Friday, July 27, 2012

The irony of the expectant

It's sadly ironic how entitled we are as people, especially as believers. Whether we would admit it or not, we believe we are entitled--entitled to a good life, to health, maybe a spouse, a home, wholeness, happiness. And the sadder side of this entitlement is that we think we can do something to get these things, or we have done something to deserve them. When truly, nothing could be further from the Gospel truth: we deserve nothing and can do nothing to garner favor or a good life, and have done nothing to deserve them should we be blessed enough to have them. Where then do we get off thinking number one that we deserve a life of goodness and number two where did we ever imagine that it had anything to do with our own efforts or stellar qualities that would qualify us for such blessedness?

I'm sure much of it has to do with our rewards-based society where everything is founded on performance: do this, get that. It's how we're programmed to process and proceed through life. But, it's an unfortunate paradigm that has carried over into our Christian-thinking. It has become subtly laced into our theology, permeating our thoughts and thus influencing our actions. It's the idea that "serve and obey God and He will bless me." As I said, it's subtle and not altogether incorrect; however, egregiously wrong when it comes to how we relate to our Father. It's very much like the elder brother in the parable of the prodigal son. The elder brother didn't truly love the Father, but wanted the Father's "things"--ironically just like his wayward younger brother; however, the elder brother tried to gain these blessings by doing what was right. It's a heart issue. He didn't want to please his father because he loved his father, he wanted to please his father so his father would bless him. How often do we treat the relationship with our Father the same way?

"God, I will serve you, if you bless me with ________." As I said earlier, whether or not we would admit that this is the true posture of our hearts, I'm afraid that all too often it is. I can sadly admit this for myself. All too frequently I know my wretched heart wants God's blessings more than I simply desire my Father for Himself. And if I'm honest I'm not entirely sure how to break--or rather be broken--of this gross mentality. I think it all comes down to Grace--all of it does.

Grace that reveals our need for God. Grace that causes us to realize we not only don't deserve salvation, but we deserve nothing else besides (i.e. health happiness). And Grace that ultimately frees us from ourselves and our own depravity, thus allowing for freedom (again by Grace) that we might walk humbly before our God.

Paul was right: "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not of your own doing; it is a gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." In other words, we have zero grounds for these notions of entitlement. We got nothing. And the moment we do is the moment the cross ceases to have significance.

Now, for the Grace to fully comprehend and be changed by this life-altering truth.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


"Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all."

-Emily Dickinson

The desert place

I can remember in former days when my burdens were light enough that I could unload them on a confidant, take a nap, or have a good cry and they were out, gone, sufficiently processed. No longer. It would seem that with age not only comes more responsibility, but bigger and heavier burdens. Is this revelation part of spiritual growth? Or simply an inevitable part of growing older and finding life is simply harder than you thought? Perhaps both.

Either way, there are growing pains, and I'll be straight--I wish I could skip it--this whole growing up thing, both actually and spiritually. But, I can't, and I know I truly don't wish to. Everyone must grow up, I just wish it didn't have to be so hard. Yet, I know there is no growth without opposition. No refinement without trial.

James, the author of the epistle affirms this when he writes, "Count it pure joy my brothers when you encounter 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." (1:1-4) There's a purpose behind all of it--our growth and ultimate completeness in Christ.

It's learning to trust Him in the trial that's hardest. Knowing and trusting that there is purpose in the pain. Scripture says God disciplines those He loves, just like a father disciplines his children, so our heavenly Father disciplines us. And if I'm a child of the King I know I must go through the desert.

I don't like the desert. I wish there was a different way, but it's His way. His way is through the wilderness. He takes us into the desert to minister to us: to strip us of all comforts, of all things that keep us from Him alone, to refine, to test our hearts, to produce steadfastness. The desert is unfortunately necessary. And sometimes the desert lasts a long time, but we must remember James' words: "Count it pure joy my brothers whenever you meet various trials..."

Inasmuch as I might ponder going back to when my burdens were lighter, or my trials were fewer, or when deserts were gardens--I would never go back to knowing my Lord less. As the Psalmist said, "Why are you downcast, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise him, my salvation and my God."

I shall praise Him in the desert place.

Friday, April 20, 2012

"Do not be anxious..."

This is a command in Scripture, to not be anxious. But, it's not just a command, it's a command followed by a promise, "...and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." This is the promise. But, what is a promise? According to it's "a declaration that something will or will not be done" or "an express assurance on which expectation is based." God promises us peace. It's a declaration that something will be done, an assurance on which something is based. And that something is the command to not be anxious. But, do we believe Him? Or is this simply another nicety that we glaze over in Scripture and placidly ignore? I pray not.

More of what Scripture has to say about anxiety..

"Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on...But seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient is the day is its own trouble."

Why are we so prone to anxiety? Is it in our nature? Does it originate from the fall, that left us literally crippled by our own insane desire to control, thus leaving us not trusting our God and creator, Lord and sustainer in whom all things hold together? What a sad state...


We don't have to remain in this state. Because He Jesus Christ came and died, saving us from this, our wretched state. "The old has passed away, behold the new has come." That's good news!
Although, the enemy would like us believe we are still bound by that old nature. He is indeed most cunning, seeking those who he might devour. Devour. That's intense. And we mustn't underestimate his evil ways and desires. BUT, we can take heart, because our Lord has overcome the world and has beaten sin and death-including satan and his evil minions. We've won! And we can live like it. We should live like it.

So, let's start living like sons and daughters of the most high King, ruler and sustainer of the universe, giver and taker of life, crusher of death, the Great I AM. He who has commanded us with a promise: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything my prayer and petition with thanksgiving make your requests known to God and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." This is our assurance.

Let's start believing Him. And living like the redeemed, not like those who have no hope.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Batter my Heart

Batter my heart, three-person'd God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp'd town to'another due,
Labor to'admit you, but oh, to no end;
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv'd, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly'I love you, and would be lov'd fain,
But am betroth'd unto your enemy;
Divorce me,'untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you'enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

-John Donne

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Reaching forward

How I wish one could see into the future. It would make the present so much easier. But, than again maybe not? I think we all assume if we knew the plan the process would be less painful, but in all reality it might in fact make the present & the process impossible to endure because all we would do is strain towards the future (or run away from it) and not truly abide in the present. The present is necessary, the process of growth, pain, trials, etc. Without that, without now, without the process there is no future. Not revelatory, but true. I still wish I knew the plan, the future, what was "to be" but I can't see it, I can't know it, and all I have is now, the present, and my current process. Sometimes I get frustrated with the present as it seems to constrain and confine me, but if I am exerting all of my energy simply grasping for what is yet to be, I will miss out on what is here and now. And I don't want to miss anything. So, I guess the "then" will be "now" eventually, and all I can really do is keep walking, and try not to run ahead...

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Life is starting to feel like what I always feared, daily. It's quite routine, mundane, same. Yet, I know there is beauty to be found in the seemingly unbroken rhythm, but some days I have to look a lot harder to find it. Like today.

Wake up, begrudgingly. Rub the sleep out of my eyes. Attempt to muster the strength to engage in some type of quiet time, & try not to fall asleep. Wash, but only if necessary. Dress, always the same clothes, just in a different order. Hurry downstairs, because I'm always late. Eat breakfast, a must. Drive to work. Call Dad on the way, always. Work. Kids. Work. Read. Pretend to work. Kids leave. Go home. Nap, if I'm lucky. Or I simply waste time. Prepare dinner, eat dinner, clean up from dinner. Throw in a dinner date occasionally. Maybe a phone date, read perhaps. Push-ups if I'm being ambitious. Bed, and always too late for not having done much. Repeat.


This isn't always the routine, but mostly and definitely as of late. I think it makes it worse that I'm severely lacking in vision at present, asking the "what am I doing with my life" question on the weekly if not daily basis. Sigh.

Life is beautiful, truly. Sometimes filled with pain and confusion, but also filled with joy and laughter, just all within the confines of daily-ness.

I think this is what I feared most before graduating, the daily-ness of life. I feared that it would consume me, overtake me, kill all dreams and ambitions. And currently, I feel like that's what it's doing, if I'm honest. But, there are many things jumbled up in this season that contribute to the general malaise. This is just one facet of many.

But, I am realizing this is one of the very real challenges of "adult life." Daily-ness. Learning to live within the confines of life, work, routine etc. I suppose my personal challenge is to learn to function well within these confines, or perhaps to break out of the confines altogether. But, I wonder anymore if that's truly possible...

Thursday, January 19, 2012

To do or not to do

That is the question. At least the one that seems to plague my mind on a regular basis. I feel often caught in my life between the throes of action and inaction, both small scale and large scale, mental and actual.

Do I eat that donut? Do I not eat the donut? Do I go for a run? Do I not go for a run? Do I sit still or get up and do something with myself?

Small scale.

Am I making the best use of every moment? Every Day? My Life?

Large scale.

On the one hand life is just life, pedestrian, day to day, and the small decisions of "do I eat that donut?" are not terribly monumental in the grand scheme of the universe, but on the other hand the small decisions make up the day to day and define, to an extent, the kind of life you live. So, life is just life, but is it?

The sad irony is that this perpetual naval gazing, as my father calls it--the incessant self-analysis--is the very thing that keeps me from truly living full and free. I get so bent upon continually evaluating my progression of self that I often miss the point...
My siblings call it the paralysis of analysis. I can become so consumed with my own process that I almost forget the whole point of the process.

Self-awareness gone bad.

There is definite benefit to being self-aware, but there are also dangers, as evidenced here. I'm not honestly sure how to cease this constant self-analysis, but I suppose I could start by trying to take the advice of a Mr. Bob Newhart...

"Stop it!"

Monday, January 16, 2012

Another day another year

I thought 25 would feel more monumental, but truly it feels like just another day, maybe even less exciting than the average. This is like the last milestone before 40. Alright, maybe 30. I mean I can rent a car now. Whoop. But, I suppose I'm truly not too saddened by the realization that I have little else to "look forward to" age-wise. I'm coming to understand that life is just life. Not that there aren't things to look forward and revel in, but life is truly what we make of it.

We could choose to bemoan the passage of time and years, the diminishing rate of opportunity and the passing potential of life. In this we could opt for the position of the pessimist.


We could to choose to embrace all that lies ahead, the pregnant potential of now. Choosing to ignore all that is behind and pressing on to what lies ahead. Embracing the beauty of the right now. Because we're not promised tomorrow. We could choose to be the optimist and live for today.

So, two questions stand before me: shall I choose the optimist or the pessimist and what shall I choose to make of this year...?

I suppose we shall see, won't we.

Friday, January 6, 2012

You know you're getting old when...

I think you know you're getting old when you listen to talk radio not because your parents have it on in the kitchen, but because you turned it on. When you cry during a musical, and not because it was boring. When you hear yourself telling people younger than you, "I remember when I was your age..." When you choose to stay home on a Friday night because you want to. When you start getting jury summons. When you opt out of a cup of coffee late at night because you know it'll keep you up. When you start investigating wrinkle creams. Or when you no longer think your parents are crazy, all the time...

So, does this mean I'm getting old?