I love the mountains. Driving back to school yesterday afternoon I was struck for the thousandth time by the magnificence of those smoky mountains. I see them every day, and every day I am awestruck by their beauty. I have hiked all over those mountains, and even if I take a trail I’ve been on before, I always notice something new and the scenery never gets old.
Something about the mountains makes me think about God. I can’t drive through a mountain range or even get a glimpse of them on the horizon without worshiping Him. I love the beauty and complexity and splendor of the mountains. But how much more beautiful and complex and splendid is their Maker? Just as I marvel at their size and my own seeming insignificance, I see myself compared with God’s infinite greatness. Just as I can walk all over them and never know every hidden corner or every bend, I can and will spend the rest of my earthly life knowing God more and more but never even coming close to comprehending all there is to know.
Most days, as soon as I leave my room and walk to class I notice the mountains. But sometimes, though not often, I completely miss them. They are still there, and I know they are, but I am too busy or stressed or distracted to look their way. How often do we do this with God? God, who is immeasurably more vast and magnificent and wonderful than a simple mountain range. God, who, in spite of our weakness and insignificance and destitution, loves us and pursues us. We still know He is there, but we fail to cast even a glance in His direction, much less invest in our relationship with Him. Oh, but we must! He is everything already, but we need to be intentional about focusing our hearts and minds to make Him everything in our lives. I pray I don’t miss the glory of God today because I am enraptured with myself.
I have been desperately searching for a job the past two weeks without any success. It goes without saying that it’s been discouraging. Combined with the fact that I am in a new state with a new home without knowing a soul besides my parents, I have often slipped into feeling sorry for myself. Often while moping over my “difficulties” God would bring to my mind Matthew 6:33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” with “these things” referring to material necessities. Rather than heeding His instruction I focused on myself and my apparent inability to grasp stability and financial security. When I should have been running to His word, I chose to be inconsistent in the time I spent with Him. Because that’s always helped SO WELL in the past. I have to laugh at myself sometimes, I really do. But anyhow, this morning in spending time in the Word I picked up Oswald Chamber’s My Utmost for His Highest. The entry for today, May 16th, was so poignant and applicable that I feel it is imperative to include it. The title is “The Habit of Wealth” and it is a reflection on 2 Peter chapter 1 verse 4 which calls us “partakers of the divine nature.”
We are made partakers of the Divine nature through the promises; then we have to “manipulate” the Divine nature in our human nature by habits, and the first habit to form is the habit of realizing the provision God has made. “Oh, I can’t afford it,” we say—one of the worst lies is tucked up in that phrase. It is ungovernably bad taste to talk about money in the natural domain, and so it is spiritually, and yet we talk as if our Heavenly Father had cut us off without a shilling! We think it is a sign of real modesty to say at the end of a day—“Oh, well, I have just got through, but it has been a severe tussle.” And all the Almighty God is ours in the Lord Jesus! And He will tax the last grain of sand and the remotest star to bless us if we will obey Him. What does it matter if external circumstances are hard? Why should they not be! If we give way to self-pity and indulge in the luxury of misery, we banish God’s riches from our own lives and hinder others from entering into His provision. No sin is worse than the sin of self-pity, because it obliterates God and puts self-interest upon the throne. It opens our mouths to spit out murmurings and our lives become craving spiritual sponges. When God is beginning to be satisfies with us He will impoverish everything in the nature of fictitious wealth, until we learn that all our fresh springs are in Him. If the majesty and grace and power of God are not being manifested in us, God holds us responsible. “God is able to make all grace abound”; then learn to lavish the grace of God on others. Be stamped with God’s nature, and His blessing will come through you all the time.
How proud and arrogant I am to think that I am in control over my life and what I do and the money I make. I love God’s personality, it is so amazing, He just forces me to rely on Him alone which is of course the best thing for me. Then, when I am finally, totally trusting Him, He gives me the things of immensely less value that I need on this earth. As frustrated as I get with it sometimes, when I stop looking at myself and lift my eyes to see the big picture, His plan and timing have always turned out to be best. So here I am waiting. And I am content with it because somehow, someway, my God will supply all my needs. I will just seek Him first above all else.
I changed my major today—officially. Afterward I felt more relieved than I thought I would, which is just more confirmation for me that I am following God on this one. My advisor who tried to talk me out of it told me today she could tell I was doing the right thing because I was “bubbly” when I talked about it; pretty priceless I must say.
What is more priceless is being full to the brim of God’s grace and God-given faith to do something I don’t understand totally with an end that I cannot see right now. But it feels awesome, which is pretty remarkable coming from someone who relishes planning every minute of her day out. Having tried out both sides of the equation, I would rather live blindfolded walking hand in hand with God than have all my steps laid out for me but be distant from Him.
A dear friend told me a story about a man who spent a day with Mother Teresa. At the end of the day, he asked her to pray for him. “Anything,” she replied, and he asked her to pray that God would give him clarity about the direction he was to take in life and what he should do with his future. “I cannot pray that prayer for you” was her response, and at his confused look she said “Clarity is sight, faith is what is unseen, and the righteous shall live by faith.” This changed my perspective on clarity forever. I am not sure I want it. Let me rephrase that…I want clarity, but I’m not sure that is God’s best for me. So I’ll take my chances with faith instead.
Lock in with me for two seconds—God will ask us to do things that do not make sense at the time. We can and often do say no. I did. God, because He is so ridiculously gracious, will often try and get our attention again and again, even as we ignore Him again and again. But He can also just give us up to our passions and let our calloused hearts do our own will. DO NOT get to that place. It is better to live for Him, in Him, because of Him, than any other way. Nothing else will satisfy: “For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” –Psalm 95:7-8
It takes an absolute freight train to get my attention. I kid you not. For the past semester and definitely the past two months, God has been wrestling with me on changing my major. I’m sorry, did I say the past semester? It actually started before I declared my major. But since going into some form of ministry is vague and rather illogical, I had the brilliant idea of making my own rational plans, fitting it into the “ministry mold,” and advertising my great creativity to God so He would get on board. Am I really that stupid? Prideful? Fearful? Apparently. So, after letting me go off on my merry way for about a year and a half, God struck me over the head (graciously) with a break-up, two deaths in the family, one of my best friends going to Spain, and my family deciding to move four hours away to another state. Needless to say, I’m listening now.
But it wasn’t until chapel a week ago today that God laid down the final word. Yes, I knew He wanted me to start following His plan. But, I couldn’t see where that was leading me and for someone who loves to plan that is super freaky. Chapel is a little weird sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, we have some really awesome speakers, but every once in a while they find a real crazy. Not today—home boy brought the WORD. He told us to open up to Jonah and immediately I was like, oh no, I know exactly where this is going and this guy is gonna be talking straight to me. You bet he was. See, Jonah was a prophet living in a comfortable little Jewish village being a, well, prophet. Then God was like, go to this wicked city of Nineveh and tell them about how much they desperately need me. But because of Jonah’s pride in trusting himself instead of God and because of his fear and uncertainty regarding the daunting task, Jonah got up and immediately fled to Tarshish, a city 2500 miles away from Nineveh and a journey that would have taken him about a year to complete. But on the way, God sent a terrible storm onto the waters, and the boat threatened to break apart. Jonah knew it was because of his disobedience that God had sent the storm, so he made the drastic decision to be thrown overboard into the surging sea. He finally surrendered and jumped into an extreme unknown, totally at the mercy of God’s will and grace. You want to talk about some oppressively strong conviction from the Holy Spirit, my chest felt tight breathing by the time the dude finally prayed and dismissed us.
When we turn away from what God directs us to do, in His grace He will often send a storm to realign us with Himself. And once we get to that place, it takes a drastic, bold, courageous leap of faith to get back to where God wanted us in the first place.
I’m listening now. And I’m changing my major. And I can’t see two feet in front of me and I’m scared to death. But I am at peace for the first time in months, and I am just going to trust Him and let go. James 1:2-4 “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
It’s Valentine’s Day…again. Not only does it serve as a 24 hour reminder to those who are single that they are, in fact, single; but it also gives perspective as to how unloving the other 364 days of the year can be. Why don’t we profess undying love every day of the year? We say it is love, but is it really? What is love and what is worth loving?
This morning I was reading 1John 4 (as a small aside, both John letters would be great to read today, since pretty much all he writes about is love it seems like) and I loved verses 9-11
In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we light live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
This reminded me of the chapter we went over in D-groups last night, Ephesians 2, which talks about how “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” and goes on to discuss how He raised us up just so He could show us His immeasurable kindness for all of eternity, and that it is by grace through faith we have been saved—both of which are gifts from Him. Recap: while we were still rebelling against God and hating Him, He sent Jesus to die because He loved us so much and wanted to show us His love for the rest of eternity. We receive this gift by grace through faith—oh and by the way God goes ahead and gives us those because He knows we are too broken in ourselves to do so. This BLOWS MY MIND…what on earth?? Who would do that? It seems so ridiculous, and yet obviously I am so ridiculously thankful for it. What magnificent, glorious love.
So how do I respond to that? Often I ignore Him. I push Him to the back burner and love myself over Him. And what does He do? Keeps loving me and draws me back to Him. I don’t care what kind of boyfriend you’ve got, there is no way he will ever be able to love you like that. So how should I respond to that? Jesus talks about it in Matthew 22, saying “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Love God with all my emotions, all my motivations, and all my thoughts. Okay, that maybe could be doable, especially since He loved me so much. But it gets better. Right after that, Jesus continues the thought with “love your neighbor as yourself.” Mhmm. That tends to be a bit more tricky. I have enough trouble loving God the way I should, much less people who can wrong me and hurt me. But I kinda feel like these two commandments work off of each other. If we are in a right, close, intimate relationship with God, then the love He loves us with will start to work in us and through us to love those around us. So when I am not loving people, it is probably a direct result of me not loving God.
So what is ultimate love? How can I define it? I am inadequate to do so, honestly, but Paul does a pretty awesome job in I Corinthians 13:4-8
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
I, in my own strength, cannot love people like this. But God can. And God does. And God can and will work through us to show others His great love if we will just be available and willing. So Happy Valentine’s Day. Use every opportunity to be a picture of this kind of love to those around you.
Why am I so terrible at keeping up with my blog?? I am currently coining the excuse that I’m too busy with my academics, which is pretty much true. Fortunately, I took a break from my bondage for the day and enjoyed a lovely day at the Biltmore this past Saturday because a fabulous friend of mine so graciously offered for me to go with her. There are many phenomena in Asheville, such as a pretend waterfall, old-school sketchy gas stations, and disappearing shuttles to name a few. But perhaps the most remarkable of such phenomena is the uncanny GPS meltdowns that are bound to occur once you enter Asheville’s jurisdiction. It’s like North Carolina’s version of the Bermuda Triangle. If it weren’t for all the commercials, I might possibly be convinced the Biltmore estate in fact does not exist. The closest my GPS could get us to it was some building downtown that had no semblance to said estate. Did I really pay money for this thing? I should get a refund for the gas it requires to take such a laborious “shortcut”. In Gary’s defense (the name I have so fondly bestowed on the Australian voice as a tactic to keep me from chucking him out the window) he never fails to figure out how to get home. How redeeming.
But while I am in the mood to criticize a mindless electronic device, I should probably turn my attention to myself and admit my own contribution to Gary’s failures. You see, even if Gary brings me into the near vicinity of my destination, yes, even within sight of it, but then tells me to turn away and go down another dark alley, I instinctively follow his omniscience. Perhaps you now notice that he’s not the one with the problem after all. Even if I can SEE the Biltmore entrance to my right, I decide it would be best to turn left according the Gary, deaf to my passenger’s cries of dismay at my evident stupidity. It’s hilarious, truthfully, and it makes for some good laughs because let’s be honest, I am NOT the only poor soul who does this. We are told on the back of his cardboard box that Gary can get you wherever you need to go, if only you will just do everything he tells you to. So even when we can actually see the right way to go, we follow the majority rule of a computer that is supposedly smarter.
This underlying elementary principle can be applied in a couple of ways—we can stop blindly following the majority labeled as “smarter,” regardless of where they lead us, or we can stop blindly following our GPSs down dark alleys.
“For this is the will of God,your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God” [1 Thessalonians 4:3-5]
After dinner I decided to take the longer route back to the dorm. The day was just on the brink of tipping over and spilling out of sight beneath the mountain horizon, but the remnants of a red sunset lingered. As I neared the dorm the light was all but faded from the silver-lined clouds. Upon turning a corner, it surprised me to see a huge, round, orange sphere hanging above the horizon on the opposite side of the sky. The moon looks so much larger when it first rises, and since I rarely seem to catch it at the right moment it always takes me off guard. Admiring the general splendor of it, I remembered that the moon, of course, does not become smaller as it lifts higher into the sky—it is our perspective that shifts. Even with this knowledge, no matter how I try to discipline my mind I cannot help but gape at how much bigger it appears to be. Perspective matters a great deal. But regardless of how small or large I perceive the moon to be, its figure remains constant. I do this with God. At times, His presence and involvement is so obvious. At other times He seems distant, quiet, perhaps smaller. While I love those harvest moon moments where He is close and tangible, I hate the nights when He seems far. But that’s just it. His presence does not shift; rather it is my position dictating how close I am to him. Unlike the moon, He is fixed and constant, and I am the unreliable, wandering one. The times when I imagine Him distant are the times when my perspective has shifted and fallen from where it should be. I need only to put myself in a place where my horizon is aligned with Him and I see Him clearly again for what He is.
Snow is something of a novelty in South Carolina. In other parts of the country, and definitely in other parts of the world, people have to trudge through feet of the wet white stuff to go to school, to go to work, to run errands. In South Carolina? Schools are closed before the first flakes fall…
A few years ago I was introduced to the notion that students can make a great, weighty impact on the world around them if only they would be willing to let God use them. I heard stories of a boy who had an idea that blossomed into a corporation that fed impoverished children and a girl who worked three jobs for the sake of funding 14 children through food and education. I read a book that was written by a set of nineteen year-old twins who launched a campaign to exhort other teenagers into action. I overheard a rumor that an eighteen year-old girl wrote a devotional book for other youth. I read in the gospels how Jesus used ordinary, uneducated fishermen to start the church, bring light to dark corners of the earth, heal the sick, give sight to the blind, and preach in languages that were not their own so others could have the opportunity to hear and understand. I read how just a word from His mouth compelled them to abandon everything—their careers, their homes, their comforts, in order to have the unparalleled chance of follow Him.
And then I am overwhelmed by the “logical” reasoning ringing in my ears, often coming from my own lips. Think about the future. Everything in moderation. Jesus wouldn’t want to put you in an uncomfortable position. You are one person—perhaps it would be better to support someone who is actually in a position to act. You can’t do everything. And it is so loud. My ear drums reel at the thunderous roar of it all. It throbs in my skull, reverberating off the walls and penetrating each neuron. Because, of course, it is so practical, and I see it in motion, a “working theory” every day.
But there’s something else that creeps into my mind, when I have my guard down and when I allow my mind to wander into the “what if” sector. Like a dimly lit lantern, my logic daily snuffs it out—but it remains just the same, pacing back and forth in the further recess of my mind.
I know the future. Not the future for my life, but the ultimate future where Jesus takes His throne on earth and when He comes again in glory and splendor and awful power uncharacteristic of His first appearance. A future where I will be with Him and spend eternity praising His great mercy. And when I look at that eternal future, you know, the one that actually matters, my own concerns pale in comparison with such beauty.
Jesus did nothing in moderation. When He went to fast and be close to His Father, He did so for forty days. When He saw the desperate needs of the people, He healed them constantly. On at least one occasion, seeing the people’s need for direction He taught for three days. For the bigger picture, on seeing the need people had for redemption from sin they could not possibly make up for, He personally came down to us, was despised and rejected by those same people, ultimately was mocked, scorned, stripped, brutally beaten, grotesquely mangled beyond human recognition, nailed to a shameful cross, and slowly suffocated, bearing the sins of all. He was fully dead, then raised fully back to life in order to live in the lives of those same, undeserving, wicked people who would be willing to accept His salvation.
During His ministry, His disciples were rarely in a comfortable position. They did not even have a place to lay their heads. After His ascension, the disciples were never in a safe position, but were hunted, imprisoned, persecuted, beaten, burned, tortured, maimed, dismembered, and beheaded. And some postulated they were just lying. Yet their willing, bold deaths cried otherwise.
It is good to support others who are doing ministry. But perhaps monetary “support” is rapidly becoming a copout for not wanting to inconvenience myself to put myself at risk. The cost of following Jesus was to pick up a cross and follow Him, and I have willingly and joyfully submitted to that. Which means my actions must mirror that.
Not only can I not do everything, I can do nothing. I am weak, wayward, and prone to wandering. I become distracted, proud, and blind more than I’d like to admit. But through Christ, I can do all things. I could be mistaken, but given that I’m an English major I wouldn’t doubt it when I say that qualifier “all” is all-inclusive. How crazy. That verse alone gives me confidence to claim that there is nothing He will ask me to do that He will not enable me to do. So whatever that is, be it washing windows, making coffee at Starbucks, teaching, writing, building huts in Africa, or whatever else, I must have full confidence that I am in the center of His will and not running back to my tiny realm of comfort.
A beloved, older gentleman once remarked that he thought he could change the world when he was young. But he supposed everyone thinks that when they are young; it’s when he or she grows up that a person gains a more realistic view and settles for normal. Whatever that is. I wonder if perhaps people settle for “normal” not because they realize they can never really impact anything, but rather because they stop trying. And while I do encourage planning ahead, exercising moderation in certain areas, supporting others, and not leaning on my own abilities, I also feel deeply, now more than ever before, that those logical notions may close the door to radically living up to what Jesus calls us to do and acting by the prompting of His Spirit within us. What if we tried a different “working theory” where we sought after His council instead of our own, and leaned on His understanding instead of another’s? And looked to eternity instead of the temporal? And did nothing in moderation when it came to loving Jesus? And chose to be uncomfortable in the here and now for investment into souls that will never end? And ourselves acted, and were willing to be vessels for Jesus to do whatever He wanted in and through us? What would happen?
“As for me, I am tired about talking about what we are going to do. I am sick of talking about helping people, of brainstorming and conferencing about ways we can be radical and make sacrifices. I don’t want to merely talk anymore. Life is too short. I don’t want to speak about Jesus; I want to know Jesus. I want to be Jesus to people. I don’t want to just write about the Holy Spirit; I want to experience His presence in my life in a profound way.”—Francis Chan, from Forgotten God
Most people, avid readers or not, have somewhere along the line heard of Sherlock Holmes. Many have read the stories about him. Some adore the creative genius he lives by in an attempt to incorporate such originality into their own lives. A few actually believe him to have been a real person (he is, in fact, and always has been a fictional character. So sorry if I had to be the one to tell you.) His name litters every decent bookstore and his legacy invades practically every modern mystery TV show. But what are perhaps less commonly recognized are Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s (the author) shockingly simple, yet profound insights into human life and the world around us.
One such insight is the habit humans so easily slip into of always seeing, but never really observing. Holmes’ trusted friend and colleague Watson accompanies him on most cases and sits in on interviews with clients. Watson never fails to be struck with admiration and awe at the seemingly psychic methods Holmes’ employs to figure out an obscure clue in the case. When Watson only saw a badly scratched watch, Holmes’ would see a careless owner who was, more likely than not, careless in other areas of his life. When Watson proposed that circumstantial evidence led to the only logical sentence of guilt, Holmes’ could look at it from a different perspective and see the honest explanation. All day long, we see things. We see people, possessions, buildings, circumstances, and we are swift to rely on a knee-jerk, easy reaction to explain what is seen. But what good is this way of looking at the world if we do not, in fact, really observe or understand anything? People may be quick to judge a slow cashier as lazy without having the heart to see her bruised arm and consider the nightmare she must go home to and the sleepless nights she has endured. This idea reminds me of a chastisement Jesus gave the Jews once while He was teaching:
You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed.” Matthew 13:14-15a
I can relate to John Watson.
Another remarkable concept is Holmes’ perpetual search and discovery of truth. Holmes’ entire career and passion balances on the pivot of what is true and what is simply conjecture. His crowning method is to narrow down the possibilities by disregarding what is impossible. Then, whatever is left, no matter how improbable, must be true. In a generation that loves to propose there is no fragment of any kind of truth in the world (which is, in itself, a humorous contradiction) I sincerely appreciate Doyle’s method of deduction and reasoning. Perhaps it is inconvenient that the son did not in fact kill his father, and that it was in fact some other mystery character who was careful enough to cover his tracks. But isn’t it much more fulfilling to discover the truth, whatever the effort necessary, instead of melting into the mold of popular opinion and bias? It certainly ends up better for that innocent son. Holmes’ character is built around this constant hunt for the truth, and he always ends up finding it, even when everyone else had settled for the “obvious” conclusion. I love him for that. That may be the quality of Holmes I appreciate most and enjoy the stories most for. It’s just like Jesus said once in the temple:
Quick definition: Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Actually, the whole chapter is pretty incredible so it would behoove you much more to go spend the next few minutes reading that rather than the rest of this blog post)
Luke 5:17:20 On one of those days, as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with him to heal. And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus, but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. And when he saw their faith, he said, ‘Man, you sins are forgiven you.’
Yes yes, He goes on to heal him later (physically) for those of you enraptured by suspense. Now, I am a visual learner, and so when I read something, I cannot help but picture the scene in my head; so everything I read plays out like a movie. This is an epic scenario. Construct an image of this in your mind and tell me this is not the most outrageous thing ever. I would love to know what the homeowner was thinking. I can tell you right now what I’d be thinking. But that’s not important, the point is these friends are so great as to cart their buddy over to Jesus and PUT A HOLE IN THE ROOF to let him down be they knew, I mean, they knew that if anybody could help him, Jesus could. And He did.
Faith is coupled with outrageous action. A man or woman of faith does not simply talk about hope that is unseen, but plunges into action as a result of such hope. Do I do that? Do I talk more than I take action? It’s like writing a thesis about a well-built capsule engineered for the purpose of giving tourists a thrill in a ride down Niagara Falls. Given enough time and paper, such a student could probably “prove” that it could, in fact, safely transport a person to the bottom from the top. But that wouldn’t exactly prompt me to get on the first flight available. What would be greater proof is if that same person was willing to get in that capsule and survive the fall.
Does anyone ever actually do well with these? I’ll raise my hand first to admit it’s not always my strong point. Actually, it’s never been my strong point. Therefore, this year I am keeping it simple and applicable. Simple, meaning that the list contains only three and each resolution is not complicated to understand or put into place—but each requires perseverance. Applicable, meaning that each resolution has been placed on the list for a specific purpose and needs to be implemented frequently, so as not to be forgotten. So, the three for 2011 are
Be at Peace
Trust Him. Relates to something I have been convicted about lately, as well as the scripture I referenced yesterday (Luke 5:1-11). Allow me to briefly summarize the turn of events: Peter had already been fishing all night with no results, Jesus tells him to let down the net into the same sea he had just been fishing in, Peter humors Jesus’ request, Peter catches more fish than two boats can manage. I can imagine how Peter felt when, not only had he been out fishing with absolutely no success and he’s more than likely tired and discouraged, and then Jesus is like, hey, you should try the exact same thing you’ve already been doing in the exact same location. Yeah. Logical location? Not so much. Logical timing? Probably not, given that it was the middle of the day and apparently it was more common to fish at night. So what made the difference? Because the first go-around, the men catch nada. Second time, they just about sink their boats with all the fish.
But the second time is when Jesus told him to go. The success came from going out when and where Jesus told them to. It wasn’t about Jesus wanting them to be discouraged and poor from not catching fish. And it wasn’t so much about the time of say or location. It was about having the faith to trust Jesus when He said “go.” The unlikelihood of the timing and location also served to make it obvious to Peter that it was Jesus who had orchestrated the success; it can be attributed to nothing and no one else
Even when it is not logical, I need to follow His instruction. Even if I have already met discouragement in a certain area; if He sends me back, I need to go. I want to go.
Withdraw. This is not being uninvolved in the lives of others—it is separating myself from the noise to just enjoy God’s presence. I think Christians as a whole do not do this often enough.
Luke 5:16—But He would withdraw to desolate places and pray.
Jesus is all about ministering to others and healing and teaching, but it seems like every other paragraph he is taking time out to go away and just be with the Father. This is so critical. This is just as much a part of the relationship as serving others is, if not more so. I am not referring to a scheduled quiet time, although I think that is very beneficial and the structure is fabulous for someone like me who loves to structure everything. Having a certain time set aside in the morning to read the Bible is great, but if we are not careful that can become ritualistic and fruitless if it is nothing more than sitting still for a moment with the Bible open in our laps. This is a relationship, and you don’t always plan necessarily when you are going to set aside random hours to be with a person you love—sometimes that just happens. It should be the same way with God. It needs to be the same way in my life, and it needs to happen more often.
Be at peace. This is not the same thing as trusting Him, although I would venture to say that the two are related.
John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.
Peace is not an outside forces that waxes and wanes with the trials that come. Rather, it is an ever-fixed mark within me, rising from the life and involvement of Jesus’ Spirit. Therefore, no outer suffering can possibly quench the overflowing cup of peace I drink inwardly. So what’s the problem? Because time after time when the foundation quakes I am not at peace. If I do not “have peace,” then I am not drinking. I can hold to the promise that regardless of what happens in this lifetime, I am more than a conqueror through Him who loves me, and I can take heart. He has overcome the world.
1 Corinthians 14:33 For God is not a God of confusion but of peace
It’s not like He’s out to make me feel overwhelmed and confused, as we sometimes act—He reaches out to offer peace and shed light on my footsteps. Any confusion is a direct result of me trying to do my own thing in my own strength.
Are there more things that I will/should work on this year? Will God work in my life to change things that I need to let go of? Yes and yes. My greatest hope and privilege for this year is that of John’s:
“‘Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.’ And Simon answered, ‘Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.’ And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish”—Luke 5:4-6
About twenty minutes from where I live there is a road with mansion after mansion spread out amidst a towering canopy of mature, hardwood trees. This road is respectably referred to as “Pill Hill,” since only a doctor would have the means to buy such a splendid home. I happened to be driving down this road yesterday, admiring the general landscape of the houses which is, admittedly, beautiful, when to my horror I came upon a shocking contrast. To the left of me, one such home had been reduced to hardly more than a crumbling structure of ash and debris. Charcoaled spikes that once supported a roof now pierced the gray sky—barren. This symbol of power and wealth now sat deserted, a stark image foreshadowing the blaze that will wipe our beloved things off the face of the earth at the end of days. It all burns. Fire can be so cleansing. It seems such a fruitless plight to accumulate treasure here on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Where is my heart? Do I invest ashen money I acquire here on earth into equally worthless wants, or into something that cannot burn?
“ Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain” —Psalm 127:1a
While reading this blog, close your eyes and picture this image in your mind (might be a little tricky.) A solitary figure of a man kneels in the sand on a lone beach. His bleached hair and farmer’s tan give rise to the suspicion that he spends an excessive amount of time where he crouches at this very moment. Before him rises out of the sand a monumental sand castle, complete with a moat, bridge, windows, courtyards, flags, even four towers on each corner as look out posts. No doubt he has spent hours crafting such a fine masterpiece. But suddenly, with a rush of foam and seaweed the ocean lays flat his once towering masterpiece. He sits for a moment, seemingly dumbfounded, then begins again the intricate task of rebuilding his precious castle.
Now, who hasn’t built a sand castle; watched as the tide rose steadily higher, eventually sweeping away the mighty fortress; then stoop down again to build another one? We expect the ocean to flatten it out, giving the opportunity to create a new one—what is unusual about the scenario above is that the man doesn’t see it coming.
I have acquired a very time-consuming, rather unfulfilling hobby of making my own intricate, detailed, “perfect” little plans for my life. Sometimes they are great, looming towers which take months to build. At other times they are small shacks I raise up in a matter of hours. But the most incredulous part is that, more times than not, they fall apart. Unbelievable, I know. Perhaps if I was looking at it from the right perspective, I would not be so surprised when my kingdoms crumble.
I like to forget that my life is not my own; that I gave it over completely to God the day I came to know Him. I also like to forget that I’m generally not so great at seeing the big picture as He is, mostly because I have no idea what’s happening tomorrow. And I use the term “generally” quite liberally there, I should have said “never.” It seems so convenient, at the time, to just do my own thing without asking for God’s blueprints or even consulting His endless knowledge of the tides. I assume, incorrectly, that my plans will be invincible and that if I spend long enough building them, no ocean will be able to overpower them. Sounds like I need to spend more time playing in the sand.
I am just like that man. I build in vain. And it’s not like I have only built the castle once or twice—I build it over and over and over again. How do I stop? How can I be cured of such obvious insanity? In recognizing my own weakness compared to God’s strength. In looking up from the trivial matter I am so focused on and letting Him show me the bigger landscape. I would rather labor for something He directs me toward than waste priceless days on something that will not withstand.
I find my profound ability to acquire Stuff remarkable. If asked a month ago whether or not I had much, I would have looked at our simple, two bedroom one bath 1,000 sq/ft house and thought not. But after spending the better part of two weeks going through and getting rid of the mass accumulation in my room and storage shed, I have come to the opposite conclusion. I could not have guessed how much needless, useless, “priceless” clutter crammed itself into every nook and cranny of my space. I had duplicates, broken items, unsightly articles of clothing, every scent of lotion thus far discovered, and a remarkable collection of every note passed in middle school: to name a few. What was even more shocking was the ease and freedom associated with quickly discarding said items. By the bag full, box full, and bin full all that Stuff found itself at the closest Goodwill drop-off for some other poor soul to clutter her life with. Stuff became a symbol for my security and autonomy. Whether used or not, seen or unseen, Stuff provided me with a cramped, full environment of possessions I assumed control of. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, Stuff assumed and maintained authority over me. It presented me with the “freedom” to cover up the dark, dirty corners of my closed which I myself overlook. It gave me the chance to appear organized outwardly, while inwardly I was a jumbled, tangled mess. At last, I decided to clear and clean everything out, instead of overlooking the issue. And it’s been good. It’s even (dare I say it) fun to pitch the Stuff out of my room to the curb. What once was a chore has become a blessing, and the same can be said for simplifying my life as a whole, as well.
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. The pain kept locked inside, the ache concealed with a smile, the hurt patched with a flimsy band-aid…surely he has borne them. The overflowing cup of tears drunk every night, the oppressively unjust circumstance, the shattered pieces scattered abroad…surely he has carried them. Whatever presses, beats down, strips us, he knows. What is more, he has known them himself. We do not walk down an un-trodden path, for he has walked the way before us.
Yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities. He did not bear His own burden, but ours. He did not suffer the consequence of his own transgression, treachery, or treason. It was our own. It was my own. He saw the sin He knew I could not bear, could not ever pay for, and willingly thrust it upon Himself. The crimson rivers flowing down the cross and seeping into the quenched earth beneath should have come from my veins. It was because of me, for me, and in spite of all I am that He was so scorned. Upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed. What a glorious, noble paradox. Who knew that such a humiliation as execution on a cross could be so magnificent? Because of His shame I have peace. Through His pain I am healed.
And yet, despite the wonder of it all, we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way. We stand, enamored, at the foot of the cross for but a brief moment before being swept away by the fleeting pleasures around us. Thoughtless to the sacrifice, we wander back to our old wounds which have been healed. We meander back to dig up the iniquity that was put to death. As if that could ever fulfill the inward longing. As if anything could ever fulfill the longing aside from knowing our Savior more deeply. There is no need for anything else; there is no peace in anyone else. No other can save, because the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
I suppose we were all made to do something. Some make remarkable medical discoveries, saving thousands of lives. Others have an entrepreneur mind fashioned for the business world. An occasional soul is shaped to a design of creating and painting figments of his imagination. Still others make fabulous custodians and make floors and shelving masterpieces. Whatever a person does, it is keeping in mind an idea bigger than himself, if he is at all wise and thoughtful. One person is nothing more than a quickly dissolving vapor in the steady gust of life and eternity.
I have toyed with ideas of what I may be suited for. Perhaps speaking, perhaps painting, perhaps social work. A field in psychology briefly crossed my mind. In two-and-a-half years I will receive a bachelor’s in Secondary English Education. But what I love is writing. It is not well-known; somewhat because I have not much to show for it, but mostly because I have an insatiable fear of failure. Fear that I will not, cannot measure up, and so an attempt would prove to be a waste of time. Whatever flows from my mind through a pen onto blank paper is in some way a small piece of me…and so if people reject or discredit it, they discredit me.
So here I am, starting a blog. Partly because my friend talked me into it, but mostly because the ideas in my head are bursting at the seams and I feel compelled to give them an outlet. I intend to use this blog as some sort of winnowing fork —a tool to weigh and separate the good from the useless in my life, as well as the “world” I have influence on. Simply put, my goal is that this endeavor will lend clarity to myself and others and that God may use it for His own purpose and glory.
“Winnow: (verb) 1.a. To separate the chaff from (grain) by means of a current of air.
b. To rid of undesirable parts. 5.To examine closely in order to separate the good from the bad; sift.”—http://www.yourdictionary.com/winnow