the world according to Ray

Monday, July 18, 2011

Distracted by Grace

My mornings are beginning to feel uneasy without spending time with God in prayer. I don't think I've ever had a prayer life like the one I am embarking on in this journey. My prayers feel like they have more weight and I sense that I am actually communicating with God instead of throwing up empty words. As time progresses, I will make it a point to write more about it. For now, I just feel a sense of calm in my heart after spending time praying.

I went to my church in LA yesterday. It was great to see many of the faces I haven't seen in a long while and sit in my usual seat. I felt like I was on the cast of Cheers and my pastor is Ted Danson. The more I visit my usual places, the more I realize how much I've missed it in LA.

As I sat in church, I realized the extent to which EVERYTHING on this earth seems to fight for your attention. Both animate and inanimate objects, people, trends, technology, and even your own body calls to you for attention. As I am trying to spend more time with God, I am realizing that I am balancing and having to shorten my time with friends, watching TV, and even reading. Fortunately, I don't have a job consuming most of my days so I have a lot more leeway to schedule things into my daily activities.

I noticed at church, that I was constantly turning around (as I sit in the second row) to see if there were other people I haven't seen. I also couldn't help, but be distracted by the guy sitting in front of me constantly checking his phone. Then my butt and back started to get sore so I was distracted by how uncomfortable I felt sitting there. Then drops of water started to fall from the condensation of the pipes in the ceiling and I couldn't focus on what was being preached through that. Towards the end, all I could think about was how hungry I was. Within a span of one hour, these, along with the temperature of the room, the people walking in and out, the light that glowed from the speakers, and even the movements that my friend who was taking notes next to me kept diverting my attention away from the objective of paying attention to the sermon so that I can listen, think, and apply it. Everything seems to want your attention.

The same thing happens outside of church. Having made the decision to focus primarily on God has been quite difficult simply because I am such a social being. I barely spend time at home, I'm always out and about with people, and I am regularly swapping schedules around so I can reconnect with the people I haven't seen while I was in Korea. The interesting thing is that now, I am weighing how I am spending my time on a moment by moment basis. When I am with people, I do my best to full engage with them, but now, I am making a conscious effort to make sure that as people allocate their resources like money to the things they value, I will do the same with time.

I think that the closer people get to God (or the more they want to) the more they will arrange everything in their lives to be oriented to Him. They will spend their money in ways that is oriented towards God, they will spend their time in ways that is oriented towards God, and they will spend their energy in ways that are oriented towards God. I've been trying for several years now to move towards getting the best of both worlds. Living in the world and being of it and simulatenously walking with God. At least, this is the conclusion I came to when I decided to be honest with myself. If there was ever a time I did so, this was the biggest crap I ever took on God. What I said by telling God that I want Him as well as all the things that the world could offer essentially was saying that God wasn't enough - when the greater reality is that He is MORE than I could ever hope for.

Distractions seem so normal that we brush them off like they are nothing. Just a natural byproduct of living in a busy place. But I wonder if they have a spiritual element. I feel most sleepy when I am about to read the Bible and pray. Its not like I don't enjoy reading the Bible (although until now, I can't say I really enjoyed praying), because I actually do. I am fascinated by the wisdom and the timelessness of the scriptures, but more so because the Word actually brings peace and truth to my life. And yet, I find myself distracted by the yawns and the call of the bed. In the movie, The Matrix, there was a scene when Neo first enters the Matrix by getting plugged in. Everything seems the same as before, except he is now aware that nothing is real except the mission at hand. Then he comes across a woman in the red dress. He turns his head to follow her with his eyes and when he turns around, gets his head blown off only to return to full consciousness on the ship. He then becomes informed that the woman in the red dress was installed to distract him. This is what life in so many ways seems like - as much as we are called to focus on one thing, we are instead distracted by millions of women in red dresses.

The one thing I am learning is that being distracted doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing. The average "Christian" probably spends 2 hours with God a week - the time they spend at church. They will turn to God when they encounter a crisis or hit rock bottom, but most people have their focuses set on their careers or their relationships or their lifestyles that they find God a distraction from it. And for this I am so glad.

We are sinners saved by grace and as sinners we just want to pursue our own desires. As long as we feel like winners at the end of the day, we don't really care what we have to do or give up. Sacrifice becomes selfish and acts of service becomes self-oriented. The idea that we can be distracted by grace is truly amazing. It means that God cares enough about us to disrupt our lives as much as Satan tries to disrupt our focus on God during that short time at church. Our options are to respond or ignore. I've tried to ignore God's calling for the last few months, but the more I tried, the louder He got. I turned by back towards God and started running like Forrest Gump, except I flew clear across the Pacific Ocean and hid in the streets of Seoul. Yet, God found me. He distracted me to a point where I was overwhelmed with His grace because I missed walking with Him so much. Now, I'm recovering from what it feels a fatal accident that I was revived from and learning how to walk once again.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Friday, May 9, 2008

the waiting GAME

The thing about the Corps is that it is a long waiting game.

They require so much information during your preparation stages that its almost a filtering system to see how serious people really are about going. On top of that, they make you run around to get tested, checked, and treated before you can even get considered to go. Getting the interview is like getting all of your college application stuff in - and that is one big headache. Getting the nomination is the easy part - its just an interview with a recruiter who has returned from the Corps and is excited to see someone else experience what they did. Getting the invitation is a brutal combination of getting all your medical, legal, and dental tests/checks done and waiting for them to get around to your paperwork. They say they have stacks of paperwork to go through and medical kits to examine. I think they are just trying to get us to the point of frustration, to make us go through the mountain tops and valleys of emotional decision making, making us second guess our 27 month commitment to poor living standards and being isolated from our family and friends and from the familiar.

Thats what the process is, a patient submission to the uncertainty of the outcome with the mixed desires of really wanting to go and not wanting to leave; because it's not about not wanting go, but whether or not we really want to leave.

Then there's the question of are we really going to do anything meaningful. There is the book that the Corps hands out with narrative stories of how they've touched one person or two people's lives, or how they've touched an entire community, but didn't see the fruit of their planting until fourty years later. Then there are the countless stories of how people say they felt like they wasted 2 years of their life, didn't do anything, and just sat around and watched the sun move from the east to the west. The people who enjoyed their experiences say that the people who didn't enjoy their experiences just weren't assertive and leaders, because they say that there is always something someone can do to make a difference.

At this point, I just want to get my invitation letter so I can get excited about the prospect of going with certainty.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

the new POLITICS

- Gas prices are at US$122
- The war on Iraq has passed the 5 year mark with a death toll of over 4,000
- 79% of Americans now believe that we are in a economic recession
- The real estate market is in crisis
- School killings continue to go on
- International relations are a mess
- 22,000 dead in Myanmar because of a cyclone
- Microsoft is trying to buy Yahoo! but is now pulling back because their feelings were hurt
- Food shortages in the rest of world only affect the US in the amount of bags of rice we can buy at Costco, limiting us to 80 lbs. per visit
- Healthcare crisis without any solution
- The dollar is on life support

And...

a historic election: the oldest, the blackest, and the femalest candidates are competing in an election that will remain in the history books as long as the United States of America stay united.

There is a lot of complaining going on. The democrats are complaining that if there is so much infighting within the DNC, that the republican nominee with automatically win. The republicans are complaining that McCain isn't conservative enough, is too old, and is too buddy buddy with the democratic party. They are using slander to say that Barack is out of touch, that Hilary will conduct politics as usual in Washington, and McCain is always two steps behind the knowledge curve - in fact, none of them have anything to really offer at this point except for empty, but persuasive rhetoric.

Here's what I think is stupid:
People polarizing to one party or another because of anything outside of the issues.
People living and willing to die by a party simply because they were raised that way.
People not learning more than what is being said on television about the politicians and the issues.
People willing to follow someone because they make them feel good.
People being swayed by temporary alleviating measures that will lead to unsustainable difficulties
People concerned more about the way someone from a distance makes them feel than by the issues that are on the table
People that are obsessed with pushing their own moral/economic agenda without concern for the others affected

Regardless, this is a historic election. I love how people are duking it out in this election, how each of the candidates are making an incredible run for the border to secure their position when it comes down to the finish line. This is politics, and as dirty, immature, and arbitrary as the game is, it is one that has become a staple within our culture. We love to waste millions of dollars on candidates in hope that someone just above mediocre will rise above the rest, ignoring issues like character and a broad intelligence and a genuine care for people outside of their $1 million dollar salary ranges. We live in a capitalistic society, but is it really necessary to mock the people by drinking beer and taking shots with them, or by artificially sitting at diners they would otherwise never walk into? I blame the people for their stupidity - that we are but sheep in a country run by wolves.

Also, what good is choice when our options all suck?

One thing I said YEARS ago was that if Hilary Clinton wins the presidency, I will be moving out the country. Thank goodness that I'm going to the Corps because a 1 in 3 chance is still a good chance to me.

Monday, May 5, 2008

the beginning of the BEGINNING

I have a sty in my eye. Probably not the best way to start a fresh blog, but whatever, go ahead, sue me. The sty is annoying me in so many ways and it is actually ten times worse than the time I had pink eye. I don't know why this sty is so bad, or why I sound like Dr. Seuss.

Thanks for stopping by my blog. I hope that you get as much out of it as I will. Please note that your validation of my experiences through meaningful and out of control comments are always appreciated.

Why am I starting a blog?

1. I am trying to become famous. I realized that to truly make a difference in this world, you either have to have ridiculous amounts of money like Warren Buffett or Bill Gates, OR you have to be famous like Bono or Angelina Jolie. Celebrities have become the new wave of raising the necessary money to make world changes. I hope that what I write is entertaining enough for you to want to check my blog as often as you check your Facebook or Myspace accounts.

2. I want to share my life with you (the world). I have, and am in the process of making some significant decisions in my life, and quite often, people don't know where the decision came from or what decision I actually made. This is a blog to help enlighten you about me and about some thoughts that are pertinent to all of our existences while we are on this earth.

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Peace Corps - Pronounced 'peace core' NOT 'peace corpse.'

So after a long and strenuous and really really annoying process, I have finally finished ALL of my medical kit. Here's what has happened to this point. In March, I randomly typed in www.peacecorps.gov and decided to read through exactly what the Peace Corps was. All I knew at this point about the Corps was what I saw on Shallow Hal, the movie with Jack Black. I honestly thought that the Peace Corps were a bunch of tree hugging fruit cakes who acted like hippies on a global scale. Nonetheless, I ventured on and found that they offered positions in NGO development and Business Development and I thought, NIIIIIIIIIIIIICE (sort of like Borat, but more manly).

After looking around and reading the descriptions, I began my application and although it took me about a week to complete along with another two weeks to get all of my transcripts, recommendations, and other required docs in I stayed the course (something absolutely rare to me). I have always had this belief that if an organization is good enough to work with, they will recognize my talents and just recruit me on the spot - it's happened in the past, so I thought, why not always? But I thought that this would be a great opportunity to exercise my process skills and just go through with it. Then came the interview.

The interview was the best part. Here's a secret that you should apply, if you know who your interviewer is for anything, find them outside of the interview setting before you meet with them. Befriend them and build a rapport that is more like a friendship than like an interview. My interview lasted about two and a half hours and most of the time we were talking about her boyfriend. We looked through the nomination list and found something that I thought fit me perfectly, so I said I wanted it and she nominated me on the spot that day. Being assertive works, try it. It was from that point that the process got annoying.

So, they send you this medical kit with requirements for just about everything that anyone can think of. It took me about three weeks to get the appointments, shots, blood work, dental work, turn my head and cough tests and about US$400 in fees to get everything done. After I sealed the envelope and sent it in, they then thought it would be humorous to send me a list of three other things that I needed before I could get placed. I just finished and faxed it all today and hopefully, they won't be asking me for any more things. From now on, I play the waiting game.

The most interesting part in this process is the normal fluctuations in trying to decide whether or not I really want to go. These are my prime years and for what I could be spending my time accumulating wealth and moving up in the working world, finding a girl to settle down with and have beautiful babies with, and growing closer with friends, I am planning on going to the jungles, mountains, or forest to spend TWO YEARS with random people I don't know from Adam at this point - to both help and to teach, to learn and to grow. 27 months of doing who knows what under the label of "Business Development" for people in Central/South America.

Learn what "Business Development" means and what the volunteers actually do...

I am really excited about the prospect of being able to help people grow though. My thoughts so far are to:
1. start a business ethics and leadership library (please donate books!)
2. begin an annual conference for business and political leaders
3. start a mentorship/apprenticeship program for youths to get connected with people in various fields to see what they want to do in the future
Business development in a developing nation! That is as exciting as it gets.

At this point, the see-saw of my mind is going back and forth much more than you can imagine. Words cannot put into place the type of anxiety and desire for the 'right' decision to be made that I feel. Only if the world was a one way street by which you couldn't make any turns or go the opposite direction.

As for now, I will wait and see what to do. This turmoil between staying in the States, pursuing a career, or joining the Peace Corps and living for others for two years is driving me mad. What do you think?

About Me

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For two months from July 15, 2011 onward, I'd decided to drop everything until I reached an intense level of passion for God. It required that I trusted God with my everything: finances, future, and even my daily schedule. Through this impractical process, I have found that God is even greater than anything I could've expected. This was my 62 day journey and beyond...