Renewed Life (1): It Starts With NO by Michael Nichols

A million things vie for our attention every day, things and people that want our soul in a way that only the Lord can truly handle it. A person can become overwhelmed. Personally, I find myself extremely susceptible to this for many different reasons, but one stands out more clearly than the rest: a tendency to experience anxiety attacks.

It's one of the least enjoyable experiences I've had -- the shallow-yet-quick heart rate, the racing thoughts, the fear, the silence. To be clear, I don't have them often, and I know that people have them with greater severity than I. When they do, though, I don't really know what's happened until I've come out of it for a while. One thing I do know is that many times, for me they are self-induced.

What that looks like is that some thought will be in my head, and that will connect to another thought. That's just my nature -- super-analytical [sometimes to the extent of self-micromanagement]. The ugliness appears when one of those thoughts that my mind is tearing through, like a child through wrapping paper on his birthday gifts, leads to another that is painful, like a bad memory from elementary school, or something from home that I try to forget, or maybe some inconsiderate and heartless thing someone did to me as an adult, or maybe it was a mistake that I made that I can't seem to let myself live down... All of that to say that a lot of it is self-induced for me.

To realize that a lot of the extra pain we feel is self-induced is to accept that fact that it is our responsibility to learn the solution. If Jesus died for me, lives again for me, is headed back here for me before or after I die, then that means that He loves me -- if you took conscious effort and energy and time to make something, you probably love it -- and puts a value on me and on all of us.

If you read the last issue of "Entering Rest" (see end of this article for a link), you'll remember that the things that vie for control of our soul will weigh us down, try to make us drown, and that only by letting go and calming our mind can we be saved from ourselves and from the water and gravity. Erik wanted revenge so badly that he was willing to die to get it, but maybe he really didn't believe he'd die, not until Xavier came along and convinced him otherwise, pulling him from his demise... but Charles didn't force Erik's hand to save him. Erik had to say NO in his own mind. Say NO to immediate gratification and thereby NO to death.

In the same way, when we feel like things are out of control (which is probably honestly most times) and we are being pulled in a million directions by people and things that have no interest in us besides what we can do with/for them, including all the sins with which we all struggle, we must say NO. I am a child of the KING. I am NOT perfect. I am NOT capable of playing god in any and all aspects of my life... BUT I AM loved. I AM saved by grace through faith. Jesus did pay for my crimes against Him, others, and myself. I am free. I AM NO LONGER a slave to sin. I AM NO LONGER bound to choices that other people have made. I AM NO LONGER measuring my value by things that are temporary but by things that last forever.

So NO, you may NOT have your way with me, world. You may NOT have your way with me, my own crippled mind. You may NOT dictate my every actions, old heart. NO.

That's where it starts. It's sure to get a lot more complicated for each person. Saying NO takes on different forms for each person and what they're going through, but with Jesus, we have the power to say NO.

“See, it is I who created the blacksmith who fans the coals into flame and forges a weapon fit for its work. And it is I who have created the destroyer to wreak havoc; no weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and this is their vindication from me,” declares the Lord.

-- Isaiah the prophet

[CLICK HERE for the full passage.]

Coping Versus Fighting by Michael Nichols

The next time you're at your favorite restaurant - as a matter of fact, you could try this at home, too, but it would be way more meticulous and time-consuming - count the number of choices on your menu. Matter of fact, go to a vending machine, or even think of half, just one half, of the recipes that you know you can make from memory, then go to your pantry to check how many of the ingredients you have on hand. Odds are that whatever number you count is greater than most.

This is not a guilt trip about helping people less fortunate than ourselves or a rant about how God is bad because He doesn't magically fix every problem we create, but simply a dose of perspective that I came across a short time ago. I've always tried to wrap my head around the concept of reason. I've thought and thought. I've come to various conclusions. Some of these conclusions have been correct while others have been excuses. This, however, made more sense, and it both sobered and humbled me. It was both unwelcome at first, yet welcome when my attitude began to change for the better of all of us.

When Jesus died for our sins, it wasn't just a momentary thing. It stood for anything at any time. It was predicted since the beginning of time and has been referenced without cessation since the occurrence. It could never have been stopped, and it can never be revoked. It was the creation of salvation. It was planned before our dust was molded into flesh to last beyond the point that it returns to its original form.

Still, I've asked myself why He would do that. But then why would I do that? If I were the creator of the world, I would have known that things were going to go dark. I would have known that my own creation would rebel against me. I would have known that my creation would eventually grow to hate me enough to crucify me. How would I deal with that?

I'd take it.

But why?

They will hate me!

They will hate me more when I show them love that they've never received!

They will hate that they were forced all their lives by people they didn't even know to live in ways they never should have by people who were hungry for power!

They will crucify me!

If it were me, the writer of this blog, faced with all of these thoughts... realistically, I would probably not do it, because I knew that I couldn't.

But He knew that He could.

He knew that He could take it.

He knew that He had a choice when no one else did, when others were born into a world of pain, violence, loneliness, and hunger, to give them a second chance, and to give men a choice to give the same to the world, to give the corrupt a chance to change.

We here have so many freedoms. We have so many luxuries, choices, beautiful things that we both need and want, and we have grown to the point where we think we always need what we want, which is a corrupt thought. I have seen and lived in houses that are filled with the excess of things and expired food, but what if we could do something better with our wants, our needs, and our time?

Do not think incorrectly. I am no supported of forced socialism, or really socialism of any kind. Love CANNOT be enforced, but love MUST be protected.

What if every living being were to rise up against the forces that keep the world gasping for breath, screaming out in silence for a bite of food and for a roof over their head? What if the rebellion was not against the one who made us but against they who wish to unmake us? Sure, we could go on blaming God for making evil people, but people choose whether or not to do evil, and we usually choose to live on in spite of them, whether we live by coping with those around us or by fighting for change within and without. If you're reading this, you've already proven that you have chosen to live on, that you see no value in the dissolution of your life. Good. So now what?

What happens when the people world gets so sick and tired of coping with each other that they finally start the war? We've already seen attacks on American soil. Nobody ever saw that coming, but it happened. The world trade center, the pentagon, the Boston bombings, toxic packages, impending economic collapse, and the slow dissolution of basic human rights - what's next? Just when we think it's over and things can't get much worse, they do. As a matter of fact, they are already worse, just not in my immediate vicinity. Comparatively speaking, I have things pretty good. I record music in my spare time, attend college, have a roof over my head, am not an orphan, am not starving... but I'm just one person among billions across the world. There are people better off than I and many, many more worse off. Am I in control of that? No. The citizens of the world have been oppressed for centuries, and it hasn't stopped, merely changed shape, refined itself, disguised itself, but not out there, not in the raw parts of the world. People know well the feeling of oppression.

I have this friend who is massively anti-slavery, not to say I'm not, but this person is in active pursuit of justice to the best of his/her ability. Hearing so much about what was happening in the rest of the world, I began wondering: what can I do? I'm just one person. Sure, I can raise awareness, tell people about what's happening, donate to people who are actually doing something about it in a direct way... but what about ME? What can I do? Slavery comes in different shapes and sizes. We may not experience slavery under a whip yet in this nation, but we have ridiculous social standards and an unprecedentedly low standard of morality (if any at all) as a whole. Matter of fact, the worst kind of slavery is slavery to sin. I'm guilty of many different things I'd rather not discuss in public forum, but rest assured that it's true. The only way that I can stop anything, the only way I have ever stopped anything, firstly is through the power of Christ's forgiveness (which will be my next blog), and secondly is by fighting because I know I can. How is any other slavery any different? How is any other fight different? That's the thing. It's not.

There is no time for coping. If you have the strength to fight, fight. Call upon the one who has the strength you need. He will not withhold it. There are people suffering around the world who have no choice but to cope. You, however, are not them. You are here, and you are reading this, which means you have the choice to either stop reading or keep reading, take it to heart or don't. You're fighting that much. If you want your life to change, then change your life. If only for the ones who have no choice regarding their circumstances, change yours. Do it for them. Do it so that one day maybe you can reach them. You have been blessed beyond measure, and now is the time to fight and not delay and not shrink back. If Jesus didn't come to save us, no one else would have. If we don't fight oppression now, no one else will. This is the Gospel. This is the truest form of religion. We can all do better, so let it be today. Let it be here. Let it be now. Let it be within and without.

May the Lord haste the dawn.