, play, and live for one person only, and I won’t find Him on any statistics page.  If what I have to say isn’t pleasing to Him, I shouldn’t even say it, and if my words bring Him glory then whether a million people read it or no one sees it at all, I should be satisfied.  It’s time to bring my focus back around to where it belongs – to knowing God and declaring His truth.  After all, the world doesn’t need more entertainment.  The world needs more truth.  The world needs to know the story of our great Author, and if I am truly His apprentice then I won’t steal His spotlight.  So, whether I post stories, songs, scripture, or even a little silliness here and there, I pray that it glorifies God and uplifts His children, because that’s what He designed me to do, and the day that I stop doing that is the day that I no longer matter.

Praying that that day never comes,

The Author’s apprentice.

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Journal Entry No. 6: Blue Jay

This journal entry is dedicated to my little brother, Jonathan Newton.  Thanks for the best sixteen years of my life so far, Jon.

We sat on the rough wooden porch beside each other, staring into the dim yellow twilight of the lampposts scattered along the asphalt pathway to the right. We stayed that way for a long time, conversing in our own unique dialect of silence, until at last Jonathan spoke. “I’m sorry.” We still weren’t looking at each other, but I knew the expression on his face well. His bright brown eyes were set hard against his emotions, but the tears glimmering just in the background revealed that his defenses were already weakening. “I’m sorry for being such a jerk and everything,” he continued evenly. “I shouldn’t have ignored you back there.”

I nodded slowly, “It’s alright. I understand.” More silence. My mind went back to the cabin behind us just five minutes before. I saw myself standing in the center of the room, words coming out of my mouth like hornets from a shaken nest, frustrated and venomous. Jonathan didn’t know, he was on the other side of the wall in Blue Jay 1, but I know if he had heard he never would have appeared in the doorway and asked me to come out and talk. “I’m getting so sick of this. Why does he always have to act this way?” All of my friends knew what I was really saying: “Why couldn’t he be a better brother?” Sitting there on the porch of Blue Jay, though, my own question turned on me like a righteous Benedict Arnold. My father’s words rang in my head, quietly accusing. “How is your brother? Make sure he’s doing alright, make sure he’s not lonely.” I’d left him hurting on his bed to be a next-door Judas, betraying his trust to indulge my own emotions. Looking back over the summer, I saw all of the days that he walked without purpose, his face dark and hard, and I knew I’d failed. How many times had I asked him if he needed to talk? How often had I gone out of my way to spend time with him? Why couldn’t I be a better brother?

I knew that I had no choice, I had to tell him, but I was afraid. If he knew what I’d said about him, that I’d put him down in front of my friends just for being human, would he be able to forgive me? I turned my head just half a degree, glanced at his face, opened my mouth. “I’m sorry, too,” I managed to whisper. Then, gaining strength, “I’m sorry I haven’t been there for you. I was just telling the guys in Blue Jay 2 about how frustrated I was with you for ignoring me, but the whole time I’ve been ignoring you, and I’m sorry.”

The silence returned, this time heavier and packed with intensity. Then I felt the slightest pressure as his arm moved up and rested across my shoulder, and warm reconciliation flowed from his body to mine. “It’s just so hard,” Jonathan sighed as I returned his embrace. “Knowing that you’re going to college, that this is our last summer together.” He paused. “I don’t regret any of it, you know.”

A jolt went out from my head to my heart and back. I turned to look him in the eyes for the first time that night, and I found them full of gentle redemption. I stared for a moment, transfixed, then I found my voice in the midst of my awe. “Any of what?”

“Of anything,” came his answer, quick and certain. “Of this week, of this summer, of us.”

“None of it?”

“None of it.”

His arm tightened around me, releasing me from bonds only he could break. We cried together on the porch of Blue Jay, cried for what we were about to lose and for all we’d just gained. The tears of hurt that we had held back minutes before transformed into tears of joy even as they fell, soaking into the rough cement steps below us and staining them with spots of shadow.

At last my tears retreated, leaving behind an emotional residue one step from numbness yet bursting with feeling, and I released my little brother. “Thank you,” I whispered.

Jonathan smiled, a divided smile born of sixteen years of brotherhood soon to be memories. “It’s going to be so weird,” he mused. “Who will I talk to when I’m supposed to be sleeping at night?” We laughed then, together, and I knew that nothing had changed between us, but at the same time everything was different. That summer was the end of our childhood, of our growing up together.

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Journal Entry No. 4: Lessons Learned from (After) the Media Fast

Sometimes the greatest lessons we learn in life come not during experiences but after.  Last week I committed myself to a media fast and, while I greatly enjoyed the experience, I am really learning my lessons now, in the aftermath.  It’s not the three step “hear advice, apply advice, succeed” type of learning, either; it’s the far less preferable, “hear advice, nod your head, go back to trying to defuse the bomb with a paper clip and a sharpie, blow up half of Chicago and spend two years in clinical rehab” type of learning.  Fortunately for me (and half of Chicago), I’m not working with bombs here, but that doesn’t mean that I can take the matter of media addiction as a joke.  I’ve seen what life is like without media, I know how much life I waste everyday entertaining myself, but I just jumped right back into it when the fast ended because I’m used to it, because it’s a habit.

It reminds me of sin, and even though I’d rather try to defuse a bomb than admit it, it probably is.  God created me with good works prepared in advance for me to do.  He expected great things out of me before there even was a me, and better yet he committed himself completely to helping me accomplish those good works.  What kind of man am I if I take control of this life He’s given me and use it for myself, if I refuse to take part in the unimaginably great things He has for me?  I’m a fool, and I know it.  Thankfully, God knew that since before I existed, too, and He still chose to call me.  He knew the cost and He believed it was worth it; now it’s up to me to decide if trusting Him is worth the price He’s asking from me.

How far will I have to go?  I’m not sure.  I don’t believe that God wants me to remove myself from all outside influences, nor do I think that He wants to chip away at everything fun in my life until my spirit cracks under the strain.  I do believe that God expects more for my life than I’m currently getting, and it makes Him furious to see me haplessly missing out on so much for nothing.  I believe that God will not stop working in me, tearing me apart, stopping me cold, and knocking me down until I let Him put me together, build me up, and set me running toward the priceless prize of a victorious, blessed, abundant, effective life.

It’ll be a messy process, sure, but I’d rather pursue wholeness erratically than collapse slowly and predictably.  Will I find exactly the right balance of media in my life tomorrow?  Not a chance.  Will I ever find it?  Probably not.  Will I pray consistently, work diligently, and move purposefully toward it?  Absolutely.  And on the days that I fail to do so, will I give up?  Never.  Because true change isn’t a simple, three step process.  True change comes from genuine perseverance and absolute conviction even when the monsters without and within fight against you full force.  True change means not always winning but always going another round, and in the end true change is the greatest victory.

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