Friday, August 26, 2011

Baptism by Waterfall

Most often, the purest faith is that which is lived outside of the normalcy of the church. I got to experience that last night.

One of my best friends became a Christian a year ago, in a rather unconventional way, but one which was no less real than any other. While still a new Christian in many ways, his faith is real, and his life proves it. After telling me two days ago that he wanted to get baptized before going back to University, I searched out a pastor and/or leader who could baptize him before he headed back, and then proceeded to hand him their phone number yesterday. What came next makes for a beautiful story.

After some hesitancy, he called me back two hours later, requesting that my brother and I baptize him in a waterfall where all three of us had together a beautiful God-moment. In fact, most of our times spent together were in nature, and mostly, at waterfalls. So it was very fitting.

Anyways, that night, after homechurch, we gathered together his closest friends who had been there who his journey with God and went down to a waterfall at midnight, where the service began. Beginning with intros from my brother and I, then a full-length testimony from my friend, and then a group prayer, we asked him whether he believed that Jesus was the Son of God, the only true God, and that he died for his sins, to which he loudly exclaimed, "Yes. Yes! YES! I BELIEVE!" His excitement was overwhelming and so genuine. haha.

So continuing, we simply said, "Then in the presence of God and the people here today, we baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit." And into the waterfall he went, coming out sopping wet. And my brother and I followed behind. After which proceeded a round of very wet hugs, a rendition of Under the Sea, and laughs of joy and excitement.

So he was baptized by his friends, in a waterfall, at about 1 in the morning.

And it was one of the purest, most sincere, and joyful God-moments I've ever been blessed to be a part of. My friend summed it up nicely - "Don't you think that the angels are dancing and having a party in heaven right now?"

Thursday, August 25, 2011

In the pursuit of success

Occasionally, I wonder what it really means to be successful. And how exactly I am to pursue this. Or, rather, whether it is really even something worth pursuing.

As I'm finishing off my undergrad, I keep asking myself - where do I want to be in the future? Or, even moreso, who do I want to be? If you have the intellectual ability to attend Cambridge or Harvard or Yale, do you go after it? This is where most people nod their heads and say, of course!

But here's me asking, why? For what purpose? To be recognized as someone who attended this prestigious university? For the recognition of my degree? To become wildly famous and 'successful'?

Okay, so let's say I go to 'x' University, get my degree, and become the UN Secretary-General. Or perhaps, a higher position, the US President. (ha). What have I achieved? Still nothing. Not unless I actually do something for people. Not unless people's lives are better for it.

I guess this all seems like mambo jumbo. But I suppose I wonder to myself whether being in a position of power is really something worthwhile at all, if, in that position, you've lost touch with the entire reason you wanted that position.

I studied International Relations because I want to help the oppressed, I want to love them where they're at, I want to change the system that's making them live the way they are. I want to give them hope for something better, and be involved in their lives. But, if in my 'pursuit of success', I somehow forget to meet the people I'm working for, to know who they are and love them for it, to be inspired by them, then I've forgotten the entire reason I'm doing what I'm doing, and it's only foolishness on my part.

At the end of my life, when I face God and he asks me what I've done, I don't want to say that I attended meeting with powerful diplomats and make a suggestion or two on why we should or shouldn't define a conflict as a genocide. Good grief. I want to say that I was there with the people who were suffering, that I loved them when they needed it, that I showed them who Christ was - his incredible love and compassion - in that situation. If I lose sight of that, shame on me. Wordly success is very often more shameful than we realize - sometimes, the most lowly position is where we find the greatest hope.

Friday, August 5, 2011


I was asked to write a speech on love for the wedding of a very dear friend of mine - here's my attempt at explaining this rather inexplicable word.

Love is something that always seems hard to define. It starts with giggles, with laughter, and "do you think he likes me?" It starts with feelings of respect, of admiration, of care. And then it grows.

Love is friendship. It is, as Aristotle famously put it, one soul in two bodies. You are an unbeatable team. You build each other up, you spur each other on, you give advice, you listen. You're the hand that helps the other up when they're down, and the smile that lights up when the other achieves a goal.

Love is, perhaps, a pursuit that never ends. To let someone know that they are so important to you that you're going to make them breakfast in bed, you're going to buy them flowers spontaneously, and you're going to take a sick day off work because to you, they are the most beautiful movie star, rock star, or model. They are the most precious person in the world.

Love is also, very often, a decision. It is choosing to love someone when they hurt you, when you're yelling at each other, or when you just don't feel the same romance that was there when you first started dating. It is the decision to stick with them through the hurt and the pain because you want them, you want this, everyday and forever. But it is, also, more than that.

I think most importantly, love is selflessness. It is putting someone else, their hopes, their needs, their desires, above your own. You want to support them when they're sad, you want to help them achieve their goals, and you want to make them smile and laugh for no other reason than that it makes them happy. And I think this quality of love is the most beautiful. I think it is, perhaps, the closest a person can get to experiencing the unconditional, sacrificial love of God.

To close, I'd like to share a poem from Shakespeare which has, for me, been the love poem that I come back to time and again.

Sonnet 116
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediment.
Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds
Or bends with the remover
To remove
Oh no! It is an ever-fixed mark
Which looks on tempests and is not shaken.
It is the star to every wandering bark
Whose worth's unknown
Though his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool
Though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come
Love alters not within his brief hours and weeks
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.