Sunday, January 21, 2007

Freedom Writers

This is just a quick post to recommend a movie that I watched last night. Its called "Freedom Writers" and is an film produced by MTV starring Hilary Swank. Its based on the true story of first year teacher (Swank) who goes to teach at a school that has recently been integrated. Ms. Gruwell (Swank) is given a freshman level English class composed of the "stupid kids", those who aren't expected to make it to graduation in school, and more then likely the age of 18. This takes place in Long Beach, California where gang violence is running wild. The Freshman class has those ranging from latinos, blacks, cambodians, and one white boy. I dont want to give too much of the story, but it is an amazing account of what can happen when one woman gives hope to kids that the rest of the world has given up on. I haven't even began to do justice to this film, for a more accurate preview watch the trailer (freedom writers trailer). This movie has potential to jump on my top 5 list - I'll have to think about it more for the next couple days for the true test. The main reason I like it is because it is true to life, probably because it is a true story, it doesnt sugar coat things to make a better story. So sometime, either while its in theaters or once it comes out on DVD watch this movie.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Whats up With Prayer?

"Of all the duties enjoined by Christianity none is more essential and yet more neglected than prayer." -Francois Feuelon

Out of all the things that frustrates me dealing with Christianity, none does more then prayer. And in particular my personal prayer life. It may sound like a horrific statement, but its the honest truth. To be quite frank I just dont get it. For starters why is it important? The Bible states that God already knows what we want even before we ask.. so why is asking so essential? Now before you can give me the standard answers stop, I already know them all. Head knowledge is not what I'm struggling with. I know that prayer is important because it shows our dependancy on God. I know that prayer makes our faith more of a relationship and not simply religion. But when it comes down to it, i just don't understand it.
Maybe its due to the fact that my own prayer life is so weak. You see I'm pretty good at reading and studying the Bible. I don't have a hard time making sure that I do that once a day. And I love studying theology. But what I'm not good at is praying. I read stories of St. Francis of Assisi who had such incredible experiences while in the midst of prayer and I long for that. I read of the visions that Isaiah, John and other Biblical characters had while in the Lords presence and I think to myself "why can't I have those experiences?" John Wesley once said that "I have so much to do that I spend several hours in prayer before I am able to do it," and wonder what it's going to take to get me to that point. I try to spend even 10 minutes in prayer and I find either my mind drifting or I'm falling asleep.
So where am I going with this? What did I discover that fixed this problem? Nothing, I'm still struggling with it. The few of you who are reading this maybe thinking why I went on this rampage criticizing myself. Mostly its because yesterday I stumbled across a series of quotes on prayer and i realized how hungry I am for this area of my life to improve. I also feel like I'm not alone in this struggle. Living in a busy society its easy for things like prayer to fall along the wayside. We try to overlook this void by acting is if its not that important, but the more I think about it the more I realize that nothing is of more importance. I would question whether reading the Bible is even as of much importance as prayer is. If our prayer life is not shaped by the Scripture then we are in danger of hearing the wrong answers and praying in the wrong Spirit, but I think that we overshadow prayer with Bible reading often simply because it's easier to do. Martin Luther King Jr. said this about prayer "to be a Christian without prayer is no more possible then to be alive without breathing." Is prayer that essential to your life? Do you place that much importance on it? I want to challenge you to examine your prayer life, are you pushing yourself to a deeper, more intimate level?

Thursday, January 4, 2007

I figured setting myself up like i did with my last post was a bad idea. At the time i had a lot of thoughts on that subject, but they seem to have all left me. I will try to pick the topic back up soon, but this post is about something totally different.
This summer i decided that i was going to attempt to get in shape. Having an office job combined with a fairly busy lifestyle left little room for me to do active things. One thing that i had always enjoyed was riding bike. So I decided that if i was going to try to exercise that i was at least going to do something i actually enjoyed. So i went out and bought a fairly decent road bike and started riding. At the start I absolutely loved it. Life had gotten so busy that it seemed like a rarely had time to think and bike rides gave me an opportunity to be alone and think and reflect. But as time went on i begin to push myself harder for speed and endurance. And eventually i begin to dread the thought of getting on my bike - so i stopped. This past saturday it got up to around 70 (maybe Al Gore has something with this global warming idea.. haha) so i decided that i was going to go for a ride, nothing intense, just something to ease my mind and a way to enjoy the weather. It was the most relaxing hour and a half I've spent in a long time. As i was riding I begin to question why i had grown so tired of biking in the first place, if I enjoyed it so much why did i stop. And I realized that over time I had gone from going on a bike ride for pleasures sake to going to be productive, to achieve a certain goal. The whole time i was riding i wasnt focusing on the things around me, or enjoyment, but i was focused on pushing myself harder and harder.

Some may be wondering what in the world this has to do with anything, but the more I thought about this the more i realized how telling this was of not only many other physical aspects of my life, but also my spiritual life as well. In his book "Screwtape Letters" C.S. Lewis creates a conversation between two demons about the loss of a human. And while I can't remember the exact quote the more powerful demon tells the other that what happened was that he allowed the human to find pleasure. The way to win him to their side would have been to stop allowing him to read simply for pleasure, but rather, that he can find a useful quote or point to share with others. When he takes a walk make him focus on exercise rather than on simply enjoying the walk.
I begin to realize how often i get caught up in the trap of doing everything with the idea of being productive. I feel the need to read a book because i need to learn, even times set aside for relaxing are with the mindset that i need to relax now so i can be more productive later. So often i lose the joy of things. Its also reflected in my devotional life, so often i get done with my devotions feeling like i wasted my time because i didnt have some profound revelation or special insight into a passage. I forget the pleasure of simply spending time with God. Saturday morning i decided that to head down to the beach and read and pray for awhile. And as i was walking out to where i was going to sit i found my mind start to plan out how exactly i was going to spend my time there. "First i'm going to just sit, then I'm going to read the Bible, then maybe I'll read out of this book, and then I'll journal." Finally i caught myself and made myself stop and rethink about why exactly I was there in the first place.
Maybe some of you arent plagued with the need to schedule every aspect of your life the way I am. But i believe all of us in some way or another are shaped by the American concept of productivity, which is often times a great thing. But dont get caught up in it so much that you lose the joy in living. Well thats my ramblings for now, hopefully it came out somewhat sensical.