Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Getting Controversial: I read my Bible because I feel guilty. Featuring: Being vs. Doing

I attend a Bible Study every Tuesday night here at West Point called OCF, Officer's Christian Fellowship. It's been great to get to know the people involved and make some new friends. I had a great time at the OCF retreat last month, getting away and spending some quality time with Papa was soul-nurturing.

OCF uses the Christian tried-and-true recipe for a Bible study: worship, announcements, short message, small groups. Quite frankly I'm cool with this, Jesus shows up regardless of the format, and that's what really matters.

Tonight the memory verse for this week came from the book of Joshua:

Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.
Joshua 1:8
After the verse was read aloud, the speaker posed this question to think about during the week:

What should I be doing differently in my life or continue doing after reading this verse?
It got me thinking, in a big way.

(First of all, I'm referring to the question throughout this post, not the verse from Joshua. I believe the verse is a very Old Testament way of saying "you guys don't know how to live. Do it this way: it works." If you think I'm off-base in this thinking, let me know.)

These days, whenever I hear someone talk about "what should I/we/he/she be doing?" I immediately stop to asses what's being asked.

First, the question comes with an inherent sense of expectation. Not "what's the right thing?" but instead "what should?" The person asking has some sense that there's an expectation to be lived up to. There's an invisible point in the distance that they must reach, and this action should be a step towards that point.

Second, the question is all about action, rather then personal development. "What should I/we/he/she be doing?" There's no sense of personal change, rather just a change of action. It's almost as if the person asking is saying "surely there's some action I can participate in that will change me from the outside-in."

Clearly, I disagree with the premise of the question being asked. However, my disagreement and inner frustration reached a climax during small group time.

I really do like the small group I'm a part of. All of the guys are solid brothers in Christ, and I believe they are truly seeking after God. My small group leaders are both Firsties (translation: seniors) and have 100 other things to be doing on a Tuesday night during a Thayer Week (translation: week with a ton of tests and papers due). I admire them for showing up and leading our group week after week. Also, I admire the other plebes (translation: freshmen) who attend the group. I know I have at least 50 other things I could be doing, and so do they. They help push me continue coming every week.

So, that said, moving on to the frustrating part of the night.

Guilt really grinds my gears. I feel as though if I am doing something because someone has made me feel guilty if I do not do it, I'm probably doing it for the wrong reason. I believe guilt has its place - and it has kept me out of trouble more than once. I do not believe that its place is in manipulating people. Unfortunately, much of Christianity today relies on that second kind of guilt: the kind that really pisses me off.

An on-going challenge that my small group leaders push every week is for all of us to read our Bibles on a daily basis. I love this idea. I understand that reading God's word is important, and I know that not reading the Bible is not helpful to my walk with Christ. The leaders of my small group check us every week,
"Colin, how'd your time in the Word go this week?"
"Good! I spent time in James and got a lot out of it."
"Did you read every day?"
"Nope, I missed Thursday and Saturday"
"Oh...well you gotta get on that every day man."

And so it goes, every week. Now don't get me wrong, I'm all for accountability for my actions. I appreciate the check up because it keeps it fresh in my head. Tonight however, one of my leaders said something that shocked me.

"Guys, if this keeps up we're gonna start some kind of competition where you do push ups if you didn't read, or something. I mean, we want you to succeed."

Here's the thing: I want to read Papa's words because I want to read them. If I'm reading them because I have to, because somebody else wants me to, or because I don't want to have to do push ups next Tuesday, I honestly don't really see the value in reading at all. I know this probably goes against the whole "the Bible never returns void" but I also know that a seed planted in fertile soil is going to give much more fruit then that planted in rocky soil.

My point is this: what's with the church guilting people into doing things that supposedly "grow our relationship with Christ?" If we are doing it to not feel guilty, then we're not really doing it to grow closer to Christ, are we? I have a theory: I don't think God's into the whole "actions first" thing. What if Papa was more interested in our hearts then with our hands?

You may not agree with everything I'm saying here: I'm sure there are plenty of verses that contradict my heresy. That said, I think we can all agree that manipulation through guilt is unhealthy. I'm not talking about choosing "the hard right over the easier wrong" (although, I'd love to do a post on that later). I'm talking about doing something because I feel like I have to, when the option is there to do that same thing out of personal desire for growth in my relationship with Christ. After all, it's the heart behind the action that matters, isn't it?

Hit me: where is my theology all jacked up?


Saturday, November 13, 2010


As a Plebe at West Point, I only have so many options on the weekend. If there's an away football game/sporting event, a lot of times I have the option to leave and support the Army team. I've taken advantage of that several times, and have already traversed to New York City, Philly, New Jersey, and Michigan as a result. Not only have I met a lot of great people on these trips, but I've also developed some ability to navigate around big cities - something which a directionally challenged individual from Boise can really appreciate.

The other weekend option for Plebes at West Point is to stay on post. Basically, this consists of chilling in your room, playing video games, watching movies, or performing some combination of those.

Although I prefer the traveling option, a little something that starts with an 'm' and ends with 'oney' has decidedly kept me within the gates of Hogwarts- er, West Point, for this and next weekend. Luckily, I'm ok with a weekend movie marathon.

This weekend I watched several films, but two stuck out to me. "Role Models" and "I Love You Man" are two movies that I've heard a lot about from friends and relatives, but have simply not gotten around to actually watching.

They're freakin hilarious! Both movies had me rolling on the floor at some point. I would highly recommend both.

Both movies laid out a concept that I think each of us, at one point or another, has taken for granted: friendship. I Love You Man deals with a guy who has no "guy friends" and as a result, no Best Man for his wedding. The hilariousness of watching this guy struggle to find grown-up non-gay friends is funny to say the least, but also made me appreciate my buds, both at home and here at West Point.

Finding new friends can be hard, can't it? I think everyone at one point or another has experienced this, and a lot of times it has to do with change. In fact, sometimes finding new friends can be as painful as it is necessary, depending on the circumstances surrounding the change that comes with it. For example, perhaps somebody who is attending a new school has some pain regarding leaving their last school. In that instance, finding friends, although probably the most healthy thing to do, could be extremely painful for that person.

Developing friendships here has been very interesting. During Beast my squadmates and I were brought together by the common suckage of what we were going through. We had to work together and make sure we were giving 100%, because if one person slacked it brought the rest of the group down. It's similar now during the school year: the last thing most cadets need is their roommates or people in their company bringing them down. Working together is applicable in almost any situation here.

I'm headed home in under two weeks for Thanksgiving break. It will be the first time I've been home since coming to West Point. I am so ready to see my friends and family. One thing I've been thinking about is what it will be like to hang with my friends again. The big thing everyone here says is that friends from back home seem so much less mature and more lazy. I'm not sure I'll view my friends in that light, especially since I've kept in pretty good contact with most of them since coming here. However, it will be interesting to see how I have changed during these last several months. How will I act differently? Do I have the same sense of humor and overall personality as when I left? I think so, but I'm interested to find out what,. if anything, has changed.

How about you? Have you ever felt pain as a result of having to form new friendships? What has been your experience?


Thursday, November 11, 2010

New Layout!

I hope you enjoy the new look of Ground Shaking!
After doing some research, I decided to stay with Blogger for now. Feel free to check out the new slider on the front page, as well as the "Bio," "Add Me," and "Subscribe" tabs on the side bar. Finally, the "Popular Posts" tab on the sidebar is a new feature, showing popular posts from the last 30 days.

Anything you'd like to see added? Comment it up.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Growth and Community

Why am I writing a blog post when I have a six page psychology paper due tomorrow that I still need to start? I'm sure part of it has to do with the bane of all college students, procrastination. Another part, however, has to do with the fact that I need to get this off of my chest.

I've been keeping to myself a lot lately. In some ways I've become a swamp of thoughts and emotions. I use the analogy of a swamp because it's murky and stagnant - nothing is flowing out of it. I've confided in some, and those talks have been good. But I miss writing. I miss the feedback I get from people.

In a lot of ways, I just miss community.

So I think it's time to make some changes. Over the next several weeks I'm going to attempt to turn this blog into a place of community. I'll commit to writing more, and I'll need your help to get feedback on my thoughts. I want to hear your opinion as well - if something I say rubs you the wrong way, please comment and tell me.

Also, expect to see some aesthetic changes to my blog. Layouts and widgets immediately come to my mind.

Let's see where this goes!


Friday, November 5, 2010

Heart Dissonance

I have absolutely no regrets. I made my decision, and I'm sticking to that.

It's a whole lot easier to be 100% real when I'm submerged head first in my comfort zone. Take me out of that, away from my friends, family, and girlfriend, and it's far more difficult then I first anticipated.

I forgot that being real comes with an inherent risk. People may not accept me, may not like me, and may not care.

But is it really a risk when I'm guaranteed to get something back? And doesn't being real always come with a reward? Even if all that reward entails is me feeling like I've been true to myself, isn't that enough?

I refuse to put those old masks back on. I know who I am, and I don't need anything else to define me. The only question I ask is this: have I changed?

The issue with seeing myself in the 1st person is that I've always done that. I don't see how I've changed. When people refer to me as "big guy" it takes me a second to register that I'm tall - I was never abnormally tall growing up and I'm really not used to people referring to me as so. 1st person does that - it mitigates my awareness of self-change so that even when I go through the most life-changing experience, I may not realize that anything about me has truly been altered until much later then the rest of the world.

Oh to be able to view myself in the 3rd person. I wish I could see how my mannerisms and speech have changed with a fresh pair of eyes.

But even if I could, do those mannerisms change anything about who I am? Am I the same person that I was when I first said "Peaceful, Free, and Stupendous" in the same sentence?

This is my heart dissonance.