Monday, December 31, 2012

Clarity Part 2: New Year's Resolutions

This is the one day of the year where, almost universally, people are seeking clarity. Even now, as I lay in bed typing this blog I am overwhelmed. I'm overwhelmed by this desire to change everything in my life. Was 2012 bad? Nope. But 2013 has to be better. That's the product that New Year's Eve is selling: better.

I said in Clarity Part 1, that I couldn't write just one blog about Ruth. Last week I wrote about Ruth's selflessness, and how in looking out for someone else, she obtained a blessing. The second thought comes out of the first few verses of Ruth 1.

In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab.- Ruth 1:1

In the days when the judges ruled

This period begins immediately after the death of Joshua (who saw the Israelites into the Promised Land; see Judges 1:1). That timeframe was characterized by a specific decision-making process: 

In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.- Judges 17:6

I was thinking on "in the time of judges" which is characterized by "when men did what was right in their own eyes", a self-centered form of seeking wisdom.

Famine in the Land

Naomi's husband changed destinations. He went where he thought the grass was greener. He left the land of blessing (the literal PROMISED LAND) for a place God had not appointed in search of "better". We do this ALL the time. On December 31st, every year, we start thinking: "there is a famine in the land." And we decide to go looking for better. We'll leave our home churches. We'll quit our jobs. We'll leave our hometowns. We'll leave our significant others. We'll find new friends.  All because it can be better somewhere else, with someone else, while doing something else...or so we think.

There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death. - Proverbs 14:12

Ack! That scripture is so scary to me, because I think I'm right all the time. And what I think is right might be dead wrong...literally!

And so it was for Naomi and family. In Moab, Elimelek and his two sons died.  There is no record of him praying or seeking God. There's no record of him seeking godly counsel. I'm sure he didn't just make a rash decision, though. He probably really thought it over. But ultimately, he did "what was right in his own eyes."

This led me to thoughts on meditation, which is all the rage right now. I have NOTHING against meditation as a means of emotional wellness. Clear your mind. Breathe deep. Think on beauty and light (which is totally biblical anyway; see Philippians 4:8); however, the Bible has specific instruction on meditation*:
  • Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. - Joshua 1:8 
  • You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. - Isaiah 26:3
  • My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promise.  Psalms 119:148
  • I shall remember the deeds of the Lord; Surely I will remember Your wonders of old. I will meditate on all Your work and muse on Your deeds. Psalms 77:11-12
  • Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation. - Psalms 119:97-99
I could keep going, but I think about David's prayer "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer"...this makes me think there is unacceptable meditation. I can't identify what exactly is unacceptable, but scripture is full of instruction to meditate on the Lord, and on His works, His promises, and His word. Yet, I OFTEN seek my own counsel. Especially today. As soon as I awoke, I started listing out some things that I think will make my life better in 2013. Already re-worked my budget to include those things. Haven't prayed about any of it yet. SHAME (--pause-- I prayed --unpause--).

So back to Elimelek. If he had prayed and waited on the Lord, things may have turned out differently for him and his two sons. Because it was back in Bethlehem, the place that he left, where Naomi heard God was blessing people. Would he have left if he had meditated on the promises of God? Probably not...b/c who leaves the "Promised Land" if they are thinking of it as such? Would he have left if he had meditated on the mighty works of God? Probs not...not if he was thinking about deliverance out of Egypt, or the manna in the wilderness, or cloud by day/fire by night.

The "perfect peace" Isaiah speaks of is corrupted when I view this day outside the lens of scripture. This day is about lists, resolutions, and new beginnings when I meditate on me. December 31st is reduced to just another day when I meditate on God, because then I know:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”  
- Lamentations 3:22-23

With God every day is new...not just January 1st.

So hold up...Clarity = pray and wait? one wants to hear that either.

*Disclaimer: I'm not saying you can never have non-religious meditation. Do it. Knock yourself out. What I am saying is that meditating on the Lord is the biblical prescription for peace/clarity. I don't think meditation is wrong, worthless or anything like that. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Clarity: into the mind of Ruth

I like Ruth.

It's a book of the Bible, that up until recently, I had never read. I knew basic things about Ruth, but I didn't know her story. This past week, a friend of mine told me that a close friend (not some street psychic) had read her tarot cards and gave her some thoughts/advice on how to conduct her life. Of course, as a Christian I'm adverse to such and kind of dismissed it out of hand. However, it got me to thinking about clarity.

Any time that a person meditates, prays, goes to tarot card reader, consults a psychic, or even just reaches out to their bff for counsel, they are all seeking the same thing: clarity. We all want to know which way to go. What is the road that leads to happiness? Because that's the road that we all want to be on.

And so, I wanted to write a blog about clarity, but I couldn't think of a person in the Bible who sought clarity and found it (except for Gideon and the Fleece, but I wasn't in a Gideon kinda mood). So, I thought: let's see what Ruth has to offer.

It had to offer a lot. So much so, that I'm afraid...truly afraid to only write one blog about it. I'm re-reading chapter 1 thinking: but what's the most important piece?! Where is the clarity?!

I think it's in two scriptures...that aren't even IN Ruth, but that I feel point me to Ruth:

Scripture 1: Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. -James 1:27

Scripture 2: Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?...But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. - Matthew 6:25, 33

In Ruth 1, we find three women at a crossroads: Ruth and Orpah, whose husbands have just died, as well as Naomi, whose husband has been dead for years. They are widows. Nowadays, it sucks to be a widow, but in biblical times the plight of the widow was often one of extreme poverty and desolation. The widow was often paired (as she is in James) with the orphan. She is someone that no one is looking out for.
Three Women? Crossroads? I couldn't resist!

Ruth and Orpah are still young. They can leave Naomi, and either 1) try to go back to their parents, or 2) find new husbands to take care of them (Ruth 1: 8-9). But, strangely, they want to stay with Naomi. Eventually, Naomi convinces Orpah to leave her. But not Ruth. Ruth stays with her, and delivers the touching speech that is the ONLY thing I knew about Ruth before reading it: 

But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried...  - Ruth 1:16-17

We spend a lot of time seeking to make ourselves happy. It's not a criticism, but rather a simple statement of fact. We're all looking for that clarity on "which way do I go." Ruth had two choices, one leads to possibility and one leads to the poverty and desolation we spoke of above. Why did she choose the latter?!

I'm not super selfish, but I'm selfish! And I'm always "looking out for number one!" In this dog-eat-dog world, that's how you have to be sometimes. Or is it? I realize that this mindset is the result of worry: if I don't look out for myself, who will? if I don't do for me, who will?!
God will. 
I doubt that Ruth wasn't acting on her knowledge of God, b/c she was a Moabite. She didn't know God. But God was working in her life, because the first thing she did was show her purity of heart. The pure and undefiled nature of her spirit, which was to care for someone that no one else would care for. This is the work of God's kingdom (see Matthew 25:34-40). So, in my opinion, Ruth was seeking first the kingdom of God, when she chose Naomi over the road to happiness. She took zero care for her own life, but rather esteemed someone else higher than herself (Philippians 2:3). And that mindset determined her path. 
And if you know the know that everything else was indeed added. The things that a widow usually worried about, she didn't have to worry about. 
Maybe the things we worry about, we don't have to worry about either. Maybe the clarity is there? We're looking everywhere except to God. We're seeking everything except His kingdom. God and His kingdom are backburner items...or we treat them with complacency as something already attained. But the clarity is in doing His Will first. And then everything else will fall into place. 
We don't like that kind of clarity. It's simply...not what we're looking for. Tsk. Tsk.   

Friday, December 7, 2012

"Do I Know You?"

I kind of bristle when people say that they "know" me. I also get a little worried when they say that I know them: "you know me, you know I'd never..." I bristle because I think: "I'm far too complex for you to know me!" And I get worried because I think: "No, I actually have no idea what you would do in that situation."

But yet, the very proclamation of "I know you" or "you know me" is an expression of intimacy. And for that, I absolutely love it! But how many people actually know me well? What I mean by "know" is that they are in tune with the thoughts behind my actions. They know what I did and why I did it. They, in fact, knew I was going to do it. They are not shocked. This person knows my likes/dislikes, they know what kind of person annoys me ("'d hate this chick"). They know when and what I'm thinking. They know when I'm mad, even when my face doesn't betray anger. They know how I show love. They know when to leave me alone. They just KNOW.

This type of knowledge is usually reserved for family members and significant others. I, also, have a number of close friends who claim to know me, and maybe they do...but I kind of shy away from telling people that I know them, because putting aside all the stuff I don't know, there's one thing that I do know for certain:

There is always something hidden.

Always. There are entire sections of my friends' lives that are shadows to me, because we've never turned on the lights over there. There are things that are hidden even from myself, and so I wonder: how can you know me? And how, can I know you? This is a quandary for two extremely basic reasons:
  1. Intimacy - In order for me to feel a certain level of intimacy and connection...I need to feel like you know me, and like I know you. We're all looking for someone who "gets us" in that cosmic sense. It is a basic need.
  2. Fear -  What if they knew the "real" me? What if they knew what I was really capable of? Would they still love me? Would they still be my friend?" It is a basic fear.
And isn't this knowledge (or lack thereof) the root of hurt feelings? You think you know someone, and then they do something you didn't expect. Or you thought someone knew you, but they accuse/suspect you of thoughts and actions you wouldn't think or commit in a million years. And so intimacy can be broken/interrupted, and rejection can occur.

So what? 

Well, it got me to thinking of who really knows me. And scripture says that God knows me completely. Completely. From the exact number of hairs of my head (Matthew 10:30), to the thoughts in that head (Matthew 6:8).

And I realized that the two issues (broken intimacy and rejection) that are encountered in human relationships, are in no ways experienced when in relationship with the Divine:

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12

This gets to me so much, because this particular scripture talks about our lack of knowledge, in general. That we only know things pertaining to God, salvation, and even pertaining to ourselves (See Psalms 19:12 and 1 John 3:2) to a point. At a future time, I will know everything fully...but RIGHT NOW, I'm already fully known. As such, intimacy is triggered, because someone gets me in that "cosmic sense":

But what about the rejection? I should be super scared that an all-knowing, all-powerful, holy God is hip to all that is ME, right?


 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? - Romans 8:29-31.

God knew me...and knowing me still decided that I should be conformed to the image of Christ. And since He made that decision he justifies and glorifies this person that he completely KNOWS. And what did He know? That I was an enemy of God (Colossians 1:21). God got to know me, and rejection was warranted; however, that rejection was set aside at the cross. That may be the deepest thing I've ever thought about.

Being known by God is intimacy without fear of rejection, because if God knows me, and is for me...who can be against? And why would I even care?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Notre Dame: BCS National Champions?

You may not know this, but I am a Notre Dame alum. GO IRISH!

You may not know this, but Notre Dame (heretofore know as "we") finished our regular season undefeated last week, with a win over our long-time rival USC.

And guess what? I prayed for it all to happen.

I'm not saying my prayer worked, per se...but who can say that it didn't?

Now, I shared my Notre Dame prayer life with some people of good spiritual repute, who told me that such prayer may be inappropriate. But I would like to interject that I pray it IF (and only if) it is in God's permissible will:

"Dear Lord, IF it be in your WILL for Notre Dame to win this game, bless it to be so...remove all obstacles (i.e. linebackers) and STRENGTHEN your servant (Everett Golson) that his arm may be strong and mighty. In your MATCHLESS name, amen."

Okay, I'm just kidding. I never prayed that particular prayer (at least not beyond the bold ellipses). And I have no idea about Golson's spiritual life. But, would it be so wrong if I did pray this prayer? Maybe.

God's servant Everett Golson
These are the scriptures that I commonly use (or could use) to defend my prayer over sporting events:

If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 
John 15:7

Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you.
Mark 11:24 

I look at Mark 11, and the context. And I'm not sure how to approach this, because note: nothing Christ does is trivial. Yet, on a day when He is hungry, He doesn't find figs on a fig tree. He curses that tree, and it withers. Upon noticing that the tree died, the disciples marvel and say: "JC! That tree you cursed withered!" And then we come to verse 24 (see above). The amazing thing about the withered tree incident is in Mark 11:13. Which tells us plainly why this particular tree had nothing to offer: 

Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs.

I was once told that even when the figs are not ripe, there is a bud, or like a seed on the branch that a person can eat. Perhaps Christ came looking for just that small bud. I've heard that message. That God's not looking for us to be ripe, but some sort of production is expected, naturally, as His Spirit is in you (it's not called fruit of the Spirit for nothing!).

Die, tree! Die!
I like that message, and I think it's 100% valid (see Hosea 9 for a comparison of men to fig trees, and Luke 13 for a parable about fig trees)*; however, this incident was 1) not a parable, and 2) Jesus' response to the disciples wasn't that this tree had failed him in some way by not having the bud...but, rather, He went on to describe all the things we could do with a small amount of faith. Move a mountain into the sea? Why? What purpose does that serve? Maybe it's just an example. Or maybe it's a metaphor. But maybe I can actually ask for whatever I want. And it's not inappropriate, or messed up, or wrong. Maybe. 

I say "maybe" because scripture makes it clear in Romans 8: 26 - ...for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

And that's for everything. I'm definitely praying for the wrong thing. Always. When it really counts, as always, God steps in and makes the intercession. I know for sure that my prayers for Notre Dame are in no way close to the level of the prayers that are too deep for words. And part of that is because I don't even know what to care about the way I should. I pray for my friends, family, the church, the lost, the poor, the sad, the single...and Notre Dame, but is it any of it approaching the awesomeness of the groanings that are too deep for words? Probs not.

For now, until the Spirit leads me otherwise, I'm going to continue to pray for whatever I want, believing that God cares about what I care about. Whether I'm praying for a new job, a new car, new friends, a new apartment...or a BCS National Title. Either way (answered or unanswered), Jesus heard me.

And I'm good with just knowing that. For now.

*Hosea 9 juxtaposed against Luke 13 could be a blog all its own. For real!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Life as a House

Have you ever seen the movie Life as a House? Remember cutie-pie Hayden Christenson? If you haven't seen the movie, or you forgot about Hayden (aka Darth Vader)...see it and remind yourself. It's a really great flick about a man who finds out that he's dying. And when he surveys his life, he realizes that he lives in a falling apart shack and that all the relationships in his life are broken. The house becomes representative of his life. So, he decides to tear down the old house, build a new one and heal relationships while he yet has breath in his body. 

It's a really old movie. When you're young, you miss all the nuance and meaning in a story. It's the same way with reading the Bible. It's why we can read a scripture and it mean one thing, and two years later, it'll mean more

I didn't watch the movie again (though now I really want to), but I was reading a scripture again, and it made me think: Life as a House

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.
Ephesians 2:19-22

That movie is NOT Christian, at all. However, it speaks to me. It speaks to the state that so many of us are in before we come to Christ: 
  1. The man is content to live in a dilapidated shack for over 20 years, separated from his family. To him the shack was okay. There was nothing wrong with the shack.
    • Likewise, before Christ, many of us were cool living in a "shack", separated from God. We were strangers and aliens, living separately, and it was FINE. And it was like that for a long time.
  2. Then the man realized he was dying, and it was a turning point.
    • I believe there is a turning point for everyone who comes to Christ; some are more obvious than others. Maybe you realize that spiritually, you're dying. Or maybe you just realize that something is missing; or maybe you realize that your faith isn't what you thought it was and there is more out there. Whatever the point, it turns you.
  3. Then he tears down his old house.
    •  I've been a Christian a long time. And I'll tell you that this is the hardest part of being one. In order to build a new house, in the same spot, and in order to build a new life, in the same spot...something extreme has to take place (Think Extreme Makeover: Life Edition). The old you has be be completely destroyed. It's the scariest part of Christianity. And it is where we develop the most trust issues. "Don't destroy my kitchen! Those are granite counter-tops!" That's the difference between us and the man in the story. He's "all in." He KNOWS he lived in a shack, and that even though he enjoyed it for 20+ years...he sees that he was in error, and he is ready for demolition. We think that only some things in our house were messed up, and we only need God to make some minor adjustments...but God doesn't make minor adjustments.
      Imagine this is YOU...

  4. He builds a new house, and in the building of it, restores relationship with his family. I feel like this one is best explained via a scripture: 
    • Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:17-19. 
In the building of the house, reconciliation occurs. It made Ephesians 2:22 special to me. God is building me into a house...that He can live in. I mean, that's reconciliation at a totally different level. When I reconcile with a friend that I was at odds with, we shake hands, or we hug. And that's pretty much it. We're "cool" now. I don't hate you anymore. But God is like: "let's live together." But, spiritually it's way bigger than co-habitation. It's in-habitation (if that's a word...I don't think that it is). 

This is kind of a rambling blog, because I read Ephesians 2 and thought: Life as a House...Life as a House of GOD. I thought that was deep.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Focused on Excellence: Lessons from David


Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. Philippians 4:8

This is a much beloved scripture, and though I would say I love all scripture, I mean that only in the way that it is the Word of God, and therefore--because it is wisdom and power--I love it! But I dislike this scripture. I dislike it because whenever I'm feeling badly, I read it for encouragement. But instead of being encouraged I become frustrated because it's SO HARD to think about what is noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable when you're so overcome by: 
  1. The ignoble nature of your own actions
  2. Everything that seems to be going wrong in your life
  3. Your own impure thoughts and motivations
  4. The ugliness that is everywhere in this world (just read CNN comments)
  5. All the things you find contemptible
 All 10 things (the 5 good and the 5 bad) exist. However, the Bible calls for you to concentrate and focus on only the five good ones. It, in effect, requests that you have a one-track mind--which for many of us is negative. It seems like common sense; it is better to be singularly focused on the positive than to spend one second concerned with the aforementioned bullets of tragedy.

Which brings me to a lesson from David:

Text: 2 Samuel 12: 13 - 22
Context: David has been informed by Nathan (the prophet) that his sin with Bathsheba will cost him the life of his unborn son. David has been fasting and praying the whole time his son is sick, and then:

But when David saw that his servants were whispering together, David perceived that the child was dead; so David said to his servants, “Is the child dead?” And they said, “He is dead.” So David arose from the ground, washed, anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he came into the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then he came to his own house, and when he requested, they set food before him and he ate. 
2 Samuel 12:19-20

 People were perplexed! He had fasted and prayed and wept the entire time his son was sick, but now...?

He said, "While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, 'Who knows, the Lord may be gracious to me, that the child may live.'
2 Samuel 12:22

I look at this, and I look at my top 5, and I realize: I'm not like David. At all. David did bad stuff, extremely bad stuff (for which there were grave consequences), but instead of dwelling on the ignoble nature of his actions, instead of blaming and lashing out...he focused on the grace of God. Stuff got real, and his focus went to God, to His grace, mercy, and faithfulness. And he went all in, appealing to the characteristics of God. I just realized that the noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable things are most easily found in God! Part of my problem is that I was looking for them elsewhere. Looking for them in ME (laughable), and looking for them in other people (still laughing). 

But back to David...he has appealed to God, and God said "no." Now it's time for him to fall into my list of 5, right? That's where I would've been, all 5 would have washed over me like a wave. But David gets up, makes himself physical presentable for what? Worship. Takes himself to the house of the Lord and worships!???!!! It's almost incomprehensible to me (because I don't--yet--have a heart like David). His focus stayed on the thing he found to be excellent and praiseworthy: God. I focus on everything else. 

Classic mistake.

*Richard Gere was a super hot King David!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Prides comes before a...

Technically, it's still Fall. It truly feels like winter. But we're still able to say: "Winter is Coming" and chuckle in our very nerdy, I-read-all-five-books! kinda way. But in the months since summer officially ended, I have been grappling with the issue of pride.

Whenever I think of pride, a specific scripture comes to mind:

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.  
Romans 12:3

I'm going to break this down in strange way. But there are three things in this verse that got me. That really GOT me, because I've been acting crazy for a few months due to pride. Understand this: 

I think I'm awesome and important, and anything that threatens that perception of myself has to be KILLED. I wage war against it, because when I think I'm awesome and important, I feel really good.*

But, Paul says: 
  1. Think of yourself with sober judgment. Paul is like get real. He's asking you to take a step back and seriously and earnestly evaluate who and what you are, and  
  2. He tells us to do so in accordance with the faith God has distributed; Christians know that faith is our access to grace, and it is by grace that we are even able to stand. Without grace, there's nothing we can say or do to commend ourselves to God. So, if I am to take this real good look at myself, in accordance with my knowledge of God, then I have to assume that...
  3. I'm drunk when I think of myself more highly than I ought. I'm totally out of it when I view myself as this awesomely important, indispensable being who should be treated as such at all times.
I get mad easily at perceived slights, because like I said...I wage war against anything that injures my pride. And so, I'm constantly at war. Sigh. I want peace time. I'm not stupid...the prideful person falls. They end up losing things, and I don't want to lose anything. 

*The context of the Romans scripture refers to people getting really big heads over their spiritual gifts. I'm not saying I'm running around thinking my spiritual gift is better than someone else's. I'm still unsure what my spiritual gift is. I'm just taking some license to show how pride has been working in my heart. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Closer Look at David: Phenotypes

So, earlier this morning I had an interesting conversation with a friend who constantly misspells my name as "Kristin"...with an I! I know what you're thinking: if he spells your name wrong all the time, is he really a friend? Fair point. I will take this under consideration. Anyway, our conversation went like this:
Tiernan: you will always be Swedish Kristin to me
Me: Swedish?
Tiernan: yes, that's the Swedish spelling: Kristin
Me: I think the world is FULL of black Swedes, we just never knew
Tiernan: well, perhaps you are a mix
Me: of black and black

Then we fell into a discussion of phenotypes. Why? Because Tiernan is just that kind of guy. He takes nearly every convo to a really scientific place. I'm not scientific at all. But I enjoyed the conversation because it made me think:

Genotype vs. Phenotype

Technically, an organism’s genotype is the set of genes that it carries (even those that don't appear). An organism’s phenotype is all of its observable characteristics. In short, the genotype is everything that you are. And the phenotype is only what I can see about you. In the above exchange, I showed my preference to be identified based on my phenotype. Most people do. It's easy, it cuts down on confusion.

It's "judge a book by its cover" when we all know to never judge a book by its cover.

And it made me think of David.

The life and times of David, shepherd-boy-turned King, is amazing reading. But it's also incredibly confusing.

I read through the books of Samuel, and through Kings, and through Chronicles, and at the end of it, I'm like: David sucked. I judged that dude very quickly based on his obvious sins and failures. And yet, God says that David is a man after His own Heart. And I'm like "WHAT?!!" After the heart of who?! God?! NO WAY!

 It gets to me, because I'm looking at things that people look at. I'm looking at his "phenotype". God doesn't look at what I'm looking at. God's looking at the "genotype".

"...The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 
1 Samuel 16:7

But what's really wrong with David's phenotype? I look at him and on some level I know: He's just like me. He's messed up! He is so vile sometimes! And I identify with that. But then, he's a man after God's own heart, and I don't identify with that! It's extremely frustrating!

It's frustrating to think: I have to be more like David. 

I believe that we have a spiritual genotype, and our outward appearance is catching up to it. David had a heart for God, and his outward appearance and behavior was catching up to it. I feel like the ugly duckling, who's going to shock you with my beauty when I reach spiritual adulthood.

Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.
1 John 3:2

Don't judge me based on my phenotype!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Eat Rocks!

The consumption of rocks is usually limited to children (before they realize that rock-eating is a problem), dogs, and people with a rock-eating disorder (i.e. Pica). Rock eating is a serious problem. The reasons why it's an issue, in one's opinion, will vary from person to person. For me, the main problem is:

This will break my teeth.

I'm not sure if I shared before, but I really love my teeth. I used to have a mental problem: over-brushing, over-flossing, over-gargling. I was one of those people who smiled at themselves in the mirror ALL the time. I know what you're thinking: vanity. But it wasn't full-out vanity. It was tooth vanity. Everything else I wanted changed in some way, but not my teeth. Those, I loved.

But medically, the main problem with eating rocks is that rocks have absolutely no nutritive value. You can eat all the rocks you want, and still, technically, starve to death.

I say all this to ask: what do you eat when you're hungry?

I have just transitioned into Bible mode (FYI).

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
Matthew 4:1-3

I'm about to take some major license, but this scripture got to me today, because: 

Jesus was legitimately hungry. He'd gone 40 days without the thing that satisfies hunger (food), 
He has the power to change his circumstance, He can turn stones into bread...but that doesn't change the fact that it used to be stones

When Jesus is finished with His fast. When He is finished preparing Himself for His public ministry...he can eat food that is and was always FOOD. He doesn't have to do anything to make food out of what was previously inedible. Temptation says: you're hungry, make it happen. But a godly mind says: I can wait. 

I've found that I don't always wait. I feel like I lived a large part of my life, pretending that I have the same powers that Jesus refused to use. I'm out here trying to turn rocks into bread. But...they are still rocks. 

I want something to satisfy all the hunger in my life, and I'm eating all these rocks
  1. My job
  2. My family/friends
  3. Boys
  4. Television
  5. Fancy vacations
  6. Anything I can spend my money on (you like that catch-all)
And I'm hoping that it has nutritive value. And it doesn't! And even if it does. Even if I turn up some bread one day, I can't live on bread alone!  Why? Cuz Jesus said so:

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.
Matthew 4:4

Oh geez! I fell for it. For the first temptation. Hungry? Eat rocks. 

Thankfully, God knows what's up with hungry (ok...thirsty) people (same/same): 

Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live. 
Isaiah 55:1-3

Food for thought.*

*pun intended

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Biggest Loser: Friend Edition

So recently, I entered into a Biggest Loser type contest with June. The goal: first one to lose 13 lbs wins. Wins what? $200 worth of clothing and/or accessories. Hefty bet, huh? Well, I just lost. Sort of. Once a person reaches their goal weight, they have to maintain it for 30 days. I'm not even at the goal, and the clock is ticking on me! Grrr. I was close to the goal, at a point when she was far away...and now I'm kinda far away when she's there.

How did this happen?

Life is full of excuses. And I'm not usually one to seriously hide behind them. But let's play devil's advocate.  I repeat: How did this happen?
  1. I had surgery and could not under doctor's orders do any strenuous activity for 8 to 10 days. Meanwhile, June was twisting her little Asian body around at Yoga/Strogra/Bikram, blah, blah, blah. No exercise for me = weight gain.
  2. My birthday came around: 30! After that, I was in a small depression. As June is well older, she had already gone through these blues and was unaffected. Depression = food = weight gain.
  3. As a result of #2, I turned to drugs...ok that's a lie (that probably would've made me lose weight anyway...)
At the point where I resort to joking falsehood, I know the gig is up. I'm out of excuses. At the end of the day, the whole truth is: I'm flat out lazy. And I was lazy up until the moment I realized June was close to reaching her goal. Suddenly, it was urgent. Suddenly, it was crash diet time. Suddenly, I was frantic to do what I should have been doing all along in order to get that $200 outfit. 

So what?

It made me think of the parable of the ten virgins (Read Matthew 25:1-13). Five were wise and had oil for their lamps. Five were foolish and had NO oil whatsoever. When it was lamp lighting time 50% of that group of otherwise cool peeps were out of luck. That parable is a serious cautionary tale about the ineffectiveness of last minute preparation. I'm not going to go through the parable (though I may in another blog), but rather on why that parable had to be told. It was in response to a question:

“Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” - Matthew 24:3

Man oh man, I wish I had that insight: when will June reach her goal? If I knew the answer to that...I would've won! Why? Because I would have worked it out perfectly, in order to have lost 13 lbs at the point when she had only lost 12. I would have been literally one step ahead of her. Why? Because that's how lazy people think. 

We live in a world full of spiritually lazy people. People who only want to get right with God one second before it is required of them, in order to gain the prize. However, that only works when you know the timing. This is why God is not mocked (Galatians 6:7). He knows that's how we think, and so He warned us: 

“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. - Matthew 24:42-44. 

Since we can't know the timing of the Lord's coming...NOW is our only recourse. Isn't that troubling? Or convicting? We waste so much of now, thinking there is a later...but there may not be.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Korean Dramas: Hallyu or Hallelujah?

 On August 7, 2012 evil June told me to watch a show called City Hunter.

Me: What's that?!
June: It's a Korean drama
Me: With subtitles and stuff?! Nah...
June: Yes, but I hear they're really good!
Me: I'll watch the first 3 episodes of City Hunter if you watch the first 3 episodes of Downton Abbey
June: Deal

At the time, Downton Abbey was my latest obsession. I'd watched the first 2 seasons in a whirlwind, and wanted to share its greatness with June. can't get her to do anything without striking a deal of some sort (this is indicative of some unhealthy flaw in our friendship, but I digress). In any case, it was the beginning of an addiction.

Korean dramas are typically between 16 and 25 episodes, with each episode approximately an hour long. From August 7 to September 21, I've watched the following:
Boys Over Flowers
  1. City Hunter
  2. Boys Over Flowers
  3. Stars Falling from the Sky
  4. IRIS
  5. Secret Garden
  6. King 2 Hearts
  7. Rooftop Prince
So in 40+ days I've spent over 140 hours watching subtitled television exported from South Korea. And loved it! It was like crack to my inner tv junkie. I'm yelling at the TV, shaking my little fist at it; I'm laughing, I'm crying, and I'm telling every person who will hear me about how GREAT Korean dramas are. I find myself saying things like: "The King and Kim Hang Ah's love is real"! I'm like on fire for Korean dramas.

King 2 Hearts
Huh? I'm on fire for Korean drama, the way Christians should be on fire for Christ. The way I consume episodes, is the way I should consume Bible verses. The way I tell everyone they should watch them, is the way I should tell everyone to accept Christ. But wait, why am I down on myself?  I've written 133 blogs, and 90% of them are about the Christian experience. So what then is making me feel weird?

I was crazily off-balance. 

Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?... Isaiah 55:2 

Why that scripture? Well, I was feeding myself with what wasn't food, and filling myself up with what didn't satisfy. The more I tried to satisfy my mind and my heart with romcoms and melodramas, the more traumatically unsatisfied I became.

140 hours given to Hallyu; less than 140 hours given to "Hallelujah" in my quiet time, and in the church service, and in studying for my blog writing. I can't live on Hallyu, but I actually can live (eternally) on Hallelujah:

Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" Matthew 4:4

The thing that gives me life: The Word of God...woefully neglected, for like 40+ days.

I spent more time thinking on the good-lookingness of Lee Min Ho* than I did on the goodness of Jesus! Ah!!
So, I had to re-center, re-focus...because it was kind of killing me. I had become so depressed...and it took me a while to realize why. So I had to get back into quiet time. Get back into blogging. Get back into serving. And I already feel better. It can be turned around in a moment!

So is K-drama out of my life? No, no, no. NO. It's just going to be a much smaller part. Goodbye hours upon hours of parroting "kamsamnida" and "Fighting!" back to my screen. It's been real.

I actually might sneak in a "Best of K-drama" blog now and then...but my opinion means little given that there are literally 1000s of these dramas and I've seen 7. That being said:

ROOFTOP PRINCE IS THE BEST! Watch it...right after you read Romans 8!!

What do we allow to steal our focus?

*I got so distracted looking at photos of him. Gotta take every thought captive! LOL

Monday, September 17, 2012

I'm Disobedient

This weekend I realized: I'm disobedient.

For the first time in over 3 years, I went to Cedar Point, "The Best Amusement Park in the World". While there, I rode one of my favorite rides: Top Thrill Dragster.

Upon entering the line, I am met with this sign:

Then when you get into the car, this is what you see on the back of every seat:

And then, when you're at the start line you see this:

On top of all that, an announcer is using every opportunity to enumerate these simple rules. So, one has to believe that if you hear and see the rules this many times...they mean it.

But, on roller coasters, I LOVE to have my hands up. I can hear. I can read. But still, I disobeyed. I put my hands up, and then TTD took a turn, or twisted, or did something at "break neck" speeds, and my arms were up so I wasn't braced, and my upper body was just slammed down. Ribs bruised. It was the cost of my disobedience.

The big question is: why did I do it? To enhance the experience.

Being shot up 420 feet at 120mph is simply not enough. Clearly, I have to do something to enhance my experience. The something that I do is disobedience. And it actually took away from my experience. What I didn't realize, but I do now, is that the ride is built for my enjoyment and the safety parameters are set to ensure that I receive optimal enjoyment of the ride.

It's the same thing in your walk with Christ. We're living life with our hands up, trying to enhance the experience. We read about "it" in our quiet time, we get held accountable about "it" in our small group, and we hear "it" preached as if it was meant just for us on Sunday mornings at service, and yet...we do our own thing, because we want our life set on optimal enjoyment. I call it "it" because there is variation among us. Everyone has their own life optimization plan that is somewhat outside of the parameters. Whether you're adding sexual immorality to your life optimization plan, if the love of money/power is part of your optimization plan, or if you just have a mentally-satisfying-but-totally-inappropriate thought life that is part of your optimization plan...believe it's taking away from your experience.

Why/How? Because the ride is built for your enjoyment and the safety parameters are set to ensure that you receive optimal enjoyment of the ride:

"... I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." John 10:10

Why would Jesus come to give you a full life, if it's really not a full life? This is of course rhetorical. Your life is not full, because you seek to fill it yourself. We're not looking for fulfillment in Christ, because we don't always believe that total fulfillment can be found there. And so while we're busy trying to enhance the experience with disobedience, we find ourselves less and less fulfilled, sometimes even hurt. Ribs bruised. The cost of disobedience. 

“Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” Luke 11:28

Obedience leads to happy contentment. Why do we think other roads lead there? Food for thought.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Law of Give and Take

...Or maybe I just love really "put together" people. I had a moment of conviction a few days ago while reading my small group book The Reason for God by Timothy Keller. In general, it's not my favorite book, but occasionally this guy has some legit nuggets of wisdom:

In the real world of relationships it is impossible to love people with a problem or a need without in some sense sharing or even changing places with them. All real life-changing love involves some form of this kind of exchange. It requires very little of you to love a person who is pulled together and happy. Think, however, of emotionally wounded people. There is no way to listen and love people like that and stay completely emotionally intact yourself. - Timothy Keller*

I used to think that "sacrificial love" meant loving people in spite of their crap. Turning the other cheek. Loving people when it hurt your pride to do so. And it totally does! But, the aforementioned quote got me thinking about this:

Giving of yourself vs. Giving up yourself

And this is why I love the bible. I can quote a verse forever, and not realize that I didn't get it. Isn't that crazy? I was writing last year about Lenten sacrifice, and didn't really get the give and take of sacrificial giving.  I often think of sacrifice as a choice. And sometimes it is. We'll give something up for something that we think has greater benefit. But in the quote, sacrifice is a result.

In order for something to be given...something else has to be taken.

And therein lies the rub! I don't want to lose anything as a result of loving people. The only way to ensure this is to either 1) love people only up to a certain point, or 2) only love people who are really put together.

But what happens when that "put together" person falls apart? ...That's why they say in hard times, you "find out who your friends are". The people who stick around, the people who hold your hand, the people who hug you and let you cry it out...they are being your strength because all of yours has run out. And they are doing this at a cost. When you give your strength to someone who has none...strength is leaving you. For real.

How do I know?

The woman with the issue of blood.

When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” 
 Mark 5: 27 - 30

The faith aspect of this is AH-MAZING, and I'll possibly cover it some other time; but the clincher here is that when she touched Jesus, she took power; she took the healing that she needed from Jesus.

So how can I prevent something, that even Jesus couldn't prevent? And even beyond that, how can I live life attempting to circumvent the true nature of love, as laid out by God? What do I mean by that? I'm saying that love results in sacrifice, just like Tim Keller said.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16

God loved so much that he gave. Love results in sacrifice. If I love you...I am sacrificed. If I love God...I am sacrificed.

MAN that sucks! It sucks because I want love to be EASY. But there is no easy love. There is no cheap grace.

 Is this what it means when the pastor says to "pour yourself out" for others? Oh. No.

*Keller, Timothy (2008-02-14). The Reason for God (p. 191). Penguin Group. Kindle Edition.