A graphic to speak about an old personal problem that plagues dozens of people every week.
According to a recent article, Peter Jackson confirmed the existence of a third part to the Hobbit on Facebook! If you’re as huge of a fan as the LOTR series as I am, then you’ll LOVE this news. The artistic splendor and majesty of this series is quite something to be behold, I do not know of any other series/movie that truly brings out a fantasy as this one has. I’m confident that it will continue to do so because Peter Jackson is going to be directly involved in the production of this trilogy. While some argue that the LOTR trilogy does not compare to the books, I do not think that’s a fair comparison. Obviously, three books cannot fit into a film, it would have to be transformed into a TV series. So I don’t know about you, but I look forward to watching this!
No, they do not. If a person wants to murder, there are various means of accomplishing this. Weapons can be acquired through illegal means, for example. By enforcing gun control, you’re only preventing the good guys from protecting themselves, thus making it easier for a person to commit murder. Now, there may be a place for a background check before purchasing, but I do not think the use of weapons to murder somebody should prevent a person from protecting their family.
From July 9th to the 18th, I had the privilege of visiting PX in Utah – the god forsaken land of mormons. He has been an excellent friend of mine for a long time, but we had never met in the flesh. While this was talked about a year before, I think finally we found a day where the timing seemed right. The primary setback was discerning when it was God’s will for us to see each other, which we both regarded as essential to our process of making decisions (Proverbs 3:5–6). Part of it just required patience, and an examination of when we’d be most available for hanging out with each other. The other part required recognizing what my purpose or role in being there would be while I take note of the patterns in dates and circumstances. As I did so, I think the primary purpose for visiting him was simple: be there for him when he needs it the most. From there, I realize that the three weeks of awe began on the 9th of July, which is notoriously known for being a bad point in history for the jews and the christians (not going to explain that here). This pattern in history also seemed to reflect a time where PX’s spiritual struggles were most prominent. Then given my spiritual circumstances, it just seemed like the next step in my journey. So for the first time in my life, I set out to travel to another state on my own.
To get there, I decided to take the Greyhound bus because it seemed like the cheapest route. Looking back though, I think that was a bad decision because I could have saved $10 getting there by plane instead. Never assume things when you’re dealing with money folks. To make my decision even more absurd, Greyhound has a bad reputation for its dirty seats, bad drivers, awful customer support, shady customers, and late arrivals. They give tickets for buses that may already be filled with people, which is ridiculous. My friend Michael (who escorted me to the Greyhound station) told me of an experience where he had to lay down on the floor to rest because there was no seat! To complicate things further, I had planned to stay until the 23rd but due to some last minute housing issues, I would have to reschedule it to the 18th for a $15 fee. And I was ill-prepared for the 17 hour trip because I forgot to bring some food with me! So you see, things did not seem to be looking up in my favor.
However, despite things not being in my favor, I was miraculously able to have an otherwise pleasant trip to Utah. Waiting for the bus with my friend Michael was great, it put some ease to an unfamiliar experience. To reschedule it though, I waited in line and as I was helped, the man noted that I would have to pay a fee and as I was getting my money out, he suddenly changed his mind near the end and said that I did not have pay. That in itself was such an amazing experience because it clearly revealed God’s blessing over me. By the time the bus arrived, the seating was quite open, perhaps due to the fact that I was traveling at 12 midnight. First destination was Las Vegas, which was not all that amazing to me, but I did like the scenic view of things. Throughout the trip, I had more time to pray to my God and read through a book called “Practicing the Presence of God” by Brother Lawrence. It was quite inspiring though, because he went to the point of not even lifting a piece of straw without communing with God. This was exactly how I wanted my relationship with God to be.
I was finally reaching my destination, and PX was patiently waiting outside the station under the scorching heat. Thankfully, I was in the bus and its AC was good enough to keep me fairly cool. At any moment, I also realized that my bus could just have easily broke down as well, thus delaying my arrival. But God was gracious and I met PX face to face for the first time. You know that feeling when you meet someone face to face and he seems completely different? Yeah, I didn’t experience that at all. For some reason, it just felt as if we started right where we left off in our AIM chats. No actually, it was weirder. It felt as if this was something we had already done before, and this was just another part of our daily life. Of course it was still a new experience, but as far as our friendship was concerned, we’d talk to each other without any problem at all. PX provided me a quick tour of the city and I went into the mall to see if it was any different than the malls I had over here. Turns out that it was not much different.
Later on, he introduced me to his family and friends. It was funny though, because his brother was worried that I might be some serial killer or something and PX played off of that. He introduced everyone to me in this exact way: “Have you met my friend Gil, who is not an actual axe-wielding psychopath?”. This is a concern that was shared by my family as well, but I personally knew nothing would happen. These stories of online-to-real life experiences turning bad are the result of lacking discernment. If you’ve been around the internet as long as I have and if you have had a friend for as long as I have had Isaac, then you will be quite confident of your friendship. The other concern was harm that could come through other means, such as an accident or something of that sort. Well, that didn’t worry me either because I trusted that God would let me die if it was my time, but for now, I knew it was not my time. There are still things I must do, things I must become before my death arrives.
In any case, the Lord was gracious enough to provide me a very comfortable living space at his grandparent’s home. Felt like sleeping in heaven! Got the chance to really experience what it is like for him to work as a designer/student at a college. He gave me an entire tour of his city as well, which gave me some great photo material that I should be adding to WalkingChristian soon. I personally had some incredibly stimulating and insightful discussions with PX on topics like apologetics, Aquinas, hearing God, supernatural gifts, and some personal struggles that we have gone through. For the three days that I stayed there, I was mostly getting situated. His grandparents were especially kind to me as they would prepare me meals every day, something I am not particularly used to at my home.
The Camping Begins
After all of this, the camping trip began and I got to meet all of these new faces. I have heard about them every now and then from PX before, but I just couldn’t associate a face or a personality to them until now. The experience was very surreal, I have to say, because I have never went camping before. Everyone immediately got into the van together and here we were playing worship music in the car, and they would be making the silliest jokes. For example, one time, Corbin was goofing around saying he had a new song and he randomly struck the guitar and was like “Black people… FREEDOM… What a joke!”. We all laughed, not because we’re racist but it was just a friendly tease toward PX’s brother who was black. By the time we were at the camp, I helped get this large tent prepared with everyone else and we ended up breaking a few tent stakes with a rock. It was surprisingly easier to set up than I expected, though.
During the camping trip, there was a lot of goofing around. They’d play in the river and build dams, play football at the beach, or play capture the flag. This was all well and good, but I kind of expected and hoped that we would have spent more time in God’s Word. It seemed like the discussions were centered too much on worldly things like girls and movies. That’s not to say that such topics are in themselves immoral or something, but just the *way * it was talked about could’ve been done in a more godly manner. Some of the blame could be put on me for not doing more to focus on that, however. I was essentially quiet for 80% of the time, and everyone picked that up immediately. Just wasn’t fond of making jokes at the risk of being foolish and didn’t know about the topics enough to really participate. At times I would question whether I was of any use there.
Regardless of those issues, I did enjoy myself there and would gladly go again. Experiencing God’s creation for three days was beautiful, it provided a sense of tranquility, away from the busyness and loudness of the world. The worship music was engaging, to the point that our camp neighbors and the mormon camp owner came to hear us sing. PX had previously joked around about them coming and said we should put some chairs up for them. It turns out that it actually happened, which was an amazing experience. PX’s teaching on rising up to our calling was the most inspiring message of the camping trip, in my opinion. He just nailed it so well, it was clear that the Spirit was speaking through him. On Saturday, we had the best discussion on the nature of the anointing, how that applies to our lives, and the the difference between anointing and calling is. The prayer that we had during the campfire at night was particularly powerful as well. And as far as one on one goes, I had a very personal time with Jesse (the leader) and PX on how I desired to take my relationship with God further.
Some crazy things did happen on the trip. For example, there was this hawk that randomly dropped a half-eaten bird on the van. You could literally see the bird’s fresh guts sticking out, so we had to take it off and throw it to the side. Then Gabe found this very strange slug that almost looked like a snake because it was bigger than normal. He took the slug and put it into a bottle, put water in it, named it Horhei, and protected it like a pet. Then after it rebelled and refused to get out of the bottle, Gabe took out the slug and burned it into the campfire. It was really weird because colors were burning out and it smelled like crack. See what I mean? These guys are crazy! Poor Horhei. But yeah, I think these guys had some likable personalities and strengths as far as their spiritual gifts are concerned. They had a serious discussion on how they could further God’s kitchen toward the end and each one had some great ideas, which I was excited about!
Goodbye, My Friend
I cannot cover nearly as much as I would like to here, a lot can happen in over a week. The camping trip ended and soon enough, it was almost time for me to go back home. PX’s grandparents expected me to stay for a longer period of time, but I had already rescheduled my trip so it was too late. Their hospitality will always be remembered. PX and me spent the last part of our days watching videos on the Jewish Trinity, talking, and doing things at the college campus. At the very last day, I had a delicious meal with him at some chinese restaurant. My greatest moments throughout the trip was with PX, hands down. I just really enjoyed the quality of our discussions, it’s something I don’t want to ever forget. I noticed that one of the most common remarks about us was with regard to how well we got along given our similar interests. Toward the end, we had to part ways as I went back home and in a way, it felt like saying farewell to my own brother. Overall, I had some great experiences there and hope I can join everyone for camp again next year.
This is a little prologue to to Matisyahu’s new album Spark Seeker which I will post a full review of soon. This for now is the story of how we get to the new Album over the last year or so.
Matisyahu’s new album Spark Seeker certainty embodies a new style of music for him and a new place in his Jewish world view. Ever since the “Beard Incident” on December 13 of last year, we fans have been holding our breath waiting for the new record to be released this last Tuesday! Is Matisyahu still Jewish or has he sold out to the hiphop scene and forgotten his roots. The reason I loved him so much to begin with is because he was a shinning example of someone who can be come famous and still hold to very religious values. He was a rapper in black Hissidic garb with a full beard but he didn’t think of himself as a novelty, in his mind he was really a reggae artist and that made people really take a look at the things he was saying in his music and in someways it gave a lot of glory to God Himself. His path was not just about being an Evangelist for Judaism but to encourage people to discover their spirituality no matter where it is he even did a two songs with Christian band POD (Roots in Stereo and Strength of my Life).
So he shaved his beard, then he said through Twitter and Facebook “to those of you being cool thanks keep being cool, to those of you who are confused. I went to Mitzva and Shool this morning at 6 am just like yesterday morning.” But what did that mean? He promised us a new year full of the music of rebirth. With that we got the annoucnement of Spark Seeker Matis’ fourth studio album which was released this month. But fans and Jewish fans in particular remained skeptical. Next Matis is spotted with blonde hair… and finally to round things off, he stopped wearing a yamaka.
On June 6th we got our first look at the new style on the record when Matis posted a sneak peak to youtube of I believe in Love. Sure, Sunshine was released before this as a single, but Sunshine was nothing new, Matis has been performing that in his live shows since 2010. I personally fell in love with I Believe in Love after hearing it a few times.
At the same time we got another statement from matis saying “To My Fans- I will try to write a couple of ideas and thoughts, but I prefer to speak in my native language, the language of the soul, Music. So I will preface this piece by asking that before prescribing judgement to some pictures, please wait and listen to my new record “Spark Seeker” from start to finish. The record is infused with both Jewish and universal inspiration, as it is a reflection of my inner landscape over the past 2 years of its making. From visions of the Bal Shem Tov to Kabbalah references, prayers in Hebrew and stories in Yiddish, this record was both a spiritual and reflective journey full of transition and growth.”
This post felt more like an apology for changing his mind on the teaching about the beard representing God’s mercy and shaving it and begging the fans to listen to the new album and they would understand if only they listen!
So, I kept my mind open and when Spark Seeker Released I was thoroughly Surprised!
If you think nothing can create something, you have another thing coming.
A post series where I share links, articles, videos and basically whatever I found to be uplifting or interesting from my daily life.
Christanity Today reviews my man Matisyahu’s new album. I beg to differ on the beatboxing getting old!!
Bible Scholar Michael Heiser on the Jewish idea of the Trinity in Old Testament. Fascinating stuff!
Facebook images I liked.
So I have been away from the blog for some time now. After hitting a wall in late May-Early June. I am happy to report that our very own Gil S. who came out to UT in the flesh to show support.
While in town Gil attended our much anticipated Arise Young Men’s Camping retreat. On this annual trip some of my closest friends and I head up into the woods and stay for a few days reading, preaching, and teaching the word of God to one another (with lots of battling river monsters named Jorge and football on the side). I personally preached a message on entering the promised land despite the giants that may be there and the consequences for disobeying God. Then we heard a wonderful lesson on marriage from our Senior Pastor. Next I had the opportunity to co-lead a Bible study lesson on the anointing of God through Christ with the Spirit. The trip concluded with a message on Peter and prayer for one another to reach our God given calling.
This trip really helped me progress spiritually and I don’t know about my friends, but I’ve been on fire for the last week. I’m ready to do something for God, accept my promises from Him. Step out in faith and do something and over all reach my calling. Also, Gil and I discussed a common vision for the Walking Christian site and I’m ready to get back into the swing of things and help this blog get closer to its essential vision of being a place completely saturated with the presence of Christ in every aspect of daily life. Let’s do this thang. Any prayer for my life, or the blog in general would be much appreciated.
My name is Michael, and I am new here – greetings to all! I suppose I should add that I am not only new to Walking Christian, but new to Christianity as a whole. The story of my coming to Christ can really be summed up in one of my favourite Bible verses, Matthew 7:7: “Ask and you shall receive, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you”. It’s a favourite of mine for its deceptive simplicity; it puts the destination and answers in such an accessible place, and in that sense is so reassuring. And yet hidden within it are riddles which you have to unravel for yourself; how should you ask? Where, and for what should you be seeking?
I was born and raised by two atheist parents, both of whom sit squarely on the liberal side of both social and political views. My father is about as atheistic as a person can be, and is a big fan of Marxism. His interests lie more in political philosophy than the philosophy of religion however (as the Marx interest may indicate). It was in sociology and political philosophy that he earned his degree many years back. My mother is also an atheist, albeit not such a strong atheist as my father. She has a profound love of education, not just her own but in that which she can provide for others (a graduate of Cambridge, she has now been a teacher for many years). Ironically in hindsight this was perhaps the best situation I could possibly have been born into from the perspective of finding God, and I have no doubt that this was a part of His plan for me. You see, while both of my parents consider themselves atheists, they also believe PROFOUNDLY in freedom of choice and religion. As such, they raised me to always make up my own mind about things. They are both lovers of philosophy, education and travel and tried to raise me and my brother in a very well rounded way. They believed in providing us with the tools and ability to reason and form our own ideas and beliefs, rather than providing us with the ideas and beliefs themselves. This meant that when I began my search, it was always MY search. I was never simply reciting beliefs or ideas that were foisted onto me, and right at the outset I wish to say that I am very grateful for being fortunate enough to have the freedom to come to God myself in my own time.
Up until about the age of 16, I would say that I was an atheist but I was more the apathetic atheist than the genuine “there is definitely no God” atheist. That is, I had simply never really cared about religion. As my parents were atheists religious ceremonies or practices had never played any big part in my life, and as a child I had not acquired that capacity for real thinking yet – so it had never been an issue for me. At 16 I had only just really come to an age of genuine, independent critical thinking so this was the first time I took notice of such things. It began more with an interest in philosophy than in religion specifically. I started to read the philosophy of ancient Greece which fascinated me (I couldn’t put down Plato’s Republic once I had started it). Over some time I read more and more philosophy and was amazed at how sometimes I would happen upon an idea that I myself might have toyed with – and would be yet more amazed if I discovered an idea that I had never thought of in my wildest dreams (this is the arrogance of the teen philosopher – usually last into the early 20′s, but some manage to retain it for their entire lives!). Through this read I found myself taking more of an interest in the philosophy of religion. By this time I would have been about 18, and was spending greater portions of the day in pure thought. It was a glorious time because I was on that cusp between the obligations of school and the responsibilities of adult life, which afford me great freedom to just sit for great lengths of time either thinking or writing. This was the first time I would say that I called myself a genuine atheist. I firmly believed that there was no God, and spent great amounts of time debating the matter over the next 4 years (debating not only
with others, but with myself). The yearning for me at this point was to find truth; something inside me was telling me that there was truth of some kind beneath the surface of the everyday world and the fire that kept me searching was the desire to find that truth.
During that 4 year period, I remember I came close to conversion once. I felt a force pressing on me, and felt like I was close to a massive turning point in my life. It was an incredible experience that I had only had a handful of time prior to my conversion; this overwhelming sensation that I was on the verge of something enormous. I felt I was about to realise something massive and that spurred me on (like getting your second wind towards the end of a race). I was reading more Catholic material, and had also become fascinated (almost to the point of obsession) with Gandhi – a man who I felt had found that truth that I was after. The man had a remarkable philosophy on life which depended on an interesting mix of his own Hindu beliefs, but also those of Christianity – he remains one of my greatest heroes to this day. I felt that if I could learn from him, that I could tap into what he had found. Tolstoy was a big influence on me at this time as well. The whole thing was a religious experience for me, and an eye opening experience. But I know I was not ready at that time. I had seen a glimpse but my heart was not ready to open to it yet. I lapsed into a confused agnosticism which caused great spiritual frustration for me at that time.
One of the biggest turning points at this stage was that I met my girlfriend (of now 4 years!). She herself is a Baptist Christian, and always tried to encourage me in my own search without pushing anything on me. She was always willing to answer questions that I had relating to her religious beliefs (as much as it probably drove her insane, she knew I was a very curious person and tended to ask lots of questions).
She was with me through the darkest time in my life; the point where the search seemed futile. I began reading some existentialist writings, and I found that most of the classical existentialist thinkers had evinced this MASSIVE problem…….and yet none seemed to offer a solution (or rather, none offered a solution that satisfied me personally). This dragged me down and down into very dark and hopeless places, where everything seemed utterly pointless. I was diagnosed with clinical depression at that time, and at rock bottom I spent much of my time crying. I had suicidal thoughts on a couple of occasions; not emotional thoughts but coldly logical thoughts. Camus had asked the question if suicide was the only logical conclusion to life’s apparent pointlessness – and I was toying with “yes” as an answer to that question. My girlfriend was my support at that time, and she was with me always to help me through. I realise in hindsight that God was with me also, even at my lowest point.
There was one existentialist thinker who fascinated me and seemed not to sink into the despair that many of the others did, and that was Kierkegaard. He was a man who valued faith above all else, and was responsible for an idea that impacted me in a big way: subjectivity is truth (and vice versa). That opened a door to me, and I began to realize the importance of the fact that the world as we experience it is completely subjective. Not relative (in this sense anyway) but subjective. That is, two people could view the same event and could be affected in two completely different ways by it. This was a big turning point, as it pushed “free will” to the foreground, in terms of importance. I had always liked the Stoic idea of happiness being derived from distinguishing between the things we can control, and the things we can’t – and ceasing to worry so much about the latter. Now here I was, beginning to realise that a large part of the cause of my depression…..was myself. Or rather the patterns of thinking that I had adopted. This led to the conclusion that I could choose to break those patters, even create new ones.
This put the control back in my hands, so to speak. I began to tell myself that if I was going to break the cycle of negative thinking that I was in, I would have to FORCE myself to see certain things from a different perspective. I thought back to the last time I experienced the closest thing to peace, during the time of my obsession with Gandhi. I tried to pin down what I had done differently, and realised that it was exactly that: I had always chosen to try and see something positive in everyone and everything. The key point being that I had CHOSEN to. I had made these choices, and as a result it became habitual: I started to see things positively without effort. It’s comforting now to think that through all that time that things seemed completely open ended to me – God’s hand was on me. He knew all along where it was leading, and He was allowing my choices to unfold and for me to gradually understand them. Exactly like a parent raising a child!
By this time my passion was thoroughly renewed and massive things were changing for me, the biggest relating to the verse I began with. “Ask and you shall receive”. You see, I came to the realisation that up until this point, I had been asking with my head. I had been trying to find God in books, debates and reasoning. I thought that there must be some way for me to reach this hidden truth I was seeking by simply thinking about it, and proving it one way or another. Now I found the obstacle: myself. Well, more specifically my heart. I had been asking for some time now, but only with my head and never my heart. My realisation was that you cannot find God while your head is open but your heart is closed. Your head (or rather your mind) is capable of incredible things, but it doesn’t drive you. It does the work, but it doesn’t provide you the FIRE that drives the work. Your heart is in fact where the “real” you lies, and your mind is a brilliant tool that “you” can utilise (so long as you remember who’s in charge!). This was it, now I was really knocking at the door, and I could feel I was back on that cusp that I had been before. I could feel God pressing on my heart, and I was going to listen this time.
He knew that this time I was ready, and He told me exactly what I needed to do in no uncertain terms: so I typed into Google the words “New Zealand Monastery”, and clicked on the first link that came up. I was acting now on pure faith, I had no idea what to expect or what I even expected to get from this, I only knew that God wanted me to do it. So I contacted the monastery and arranged to stay for one week beginning the day after my 26th birthday.
The apparent insanity of what I was doing was brought home to me when I stepped off the bus after a 12 hour bus journey. It was pitch black, and I was in the middle of nowhere in a forest. A few meters in front of the bus was a single car with an old man stood by it – Father Niko had arranged to meet me to drive me the rest of the way to the monastery. As I got into his car, the thought raced through my mind “I am getting into a complete strangers car in the middle of a forest at night – and I have no idea where he is going to take me”. Suffice it to say I was a little apprehensive.
The week I spent at the monastery could not be put into words even if I tried my best. I stayed in a small hermitage a little way away from the main monastery; it was a tiny (and I mean tiny) little building in the middle of the forest. It had the essentials: electricity, hot water, a fridge containing milk, bread, margarine, and a cupboard with a couple of varieties of cereal and some tea and coffee. And that was it! In the mornings and at several interludes throughout the day you could attend worship in the monastery, singing in Gregorian chant with the monks. There were two meals a day prepared by the monks themselves which everybody attended. And the rest of the time I spent in the forest studying, meditating and praying. I met many wonderful people, some of whom I am sure I will remain friends with – and I gained the wisdom of a spiritual director, in Brother John. Our conversations in the garden house come rain and shine will be with me forever. The experiences I had at the monastery were like nothing before and nothing since – and I shan’t detail them here as I intend to keep them entirely personal for the rest of my life. Suffice it to say that they were profoundly spiritual, religious experiences which left me in absolutely no doubt as to where my path lay. I had knocked, and at that monastery God well and truly opened the door (and funnily enough, I can see him opening that door and saying to me “you’re right on time!”).
Coming back from the monastery was a huge challenge, because I now had to carry those experiences back with me into the hectic confusion that is day to day life. But I had direction now, and had asked Christ into my heart – with Jesus I knew what to do, and began my search for a church. I wanted to be baptized into the church of Christ. The beauty of this time was that I did not even need to think. At every point here I knew what the next step was and what I was supposed to do, and I knew this only because He told me and I listened.
The finding of my church was another blessing from God; I catch the bus to and from work every day, and this one particular day I turn the corner to the bus stop and look up. Somehow I had never seen this before, but on the side of this building (I don’t even know what it was, it certainly wasn’t a church) was written in big blue letters “Jesus is Lord”. I turned around, and right behind me stood St Peters Anglican Church. I must have passed this church a thousand times on my way to work and never paid attention to it. But on this day I knew that I saw these two things for a reason, and said to myself “Lord, I hear you loud and clear!”. And so I began attending church there every Sunday, regularly meeting with the Vicar (a wonderful lady by the name of Anne Priestley – couldn’t be a more appropriate name for a Vicar!). And I am pleased to say that last weekend I was baptized into the church of Christ, in front of my parents, my sponsors (Godparents for adults), and my new family at the Church of St Peters.
Almighty God, I thank you from the deepest part of my heart and soul for your unending love. I thank you for my journey which You knew I had to make, and I thank you for always pressing on my heart and coming to me – whether it be directly, or through the people in my life. Most of all I thank you that by your infinite grace and mercy, and through the sacrifice of your perfect and only son Jesus Christ, I have been saved. Amen.
It is clear that he does not pray, who, far from uplifting himself to God, requires that God shall lower Himself to him, and who resorts to prayer not to stir the man in us to will what God wills, but only to persuade God to will what the man in us wills.
— Thomas Aquinas