Lost Year

I think we as Christians try all too often to predict God’s plan for us. For me, personally, my journey this past year has taken unexpected turns. Earlier in 2016 I thought, as long as I’m obedient to God, I’d be able to see all He had laid out in front of me. But in retrospect, just the opposite has happened as a result of my strengthened relationship with the Lord! Being self-aware of our situation and position is not always God’s intention for us. Sometimes He’s going to lead us as if we are blindfolded because He wants us to trust where we’re being taken.

Quite a few of these blogs here have focused on relationships past, present, and future. This stems from the fact that I’m somewhat of a hopeless romantic and can’t help but long for being with my life partner. I hadn’t found her, but I was hopeful God would lead me to her! I wrote how He’d reveal her to me when I was least expecting it. Unfortunately, all the while I still had my eyes wide open, still searching for myself. I saw myself face to face with a few gals that turned up some as friendships, some as “dead-ends.” I finally realized that I hadn’t been taking my own advice, and so I stopped. I was really just ready to ignore any and all feelings for another person and just focus on my personal ministry at church and relationship with God. I must have really meant it that time, because not too long after, God revealed her to me. When I had truly surrendered my desires to God and turned this whole relationship ordeal over to Him, He pointed me to the woman that I am so happy to say I am currently in a wonderful relationship with. And how! We’ve been dating for 2 months, and I only see a brighter future ahead for us. We forged the foundation of the relationship on Christ first and foremost, and our growing affection followed suit. Which is what set her apart from anyone before! This wasn’t just a mere feeling, this was as if God was commanding our spirits to embrace Him with each other, like a group hug of sorts! I wish I could fully explain my heart; alas, words can only carry so much weight.

The image I have featured at the top of this blog was a photo I took myself earlier this month at Chinook Pass near Mount Rainier (if you haven’t guessed yet, I really enjoy hiking and taking photos). I take a trip to this small lake around this time every year as a dedicated “Me-and-God vacation” sort of thing. The last 2 trips were secondarily out of desperation to get away from the noise of other people in my life and the varying types of stress that relationships had been putting on me at the time. This year was different, though. I took the trip simply to be with God. Not because I needed to hear His voice, but because I wanted to hear Him speak. What I got was a confirmation of everything that had culminated in the last few months. God rewards those who listen to Him and trust in His perfect timing. And so long as we trust that what He wants for our life good and pure, there is no need to worry about our future. There is no need to regret our past, and there is no need to be anxious about this present moment. I pray fervently that the woman I am with now will be the one I ask her hand for in marriage. But in the mean time, I can finally choose not to worry! Our lives are in His hands.

“We forged the foundation of the relationship on Christ first and foremost, and our growing affection followed suit.”

I tend to look back on my past for self-given advice because our experience tells us which actions to take differently and which ones we should repeat. We learn from our mistakes, and we learn from our successes. Looking back on my previous writings about romance and relationships and Christ, I see a beautiful mess. I see myself as a man who desperately needed direction and our God patiently doled it out to him, month after month, until it finally clicked in his dumb head. I see the mistakes I made and I see which actions were obedient unto God. But it’s all part of the process of growing with the Lord! How utterly lost would I be if I kept going back to the same mistakes I had been making, relying on mere feelings to guide me instead of Jesus. I’d be doomed to misery and disappointment every single time I got my hopes up. Thank God He never gives up on us.

If you’ve read the entire paper trail of blogs I’ve chosen to write, you’ll have gotten a glimpse at the fact that this has been a long road for me. One marred with hiccups and discontent and an inability to hand over my worries to God. It’s taken up a lot of my thinking time, as I’m sure you’ve clearly gathered at this point. But if I had to sum it up in a final thought, I’d say for the last 12 months I’ve been lost, but I wouldn’t lose those 12 months for the world. It’s been important in being transformed into my newfound self, and it’s even more important that I remember the journey God has taken me on. Now that I’m moving forward with Him fully in control of this part of my life, it’s time to move on towards the next facet that He shall consume. Lord, I am ready to be completely Yours!

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Fine After All (Pt. 2)

This is a two-part blog. Read the first half here.

 

“We think too much and feel too little.”
– Charlie Chaplin

I’m writing this as sort of a life update to my last post because they do go hand-in-hand. If you read the last part, you’ll know I discussed the idea that we all long for companionship; we all want to be with someone in a relationship. In my personal story, I had placed a little too much hope in this prospect and wound up losing sight of the Lord. I placed priority over Him in finding that perfect match for myself. When I thought I finally found it, everything else became background noise; I was determined to make my relationship work so I could be happy. But like the Lion our God is, He roared back into my life and stepped in to take control. More than once, actually.

Anyway, I walked away from all that had happened (everything I’ve already explained) saying, Alright God, I’m ready to follow You. First and foremost, You’re in control of everything. I will wait patiently for You to make the necessary changes and preparations in my life for my future wife. It was at this time that I had to tell myself that it’s simply time to remain single. Not because I wanted to, but because I thought that if I tried pursuing a simple “feeling” again, I’d only end up hurting myself and others, just like I had before. So that’s it, I said. I’ll just stay single until it becomes logically obvious to me that I should begin pursuing someone! Easy!

Yeah, not so much.

Notice how I had no choice but to use both “thought” and “feeling” in the same sentence. That’s because you cannot have one without the other! No one can make a purely logical decision any more than one can make a purely emotional decision. As with everything in life, it requires a balance of both. I’ve faced more challenge in the last 5 months in terms of this “I’m single but I want to be with my life partner” mindset than I have in the last 5 years. Not because my heart wasn’t in the right place, but because I’ve been trying to go about it with the most “logical” mindset possible, refusing to let feelings intervene. I made myself confused when I needed clarity.  I was overwhelmed when I was striving for simplification. Time and time again, I told not only myself but others as well that I’m honoring God by staying single. But there’s something to be said about the intangible aspect of interaction with other people that transcends logic; something that comes from God but you can’t really pin down why it is that we’re drawn to that person. And at the same time, God will have placed the same pull on their heart as well. It may not necessarily be a “feeling,” but the smartest man in the world wouldn’t be able to reason “logic” into the will of God. This I believe is what I’m truly waiting for; when there are no questions of logic or emotion and everything simply clicks with someone. Where we don’t have to think or feel too hard about what is happening and instead simply let God take control. One of the biggest indicators of a relationship having potential is in the mutuality of things that have yet to be discussed together, yet those same things have already been discussed with God.

I continued to look back to God for peace. I had misidentified His Will for logic, when really it’s so much more than I could ever imagine. So whenever I felt I was thinking about it all too much, I went back to Him in prayer and asked for patience and an unwavering will to do what I knew to be the right thing. It’s been hard though. I’ve lost a couple friendships and I’ve had a few more even still challenged because of hurt feelings and misleading behavior. At times, I thought maybe I was just thinking about this whole thing way too hard. I mean clearly I was in this position for a reason, but perhaps I was being too hard on myself. Maybe I should humor myself every now and then and see where it leads with someone! But I know now, even as I write this, that things will be observably different when God introduces me to someone He has designed specifically for me. I shouldn’t have to shoehorn logic (or feelings) into my observations if my heart and trust really reside in the Lord.

I don’t want to undercut all that I’ve written about before now; I’ve clearly put a lot of thought into what has taken place, even after previously stating that I shouldn’t be too worried about relationships. If God’s in control, you shouldn’t have to think too hard about it, right? Well, no, not exactly. I believe it’s incredibly important to let God be in control of our lives, but I also believe we need to be mindful of when God is about to make a turn. What I mean is that we should be mindful of the things God is having us go through. In all things, we must look to the Lord, for He sets everything into motion. I’ve done a lot of observing and overthinking in the past 6 months, but one thing is for sure: when I have my eyes set upon our God, and my gaze is constantly fixed on Him, that’s when we are able to best praise Him with our lives. Good or bad, whatever the situation may be. When we look to God, we praise Him no matter what is going on.

Somewhere Right (Pt. 1)

(The following thoughts were transcribed almost 2 months prior to the published date. It was waiting in the wings because I didn’t feel like I was meant to share it quite yet; I’m still not quite sure if I should be sharing. Please excuse my lack of filter and any potential gaps in logic.)

 

Sometimes, life just isn’t fair. You can be dealt a bad hand and you’ve got no choice but to play the game. It sucks. Especially when those around you seem to have things going their way. Even when we have good intentions and wish others the best, you might be lying to yourself if you say you never feel that they don’t deserve it. In the wake of some life-altering event, you may be inclined to feel just the opposite.

I’m going to speak from the heart for moment and talk about an ex-girlfriend of mine. I’ve had enough of them at this point and it’s been long enough that it’s not a direct call-out, so fear not. I’ll admit that I was ready to take the next step in this relationship, and at the time, it simply felt like marriage was the logical progression. But things just didn’t line up quite right. God had to step in and dismantle us before we passed the point of no return. I ended up making the decision to break up, and it was hard! But even my own family all said, “We know you’re ready for marriage, but she was not. This was for the best; God is looking out for both of you.”

I felt defeated, but at the same time, I felt encouraged. God has another woman waiting for me somewhere down the road! Even more perfect than the last. And after all that had happened and all that had been exchanged between the two of us, I walked away feeling like I could say, I wish you all the best. I hope you learn from what took place. You’ll find someone too, I’m sure!

What I’ve had to come to terms with recently is that the turnaround time can be incredibly fast for some, yet painfully slow for others. Despite what lessons have been “learned” or what you feel that person deserves, they may just be dealt a better hand than you moving forward. And that was certainly the case here. While my friends and family were saying that I’m mature enough for marriage and I just need to wait for God’s perfect woman for me, I got to observe my ex’s turnaround as she instantaneously replaced me with a new guy in her life. Could one say that I felt a little jealous? Yeah, I would say so! It didn’t feel good to be replaced so swiftly. At first, I thought, heh, guess she just needs to rebound. But as time went on it would seem now that she has found her match.

So the following conversation then took place between God and me: But that’s not fair! Why does she get to be happy while I’m still waiting!? She doesn’t deserve to be happy after the crap she put me through! How is she ever going to learn her lesson!? Don’t you hear me, God?? I am ready for marriage! I honestly felt this way for a long time. My own selfish desires made me just as guilty, if not more so, than that of the judgement I had placed on my ex. Why did it hurt so much to see that she was happy and I was not?

I was beginning to misunderstand what exactly it is that brings us as Christians joy to our lives. Obviously, it’s Jesus! He is always there for us every single minute of every hour of every day! The Lord cares for us in such a deep way that cannot even fully comprehend His love; we can only define it by what is tangible to us as mere humans. But in this idea lies a better understanding. From Jesus comes all things, including love. Therefore we must go through Him to find it. And through Him we can live our lives in a way that is honorable to the Lord! It is not my place to judge my ex-girlfriend. I had no right even thinking that she had a few things yet to learn about how to act and behave and accept in a relationship before getting settled in again. But through my observations and frustrations, God has taught me a lesson of my own; as slow a process as it’s been, He finally got through to me that I was placing my hope in the wrong thing: a relationship. The idea that a relationship or even marriage can bring someone eternal happiness and take precedence over that of God’s love is so incredibly ignorant. Of course no one would ever admit to feeling that way, but again, you’d be lying to yourself if you didn’t feel this way for any amount of time whatsoever.

We all long for companionship. We all want to be loved by another person on a very intimate, personal, understanding level. God designed us that way! It’s how we as humans are wired to feel. But it wasn’t until recently that I finally placed this desire behind that of understanding and loving my Savior. I finally stopped looking around for who could possibly be “right” for me and just said, God, I know you love me. You love me so much that you can put the right people in my life and it will amplify your impact on my life in the most positive way. I trust that you have wonderful woman out there for me, and I trust that because I’m not searching for myself anymore, You will hit me over the head with how obvious that woman stands out to me and bring the two of us together.

Put God first. He will take care of the rest.

Every Circle Was A Line Just Connected By Design

“Hindsight is 20/20.”

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve said this in conversation the past few weeks. But I really think truer words haven’t been said. The future is uncertain, but the past is absolute. Once something has happened, we get to look back on the chain of events that unfolded into the outcome we now witness.

Depending on who you speak with, people can “live” in any of these time frames. People who are fueled by nostalgia are said to be stuck in the past. Those who tend to plan ahead clearly have their mind on the future, and those who “go with the flow” are said to live in the present moment. For me, living in the present means you’ve got a better grasp of all time frames. If you’re dwelling on the past or the future, it’s more difficult to focus on whichever is opposite. I’ve been told that those who live in the moment tend to be the most reckless. And while that certainly may be the case for some, I find the stigma to be untrue. The present is a time for action. It’s the only frame of time of which we have control; if you control your present self, you affect your future and decide the outcome of your past.

So what’s all this have to do with me? Well, pull up a chair. It’s story time!

Some months ago I strongly felt God’s voice upon my heart to pursue him more. I heard Him more and more often saying, “Follow me! This way! Keep coming!” If you hear the same thing over and over again, it becomes near impossible to ignore. But doing so meant I had to make some sacrifices. Some were easy to make, some were hard, some I’m still making every day. I can’t say I wasn’t scared for what was to come; I had no idea what God had planned for me! But even so, I felt compelled to go to where His voice was calling from.

“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries.”

– Matthew 6:34a

As self-aware as I tried to be at this time, God set in motion a plan that I never could have predicted. It wasn’t soon after this that something miraculous happened: my work schedule was inexplicably opening up and giving me free time! For those who don’t know, I get little to no say on the matter of my hours at work; I’m at the mercy of my employer and I get whatever shift is left over. But I thought, This is amazing! What should I do with all this free time? Again, I heard God’s voice. “Follow me. This way. Over here!” I suddenly realized why my schedule had opened up, and I obeyed. I started getting more involved in a ministry at my church, and I actually became a member of their leadership team!  Bit by bit, my time and focus was shifting back to God after so much time away.

At the start of this new season of my life, I had been spending some time with a close friend of mine who was also involved in a different ministry at our church. One week I decided to stop by and say hi, but they were still setting up. I thought the least I could do is help out if I was going to be there. But as the evening went on, I found that it was more than just this one friend I recognized in the ministry. There were several people that I had met years prior who were also there! They seemed so ecstatic to see me, even if I thought I wasn’t really supposed to be there. I still wasn’t quite understanding what God was doing! All these people back in my life, new people I hadn’t previously met, all saying the same thing: “Are we going to see you next week? You should become a small group leader!”

While I did come back every week to see these new friends of mine, I wasn’t sure if jumping into a second ministry was what God had in mind for me. I had already committed to the first group I was a part of, and taking part in two ministries on top of regular Sunday service seemed like suicide! I didn’t want to get burned out on what God had asked me to do for Him. I wanted to continue to serve with a humble and willing heart! Nevertheless I decided to not worry about the future, and I accepted the invitation to join this second ministry and became a small group leader for the church youth group! All signs were pointing to this conclusion and it yet again felt that God just knew more about the bigger picture than I did (no kidding, right?).

As I took this leap of faith, God further blessed me for trusting in His perfect plan. Previously I stated that my work schedule is less than accommodating. But to make matters even more complicated, they create the schedule in 2-3 month chunks. On one hand this is good; if I have to, I can plan out the following week and month around my work schedule and still get stuff done. It’s nice that there are few surprises. But unfortunately, therein lies the flaw: I have to plan my life around my job. And when you’ve been scheduled to work the weekend graveyard shift, that can be a bit of a challenge. Four months ago I would have hated this; I would have been absolutely miserable. But in these past few weeks, I finally saw a glimpse of the bigger picture God was painting. Working this undesirable schedule, I saw that my week was now open for the foreseeable future to continue being involved in both ministries! And oddly enough, I was excited at this revelation! It was further confirmation from the Lord that I’m right where He wants me. Right now, I just can’t help but smile at it all. Especially after last year, I feel so incredibly loved by God. He wants what’s best for me, and I recognize now that it was all part of His plan.

“I’d rather forget and not slow down, than gather regret for what I can’t change now.”

– Relient K

As liberal as we want to be sometimes in life, we’re all afraid of change. Many times we’re comfortable right with where we are, who we are, and what we are. Why change if you’re content? Because sometimes God has something even better in mind for you. You may not realize until after the fact that the time where you thought things were good is actually when you were least happy. For me, I needed a serious wake-up call to realize that I wasn’t truly happy, and I wouldn’t be happy until God became the center of my life again. I try not to focus too much on what has already happened though. That quote above the break from Relient K has been something of a mantra of mine for many years. Why should we worry about our past? Jesus died for our past and He has forgiven us of whatever we’ve done against Him. If you’re willing to now pursue Him with all you are, then just forget and don’t slow down. Try living in the present! It’s all we have for giving back to God.

Music To His Ears

I believe God wishes to challenge us each and every day when it comes to how we worship Him. Music is a wonderful way of expressing our love and respect for Christ. It’s just one of the many ways in which we do so, and it seems that it’s more powerful and expressive for us as human beings as opposed to deeply contemplating the mysteries of God and His Word.

Take a minute and think about what comes to mind when someone mentions “worship music.” Hillsong United? Phil Whickam? Maybe Sonicflood if you’re old school like me? These are great examples of musicians and groups of musicians who use their talents specifically to praise the Lord.

Though a trend I’ve noticed in the church as whole in recent memory is the utilization of music from these evangelical super-artists mentioned above. Their music is simple, easy to sing, easy to understand, and chock-full of passion. These are important elements to have in worship music if you want people to join in on Sunday mornings!

But what about the other musicians who have created beautiful worship music as well? Eric Owyoung, Reese Roper, Paul Meany… I’m sure only a few of you know who these guys are. These artists are sort of known for their ambiguity and ability to create incredibly deep lyrics while still maintaining a unique sound and focus on Christ.

Let’s take look at Paul Meany as the example, being that he’s the frontman for my favorite band, MuteMath. One of their most popular songs was actually one of the very first they produced, called “Control.” On the surface, it’s a pretty mellow alternative rock song. It’s got a good beat, great vocals, some nice guitar riffs. But take a moment here and just listen to the lyrics. Who and what is Paul referring to?


Pretty great stuff, right? It’s always been in my top 5 songs just for the lyrical aspect alone. Let’s dig in to some of those lyrics now:

“There is no better loss than to lose myself in You.”

“Surrender has somehow become so beautiful.”

Right off the bat, Paul talks about giving himself up for God. He refers to becoming so enveloped in God’s love that he is literally lost, and what could be greater than this? Later in the second verse he changes those first lyrics to “there is no better find than to find myself in you.”

“You can take my world, You can fill the air, take control…”

“There’s no reason I should breathe unless You’re in the air…”

There’s a great deal of emphasis here on air and atmosphere; the presence of this idea is strong throughout. And you can draw parallels of “atmosphere” to one’s own life, their environment, who they are inside, any number of things! That’s why I love this ambiguous style of lyric-writing; the answer is so obvious, yet there are multiple ways to interpret what the writer is saying.

So why am I using this song as an example? Well, why not? I’ve certainly never heard it on Sunday mornings, and yet it manages to pull on all the right spiritual strings in my heart. I believe the reason is that this song suffers from the same problem other similar music has: it’s not explicit enough! Not once is God mentioned by name, and the lyrical subject remains nebulous because, well, that was the artist’s choice and purpose for his music.

Since we’re talking about musical worship, let me touch real quick on another form of worship that God loves: reading his Holy book. When I read the Bible, I get far more out of it when I dig into each verse and look beyond the surface of what it says; piecing together references from other scripture, discovering the allegory behind a certain passage or other hidden meanings in parables and stories. Especially when we’re discussing scripture with our brothers and sisters, we all benefit from diving deep into the Bible, rather than just touching upon the surface and getting our feet wet.

One can think of musical worship in a similar way. Can we sing those gorgeous but simple songs on Sunday that praise God directly and leaves no question in the congregation? Absolutely! I love doing that every week. But can we also discover worship in other Christian music that requires a little thinking and putting two and two together? I think we should.

I don’t expect the church to start playing music that sounds “secular” to the untrained ear. But most of us are only at church one day out of the week; those other six days should be filled with just as much passion as if we were attending church! Expand your horizon and start thinking about the other stuff on your iPod that doesn’t make the cut for worship service. This challenge may be in the form of simply being more expressive in how we worship God, or it may come in the form of using our gray matter to really think about what we’re singing. You may just find that musical worship is on a broader spectrum than what you hear on Sunday mornings.

 

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Welcome to my blog!

Hey there! My name is Kenan. This is my blog.

Not the most thrilling way to kick things off, I know. But for a while now, I’ve thrown around the idea of archiving my thoughts and prayers that wander through my head day after day. It wasn’t until recently I decided it’s finally time to start doing so. I consider myself an adequate writer, as English and grammar are some of my stronger attributes. However one of my weaknesses has kept me from expressing myself through a blog: laziness.

Inspiration can come from anyone or anywhere at any time in life. I’ve always been a firm believer in God using people or events to radically change one’s perspective and thought process in order to further His will for one’s own life. Right now, I believe I am going through a storm of change; God is my boat and He is weathering and protecting me from the storms of life. Things have been happening that are hard to explain, but it’s very important to see the silver lining even in our adversities.

I’ll quickly try to explain the name I’ve given for this blog. “Persequi logicam dei” is a Latin phrase meaning, “to pursue the logic of God.” I have always been a “thinker” as opposed to letting emotions get the better of me; sometimes though I think a bit too hard, but I would safely assume that we all do at times. In the recent weeks I’ve adopted the qualities of a thinker and picked up old hobbies again that should facilitate this process of starting up a blog. Reading books (gasp!), holding deep discussion with my brothers and sisters in Christ, dwelling on His Word every day. Good stuff that we should all do! In spending time and thought on God though, I tend to approach it from a logical viewpoint; making sense of and constructing a viewpoint that my very tiny human brain can comprehend. Still leaving room for the more abstract thought, this blog I hope will serve as an excellent platform to display those thoughts that I try to make sense of, as well as those that do not follow.

Which brings me to my next point of explanation! Another latin phrase you will see often on this blog is “non-sequitur.” For those who aren’t geeks who just happen to know what that means (ie. me), this is another Latin phrase meaning, “it does not follow.” I am a very scatterbrained person, and organizing my thoughts, especially in writing, takes quite a long time of editing and re-working until I’m happy with what I’ve produced. But I’ve heard it said that the most important aspect of writing is writing, not thinking about what to write. Even as I sit here typing this out, I haven’t really put much more than that initial thought into each sentence! I haven’t gone back to re-work anything; it’s just all coming out in one glorious hurling of text. I just recently saw a clip from a movie on TV where a writer was teaching his student and said this almost verbatim as he was writing a story. I wish I knew what the movie was, but it really resonated with me. My thought trails can be a little hard to follow sometimes, but for those who want to blaze through it, perhaps something here might resonate with you as well.

I do not know how often I plan to post the things I’ve set out to record on this blog, I guess it depends on my audience. But even so, this blog serves more for myself and my own benefit. If someone reading this finds enjoyment from what I’ve written, then that makes it all the more special! A friend recently had me realize in a similar fashion that you’ll never really know the impact words may have on someone; how deeply it may resonate with them. If I immortalize my words in the form of this blog and someone stumbles across it, that may just be enough motivation to keep me coming back and writing more (and I sincerely hope that doesn’t sound pretentious of me).

I have a few topics of discussion that I have waiting in the wings, but I have a bit more reading to do first before I start any major writing. Be on the lookout for both optimism and cynicism, encouraging posts and negative posts, well-written monologues and trash alike. It’s all coming!

 

In Christ,

Kenan