Getting into me

This was the absolute last project I completed in high school. It was for AP Language and Composition. Throughout that last semester I wrote a lot about faith and religion. In retrospect, I feel terrible for two reasons: 1) Generally, when I write anything regarding faith and/or religion, my ideas are too scattered. I find myself with the idea in the back of my head that I want to justify Christianity. Often that is what deters me and scatters my thoughts. 2) My teacher was a “soft” atheist. That is, she was an atheist “by default”. She said she wanted to believe, but she was skeptical. I feel bad that I forced her to reading my papers on faith and religion.

This presentation was probably the best one I ever completed in that class. I think it captured the essence of what I wanted to convey to my teacher through my writing. Here is my presentation in full — with some deleted images

Welcome to the Christ Life

This photo was taken at my Church before the Easter service. I remember there being a ballet rehearsal when I took this photograph; I felt like a creep taking pictures while ballerinas were chassée-ing across the stage. I wanted to open my presentation with a bold statement, and I felt the symbolic cross would do that. ((The actual cross would actually not have had such a tall head.)) The words are a reference in majority to the Kanye West song the “Good Life”, and to a study my church did on the Christ Life, Jesus’ life as told through the gospel of Luke. The good life, to me, is the Christ life. This image would set the tone and stance for my presentation; I wanted to show my audience how my life reflected my faith, and not the other way around.

Magic has always captivated me. As a kid, I was especially drawn to it. I think it’s interesting that magic and faith share some common qualities, and that my dire interest in my youth for magic may have grown into a dire interest for faith as I grew older. I think the caption explains that in some sense. In order to believe the Christian faith, you have to have faith, a belief that has very little ground in what you can see; Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see.” That doesn’t mean that faith is blind. I think the Christian faith has ample rationale for belief. However, despite what evidence is presented, if you continue to question with an inclination to doubt, no explanation will suffice.

The caption is in reference to a song called “Doctor my Eyes” which I connect to sexual purity in that I try to protect my eyes from any image that might stimulate my sex drive. It’s so true too! If you can protect and control what goes into your mind, you can limit yourself efficiently. The Christian faith calls for sexual morality — to “flee from sexual immorality.” I chose this picture because it’s one of the few pictures I have with a “significant other”, although we didn’t actually date. I view women as the male counterpart. We need each other. Consequently we ought to respect each other. Pornography doesn’t respect women or men. Thus I am a fervent opponent of pornography. Moreover, my struggle with lust and pornography threw me into seeking God; it’s a crucial part as to why I became a Christian. I don’t mean to say that I never look at a girl and appreciate her beauty; there are many pretty girls everywhere! Rather, I just refrain from anything that would stimulate strong sexual arousal.

This is Jimi Shaw and me. Jimi is my best friend. As of this entry, his family lives in Colorado, and he attends university in Seattle. At the end of my sophomore year in high school, the Shaws moved to a farm in Wisconsin, which then turned into somewhere in Colorado. I’m amazed at the fact that we are still phenomenal friends; we hardly see each other once or twice a year! I think a huge reason for our continued friendship is because of the spiritual aspect; we sharpen each other in our faith. It’s not easy finding someone that you can talk to about anything, and for that, I’m thankful for Jimi. Not only Jimi, though, but I especially appreciate my friends that are believers. I make it a life priority to surround myself with “good company”; 1 Corinthians 15:33 says, “Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.” That doesn’t mean I don’t have friends that are “bad company”, and I don’t mean to say that some of my friends are “bad company”. It’s just that life will be immensley easier if some of my closest relationships are Christ-centered. I watch a lot of tv shows where people argue, and I think about how I would handle their situations; It’s a real easy solutin for me: I wouldn’t be in those situations with those type of people in the first place because I’d spend the majority of my time with people like Jimi. Yeah, Jimi is a riot. We are supposed to live together sometime in our lives.

This quote comes from Matthew Thiessen’s blog. He’s an incredibly witty guy, and his blogs are absolutely delicious. You can see his music/lyrics come out in what he writes, and you can see his writing come out in what he plays/sings. I wanted to tie this quote into perseverance. To further bring that picture to fruition, I chose this image of my little sister and me before my 300 metre intermediate hurdles race. The 300m is a man’s race, and then when you actually become a man, you run the 400m at the professional level. Preparation for this race in practice is disgusting, but I love it. All of the aches, vomit, dizziness — I wouldn’t trade it for any other sport. My hurdles coach throughout high school was bomb, and if he wasn’t coach, I don’t think I would have stayed a hurdler those four years. My faith and my experience with hurdles has instilled an awful lot of perseverance and discipline in me. Life is hard — no doubt — but when things become tedious, I lean on my faith. That’s one of the perks of being a Christian: You don’t burden yourself with burdens that decide to make home on your shoulders — we were never made for that kind of life. Matthew 11:28 – “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

This is my now-deceased pug, Muffy. Her death was the first significant death in my life. I’m not so sure that this image has much to do with my faith outside of this: I think God used Muffy to ease me into dealing with death. I’ll admit that, at times, I can be emotional. Most of the time, though, I’m great at keeping my emotions in check. I’m so good (please excuse the conceited tone) that sometimes I worry people think I’m emotionless. This might be an advantageous quality, especially if I pursue medicine — even moreso if I pursue a specialty that deals with death everyday. Do you like the pretzel heart? I thought it myself. It’s pretty genius. Someday I want two pugs of my own.

This picture is one of my absolute favourites! It’s a picture of my Audrey Hepburn 5-pack, and my acceptance letter to Marquette University. There’s a story behind all of this. It was a Thursday, and a terrible one. I woke up terrible, drove terrible (but safely), learned terrible, and felt terrible. At the end of this particular Thursday, there was an event that I was supposed to be part of. I could have not gone, and I really didn’t want to since my day had been so crappy. Against my gut, I went. And it was awesome. The event was called L.E.A.P., and what we do is hang out with elementary schoolers and just have fun. I didn’t think hanging out with a bunch of obnoxious little kids was going to do my day any better, but it did. Those kids resurrected my day, and just being with them was enough to erase all the terribles from before. However, when I arrived at home, I checked my mail and found what you see in the picture above. Can you imagine the wave of joy that took me? I had been waiting for Audrey an entire week! Marquette had been my number one school, and I was anxiously waiting an acceptance or rejection. Those two things in sum with hanging out with the kids at L.E.A.P. was too much joy for a single afternoon. Now how does this relate to my faith? Simple: I had faith that things would be better. Bad days are doorways into good ones. It’s also reminiscent of the crucifixion, I think. To equate the kids at L.E.A.P. with Jesus’ death, but not fully equate, can shed some light on how powerful that afternoon was. Don’t you love the half of Audrey’s face? I don’t want to make any conclusions until I see her right side.

Michael Jackson dominated the music industry for decades, and he dominated my life in middle school. I vividly remember staying up way past my bedtime watching his Madison Square Garden concert in 2001 — 6th grade for me. Michael as a performer is so capturing. My obsession with Michael continued into the 8th grade. It was when I was doing this project that I realised the uncanniness between my obsession for Michael and my faith life. Michael, in the Hebrew I believe, means “Who is like God?”. I’m not sure if the name is meant to be in the interrogative case (asking who is like God?) or in the accusative case (affirming that Michael is like God). In either case, it is an interesting parallel to note that Michael Jackson was my god in middle school, and now I’ve found the true God. Michael Jackson serves me as a lesson learned: Never will I put anything before my relationship with God, nor will I ever idolize someone or something.

Depicted is my best group of friends (minus one). I believe this is one of the images I omitted from the final project. What I wanted to convey in this picture was being a light amidst darkness. In no way do I mean to portray my best friends as evil and dark. They are pretty lively. I like them very much. I just wanted to bring out the idea that Christians are doing an important job by BEING Christians — not merely saying they believe, but walking their talk. I hope that with everyone I interact with, they can tell that Christ has changed me because there is no way I could have changed myself. I’m forever a sinner, but graciously saved.

I omitted this picture from the final as well. It’s the Gilmore Girls with writer Amy Sherman-Palladino. The Gilmore Girls is my favourite tv show. It’s so fast, so witty, so cute. Maybe this is bad, but I wouldn’t hesitate to say that I’ve learned a few things from the Gilmore Girls. The quote is Romans 12:2. What I wanted to convey in this image was quite a stretch, but let me explain: I wanted to make the connection that the Gilmore Girls could symbolize “the pattern of this world” — a secular lifestyle if you will. At the same time, I wanted to show that Christians don’t necessarily subtract themselves from the world. We understand that we shouldn’t view ourselves as of the world, but rather we are merely in the world for an indefinite amount of time.

This is my cello. I named her Rory in admiration of Rory Gilmore and Alexis Bledel. The quote is from a song called “Hallelujah”. It’s a nice song, but I’m not especially fond of it — at least not to the point where I would purchase it. I wanted to portray the idea that in anything I do, I do it for God’s glory. Any accolades that come my way, I’ll humbly accept for my Lord. God sustains me and has given me my talents and abilities. In anything I do, I want to remember my originator.

Pictured is Liu Xiang, Chinese hurdler extraordinaire. The picture captures a lot of the essence of hurdling — it definitely depicts my passion for it. You have the tension and the beauty in this picture. The quote is 1 Corinthians 13:13. My life philosophy, outside of anything overly faith related, has its foundation in the philosophy of love. Love fuels every action. We exist because of love (in the biological and faith sense). I discoursed regarding love in an earlier paper for this class. Here’s an excerpt: “Love is not a feeling or a mere passion, but the forgoing of faults (that is, within justification; you do not show love to a criminal by releasing him after a night in a cell). Love understands that we are human, but it does not accept that we are human; knows that we are short of satisfaction, and wants to satisfy; adores all that is beautiful, and detests what is not.” God is love, and that is all we need (1 John 4:8).

I often think about my upbringing and how it molded me into the person I am today. Living with my dad, a lot of my music was “clean” — like The Temptations, pictured above. My dad was phenomenal in being a single parent, raising my sister and me. I could talk for hours about what he did, how he did it, and the significance behind his actions, but I’ll refrain — maybe for a different post. The quote is a lyric from a The Temptations song. What I was trying to get at was that my dad, strong in HIS faith, kept me grounded in morals and humility. My dad kept me within an arm’s reach of God (I don’t mean to say that we are ever out of God’s reach, but I say that for rhetorical purposes). I’m incredibly grateful for my dad. He’s my hero. Words really cannot capture my gratitude.

Pictured is Jackie Chan at the peak of his sit-up position. I love the determination in his eyes. In many ways, I find that this picture encompasses the idealism of determination — being relentless. I think it is admirable when a person is relentless; it’s a small gem of their passion. The quote is from a book entitled “Don’t Waste Your Life” by John Piper. The book surrounds the subject of missions, and living a life dedicated to God. The book is powerful, and further reinforced my passion to be a beacon of God’s glory. The full quote, which can be found on my web site, is actually from two soldiers — one dying, and one listening to his friend’s dying words. The dying soldier’s words are so moving, and I want to be able to say those words when I am on my death bed or in my dying moments. I want to be able to say that I was trying so hard in whatever I was pursuing. I never want to live a “comfortable” life or retirement.

The road to Superbowl 42 was no easy one for the New York Giants. They were the underdogs the entire way. There wasn’t a hint of respect thrown their general direction. This didn’t deter them, though. And I don’t mean to turn this image into another determination one, but it could. What I wanted to convey with this image, then, is the idea that I hate to exclude. I don’t “grade” the people I hang out with. One of the most hurting things in the world is being alone, and I try to prevent those situations from happening. I hope that people see that my relations have no barriers. Christ didn’t have any either. The picture is from the London game during the 2008 season against the Dolphins. It’s very cool.

This is it. This is the verse that I have come to embrace dearly. All of the qualities that I’ve described above originate, not from me, but from Jesus the Christ. Upon finishing my presentation, I distinctly remember receiving comments that I presented myself as a righteous man, and that some of my audience were overwhelmed at the “goodness” — one even remarked that she felt bad in my presence.

I felt terrible! It was never my intention to portray myself as on the higher ground, or to belittle any of my peers or teacher. I scurried to resolve the distance between me and my audience, but I don’t think I was effective in the resolution. Allow me to save face now: I could never be the person I am today if it weren’t for the Messiah’s love. The only thing I did (arguably) was surrender my life to God, and allowed God to mold me; to live in me; to bring me back to rectification. If I want to sum up this entire project, I’d choose those beautiful words of Galatians 2:20: I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who lives, but Christ lives in me.

The picture was taken during my senior year. My high school orchestra attended the Band and Orchestra festival in New York City, and part of the experience included a tour. We walked by this, and I thought the cross would make a neat picture. It turns out it sort of did.

Epilogue: I want to reiterate that all of these qualities and characteristics originate from Jesus the Christ. It’s his love that changed me, and changes people. It’s impossible to think that we can change ourselves and bring ourselves back into God’s favor — absolutely impossible. It’s too much of a hassle. The beautiful thing is, though, God knew it was impossible, and a hassle. So God, in God’s glory, wisdom, and infinite love, sent God’s own son into the world so that we all might come back to God — come back to the way we were meant to be. Jesus’ birth, which is celebrated as Christmas, is a tragically beautiful moment. His birth was the genesis of God’s own suffering on behalf of us all, but joy in our reconciliation.

Christmas serves as a symbolic reminder for me. It reminds me of the baby boy that would change the world, and that would save my life. I struggle with lots of issues regarding my faith. Why is the split between denominations so vast? Why do some babies die in the womb? Is stem cell research ethical? How can I reconcile Darwin’s Theory of Evolution and the doctrine of Creationism? Why is disease so terrible, and why does it take some of our best? The questions are vast, but I try to keep my ground. The only thing I know, is that I believe that nearly 2,000 years ago, a baby boy named Jesus was born. This boy became man, and lived a sinless life. He was crucified by the Romans, and his death was sufficient to pay the price for all of what was and is wrong with the world. That if I believe that, and confess my shortcomings, I will have been brought into salvation. As long as that is fact, that alone is ground strong enough for me to build my house upon.

Even without this presentation, I hope that people will be able to tell that I’m different; I’ve decided to give my life to Christ. Yet, in the spirit of the holidays (SPIRIT of the HOLY-days), regardless of our beliefs, I hope you have a lovely Christmas, and New Year.

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2 comments
  1. simone said:

    Nate…
    I’m really glad I know you.

    anyway.
    Merry Christmas.

  2. Jillian said:

    Your presentation is beautiful!
    I really enjoyed reading it and I’m so glad that you’re growing in Christ, especially that you’ve taken the happenings in your life and used them to bring you closer to God.

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