Author Archives: Forrest

Why Do I Get Depressed Even When Things Are Okay?

 

One of the biggest questions I’ve asked myself is the question in the title of this article.  Why do I get depressed even when things are okay?  Everything can be just fine and yet why do I feel like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders?

1. When things are going well, we worry about how they can possibly go wrong –  Almost every aspect of your life can be going just fine.  Your family is intact, you have a job, you have yourself a good life, but you imagine how it can all go wrong.  Something like this is natural because you don’t want to see something so good get ruined.  It’s a very common fear that things will go wrong or that you’ll mess up somehow that will make things go wrong.  If you have it so good, you want to do everything in your power to keep it that way.

2. Despite how good you have it, you feel like there’s something missing - You can be grateful for so much and yet feel as though something is missing and you need it.  You’re not entirely sure what it is and half the time it’s nothing, but there’s still a part of you that feels empty.  When we feel like something is missing in our lives, we go to great lengths to fill that void, and sometimes not in the best ways.  We’re tempted to do things that are immoral when we feel down or depressed and then it becomes a fight over restraining yourself.  As humans, we constantly desire pleasure of some kind and some of those pleasures are not right.  Porn is a prime example of something that people will try to fill the emptiness with, and getting drunk helps numb whatever pain or emptiness we may feel, but only for a short while.

So how do we deal with these issues?  How can we continue to live a good life with an optimistic view on ourselves and what we’ve been able to accomplish?

1. When we fear that everything will go wrong, remember that God has our future in His hands - This isn’t to say that we should just sit back and let God do all the action.  No.  This is saying that when we move through our lives, we must put God first above all else.  Philippians 4:6 is pretty clear about what you should do: Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything.  Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done.  God will help you if you’re willing to allow Him.  You must also have faith and confidence in yourself that you will do things right, and do what you can to get there in the meantime.

2. When we feel empty, fill yourself with something that is spiritually beneficial - Temptation is our enemy whether we’re depressed or not, so it’s important to always be ready for it.  Any immoral temptation is a desire of the flesh, not a desire of the spirit.  If you feel like there’s a part of you that’s empty, fill that void with something that’s beneficial.  Pray to God and ask him to fill you with His presence.  If you’re in a situation where fulfillment of temptation is too easy, get out of the house and go do something like take a walk or visit the library or see if you can spend time with a friend.  Depression in any form is not something we can win over ourselves.  If you have to, call someone you know you can trust and tell that person what’s wrong.  God put certain people in our lives for a reason, and don’t you forget it.

Depression only lasts as long as you allow it.  There are both right and wrong ways to overcome it, but the wrong ways are known for only keeping the depression away for a short while, and then it can come back stronger.  Remember that God is there for you even if no one else is.

 

 

 

Bible Epics: Why Do We Hate Them?

Last year, Hollywood gave us two big Biblical epics that covers two very important stories from the Bible.  First, there was the highly controversial and bizarre Noah.  Then we got Exodus: Gods and Kings starring…Christian Bale?  Interestingly enough, these were just two Hollywood Bible epics among a lot of independent Christian films like God’s Not DeadHeaven is for Real, and the unfortunately lesser known A Matter of Faith.

From what it looks like, the release of Christian films and Bible epics are not going to let up anytime soon.  Bible movies about Christ’s mother Mary, Jesus during his temptation in the desert, and Jesus’s time in Egypt is coming soon.  With all the outrage I’ve read about Noah and Exodus, it has begged me to ask this question: Why do Christians hate Bible epics?

I’ve seen both Noah and Exodus, and to a lot of my friends’ surprise, I really enjoyed Noah.  If that isn’t enough, I have a copy on DVD.  Exodus was a little bit different because I loved the story of Moses when I was a kid, and Prince of Egypt was, to me, a masterpiece based on a Bible story.  Unlike Noah, the artistic changes in Exodus felt almost forced and completely unnecessary.  There didn’t really seem to be any real good reason for the changes made, while the changes in Noah felt like there was some real creativity and vision behind it.

That all being said, I noticed recently that there are several things both movies have in common, and helps me to see that there is much more value in them than you would see at first glance:

1.  Both movies displays an accurate depiction of our relationship with God - Noah and Moses both have their own faith-related strengths and weaknesses that allow us to relate to them.  Noah is driven to obey God (or ‘the Creator’ as the movie calls Him).  Out of all the people on the earth in the movie, Noah is at least more righteous than everyone else.  His heart is set on protecting what’s left of God’s creation and he’s motivated to obey Him.  But, like us, he also ends up having his doubts and becomes confused with what God wants him to do.  He at one point questions God’s calling and His wishes.  Noah is portrayed as someone who wants so much to do the right thing and obey his creator, but he’s also still deeply flawed and makes some bad decisions, just like we do.  Just because he was referred to as a ‘righteous’ man in the Bible, doesn’t mean he was perfect.  He was still no Jesus.  In a similar way, Moses in Exodus questioned God’s ways and decisions to sway Ramses to let the Israelite slaves go.  Moses had a difficult time understanding God and would even get angry with Him.  But in both cases with Noah and Moses, God knew what He was doing, which leads to my second thing.

2. In both movies, God knew what He was doing even if His actions seemed questionable - One criticism from Christians about these movies that confuses me the most is that God is portrayed as a sadistic, terrifying, narcissistic god that just killed people just because.  If these movies were much more accurate to the source material, would Christians still say that God is being portrayed this way?  After all, God still sent a worldwide Flood to wipe everybody out and He still sent the plagues to Egypt.  He sent the Flood to wipe out mankind with the exception of one family because He had mercy and was willing to give mankind a second chance.  He sent the plagues so that the Pharaoh would get the picture that He wants his people freed and to display His power to show that the Pharaoh must take Him seriously.  We can’t understand God’s actions all the time, but that’s where trust and faith comes in.

3. Even when it doesn’t seem like it, God is always with Noah and Moses - There’s one big difference between the two movies.  In Noah, Noah and his family are basically left to discover for themselves what God’s plans for them are.  Noah chooses an act of mercy and love, which mirrors God’s choice of mercy when He spared Noah and his family in the real story so that the human race can start again.  In Exodus, it’s very obvious what God wants.  He wants the Israelite slaves freed, and He chooses Moses to do it.  God is with them every step of the way just as He is with us, even if we don’t feel like He is.  God never said that our walk with Him would be easy and certainly free of trials.  We are meant to trust Him.  Trust in Him and He will direct our paths.

 

Short Piece: Hanging by the Threads that Snap

Here’s a short piece I felt inspired to write.  For a while, I’m going to start writing different stuff that ranges from non-fiction to fiction while I listen to different music tracks to get inspired.  This is one that I felt really motivated to write, and I listened to an instrumental piece called “The Path of Irreversible Scars” to get me inspired.

Spirituality comes in many shapes and sizes.  It comes in many forms that will either make you or break you.  When it threatens to break me, I’m weak, tired, and crying.  I beg for it to stop, but there is no sun in the night of my pain and my struggles.  I cling to threads that are destined to snap, and my mind wanders off where I don’t want it to.  Every time I think I see a light, it’s covered by storm clouds and it begins to rain on me, soaking my hair and raindrops get mixed with the tears on my face.  I’m all alone sitting in the middle of nowhere.  All directions, north, east, south, and west, lead nowhere.  My pain leads me nowhere, and the directions I try to take lead nowhere.  What I try to do to ease the pain only numbs it for a short while, but returns with an army behind it.  I am defenseless and bleeding amidst this terrible storm.

I cry out, and I beg God to make it stop.  Where is He?  God, can you hear me?  Where are you in this void that threatens to suck me in?  I reach out a trembling hand, starving for an embrace in this frigid cold.  I feel like I’m coming apart at the seams.  What was whole is now broken.  What filled me with joy now only leaves me empty.  Through my blurry vision, I see a vague light.  It looks as though it’s trying to burst through the dark clouds.  But every time I try to focus on it, the pain calls to me like a seducing lover.  I feel as though I have no choice but to return to its side and submit to it.  A voice cries out in the empty land with more power and authority than any voice I’ve heard before.

“Let go of him, he’s mine.”

I cry out once more, summoning as much power in the voice as I can.  The light shines brighter and the rain dies down a bit.  Like night slowly beckoning forth the day, I’m drawn from the dark and the rain and the thunder and walk with no problems into a warmth that begins to snake down my body and embrace me like the father embracing the prodigal son after his return.  Doubt, anger, sorrow, self-pity, misery, depression.  All of those things.  Gone.  For me, there is only one form of spirituality that promises me hope, confidence, strength, and true life.

My life is a spiritual journey that should be traveled as a follower of Jesus Christ, with a deep consciousness of God’s loving and empowering presence.

Saying This Last Goodbye to 2014

 

Like Billy Boyd sang a last goodbye to the greatest fantasy epic saga of all time, I will say this last goodbye to such an incredible year.   The New Year is almost upon us, so I felt it only made sense to look back on 2014 and reflect on the amazing things God has done in my life and how far I’ve come.

When 2014 started, I had absolutely no idea that by the end of the year I would be working a job, living (almost) independently, going to college, and even have a girlfriend all at the same time.  I understand that God works in mysterious ways, and my life has certainly taken a turn I did not at all expect.  I didn’t plan to have any of these things at the start of the year.  Sure I obviously wanted a job and the idea of going to college sounded great, but now I’m in a completely different place now then I was twelve months ago.  Here are some of the amazing and incredible experiences I’ve had in 2014 that I will never forget.

1. Royal Family Kids Camp – It does seem a bit odd to have this be #1, but it’s true.  RFK was an unbelievable experience that I wish I can rewind and relive all over again as if I’m experiencing it for the first time.  It was a phenomenal five and a half days to leave home and volunteer for a camp for foster children.  When I came back from that event, I felt like Frodo when he came back from Mordor or like Bilbo when he came back home from Erebor.  It was just such an honor to be a friend to kids who have been through experiences that they should have never gone through in the first place.  I’m beyond glad that I get to look back at this and know that I made a difference in those kids’ lives.  I’m so excited for RFK next year, but no future time there will be the same as the first time.

2. New Friends and Relationships - One of the things I prayed to God the most for at the beginning of the year was for new friends.  At the time, I was going through some periods of loneliness, and it was a major struggle for me.  I know that God heard me, because I get to move on to the next year with new friends such as ones I made at college, and if that wasn’t enough, God gave me a friend who’s now my girlfriend, and I can’t be happier to know someone like her.  I’ve made new connections with other people and have bonded with them over a short period of time, and I believe that God brings people into my life for a reason.  Whatever happens in the future regarding my relationships is in God’s hands and I trust Him to guide me in the right direction.

3. The Start of a New Chapter - Between having a job, going to college, and living away from my parents now (nothing against my parents, they’re awesome), I feel very strongly that a new chapter in my life is on the horizon, and God has amazing plans for me that I think will begin to really bloom in 2015 if they haven’t already.  I should mention that despite the major changes that have occurred in my life this year, this year was still far from perfect.  I’ve still made mistakes and have had some deep struggles, but despite all of that, I’ve managed to continue on and trust that God knows what He’s doing.  I want to live life to the fullest and live the life that God has planned for me.  That being said, I’m beyond thrilled for the next chapter in my life in 2015!  Happy New Year everybody!

I know that this song is a little bit over-dramatic to go with this article, but I just think it’s awesome :)

http://youtu.be/r4j_kCQ4f2Q

Time to End the End of the World

How can such a thing be achieved?  It can’t.  The world will one day end whether we want it to or not.  What I mean by the title is that it’s time to stop wasting so much time over-analyzing and over-thinking how the world will end and when it will end.  This is mostly what we call ‘conspiracy theories’.  Here are some theories of when the end times will occur:

1. The Battle of Armageddon will happen in 2018 – Drat, I really wanted to have children at some point in my life.  Unless I get married and get at least one child before 2018, I guess it’s not happening.  This theory was brought up by F. Kenton Beshore, President of the World Bible Society.  This theory was made because it’s believed that Jesus will return one biblical generation after Israel was founded as a modern state in 1948.  Keep in mind though, that Hal Lindsey thought the generation would pass in 1988.  We’re still here.

2. The Sign of Two depicting Jesus’ return in 2029 – Well at least if it’s in 2029, I’ll have enough time to teach my kid how to play ball or ride a bike.  This theory came about when a man named Mike Flipp apparently saw signs two years leading up to 2005 that apparently had the significance of the number ’2′.  The number ’2′ in this case is meant to foreshadow Jesus’ Second Coming.  When he deciphered these signs, he apparently came up with the date 2029 AD, however that happened.

Then of course we have the not-very-Revelation theories concerning robots taking over the world and that kind of scary stuff.  The point is, we are wasting our time trying to come up with these predictions.  There is one verse in the Bible that pretty much sums up how worthless it is:

‘But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father’. – Matthew 24:36 NIV

When it comes to the way we are meant to live our lives here on earth, I always say this: God put us on the earth to enjoy it, not worry about when it all ends.  If we constantly worry, predict, or try to analyze when the End Times come, we miss out on the things that are most important, which includes pursuing a relationship with God.  Joy and peace are some of the fruits of the Spirit, and trying to find conspiracies don’t offer either of those things.  In my previous two articles, I talk about ‘staying in the moment’ or learning how to find your purpose.  Continue to do that while you still can.  It’s true that the Bible tells us to be alert for when the time comes, but that doesn’t mean stopping everything in our lives and preventing some incredible things to happen in our lives.  God has plans for you to give you a hope and a future.  Trying to predict the end of the world doesn’t inspire hope, and it only suggests dread and fear to be a part of your future, which brings me to another verse:

‘For God did not give us a spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control’. – 2 Timothy 1:7 NET

Be excited for your future.  Be hopeful and trust God in all things.  He has a plan for your life that promises things beyond our imagination.  God has blessed me with so many good things this year (more on that in a future article) and I can’t even begin to imagine what He has planned for me in 2015.  Because of His promises, I’m beyond thrilled for the future.

Staying In It: Let’s Live In The Moment

In the oppressive cold of the Himalayas, Ben Stiller’s Walter Mitty watches Sean O’ Connell looking at a snow leopard with a camera waiting to take a picture.  Sean doesn’t take a picture however, but just continues to stare at the leopard as if mesmerized.  Confused, Walter asks Sean if he’s going to take a picture.  Sean replies with, “Sometimes I don’t.  If I like a moment, for me, personally, I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera.  I just want to stay in it.”  ”Stay in it?” Walter asks.  ”Yeah.  Right there.  Right here,” Sean says.

All  the things in the world that demands our attention tends to keep us from living in the moment and just being mesmerized by the beauty that’s in front of us.  Our work, our daily routine, and our responsibilities tend to make us rush and be too busy to take a moment and actually live in it.  What does that mean though, to live in the moment?  Aren’t we already living as long as we’re breathing?

Well yes, we are living scientifically speaking as long as we’re still breathing, but what it means to actually live for real is to drop all distractions, forget about the things that demand our attention if they can wait, and reflect on the  value and preciousness of life.

We spend so much time making sure to stay on top of work and reach our ambitious goals that we tend to forget that we live in a world where there is beauty to be seen and blessings to be counted.  It’s important to drop everything that distracts us and see the beauty.  You can spend a little bit of time outside and admire your favorite aspects of God’s green earth.    Do what needs to be done to keep yourself focused.  If listening to music distracts you, then don’t listen to it.  Just embrace  the silence.  Sean O’ Connell also says that ‘true beauty doesn’t ask for attention’.  A lot of things today scream for our attention such as negative news, movies, Facebook stats, etc.  True beauty such as nature doesn’t ask for attention, but it deserves to have attention.

You can put aside your work-related priorities to spend quality time with your loved ones.  Dedicate time to hang out with family, friends, your significant other, etc.  Also, let the event be about the other person instead of yourself.  Be a blessing to those around you.  You will never regret spending personal quality time with those you love.

Finally, what are your hobbies besides work or things that are part of your daily routine?  What do you enjoy doing that gives you peace?  Do you like taking pictures of snow leopards (if you happen to live in areas where there are snow leopards)?  Do you enjoy writing, reading a good book, knitting, or tending to your garden?  Do what you love and put yourself completely in it.  Right there.  Right here.

For Christians, put everything aside to pray to God.  God can lighten your burdens and help you to have optimism and stress-free periods at work if you ask.  I’m going to wrap this up with a good verse that I think can be inspirational whether you’re a God-fearing man or not.

Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything.  Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done.  If  you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand.  - Philippians 4:6-7a

Let’s live in the moment.

 

Who Do You Think You Are? 4 Things To Know About Yourself

o-WALTER-MITTY-facebook

In a world that’s full of media telling you to be all this or that, it’s hard for us as humans to get a grasp of who we really are.  What are your dreams?  What are your real core values and beliefs?  What do you want to represent and what kind of a person do you want to call your own?  We can even ask the simple, existential-ish questions and ask: Who are we?  What are we?

Ultimately, the question to ask is: Do you know who you are?  Movies and TV shows tend to influence our outlook on who we are or what we should be.  What do you think is your purpose?  What is it that you want to do?  Teens in high school today are constantly pushed to be something that they’re not.  Expectations for people seem to be exceedingly high, and we can’t seem to get enough quiet time to think about it.  So, to make this straight and clear, there are several questions to ask.

1. What are your dreams?  Everyone has a passion that they dream of pursuing, but unfortunately, many don’t get up and actually pursue it.  What do you feel called to do?  Whether you’re a Christian who believes you are called by God to do something or not, everyone has a calling, even if they don’t realize it at first.  It’s something that we need to search for.  Sometimes that involves trying out new things.  At no point in our lives will we finally learn everything about mother Earth.  There’s always something to learn and explore.  There’s a whole world out there waiting for you.  Go out and find your dream.

2. What are your core values?  What is it that you believe?  Do you believe that you’re here because of some cosmic coincidence or do you believe there’s a god with a plan for us?  Yeah, I just snuck in a nerdy reference, deal with it.  But seriously, what is it that you hold near and dear to your values?  What do you believe about life and morality?  Whatever you decide to do, what you believe about life, morality, and religion is entirely up to you.  People make decisions to believe in something else overtime, but it’s not for anyone to decide what you’ll believe.  That’s your decision to make.

3. What are your relationships like with other people?  Your relationships influence the way people think about you and even influences the person you’re bound to become.  This is a short segment, but an important one.

4. Sometimes, to find yourself means to leave your normal life and go on adventures to escape from normalcy and discover what fires you up.  When I say adventure, I’m not exactly suggesting you go the way of Ben Stiller’s Walter Mitty, although, going out there to explore the world is not a bad idea.

To wrap up, I think it’s important to mention that one of the reasons why people don’t want to get up and find themselves is because of media and news.  Depressing news tends to keep people withdrawn in their comfort zone.  Trust me, I know this from experience.  Our generation is oversaturated by the media that influences them to be something that they are not, and it prevents them from finding their true selves.  Don’t be afraid to get up and step out your comfort zone.  Be the person that you are truly meant to be, not what other people say you should be.  You’re going to be different from other people, but different is good.  The true you isn’t lost somewhere on the other side of the world.  It’s with you, it’s just a matter of mining it and finding what’s underneath.  Be different, dream big, and never stop learning.

5 Reasons Why I Liked A Matter of Faith

After feeling disappointed by God’s Not Dead, I’m happy to say that the latest film in what appears to be a long line of Christian/Bible-based films this year did not disappoint.  A Matter of Faith was a film that surprised me in a good way.  Seeing the trailer for this movie did not show much promise, and felt like it was just trying to mimic God’s Not Dead.  Thankfully, this didn’t turn out to be the case.  I went to see it with absolutely no expectations and I found myself enjoying it.  Below are five reasons why I felt this film was good.  As a forewarning, there are major spoilers to follow, so if you haven’t seen this movie and you want to, then I recommend you wait.

To start off, the plot of the movie is a girl named Rachael who graduates high school and is heading off to college to study biology.  Her biology class is taught by Professor Kaman, who teaches evolution as fact (which is way more believable than a philosophy professor making the students write ‘God is dead’ for a grade).  Because of this, Rachael begins to be influenced by her professor’s teachings, which concerns her father.  As a result, her father ends up challenging the professor in a famous debate: Evolution vs. Creationism.  Now to list why I felt this film was good:

1.  This film has a much more straightforward, easy-to-follow storyline that doesn’t try to add in a bunch of subplots and extra side messages that many other Christian films attempt to do.  The central lesson of this movie all comes down to this: Believing in a god that created the universe and choosing to have a relationship with Jesus Christ doesn’t result in a matter of ‘fact’, it results in a matter of faith, hence the movie title.  It all comes down to what we choose to believe.  Former Professor Portland in the movie spoke the truth when he said that we can argue back and forth with each other about how our beliefs in the origin of the world are logical, but it won’t change anything.  People make the decision to turn to Christ through love, not logic.  The logic of an intelligent designer is already around them, they just choose not to accept it.  It’s the actions of Christians that win them over and it’s the love Christians show the others that gives us hope that others will change their minds about what they believe.  Professor Portland displayed this by apologizing to Kaman for the bitterness he had towards him and he forgave Kaman for firing him from the school.  That was a powerful moment that made me nod in approval in the theater.

2.  Like I said above, this film doesn’t try to be something so big that it feels too overwhelming.  This film feels much more focused and seems to know exactly what it wants to be at the end of the day.  There’s also no Newsboys and Duck Dynasty to find here (thank God).  In fact, there’s no mainstream Christian music in this film at all until the very end, but at that point, it almost felt fitting and was a welcome way to start rolling the credits.  This film felt raw and honest, and I felt it had a little something for both sides of the issue.  Almost all of the characters in this film played a big part in the story and contributed well.  This felt more like a real movie that knew what it was doing instead of trying to be a Christian propaganda piece.

3.  I really liked the fact that the Christians here weren’t portrayed as perfect people.  Rachael was the character that Josh Wheaton from God’s Not Dead should have been.  Rachael was conflicted, her faith was challenged, and she made choices that she would regret.  I think a lot of Christian parents can relate to the fear of seeing their children off to college.  Will their kids continue to hold on tight to their faith?  Will they make the right decisions now that they don’t have their parents’ supervision?  This movie takes a good look at that, without going through all the trouble of adding all the aspects such as alcohol, drugs, and sex to add more needless drama.  Cracking eggs over a guy’s head promising him a hundred bucks and then cheating him from it, which sparked a trend that caused Rachael to get into an unhealthy relationship, was a decent way to go.

4.  Making the professor’s ultimate decision at the end somewhat ambiguous was an excellent move on the writers’ part.  The movie leaves it to the viewer’s imagination to wonder what the professor chooses to believe.  I know that a lot of Christians would want to see a clear conclusion where the unbeliever chooses Christ and we can all rejoice for the character, but why not have a little bit of mystery?  The important thing is that the debate got the professor thinking.  He’s at least rethinking what he believes.  His last scene in the movie where he’s looking deep in thought at the stuffed chicken was a great way for his character arc to end.  Is anybody familiar with the fictional story An Imperial Affliction from The Fault in Our Stars?  I think it’s about as powerful as that.

5.  Finally, it’s important to mention that this movie also technically bashes the Evolution/Creation debate.  Arguing with someone who isn’t a Christian is, at the end of the day, a horrible waste of time.  It’s perfectly understandable that we want others to believe what we believe because, to us, it’s fulfilling and infuses hope in our lives.  I believe that some of us assume that anyone who isn’t a Christian has a miserable, depressing life with no positive aspects to go around.  At the end of the day, God changes their minds, not us.  God leads people to Him.  We’re the ones who plant the seeds, and then we’re supposed to step back and allow God to work within the lives of those we’ve affected.  We can’t force our doctrine down other people’s throats just like others shouldn’t force their doctrine down our throats.  How is that treating each other with love and respect?  We’re supposed to show love to them, not ridicule them for what they believe.

That all being said, this film was in no way perfect.  The music for the first twenty minutes seemed to be the same fifteen-second track on a loop, and some of the dialogue wasn’t very well written.  When Professor Portland does his speech near the end of the film, I felt like I was watching a video sermon instead of an actual movie.  Thankfully, the speech was very well written and was one of the key components for the way I felt about this film, so I’m not really going to bash it.  I recommend this film for both Christians and non-Christians because it contains a message that I think both sides desperately need to hear.  It puts a lot of those Evolution/Creation debates to shame, and teaches us something valuable.  Believing in God isn’t a matter of fact, it’s a matter of faith.