Memories

Thanksgiving Day (Canada) affords some extra time to do things like read past entries in your journal. One particularly stood out to me, and is the least personal or identifying of the ones that stood out, so I will share it here. It just also struck me as a record of God’s prompting. For some reason it sounds unlike my writing voice, but I’ve googled quotes from the entry and haven’t found matches, so I guess it must be my writing.

To preface, I was singing in a musical revue (collection of favourite musical songs put to an original storyline – “A form of theatrical entertainment in which recent events, popular fads, etc., are parodied. Any entertainment featuring skits, dances, and songs.” – from Ninjawords.com). One of the songs was from Mamma Mia, so the words must have been stuck in my head. I might have also borrowed my roommate’s copy of Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening to read and quote after she shared a bit with me? Here it is as I wrote it on the day.

—————

Feb 16

Mamma Mia

“I was angry and sad when I knew we were through
I can’t count all the times that I’ve cried over you…”

A song from the musical, VIMH.

Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening (see the entry)

Philippians 4:11

“For I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.”

Yes, time and distance allows scabs to grow and cover wounds, but Hush, Christian child. Hush the murmur of discontent and take care to cultivate the grace that God has sown in you. We think sometimes that we have learned — it will take more pain before we learn more, and more to be content.

So put away the words “inconsiderate” “wish you were miserable too” “hate” “abandoned” “rejected” “cheated” “deceived” “blame” and more.

hush the murmur.

For you are loved, sought, redeemed, forgiven, shown mercy and grace, rejoiced over with singing, and quieted by his love. *

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Doing Hard Things

In the second year of university, I decided I would begin to try doing hard things.  The reason was relatively simple: prior to that I really wanted to succeed in anything I attempted. It’s an obligation to get a job well done, to pull something off. In saying that, I don’t mean that I was successful at a whole lot, just that if I didn’t succeed, I would try not to think about it and either not tell anyone or make like I thought it was funny and that I didn’t care if I did talk about it.

Now, this next paragraph is not going to be me saying that I’ve now overcome that anxiety to perform because I’ve placed my trust in Christ. Hah, wouldn’t that be easy? In truth, I have placed my trust in Christ, but it is still hard to do hard things. That will not go away while I still walk this ground and breath this air. But these truths are the silicone oven mitts to the searing flames of anxiety:

1 Kings 2:1-3

1 As the time approached for David to die, he instructed his son Solomon, 2 “As for me, I am going the way of all of the earth. Be strong and be courageous like a man, 3 and keep your obligation to the Lord your God to walk in His ways and to keep His statutes, commands, ordinances, and decrees. This is written in the law of Moses, so that you will have success in everything you do…

Deuteronomy 5:29

If only they had such a heart to fear Me and keep all My commands always, so that they and their children will prosper forever.

Isaiah 45:7

I form light and create darkness, I make success and create disaster; I, the Lord, do all these things.

In the face, body, and internal heat of difficult situations, we are not asked to overcome and succeed. Our obligation is to fear the Lord and keep His commands; He makes success and disaster. It may even be disaster after disaster that comes first however well you carry out your obligation to obey.

2 Timothy 4:5-8

5 But as for you, be serious about everything, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. 6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time for my departure is close. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 There is reserved for me in the future the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that day, and not only tome, but to all those who have loved His appearing.

This too is Paul’s attitude. Keeping the faith. It is the name of a strange Edward Norton, Ben Stiller, Jenna Elfman movie in which the characters don’t keep the faith; hence, more so, keeping the faith means what it did in the OT. Our obligation is to trust in the gospel and to attest to the truth of the gospel. To know the greatness of God and make his greatness known. The hard thing in this is … you don’t want to be anywhere near greatness or mention greatness when you feel small.

Good grief. A poor excuse not to try doing things.

Innovative redesign of reclining seats on Cathay Pacific planes (a.k.a. Christmas is about Christ Jesus)

The title is strange, I agree, but it does make sense. I hope it will by the end of this post.

The new Cathay Pacific planes have a cool reclining seat design that takes away the horror of the person in front leaning their seat back and crushing your head/laptop/food/personal space. Your seat still reclines to a more comfortable angle, but instead of actually leaning back, the seat slides forward. Here’s a diagram.

Now why would I bring this up in conjunction with Jesus? Rhetorical question – this is a roundabout connection. Sitting in one of these chairs on the flight home just reminded me of the principle of innovation: achieve the same purpose with a different method. The seat still reclines (purpose), but it does not lean back (method).

This is like when Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:22, “To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.” He is adapting, changing to fit his audience. This is important, but just as important is that he is not compromising where it matters. He does not mean by this that it’s ok to do or be anything that suits you. He also says ,”that by all means I might save some,” where salvation as ordained by God is the ultimate purpose. For that salvation, there are unchangeable criteria, including

  1. Being saved by Jesus. John 14:6 “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
  2. Depending on The Bible. 2 Timothy 3:14-15 “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

The method is flexible as long is it stays true to the purpose and the truth and commands that surround it. Revelations 2:25 says, “Only hold fast what you have until I come.” This business of holding fast is serious at other points in Scripture too. Holding fast means not compromising or abandoning the original.

Finally, what about my bringing Christmas into the mix? I realised today why I’m not big on Christmas music. I’ve lived in Hong Kong for too much of my life, and having bad pop versions of carols overplayed in every public & commercial place during December has ruined them for me a little. I will put up with the hype and make an effort to get excited though, because the yearly remembrance of Jesus humbling himself to become human flesh is too important, and the hype is worth the while.

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel,” (Isaiah 7:14) and this happened, for the sake of God’s name.

So even though Christmas is full of irrelevant details like reindeer and elves and buffets and excessive shopping and bad pop renditions of carols and crowds and lineups etc., I will deem this hullabaloo worth the while because once a year, there is a chance to make a big deal about the faithfulness of God in planning for how we could spend eternity with him and then enabling the whole plan and making up for all the places we screw up at.

I just wish I made more of this season in a good way.

King Lear and The King of Jews

Prince Edgar speaking about his usurped father, King Lear, from Shakespeare’s King Lear.

When we our betters see bearing our woes,
We scarcely think our miseries our foes.
Who alone suffers suffers most i’ the mind,
Leaving free things and happy shows behind:
But then the mind much sufferance doth o’er skip,
When grief hath mates, and bearing fellowship.
How light and portable my pain seems now,
When that which makes me bend makes the king bow,
He childed as I father’d!

Paul in his Letter to the Philippians about Jesus, also called ‘King of the Jews’.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

Since Shakespearean plays were written in a time of ‘Christian culture’ when Biblical discourse was familiar to people in common ideas and phrases, it makes sense to form an analysis of these two passages together. The following are some of the salient ideas I see here:

  • The effect of seeing a great individual suffering
  • Having fellowship in suffering together
  • The significance of a great individual suffering voluntarily for your sake

The Lear passage focuses on the first two points: when we see greater people than ourselves suffering the same things we do, it makes our miseries seem less intimidating (less like our foes/enemies). If you think you are suffering alone, life sucks. But when you suffer grief together with another, you don’t pay so much attention to the fact that you’re suffering. Less pity partying. When you’re in the dumps and you see that someone greater is also in the dumps – ah, well it’s really not that bad.

Paul’s passage more directly addresses us and Jesus, the King. Jesus is in very nature God – clearly someone greater than ourselves – but he made himself ‘nothing’. That is, God became human; and not just any human but a lowly human, a servant. The suffering he endured was not merely misery or grief alone, but also death. And that death referred to is not just an ending of life as biologically understood. Biblically speaking, the concept of ‘death’ is separation from God. (Colossians 2:13) It is the logical conclusion of sin, or non-holiness. But if one were holy and not sinful, death would not be logical or deserved!

“When we our betters see bearing our woes,
We scarcely think our miseries our foes.”

“When we Jesus see bearing our sins,
We scarcely think our struggles worthy foes.” — Not great poetry, but interesting anyways.

For me, reading the Shakespeare is more emotionally gripping than Paul’s letter, not because Christ’s death on the cross is not moving, but because the passage about death on the cross is an explanation of a culminating event, whereas the Lear passage is an internal emotional palette. It’s a little like eating sugar or eating carbs – the carbs turn into sugar, but the sugar is already sugar and can give you an immediately energy boost. But in this way, non-Biblical texts can sometimes support the logic of the Bible with the immediacy of emotional trigger.

All this still does not discuss the part where suffering Lear says, “As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods,” but I’m  not getting into that here. I’ve written another post on King Lear a while ago that focuses on that anyways. See that post here on King Lear and God.