Category Archives: religion

the post i’ve been avoiding

templeDo you ever struggle, no, not with what to say, but how to say it?

My whole life I’ve been a pleaser. A goodie-goodie. A teacher’s pet. No, not on purpose. I’ve never taken a teacher donuts, but I have always done my best. I studied hard and made good grades. I never partied, even in college. I’ve never smoked a cigarette, and the only piercings I have are single holes in my ears.

I was raised Seventh-day Adventist, and Seventh-day Adventists just didn’t do those things.

The only area in which I’ve ever been a “rebel,” really, has been in my thought patterns. At fourteen I fell in love with a young man who would eventually choose to become a Catholic priest. Talk about challenging your faith. The Adventist church preaches that the Pope is the Antichrist predicted in the Books of Daniel and Revelation. How could an Adventist date someone who was leaning towards such an “abomination”?

. . . But, then again, who decided what books were included in the Bible in the first place?

Randy challenged me to think deeply and hard about what I believed and to not just accept viewpoints that were thrown at me as fact. Although our relationship was, in many ways, extremely painful for both of us, I have no regrets and will always be grateful to him for the vantage point he gave me. In college my questions about my childhood faith were only compounded by a rigid system (I went to a private Adventist university) in which worship and religion were forced and felt fake. I stopped going to church because I no longer saw the point. What was the value of an hour’s sermon on Saturday when all you were doing was preaching to the choir?

And then I went to Taiwan. And then my mind was blown.

Less than two percent of the population in Taiwan is Christian. Most Taiwanese are a combination of Taoist-Buddhist and worship deities and observe traditions that, to a Christian, seem crazy. You burn paper money to pass on to your dead relatives in their next life? Really?

But it was here that I came to understand how greatly my early years shaped everything about the way in which I viewed religion and the world. The Bible is the Word of God, right? There is only one way to salvation — through accepting the name of Christ, right? Right?

avoidBut would I believe the same if I’d been born in Outer Zambooblia? Even the questions I was asking were from an entirely Christian viewpoint!

And that’s when I began to see that God is bigger than religion — He HAS to be. I have good friends in Asia who are wonderful people who know about God but, for cultural and other reasons, will likely never accept Him. According to the teachings of traditional Christianity, this means they are doomed for hell.

I don’t believe that. I can’t. Salvation and access to truth can NOT be dependent on where you were born.

Today, as a blogger, I have readers from all over the world. The pleaser in me is very aware of how everything I say and do might be received by every one of my readers. So you’re an atheist. You’re laughing at me for believing in God at all right now. So you’re a Muslim. You don’t believe in the Bible; your holy book is the Quran. So you’re an Adventist. You’re upset that I’d challenge the wisdom laid down by the founders of the Seventh-day church. So you’re a Catholic. You’re offended that I’d challenge the authority of the universal church.

And all I can say is, “I’m sorry, but I’m not sorry.” I can’t say what you want to hear because I can never please everyone. God knows my heart, and in the end, the most important thing is staying true to is myself.

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Images: TheAtlantic.com and Pinterest

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thoughts on god

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I couldn’t think of a post today. Honest, I tried. I’ve been getting into something of a rhythm lately, finding a theme. I know you haven’t been able to see it yet, but it’s there. It’s coming. But then Easter came and sort of plopped down in the middle of it, and . . . I couldn’t think of anything to say.

What is there to say (without sounding preachy) about a religious holiday to an international audience? I learned in Taiwan how greatly perspectives can differ.

And so I hoed and hummed. I typed things and erased them. I went for a ride and cleaned my apartment and tried to forget that I wanted to write a post. But I couldn’t. I do believe in God. I do care . . . And then I got an idea.

Below are a few quotes about God and religion. Can you sense a theme? Guess which one’s my favorite? What’s yours?

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“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

C.S. Lewis

“I think God, in creating man, somewhat overestimated his ability.”

Oscar Wilde

“God has no religion.”

– Mahatma Gandhi

“God save us from religion.”

– David Eddings

“Without God all things are permitted.”

– Fyodor Dostoyevsky

“God is the same everywhere.”

– Leo Tolstoy

“I have to believe much in God because I have lost my faith in man.”

José Rizal

“The men who really believe in themselves are all in lunatic asylums.”

G.K. Chesterton

“God is a circle whose center is everywhere and circumference nowhere.”

Voltaire

It matters not the path on earth my feet are made to trod. It only matters how I live: Obedient to God.

Clark

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huck finn: a hero for all time

Huck_and_jim_on_raft

Huck and Jim on the raft

I’m listening to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn on audiotape while helping a friend clean her house. It’s the part toward the end where Huck is deciding what to do about Jim, Miss Watson’s runaway slave. Huck and Jim have been rafting down the Mississippi for weeks now — Huck trying to escape his drunken Pa; Jim trying to find freedom — only they keep running into trouble. This time, a couple of vagrants have kidnapped Jim and sold him to Mr. Phelps, a local farmer, and now, Huck is confused: Should he do what’s “right” (and what he “shoulda done all along”) and tell Miss Watson where Jim is and thus betray his friend? Or, should he listen to his heart . . . ? Continue reading

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where we came from

Sandimen, Pingtung County, Taiwan

Boy in Sandimen, Taiwan

Danshui, Taiwan Dragon Boat Festival June, 2011

The hot sun hung high in the western sky. Beneath it, brightly colored gods — with their wide eyes and big lips and expressions both goofy and severe — danced and sang in the dusty streets. The parade swayed to the beat of drums and exotic music as it snaked its way past the MRT station and between the tall Danshui buildings. A ways off, down by a three-story Starbucks beside the river, I saw lions, dancing. The performers were teenagers. They were incredible. Continue reading

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i love you

redtreeI’ve often been told I’m a “sympathetic soul.” I’ve never given it much thought, but in recent months I’ve realized: It’s true. I love you and you and you and you and . . . Why? How can I love you? I’ve never even met you.

Why?

Because I’m human, too.

I don’t care what you look like or where you live or who you believe in or what you wear. I don’t care if you’re male or female, rich or poor, French or Peruvian, educated or uneducated . . . I don’t care if you like horses or if you like to eat horses . . . I don’t care if you love travel or if you’ve never traveled . . . Continue reading

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on death and living life to the fullest

There are so many things I want to write about right now. I have a long list of recent experiences to share, not to mention wanting to get back to things related to my time in Asia. But, sometimes, life gets in the way. We wish life was all sunshine and roses, but, unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.

Last December, my family lost our grandfather on my mom’s side. He was a gruff man who built his legacy on a tow yard. I wrote about the experience here. Now, it looks like we may be losing my grandmother, “Nana,” too. Nana has spent more time in the hospital than out of it since my grandfather’s death, and just recently everything has gone downhill. Presently doctors are trying to keep her comfortable at a hospital in Ohio. We’re not sure how much more time she has to live.

Upon hearing the news last night, my brother Derek, who is himself a talented writer, sat down and penned (with a few minor edits) the following thoughts:

On Death and Living Life to the Fullest

By Derek Cyphers

Whatever happened to passing peacefully in one’s sleep? Is one of the few drawbacks to advancements in medicine that we can now prolong life further than it was meant to, ultimately leading to more suffering over time? At least for our family, this has probably been the hardest part. My first exposure to this came with our paternal grandmother, who fought cancer bravely, and painfully, for nine years before finally succumbing in 2003. More recently, it was our grandfather on our mom’s side, who was a shell of his true self due to mental and physical decline by the time he passed this last December. Continue reading

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let there be light

boston-bombinged

“You will be remembered. Stay strong Boston.”

It’s been nearly two weeks since the bombing at the Boston Marathon. Nearly two weeks since two alleged terrorists killed three people and injured 264 others at one of the world’s oldest and most beloved annual events. Nearly two weeks since chaos erupted and an entire city was shut down to find the imposters. Nearly two weeks, and I have yet to say a word.

I haven’t mentioned Boston.

Why?

Is it because I am heartless? Am I too busy writing articles to concern myself with the plight of marathoners far, far away? Too busy talking to birds and making up poems about the night sky to worry about things like death and destruction? Too busy pondering life to take stock of what’s happening in it?

Or is it . . . something else? Continue reading

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carry on

stormAlone I sit and contemplate
this thing that we call life:
Desires we cannot satiate,
the struggles and the strife.

I wonder why we do it now,
I wonder why we try.
I wonder why we carry on,
why not lay down and die?

I guess there’s hope—
the future, see?
Our dreams, they are
a mystery . . .

But, no.

It’s been all these years:
He’ll not return to me.

(He’s God’s, can’t you see?)

I wonder why I do it now,
I wonder why I cry.
I wonder why I can’t let go,
for him, alone, I’ll die.

Unworthy . . .

(God judge me.)

He doesn’t mourn for me.

Image: Pinterest

Note: I feel badly. This poem is not about death (at least not in the traditional sense), though it could easily be read that way. Please, dear readers, do not mourn for me. I did not mean to mislead you or look for sympathy.

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greater than all these

Taiwan_temple05

Dragons are the most exalted “animal” in Chinese culture.

I was struck by its colors. Bright red and yellow and blue and green . . .

But then it was gone. Nick* was driving too fast. But, oh wait! There was another one. This one looked similar, only it was bigger. Rainbow-colored dragons with yellow spines leaped from its peaks. Black-bearded men holding whips perched nearby. I was agog.

But then it was gone.

“Would you slow down?” I wanted to punch Nick.

“You want to see temples?”

I said nothing. Continue reading

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how to not die: the “real” missing piece

A few posts back, I talked about the missing piece from my rock-climbing story. I was raised Christian and went to small Christian schools all my life, including college. When I had my accident, the entire student body at the university I was attending prayed for me. Both people I knew and people I’d never met watched as I went from nearly dying to fully recovering—a miracle they attested to the power of prayer.

I’ve already talked about how this incident affected me—how I slept through it all and came out an incredibly sick girl on the other side.

But there certainly are spiritual implications to my story. I cannot deny that prayer is what brought me through (it certainly was no power of my own): to say otherwise would be a slap in the face to both God and my dear friends . . .  This is true even if I don’t really know what God looks like.

So . . . the missing piece is you. The people who were most impacted were you. The people who saw the miracle was you.

I asked a few friends if they’d write down their remembrances, so anyone interested could hear my story from a different perspective. Here are two of their stories. Chad Stuart and Hilda Thordarson-Scott, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.

chad2

Chad Stuart was the student chaplain at Southern when I had my accident. Today, he is a pastor in Visalia, California. Here he is pictured with his wife and two of their three sons.

PRAYERS FOR JESSICA

It was late on Saturday night, January 25th when I first received news that one of our students had fallen while rock climbing. That was all I heard—no name, no details. Just that an accident had happened. I said a quick prayer, but other than that didn’t give it much thought. I was in Ohio visiting my parents for the weekend. There really wasn’t much I could do.

The next day, around noon, I turned on my phone and saw several messages. The messages were from the student deans and our secretary at school. They were all updating me about what I now realized was a very dire situation. Continue reading

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how to not die: the missing piece

Ten years ago today (January 25, 2003), I fell 80 feet (24 meters) while rock climbing at T-Wall, a popular climbing site in Tennessee. The doctors said I might not live; when I did, they said I’d never be the same again. Today, not only am I “normal,” most people don’t even know this incident ever happened. This is part four of my story. (To read parts one, two, or three, click here, here, or here.)

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THE MISSING PIECE

For an audio recording, click here:

There’s a piece of my story that’s missing
the piece that is all about you.
It’s the piece that I’ve struggled the most with
the piece so many assume true.
I recovered from my accident eventually.
My rehab is on the next page.
But what of my soul, of “God‘s purpose”?
What is it that I owe to you? 

Something that has been hard to explain is the disconnect I feel from what happened to me during those weeks in the hospital. When I woke up in the ICU three and a half weeks after I fell, I was a little girl. A sick little girl. And that was all. Continue reading

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how to not die: the i.c.u.

Ten years ago today (January 25, 2003), I fell 80 feet (24 meters) while rock climbing at T-Wall, a popular climbing site in Tennessee. The doctors said I might not live; when I did, they said I’d never be the same again. Today, not only am I “normal,” most people don’t even know this incident ever happened. This is part three of my story. (To read parts one and two, click here and here.)

THE I.C.U.

4 a.m.

A scream. More of a growl, actually. Arrrr! Arrrr! Arrrrrrrr! The pirate a few rooms down was hallucinating again.

Footsteps echoed off the laminate floor.

Then, silence.

I could hear machines humming. My machines. Whirrrr. Whirrrr. Their green lights glowed in the dark. I pretended they were aliens. Continue reading

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what orion said

I went running tonight. After working on a news article all day, I was tired. I needed to stretch. I needed a break.

orion

I needed to clear my head so that I could work on yet another news article. (To be started shortly. I hope.)

The air was crisp and cool. The stars and waxing moon, shining bright. Orion was standing tall above the hills, and we chatted for a bit. I told him about my day, shared my concerns; we commiserated. And I was reminded, once again, of just how small I am; and of the universe, just how big. Continue reading

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