To the thinkers

“Understanding will never bring you Peace. That’s why I have instructed you to trust in Me, not in your understanding. Human beings have a voracious appetite for trying to figure things out, in order to gain a sense of mastery over their lives. But the world presents you with an endless series of problems. As soon as you master one set, another pops up to challenge you. The relief you had anticipated is short-lived. Soon your mind is gearing up again: searching for understanding (mastery), instead of seeking Me (you Master).”

From Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young, August 7th (read it on the 7th, decided today that it’s too good not to share)

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do no lean on your own understanding.”

– Proverbs 3:5, which sat stuck to my headboard for many many years.

Advertisements

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.

Sovereign

If this year the additional theme to my journal of daily reminders about God’s faithfulness is to be God’s sovereignty* then in personal matters I must trust. For though personal matters seem of little worldly importance, or at least less than public or professional matters, they are of cosmic importance precisely because they are close to my heart and soul, and we know that the most epic of spiritual battles are fought first on such sacred grounds. Hence in these matters especially, I should be diligent and purposeful to do the thing that seems to most clearly honour God and can bring Him undoubtable praise and glory for works that must obviously be attributed to him.

Trust, though a solid-sounding word, is not necessarily a comfortable state to be in. One can be spurred to fearless trust with habit and practice (you trust your legs now though you didn’t when you were 5 months old), but trust is a risk. Having beheld more than two years of daily records about how God is faithful, I have more than ample personal material to supplement biblical claims that God is faithful to be good, because He is sovereign despite disappointing timelines in our eyes.

I’m not sure what the worship band had in mind a few weeks ago when they chose this song to play while challenging us to choose an attribute of God to meditate on in 2013. Could anyone choose anything but “sovereign” after this song? Funny.

Sovereign in my greatest joy,
Sovereign in my deepest cry,
With me in the dark,
With me at the dawn.

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.

Mara: bitterness

This wrinkly thing below is bitter melon a.k.a. bitter gourd. It tastes awful. (I think so, and I’d eat almost anything digestible.) Bitter melon is actually quite good for your health.

Here’s the story:

She moved to a difference country with her family. Her husband died. Her two sons died. She had no grandchildren, and only her daughters in law were left. A troubled immigrant who had everything taken from her, with reason to bear sorrow.

She said to her daughters-in-law, “My daughters, my life is much too bitter for you to share, because the LORD’s hand has turned against me.”

When she and one daughter in law arrived back in her home province, she said to those who remembered her and greeted her, “Don’t call me Naomi. Call me Mara,” she answered, “for the Almighty has made me very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has pronounced judgment on me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?” [passages from Ruth, HCSB]

——

It would seem that Naomi is a bitter woman because of her bitter life. It would seem that she has had unfortunate things happen to her, and that she is a victim of misfortune. We are, however, informed of a few things that could suggest otherwise. This happens historically in the time of judges ruling Israel, which is a time when men did whatever was right in their own eyes. There was a famine in the land of Judah, possibly a sign of judgment about the wickedness in God’s people, purposed as a wake up call. Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, moved their family to Moab, a pagan land far away from people who worshipped God, to escape the hard times. Their sons married women who did not worship God. There’s quite a bit of disobedience and lack of faith and trust amongst the family.

The deaths (and the rumour of food back in Judah) ultimately caused Naomi to return to Judah with Ruth. When Ruth ends up marrying well and bearing a son, there is no record of what Naomi says.

——

So the LORD’s plans at the juncture of the deaths and returning to Judah appear to be a bitter hand dealt to Naomi. However much of this was her fault is irrelevant; even if Naomi’s personal sin was not a direct cause of this entire bitter fate, Naomi is also not a mere victim. She was bitter, mara, vexed, provoked, annoyed, irritated, angry. Many years earlier, the Israelites had grumbled to Moses about the bitter water, and the LORD’s lack of provision in the desert. They were tested. They discovered that they needed to obey and trust, and not to complain. [Exodus 15:22-27]

——

At the end of Naomi’s tale, the other women in Judah say to her, “ ‘Praise the Lord, who has not left you without a family redeemer today. May his name become well known in Israel. He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. Indeed, your daughter-in-law, who loves you and is better to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.’ Naomi took the child, placed him on her lap, and took care of him.” She has nothing to say now but does seem to treasure what God gave her eventually. Her life was bitter for a time, but hindsight is 20/20. You see things so much more clearly as you reflect and look back than while you were in the middle of it; and yet we hold on to the past as if we knew better.

In time, the Lord who is good will provide, ultimately in eternity but also somehow in the land of the living. In the meantime, we must be blind to take unsavoury situations with annoyance, irritability, anger, vexation or bitterness in our hearts. God is at work, and we must keep up with Him, being ready to change our minds, change our behaviour, and change our desires. Not easy for change-resistant breeds like us who think we know better.

The Pen

A sword to stab into the mire of thoughts
A point to seek their worth
A blade to test their balance
The sheen to illumine confusion

A swipe to wipe out obstinance
A slash to cut off the pain
A parry to ward off futile thoughts
The sheathing to wait and to trust.

To write thoughtfully, honestly, and forwardly (Christwardly)
about the changes and challenges you most resist
takes greater courage than samurai seppuku.

Getting all discouraged about being discouraged

Genesis 50:20

Perhaps you know this verse by heart just from seeing the reference, or perhaps the image helped jog your memory, because it is one of those verses we use very often to illustrate the necessity and fruitfulness of faith in our God despite dismal circumstances, and is a reminder of the existence of purpose somehow behind seemingly meaningless suffering.

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”

Joseph’s words, “you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” don’t often get quoted with the pointer that there was a time of probably 24 odd years between his being sold into slavery by his brothers and his saying these profound words. Time is a great teacher and counsellor, and I’m sure it took Joseph a while to ‘get it’. Hence, in regards to trusting in God for redeeming our messes, the lesson is this…

Don’t be discouraged about getting discouraged.

It will take time and then more time and then some for us to see some of the good God intends and ordains. I don’t think this means we have to repress hurt, and then smile and laugh for the sake of showing joy. Rather, it seems appropriate to me that God is pleased when we are faced with gut-wrenching, forehead-holding, tear-jerking situations, sob the sobs and still maintain that God Himself is sovereign and good. Being discouraged is not good, but God’s grace covers that just like it covers everything else, like the mistakes you make along the way. In any case it could take anywhere from a few days to twenty-four years to see how God meant it for good. I’m betting that discouragement will recur between now and then. His grace covers us even as we use what seems like our last reserves of energy to live zealously, proclaiming God’s perfect kingdom still to come.

[Note: Click the image above for a further interesting blog post on the Joseph situation that I read re: prayer. The rest of the blog is good too.]