peace

I Don't Care by Michael Nichols

Once upon a time, I found Jesus. More accurately, He found me. After spending a really long time not knowing how much I need Him, I finally saw myself for who I was, and I called out to Him in response to His call to me. That was almost seven years ago. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I knew that I didn't love, not truly. I knew that in order to love, I needed to accept His. I needed to really believe He loved me. So I did. My whole paradigm changed that day.

That doesn't mean anything else changed. I was already on a trajectory away from Him. I was on a road I didn't belong on. As an excellent Wavorly song says, "Turning around was never so hard til I found us far apart." At that point, I was really far away, heading further, and had no idea which way to turn. Imagine yourself lost on a dark night with a broken light and a broken compass, and nothing but two ears and a voice guiding you home. Even better: imagine yourself in the Millennium Falcon, crashing toward Starkiller Base, unable to pull up, not knowing the defector storm trooper was a janitor and new nothing about blowing the place up.

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I had no idea what was in store. I really didn't. I knew things would be difficult, but I had no clue of the depth of it. I don't remember being as bombarded with temptations and heartaches as when I started following Christ. Yet I don't know that I've seen more personal growth happen in me than when I started following Christ.

I'm not going to blather on about all the things that happened between 2009 and 2013. If you've read my blog before, you know. If you want to know, read it.

In one respect, I'm glad for how far I've come, but it hasn't been without cost. That cost has been my ability to care.

I don't care.

Those are three words no one wants to hear. "I don't care" is giving up. On what? Anything.

Have you been told that before? It hurts, doesn't it? Knowing that you're not seen, not heard, invisible, inconsequential.

I hate that about me, which is great because that means all hope is not lost. But right now, that's a problem. The whole reason I decided to follow Jesus was so I could love, not so I could withhold love in apathy.

I'm not sure entirely how I figured it out, but I suddenly noticed lately how much of what has been happening in my life indicates that I don't really care.

The stagnancy of my romantic relationships?

Because I didn't care about anything beyond the moment, escaping the rest of my life.

My lack of reading scriptures or praying in a meaningful way?

Because I didn't care about anything beyond the moment, escaping the rest of my life.

My isolation from people I claim to care for?

Because I didn't care about anything but my own problems.

My inability to focus long enough to do successful studio takes?

Because I didn't care about them as much as I care about the things distracting me.

My inability to loosen up?

Because I don't care enough about living healthily enough to stop obsessing over the things I want.

My jealousy?

Because I don't care about much else than what I want.

Why I don't try hard enough to change any of this?

Because I don't care to keep failing or hurting, which is, by default, keeping anything good from coming of anything I'm going through.

I don't want to run away from my issues, but I also don't want to run into a worse place. Another song, by Linkin Park this time, says, "Sometimes I think of letting go and never looking back, and never moving forward so there'd never be a past."

Relatable? Too much.

Good way to live? Not ever.

The irony of the whole thing is that we tend to stop caring because of the weight that caring becomes. But to stop caring means your heart has to stop working, and if your heart stops working, you really can't go anywhere. You collapse. You stay where you are. You die.

When you stop caring, you are dead. And it definitely feels the part. At least pain lets you know you're alive, even though it means you're fighting to stay that way. When joy happens, you know you're alive and free.

That's what I think is so powerful about the "joy of salvation" that people talk about. Not only are you alive, not only are you free, but you are now set on a path of becoming more like Christ until His coming, when everything corruptible in us will be replaced with something incorruptible, and we enter eternal life and eternal freedom, where all darkness ends and the light only grows, extending into every corner of creation. It's unstoppable. It's unstoppable good, unstoppable beauty, unstoppable life.

That's something that's actually worth caring about. When we lose sight of that, it's not hard to stop caring about things, especially the more we know about evil and hurt.

I guess that's what I've been missing. With something lasting to care about, whatever else is valuable to us, whatever else brings joy, although temporary, finally gains its true meaning. We finally have a reason to care about it.

A reason to care about him.

About her.

About anyone, anything.

But without context to something eternal, how can anything temporary have meaning?

"Our light affliction, which only lasts for a moment, is working toward an eternal glory that far outweighs anything else. That's why we look not on the things that can be seen, but the things that cannot be seen. Why? Because the things we can see are temporary, but the things we cannot see are eternal." --Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:17-18 paraphrase mine)

Editorial: Election Day, Rallies, and the Death of Secret Ballots by Michael Nichols

I hate politics. I really do, but alas, here I am, feeling a need to talk about them.

Of all things for society to hate, along with the discussion of religion, we had danged well better be talking about them. Living in the democratic republic in which we do, it is our responsibility to take seriously the role we stole back from the king of England in the 18th century.

To gawk at voting, rigged or not, is to shirk responsibility. If you have the power to change something bad or preserve something good, but do nothing, you are as guilty, if not more guilty, than he who executes injustice. I hate to judge, and I don't mean to do so, but we need a sense of urgency to execute justice, now more than ever. Also, note that this is an editorial. These are my thoughts, opinions, and their reasons. So, that being said, let's begin.

(Note: For those of you who read internationally and aren't familiar with how the government of the United States of America is structured, here's the basic gist. Citizens vote to elect people into power with secret ballots. The branches of government are three: executive (the Presidency and his Cabinet), legislative (Congress and Senate, two groups of representatives for each of the States, who vote on laws, passing them to the executive branch to be approved or vetoed), and judicial (meaning the people who interpret the law to judge court cases). Despite the fact that citizens vote for people based on what they're stated policies are, citizens do not directly vote on the laws. This leaves a gaping hole for political hypocrisy and corruption to fester. Those are the basics.)

I hate political yard signs. I despise political yard signs. On my way to work this morning, I passed at least ten signs, spaced no more than ten feet apart, for the same candidate, across from (and probably set up by) the same company. This would not be the only instance. No, every neighborhood I've driven or walked through in the past two or three months has been the same.

I'm also a first-amendment advocate. I like to talk and write and publish and do these things frequently and in large spats. That being said, we have something called "secret ballots," meaning simply that you have no business knowing who I voted for unless I don't mind you knowing. Apparently, a lot of people fall into that category. Fine. That's your business. Personally, I don't care who you vote for--well, I do care if they're a poor choice, and I do care if your choice comes back to bite me, and I really care if my choice comes back to bite me. (Like, "Did I really just vote for that?")

Secret ballots, though, were meant to be secret for a reason. Voting autonomously and anonymously ensures that our mutual desire to execute liberty, though it may be on different terms and by different means, is not threatened by the diverse nature of humanity, not conspired against by its governors. That's why I value my political privacy very much, just as most of us value our digital privacy. That's a whole different topic, but is it really? So much of what we do these days is digital. Not that we should worry about our secrets being divulged (what are we guilty of that requires secrecy?) but what if they were? Whose business is my transaction history? Whose business is it who I talk to or refuse? Who but God should have any say in the words of my conscience?

Speaking of private things becoming public, what is it about our desire to attend political rallies? I mean if yard signs weren't enough, let's go gather a bunch of like-minded people into the same room and listen to a person shout about the things that we want to shout about, then let's shout about them, too! Again, mind you, I love that we have that right, but does it really help? Let me restate. If any of you have received counselling, therapy, or psychiatric help, you will understand. What if all you did when you went to your therapist was yell mutually into the air about problems, then agree on an improbable and impossibly impractical and slow means to end the mutual suffering? How divisive that would be! How little would actually be accomplished! How much hate would we develop for people of opposing views, and how unwilling would we become to talk things out, and give credence to other ideas after thinking through our own and realizing they may not be as merited as they seem. Isn't that political rallying?

But wait...

That's also western church more often than not.

It's great to be able to speak freely about things that matter to you, but how far do we take that freedom, and in what direction? I have seen this so often in churches, and I've only just begun my life. How often do we take the scriptures that talk about a compassionate God and His laws, yet twist them to fit our own destructive worldviews, omitting passages about grace, forgiveness, compassion, unity; why is it so difficult to bend our will to meet His when we know that it's exactly what we need most? Yet we continue to serve ourselves first. Freedom. Is it a blessing or a curse? Or is it better to have the ability to fail and repent rather than to only know goodness, but have no freedom to grow into it? Is that even genuine goodness?

It's great to be able to speak the Gospel. It's great to evangelise. It's great to come together to be as one in the presence of the Lord. It's also great, in a much lesser way, to show support for your ideals and your candidates of choice. We need to know where we stand, and we need to be active in offering our worldview to others; but we also need to be wary that our freedom doesn't become pride, because arrogance alienates, and from alienation comes war, and from war comes destruction. Be willing to fight, but be seekers of peace. When you go voting today, when you go to your next rally or install your next sign, understand exactly what you're doing, and be ready to take the fall for what becomes of what you do. Division and unity is on our shoulders. Do not shirk this responsibility. Do not squander this power.

"He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?"

--Micah, a prophet of the Living God, Micah 6:8

For the Love of Blog: Being Ready by Michael Nichols

Preparedness is a difficult thing for me. I'm distractible, which leads to the disorganization of things that need to have been organized prior to a given moment. At the same time, because I don't rigidly organize my world, I have much freedom to move with the current of life. That having been said, am I a fish in the current, or am I the riverbed finding itself daily eroded?

I've always wanted to be on top of things when it comes to this blog. I want to be free to move with the current, but then I also want to know that the current I'm surrendering to is taking me somewhere good. I don't want to be at the mercy of my environment, which can be merciless, interestingly enough. I don't like to half-do things, but because of my tendency toward minimal rigidity, I find myself doing exactly what I don't want to do. (This must be how Paul felt while writing Romans 7.) Unfortunately, that affects my blogging by making my posting frequency inconsistent despite a mile-high stack of drafts.

I recently discovered this magical little feature called "scheduled posting." Now that I know about this, I don't really have an excuse. I can keep writing drafts, but when I finish them, I can schedule them to publish as far in advance as I decide. I don't have to worry about setting deadlines for myself if I just set things up ahead of schedule, then stick to that schedule. I can take writing breaks when I need to take them without worrying about falling too far behind the flow. What that means for you, reader, is that I'm going to be working behind the scenes, planning ahead, and though you might not see much out of this blog for the next few weeks, when you finally start seeing me post again, expect much.

It's not just the blog that frustrates me, though. Unfortunately, this chaos tends to invade many area of my life--yes, my bedroom is a total mess--but by knowing ahead of time what should be happening, maybe this chaos will be brought into check. This cannot happen without God's help, though. Ultimately, the fact that I don't plan ahead, which leads to unpreparedness, tells me that I don't trust God to help me if those plans fail. After all, how can I be disappointed by failed plans if I don't make them? But then how can I truly say I trust God unless I step out on that limb? I don't know the future. For all I know, I could lose everything and it not even be because of anything I've done... but why should I do nothing? Why not take risks? Why not make investments? Why not build relationships? Why not ask for God to build His kingdom in me?

If I don't make myself ready for things to come, when they come, they will either pass me by or knock me down. It's time to brace myself. It's a big future in a big world with a big God.

Rev(ital)ised: Adulthood by Michael Nichols

I was eighteen years old by the end of 2009. Everyone always makes a big deal about it. It's sort of a cultural thing, and who can blame a guy for being a little excited? You gain the right to vote, join the military, and do plenty of other things legally, some of which are wiser than others.

A few months in, I wasn't the most ecstatic person on the face of the planet, though. It seemed to me like just another number, but I was thinking about this number on much different terms. A lot of what I wished for has come true since then, to my gain and detriment. This is how I began my legal adulthood.

20 March 2010 at 2:34am -- from Facebook Notes, revised 24 February 2014

I'm eighteen years old. Milestone? I giggle at you. I have the ability to [legally] buy tobacco products, pornography, lottery tickets, and am deemed by the state/nation to be a "legal adult". How does this benefit me? If you have a theory, please enlighten me because I've got nothing. At sixteen, I gained the legal right to test for a driving instruction permit and the ability to consent to sex. At twelve, adolescence happens. Let's not go there, I think we all get it. And at random years in between we actually do this interesting thing called living our lives.

Day to day, whether we think it through at any degree or not, we make simple this-or-that decisions. Drive, or don't drive. Work, or don't work. Eat, or don't eat. Worship, or don't worship. Pray, or don't pray. Honor the Lord, or don't. Share, or don't. Get up, or don't. Love, or don't. Hope, or don't. Believe, or don't. Fear, or don't. Give, or don't. Take, or don't. I could ramble on about all the different this-or-that decisions that make up every single move we make as living souls, but I think you get the point by now.

I'm eighteen years old. What changed? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. "Legal" means nothing. Whether a government says, "We recognize you as an adult when you turn eighteen or twenty-one," does not make a difference. You choose the difference whether you're young or whether you have multiple college degrees. Is this too simple? Too easy to be true? No. As a matter of fact, simplicity is exactly what we need as human beings.

We're all just a bunch of over-sized, coffee-drinking, relationship-having, reproducing, job-doing, schedule-making children. Just because we paste on this facade of sophistication doesn't for a second mean that we're any better. Paul the apostle said, "When I was a child, I spoke as a child, acted like a child, thought as a child; but when I became a man I put away childish things." He didn't hit a certain age and then magically become mature. He chose. He realized that he was a child and needed to grow up.

We believe what we believe because we were taught it. Our lives took the paths they did, and here we stand, believing what we do, be it true or false. We did not evolve into this voluntarily. We are not God. We do not have the power to breathe life into nothing. Show me someone who can besides the Lord Jesus Christ. Even from the beginning, we were taught by the Lord God Almighty in the truth, then we were deceived (taught a lie) by that old serpent called Satan (meaning: the adversary). Our sciences have been taught by the world around us when smarter men decided to listen to it.

No matter what, our existence has been nothing but a learning process... and this is where it gets ugly. When we think that we no longer need to be taught, that is when we are mere children. That is when we have failed. When we think that there is something about ourselves that is all we need, that is the exact moment we need to think again. If you jump in the deep end of your heart and swim around for a little while, you will realize this truth. You will know that there is this unquenchable thirst for something more than yourself, something solid, something that will last forever; but in this life only, we will not find such a love. "In Christ alone" will true hope be found, but I digress.

I know by personal experience that when you get that attitude of being the only one who matters, the only one of whole value, the only one who is worth fighting for, the only one without a flaw and with need of nothing... Well, let's just say that "pride goes before destruction." Eventually, life will teach you... [chuckles...] teach you that, even though you are of value, even though you do matter, and even though you do have something to offer, every single one of us having our own form of righteousness, we have nothing to offer before the Lord but "filthy rags."

But here is the thing: Jesus Christ said via His actions, "I love you. You have taken upon you dirty rags for clothing. You will be naked. But I have good clothing. Here. Take mine. From me, all who come shall be clothed." He traded His perfect life for every failure, every sin, every immaturity, every vulgarity, every curse of man behind the back of the blessings of God, every hate, every torture, and every unspeakable thing, all wrapped into one collective, united human slaughter, one ultimate sacrifice, the only one good enough.

I cannot do enough to repay Him, and that's not even the point of the cross because nobody can. But if we don't make a concerted effort in His name, then who are we, and what is the point? What love goes unreturned? What debt goes unpaid? Being a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, if I care that little to the end that I would blow off this gift, His will, everything He has given me... if I don't tell anyone, if I don't do everything within my power, including surrendering to His, how dare I stand before Him and say that I'm good enough, and I should get into Heaven, or even get a decent life on earth?

I've gone all the way around the block simply to say this one thing... Adulthood. It's not an age, a right, a license. It's a choice, a surrender, humility, letting our sins be crucified with Jesus, being open to being wrong. It's a gift, grace, mercy. It's in our hands.

This is adulthood. I want to grow up.

Entering Rest (0): Issue ZERO by Michael Nichols

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Being the first issue of Entering Rest, I want start it well. I don't have much to say, and that's good. When you find yourself deprived of rest, the last thing you want to do is keep up the chatter and clamour... or is it really?

I've found that most times I've found myself unable to sleep or nap is this haunting feeling of unfinished business, some item I've left unattended, a task I've left undone. It seems almost appropriate that this year has basically been the year of re-s. I've been rebuilding relationships, reevaluating the way I'm going about my career, revisiting old memories that I've ignores, rethinking how my faith works, even remodeled two entire rooms (actually mostly done by our contractor). At the end of the day, though, doesn't something always feel unfinished? Doesn't it make your body cringe and twist?

While this feeling of restlessness can be powerful, I want you to think about this one thing: no matter where you are, you aren't where you were. Even if everything isn't how you want it to be, take comfort in the fact that you're getting there. Jesus is always at work changing something about you to be more like Him. Sometimes that means you work hard. Sometimes it means you don't get it all done. It can mean realizing some things are out of your control, or that you've done all you can, or that change doesn't all happen overnight, or that we are not gods and cannot expect everything to work out perfectly anyway.

Everyone wants something to change, and the best place to witness that change is at the center of the storm, the place of calm where God is. He is constant, and in His presence, you will witness revolution happen around you and in you. It may be slow or sudden, and it may clear or cloudy, but you won't miss it.