Event Planning 101

  1. Never completely trust an “I wanna go!!!” Save yourself the heartache. Don’t get excited until you’re all on the road / at the party … etc.
  2. Asking “Do you want to go on a road trip?” is the same as asking “Do you like road trips?” It gives you no indication of whether the person will actually go on a road trip with you on any day you suggest.
  3. Instead, ask, “Do you want to go camping at Location Alpha with myself and so-and-so from the umpteenth of Mayvember to the impteenth of Apruary? It’ll cost $300. We’re leaving by 19:07 and returning by 15:29.”
  4. Remember that your friends are still your friends, even if they keep bailing on you. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Sometimes, I feel that righteousness alone would not actually be that hard. (Now really, it is, but let us conjecture for a short while.) That would be to claim, perhaps rightly, that you are in the right and have been wronged and there’s no argument about it anymore.

But to have righteousness with grace and mercy and peace is another thing completely. To be in the right but not to boast, or be proud, or seek to dishonour others by pointing out that you were in the right (unlike somebody), and not be easily angered, and yet after that to keep no record of wrongs, and then following all the aftermath to still want to trust and hope and persevere? This is where the Bible gives us a far far higher standard than to merely be righteous.

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Waiting (cont.) … then Beholding!

Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.  -Isaiah 43:19

When you speak of waiting, the wait times can vary. Taking a ticket for 098 when the counter displays 016 feels disheartening, but taking one for 94789 when the counter is 94787 is almost, just almost, like winning a lottery. When you wait on God, there is no counter, and often no definite outcome, there is only trust. He will do good.

Suddenly, all my troubles seem so far away…

Alright, that was in a quote offset, but it’s not actually a quote. It’s a misquote of The Beatles song, Yesterday. It actually goes, “Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away…” and, “Suddenly, I’m not half the man I used to be…”

My point is, though, that God works almost under the radar. Oftentimes it seems like He’s just waiting until you let your guard down, until you reluctantly lay down a burden of your own expectations and desires or whatever else, and as soon as it leaves your hand, BAM, he roars, “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”

I know this section in Isaiah is foretelling Christ as the new thing God is doing, the path to God in the desert of sin, but just like you seek God, find Him, and then continue seeking God for the rest of your life to know Him more deeply, Christ is The New Thing to a worn and weary generation, and yet God keeps reminding us to look to Christ anew, and to look to Himself for new things. New hope, new life, new beginnings.

No matter how much I try to guess what the new thing is, I never get it. Ever. It’s always always beyond what I could come up with, though I may come close. (I think I do like it that way.) It’s at a different time, or under different circumstances, or in a different way.

Here goes one more on the counter for a new thing that has sprung forth! God is funny, and I feel like Jesus must have been tremendously humorous as a man.

Psalm for the Depressed

Why Are You Cast Down, O My Soul?

[42:1] As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
[2] My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
[3] My tears have been my food
day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”
[4] These things I remember,
as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
a multitude keeping festival.
[5] Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
[6] my salvation and my God.
My soul is cast down within me;
therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
from Mount Mizar.
[7] Deep calls to deep
at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
have gone over me.
[8] By day the LORD commands his steadfast love,
and at night his song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.
[9] I say to God, my rock:
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning
because of the oppression of the enemy?”
[10] As with a deadly wound in my bones,
my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”
[11] Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.

(Psalm 42 ESV)

Dealing with pain, as apparent from this psalm, takes more than just defiance. Note the repetition: turmoil doesn’t simply go away. You can’t say to your soul, “Why are you cast down, and why are you in turmoil within me?” and then just add, “Come, let us just move on,” or, “Let us just go and live as we were, ignoring this.” It’s not possible to just decide that you’re better or OK or happy or will go on to new things. You cannot just replace what was broken and expect to be healed. Humans aren’t cars that only need new parts – or new jobs or new friends to get better. Our souls need to hope in God, where hope is holding out for the unseen goodness in the land where God will bring us. Hoping in God is not hoping for better/best situations or better/best times, or else you will forever be sorely disappointed by a broken self and a broken world. Biblical hope is not hoping that God will eventually give you the earthly desires of your heart; it is learning to actually desire God beyond all, and sometimes, or even quite often, that will mean laying your desires on the ground and walking away.

As with Lot’s wife, the one who looked back and turned into a pillar of salt (ironically enough the mineral in tears), it is hard not to look back, wondering all manner of things. It’s hard not to want to replay, and you can replay levels and whole games in video games, probably pandering to this desire. Perhaps I sucked at gaming, but I always made the same mistakes even when I replayed. This is not necessarily a theological link I wish to draw by mentioning Mrs. Lot, but more so just a visual. At the weekend retreat that I mentioned in another post (Throwing off burdens (and some spectacular use of grammar in the Bible)), I was told something else that made me sit up:

Exercising self-control in our thinking and living (i.e. casting the whole of your care once and for all on Christ) involves:

  • not multiplying our suffering by rehearsing or reliving our troubles
  • keeping from futile speculation (Romans 1:21 in AMP)
Funny that we do these things, but we do. There’s some weird satisfaction in it. Thinking is the hardest to exercise self-control over. You can beat your body and make it your slave much more easily than you can beat your mind and make it your slave. (Ref: 1 Cor 9:27 NIV) Futile speculation, too, can seem like it’s not an entirely futile activity: we think we protect ourselves by speculating a worst case scenario so that we’re prepared for the worst and save ourselves the hurt, but in the meantime, that’s just more constant and fictional pain for something that might not even happen. More so, it’s indicative of not casting all cares, anxieties, worries and concerns on the Lord (1 Peter 5:7 AMP) and throwing off those burdens.
Now I will quote verbatim my favourite introductory paragraph from the prayer guide we were given:

Have you ever felt helpless? Helplessness is an unsettling and sometimes terrifying thing to most of us. We resist it, deny it, and when we are finally face to face with it, we sometimes find that we are unable to endure it. But helplessness is actually one of the greatest assets a human being can have. Crisis brings us face to face with our inadequacy and our inadequacy in turn leads us to the inexhaustible sufficiency of God. Spectacular answers to prayer can come following a period when you can do nothing for yourself at all and therefore find yourself waiting on God alone. This hemming in process is one of God’s loving and effective ways of teaching you that he is gloriously adequate for all your problems.

The Puritans had it right in this prayer from The Valley of Vision:

Desires

O THOU THAT HEAREST PRAYER,

Teach me to pray,
I confess that in religious exercises
the language of my lips and the feelings
of my heart have not always agreed,
that I have frequently taken carelessly upon
my tongue a name never pronounced above
without reverence and humility,
that I have often desired things which would
have injured me,
that I have depreciated some of my chief mercies,
that I have erred both on the side of my hopes
and also of my fears,
that I am unfit to choose for myself,
for it is not in me to direct my steps.
Let thy Spirit help my infirmities,
for I know not what to pray for as I ought.

Let him produce in me wise desires by which
I may ask right things,
then I shall know thou hearest me.
May I never be importunate for temporal blessings,
but always refer them to thy fatherly goodness,
for thou knowest what I need before I ask;
May I never think I prosper unless my soul prospers,
or that I am rich unless rich toward thee,
or that I am wise unless wise unto salvation.
May I seek first thy kingdom and its righteousness.
May I value things in relation to eternity,
May my spiritual welfare be my chief solicitude.
May I be poor, afflicted, despised and have
thy blessing,
rather than be successful in enterprise,
or have more than my heart can wish,
or be admired by my fellow-men,
if thereby these things make me forget thee.
May I regard the world as dreams, lies, vanities,
vexation of spirit,
and desire to depart from it.
And may I seek my happiness in thy favour,
image, presence, service.

Thus far, this post has mostly been me amalgamating a bunch of things I’ve read, heard and thought about in recent weeks, hopefully tying them together in a new way such that I’m not really just quoting them. I don’t know if it’s of any use to anyone else reading. In any case, since the title indicates there is a psalm for the depressed here, let me finish off with a part from a more hopeful psalm for the depressed than that first one:

[13] I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.
[14] Wait for the Lord;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the Lord.

(Psalm 27:13-14 NASB)

The goodness of the Lord in the land of the living… that means while he’s still alive. Although I have said that our hope should not rest solely upon the goodness of the Lord’s provision in earthly things, I do think it is alright for that to be a part of our hope, because it’s not as if God keeps everything we desire from us either. Maybe just not in ways we expect.

Funny last thought, though not accurate: I always get mad at myself for speculating about how the Lord will provide, because I feel as if everything that I randomly or thoughtfully come up with will not come to pass because the provision can’t be anything I would think of… and sometimes I rather like my speculations.

Hope

Since browsing Dollarama a week ago, our house has acquired a kitchy kitchen decoration that pronounces, “HOPE gives wings to our dreams” where the “O” is a chicken.

Hope gives wings to our dreams

Hope is an all encompassing feel-good word that doesn’t quite elaborate itself. Yet, always before a Christian is the simple reality of “I am not my own.” We place the weight of our hope not in any preference or desire, any payoff for effort or chance, but in the relationship we have with our Master and Lord. That “I am not my own” should give peace to my thoughts, for it relegates concerns of lesser importance (the “I’d really love ifs”) to the periphery, and allows you to see Christ more clearly at the centre.

Think, if you will, about Jonah, and what would change about his thoughts and attitudes if he were to embrace that maxim, “I am not my own.”

A Crushed Spirit

Spotlight on Proverbs 17:22 KJV with Strong’s #s

A merry<08056> heart<03820> doeth good<03190>like a medicine<01456>: but a broken<05218> spirit<07307> drieth<03001> the bones<01634>.

My interpretation after reading Strong’s references

A . glad/rejoicing . heart/will . makes well . like a cure, but . an afflicted spirit/a stricken breath . withers the self.

ESV

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

Why do I post this? The quick answer is that the phrase resounds on my mind. A crushed spirit can really sap your strength to stand up. But I find the causation in this verse hard to process. A joyful heart is a cure, but a crushed spirit withers you; so how do you get cured of a crushed spirit? How does one get from crushed spirit to joyful heart, if a joyful heart is the cure? There seems to be a missing step.

The only way to bridge this that I can see is to begin to get a joyful heart even while your spirit is crushed. How so? Imagine stricken and asthmatic weeping, drawing tight rasping breaths that sap all your energy. And now, will yourself to rejoice in the salvation that the Lord has given in Christ. Not easy. Thankfully the Father gives mercy even for our inability to rejoice in His love. And he is pleased by perseverance in this matter, I know. No lies, Satan; no matter how crushed our spirit, there is much to rejoice about.

 

P.S. “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.”  – Paul, Philippians 4:11

As for me, I must learn in whatever situation I am to be content. (Learn again and again and again…)

Hope

You know chick flicks? They’re mostly run-of-the-mill pieces of mediocrity that directors make to guarantee some femme group-spending on a ladies’ movie night. On the contrary, there’s something to be said for the power of a feel-good flick watched with good girl friends.

Realist movies aren’t as fun to watch as the unrealistic fast food of a chick flick.

[Below are spoilers for the movies Alfie and Sweet Home Alabama.]

Take Alfie – despite the possible chick flick designation for having Jude Law in the cast, this movie ends as a downer. Alfie’s really messed things up for others and himself with his playboy lifestyle that includes personal attachments to many women. He thinks it’s ok; he always makes it clear beforehand that he’s not the type ready to commit. Still, the movie ends and he is lonely and guilt-ridden. Realistic? Maybe. Droll? Definitely.

Take Sweet Home Alabama – despite definite chick flick flavours such as good-looking screen personnel and a fairytale storyline of economic success and ‘true’ love, it does kind of subvert fairytale romances of the urban fashionable blue-blood strain where the rich marry each other or some poor girl or boy. (It does upkeep the childhood sweetheart fairytale though.) In any case, we admittedly hope for our own fairytale.

Back to the point. “S/he/It is so real.” That’s what we say when we’re impressed with how something has moved us deeply. Like when something has the raw power to connect with a part of ourselves that we believe to be ‘real’. What is real? We keep returning to the chick flick; whether we say it is real or we don’t, we include it in the functions of our life.

Perhaps the ‘real’ thing we see in chick flicks is the hope it inspires. That hope may not be for any realistic target, but the act of hope is viscerally real. And hope is far more appealing than despair.