Thursday, December 19, 2013

Beyonce Concert: A Religious Experience?!



I want to organize my thoughts on this in a way that doesn't seem blasphemous, because you guessed it: I'm about to compare Beyonce to the Bible! There's a half dozen ways in which I could do this, but I'll focus on three:

 1. Taste and See

Prior to going to this concert, I wasn't really a Beyonce fan. I wasn't willing to spend a ton of money to get good seats. And around 4:00 PM yesterday, I expressed, to June, a desire to stay home. I was too tired to see Beyonce. But I trudged out to Verizon Center to see her...and it was insane. I came away from that concert thinking (A) This is the most beautiful woman I've ever seen, and (B) whatever a "star" is, she is it!

Why was I so apathetic before? The issue was I had only heard of Beyonce, I'd listened to a few songs and thought "that's nice", but I'm not an R&B/Hip Hop fan...so she wasn't for me. Resultantly, I went back to my obsession with the likes of Iron & Wine, Ingrid Michaelson, and The Weepies (all amazing artists). However, I hadn't really tried Beyonce.

Likewise, so many people in this world have only heard of Jesus, they've heard about a few of His teachings and thought "that's nice" but Jesus is not for me. And they return to the philosophy of life that they've always had and are comfortable with. They deal with the yearnings of their soul (if they believe in a soul) in the way that they've always known. But, "O taste and see that the Lord is good;
How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!" (Psalms 34:8). Taste and See is such a simple but overlooked concept. There are so many things that we think we "get the gist" of, but if you've never tasted...if you've never experienced, you can be apathetic about something that is jump-up-and-down exciting! So why not taste God? It'll cost way less than my Beyonce ticket AND you won't have to sit so far away. 

2.THIS!

How perfect is this? I mean...really? #whomadethis? #blackfolks #nailedit

3. We can Boldly Approach the Throne of God's Grace

The crux of what I am thinking about Beyonce came to me last night.  I got home from the concert and listened to a sermon on Zechariah 3 (which I'm not that familiar with) in preparation for a 7:00 AM small group at Northside Social.  The sermon was about true spiritual beauty...but to me it was about swagger. Do you need some background? Here you go:

In old Hebrew times, the High Priest had to make atonement for the Jews on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). He had to do this by making sacrifices in the "holy of holies" which:
  1. Is absolutely the most holy place/presence of God/the mercy seat of God
  2. Is restricted to the High Priest (he and he alone can go in there)
  3. Is a place he can only go once a year or die
  4. Requires the High Priest to be clean - which translates to 5 ritual baths AND he will wash his hands and feet 10 times during the service. 
This is serious business. Must. Be. Clean. In Zechariah 3, the prophet is shown a vision of the high priest, not as men see him (as this clean holy High Priest who will atone for us all), but as God sees him: 

 "Now Joshua [high priest] was clothed with filthy garments and standing before the angel." - Zechariah 3:3

If he's in there, it means he's already taken the ritual bath, but yet he's dirty in the holiest place? Ahhhh! I'm scurred for him!!  But it's cool because God makes him clean (Zechariah 3:4). But then God references someone else. Someone who will come and in one day make everyone clean. Like for all time. No more Day of Atonement (Zechariah 3:10). 

grabby fans
I'm thinking the priest's confidence levels on the day of atonement had to be really low, like basement level confidence. If the High Priest is dirty, I'd probably be obliterated just walking towards the holy of holies. Right?  But then I think about Beyonce and the way this chick boldly struts out on stage, commanding attention. Commanding adoration."Say 'Hey Mrs. Carter!'" and the crowd goes wild screaming "Hey Mrs. Carter!" People are crying, reaching for the stage, shaking when she gets close. They're going berserk and she's taking it in as if it is to be expected. When in reality...she's mere flesh and blood. Cut her, she shall bleed. Poke her in the eye, I bet you she'll squint. But the bigger reality is that she behaves this way because she can. She CAN. Ok...okay. But what does that have to do with Jesus?! In a nutshell: 

Jesus' finished work on the cross transforms us into Beyonce. 

WAIT! Before you close my window, please understand...I don't mean that He transforms us into body rolling paragons of vocal ability. No. Sadly, this does not occur. But Christ's finished work on the cross infuses us with a confidence and boldness that allows you to do far more than dance across a stage in front of thousands of screaming fans. Rather it allows you to boldly strut into the holy of holies like "Hey Lord! I am here! I have arrived! I am awesome! Grace is mine! No sins holding me back! I don't need a mediator! Woot woot!" 

Note: No one enters the holy of holies quite like that, but that's a good description compared to the fact that without Christ's finished work you either are or should be super afraid and timid about approaching God. But now scripture says:

 "So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most." - Hebrews 4:16

Swagger. We can roll up with that expectation, because the reality is...we CAN.  

---


It's not my favorite song on the new album, but I think I've listened to it for 5 hours on repeat, so my Bey song for this post is "XO":

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Going Home




Going home is the absolute worst part of any trip. No one feels like sitting on a stuffy plane, having way too many movie choices (picking the wrong ones) and then suffering because you can never get those two hours back. This time around though, I liked my picks, so four movies (The Heat, The Wolverine, The Great Gatsby, and Beautiful Creatures), one long nap, and a horrible episode of Law & Order SVU later I am home.

And it feels weird.

Yesterday I said there was a time for everything, but I can't help but feel like something great has ended. I alternately feel like a champion and a failure. Two weeks, two medals, 52.4 miles (not including 2 training runs), and feelings are mixed.

Feelings of "could I have run it faster?" or "that wasn't good enough" roll around in my head juxtaposed against "you've overcome serious illness to run two marathons in two weeks...that's amazing!" Which thoughts are right? I choose the latter, but there is a competitive part of me, that I guess is competing a little bit with myself. The other part is really complacent like: "this is good enough."

Which is right? 
2 Medals in 2 Weeks!


Most Christians get to a point where they feel like they're not "good enough" which is slippery slope because we know that "there is no one righteous; not even one" (Romans 3:10) and that we are only made acceptable through the blood of Jesus Christ. But why, then, do we beat ourselves up when we make the same mistake twice? Why do we groan remembering Friday night when our mercy was new Saturday morning (Lamentations 3:22-23)? What is that about? Are we discounting grace? Am I discounting the fact that I ran two marathons in two weeks?

No. Not at all.

I think that we all get to a point where we know God is calling us to more. To become more than people who run. But people who run well.

For this very reason [being now a participant of the divine nature], make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 
- 2 Peter 1:5-8

I can run the distance. I know that. I've done in twice. But now I want to put efforts into proper running form, speed, how to reserve energy and totally punch it at the end of a race. I want the same thing spiritually. I can go the distance. Grace guarantees me that. However, am I seeking the enhancements? Am I even expecting excellence of myself? 

I don't know. This one is hard to think about because I may never run another race. I've reached my goal. But yet, there are higher heights, bigger accomplishments, and more races than I can count. Similarly, I don't have to be anything other than a believer accepting the grace of God...but there are higher heights, good works that God has called me to (Ephesians 2:10), and more places in God than anyone can count. 

Shouldn't I want to go there? 

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. - Philippians 3:14
 
Random Note:
We left the apartment this morning at 5AM. Much to our surprise the streets were alive and bustling. We walked past a bar that was FULL of people, still drinking and smoking, listening to music, and otherwise having a good time. As such, it is clear that we did not experience Greek nightlife, and will strike that "check" from the record. We are old. People were still at home pre-gaming when we were calling it a night. Sad face.

*I took that picture of the sky in Thessaloniki. I think it's pretty...and that the "sky is the limit" when it comes to achievement

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Thessaloniki Part 2: LAST DAY

delicious
Well, it's been real, but this trip is over! We hit a few more of the items on our list:
what does that say?
  1. Bougasta breakfast? Check! This was very difficult though, because we couldn't tell which, if any, of the signs said "bougasta". I said the word "bougasta" and guy behind the counter looked at me as if I were crazy. Luckily, an angel, (i.e. a Greek who knew English) walked past and helped us order everything we wanted, which happened to be every kind of bougasta (cheese-filled, spinach-filled, and meat-filled) and two cappuccinos. This was way too much food. We gave the rest to the two elderly men seated next to us. They seemed happy to get it. Parakalos!

  2. This wasn't on the list, but I needed a pharmacy. There had been some major chaffing during the race, and I was pretty sure I needed Neosporin. The pharmacy was a debacle. He spoke no English. We spoke no useful Greek. We looked for antiseptic creams, but came up empty. Every time he tried to help us...we groaned. Every time we tried to speak to him, he laughed. Finally, I did this: Genius! Antiseptic acquired for the low, low price of 0.69 Euros.
  3. Thessaloniki Museums? Check! We went to the Roman Forum and its associated museum. Wait! Wasn't the Roman Forum in Rome? Yep, but there was another Roman forum in Thessaloniki which they unearthed after the Great Fire of 1917 and have spent decades restoring. It was really cool because there is a whole civilization hidden beneath Thessaloniki. They can't dig it all up because it's beneath residences and office buildings but...wow right? We also went to the White Tower. Lame. But went towards the check mark.
  4. An authentic gyro off the street? Check! Contrary to the popular belief that traditional gyros are made with lamb, they are actually made with pork. So we got those. They also stuff them with fries...that's probably not very historical, but it tastes really good!
  5. Shopping? Semi-check?! Bianca went "trinket" shopping for items with which she could make jewelry for her upcoming "Harry Potter" party. Moment of silence to let that sink in. (Silence)
    • She spent 45 minutes in there. 
    • I couldn't take it so I went and sat in the park across the street. I would have taken pictures (there was a fountain and a number of small and beautiful clementine trees), but the area was rather seedy. There was a crazy barefoot man screaming random gibberish right next to a man who nonchalantly fed dozens of pigeons, while other smoked cigarettes all around me. It was a harsh 45 minutes for me.
  6. Visiting a Greek Orthodox church? Check! The one that can be seen from our balcony. It's quite beautiful inside. I lit a candle for my bff, then sat in the chairs for some "house of worship" quiet time. I've been doing that in churches everywhere we go, and it seems really peaceful and calming. The uncommon thing in the Greek Orthodox church is the kissing of icons. They kiss every thing in that place it seems as part of their worship. I'm interested to look up what that signifies.
  7.  Pastry shop? Check! On our way home from dinner we picked up two pastries. 
And just like that our time in Europe had come to an end (except for flights).  It's strange how there are times that you want to end and some that you would like to last forever. There is singing, dancing, laughter (all these we would have lengthened) and then there is weeping and sorrow (we would have these shortened or eliminated altogether). It made me think of Ecclesiastes 3's "a time for everything." There was a time to run a marathon, and a time to hobble down the street in pain. There was a time to saunter around the streets of Italy and Greece carefree, and a time to be bogged down by the annoyance of the airport. But really, my favorite scripture in Ecclesiastes 3 is:

"He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart..." Ecclesiastes 3:11

I love this part because in the previous 10 verses every good thing is balanced out with something bad (excerpt from v. 2 - 4):

A time to give birth and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted. 

A time to kill and a time to heal;
A time to tear down and a time to build up. 

A time to weep and a time to laugh;

It's a roller coaster existence, all of it deemed appropriate by God's sovereignty, meaning we're very much out of control. And yet...we want forever. God has set eternity in our hearts and has ordered our lives in such a way that through the good and the bad, we want more of it.. 

And the awesome thing is: He grants that (John 3:16).

The more we want at first is carnal and temporal. But the more we live, the more we experience, the more "times" we go through (especially as Christians) the more we want the "more" to be something divine and holy. This trip has been great. But the time for it is over; however, during this time it's brought me into closer relationship with God. Daily devotionals? I've never spent so so much time on my blog in such a short period of time. Reading scriptures, writing prayers. This was the time for this. And tomorrow it will be the time for something else...all of it a manifestation of yearning that puts us back to the relationship God had with Adam, conversing in the cool of the day. 

Eternity is set in our hearts. It's why we don't want good times to end, and for those who seek God, and who understand that reconciliation with God is a restoration of that really cool relationship that initially existed, we keep looking for the next season of our lives. We know that this balancing act of good and bad is simply the "all things" working together for good spoken of in Romans 8:28. But there's a time for knowing that too I guess. 

Lord, we thank you for all the times and the seasons in our lives; for the laughter, the tears, and everything in between.  Bless us with the ability to see past what's temporal and see how each event is shaping and preparing us for an eternity with you. In Jesus name, Amen. 


Monday, November 11, 2013

Thessaloniki: Part 1

So we have moved on in our travels from Athens to the second largest city in Greece: Thessaloniki. We were determined to plan our departure from Athens well, so we wouldn't have the opportunity to blame any difficulties on "traveling mercies" or our lack thereof. Up until 10pm last night, we had no idea how we were going to get out of Athens. Since we couldn't figure out how to get to the bus station, we took the train by default. And it went swimmingly. There was one point at which we foolishly tried to put an over-sized bag in the overhead bins. We were too weak and too short to hoist it up and in. We were making an absolute mockery of ourselves, until someone kindly told us in English: "Excuse me...it is too big, you have to put...there" and we saw some free space for our bags.

On our way to taverna. Becca wore heels...
The trip was not short. It took about five and half hours by train, but we mostly slept. Upon arrival we tried to get out and do things. But there was a problem:  Generally, I have found that Greece makes me feel like an idiot. Why? Here I am illiterate. We can't even pronounce street names on signs due to all the unknown letters. Today we went to find lunch and couldn't read anything on the menu. There were no pictures! I'm the kind of person who needs pictures in order to get food! So we just ordered two souvlaki and took everything else he offered:

Guy behind counter: With pita?
Me: Sure, give us pita.
GBC: With fries?
Me: Oooh, yeah, fries too.

Had it not been for him, we would have just had a couple of chunks of meat on a stick.

Outside our taverna. A huge watering can!
We read an article called Top 10 Things to do in Thessaloniki, and it said "walk by the seaside." Since we only have two days we decided to live life to the fullest and hit the seaside even though it was a little cold and very overcast. The site also told us to buy a coffee for our walk. We bought cappuccino freddo (which we had heard was good)...we didn't know it was a chilled drink! So we walked along the cold boardwalk with cold drinks like idiots. The Greek experience! But two things checked off our to-do list. We also had a drink at a seaside bar (check) and ate at a taverna for dinner (check). Only 6 more items to tackle tomorrow!

We're trying to live an abundant last couple of days of this trip. And it made me think of the scripture:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. - John 10:10

Old church that can be seen from our balcony
You might be thinking "oh no! prosperity gospel!" but that's not really where I'm about to go. I think that after we become Christians, our spiritual lives can settle into a kind of ho-hum, I'm-just-trying-to-hold-on-til-Jesus-come kind of existence. I know this because sometimes I find myself in "maintenance mode", just trying to stick to my routine of prayer, quiet time, and small group bible study (because that's all I have to do right?).

It's a foolish way of thinking that is a thief, or sorts. It's like the Pharisees who told people to keep to the law to have relationship with God, robbing them of a full knowledge of Christ.

I'm on this trip for two reasons:  (1) because I want to, and (2) because I can. We're trying to hit on the 10 things to do in Thessaloniki because: We think that we can. So I'm going for it. Do I live my spiritual life like that?

--Pause--Is it super messed up that my natural life and my spiritual life seem separated? That there is a way that I can think that governs carnal things, and there is a way that I think that governs my relationship God? I think that in itself is a problem--Unpause--

I ask about living my spiritual life in that way because I sat down prior to this trip and thought: "where do I want to go?" And I started researching, checking things out on the internet, and I saw the Athens Classic Marathon. And I thought: wouldn't it be cool to run the original classic course?! And suddenly I wanted it.

What do I want spiritually? Where do I want to go in Christ Jesus? What role do I want to play in His kingdom? What do I want to accomplish? Why isn't it as easy to have an abundant life in Christ as it is to check 10 Things to do in Thessaloniki off my list? Per scripture if I want to, then I can. So what's the problem? These are not rhetorical questions; I want answers.

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. - James 1:5

Lord, please bless me with wisdom. I want to do everything that I can do in your kingdom and be everything that I can be by your grace. I want to live the abundant life. "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent" (John 17:3). Do I really know? Help me to know you more, to increase in knowledge and not settle down into "maintenance mode." I want to be built up, repaired, restored, and enlarged in every way possible. In Jesus name, Amen!


because...a Minion cake is awesome







Sunday, November 10, 2013

It's All Greek to Me: Part 5 - RACE DAY!

I'm not sure if I mentioned this, but the entire trip is build around Bianca and my participation in the 31st Athens Classic Marathon. In case you don't care to click that link, let me highlight the important part:

"It is perhaps one of the most difficult major marathon races: the course is uphill from the 10 km mark to the 31 km mark – the toughest uphill climb of any major marathon."

We did not know this prior to signing up for the race. You may have gathered from the previous posts that we're really spontaneous and don't really think things through. So we only researched this after 1) paying for the marathon, and 2) buying our flights. Then we read this online and became scared...became sad.

But, we did it! We are home, laying in bed, covered in BioFreeze (which is just a yuppie form of IcyHot). Race highlights:

Bianca's highlights
  1. Having the medal put around her neck
  2. Young girls dancing to the traditional Greek music
  3. All the people cheering, screaming "Bravo! Bravo!" 
  4. And getting the laurel leaves 
Kristen's highlights
  1. Running into the Olympic stadium at the end with all the people cheering
  2. Running past beautiful scenery. There were pretty mountains! 
I'm slightly less cheerful than Bianca. I thought it was appropriate to start wit praise, because now...the lowlights:

Bianca's lowlights
We are now crumpled up like these bibs. :(
  1.  The uphill from 28k to 31k (worst part)
  2. The trickery with the finish lines -There were like 4 fake finish lines. They were the blow up arches that you run under, but they were just advertisements for sponsors of the race. :(
    • These were terrible because you were running full out WAY too early, then running out of juice.
  3. Aches and pains
Kristen's lowlights
  1. My ankles feel broken
  2. Running with tens of thousands of sweaty European men (the smells were crazy)
    • Sometimes I had to run fast just to escape smell!
  3. The people were cheering, but for the first 15k or so there was no one. Then there were long stretches where we didn't see anyone. I can count the number of signs I saw on my hand. It's a lonely race. 
  4. It was hot and sunny, and there was zero protection from the sun (unless a cloud came). 
    • I prayed often for clouds
  5. Supporters who smoked. Thanks for yelling "Bravo" and stuff, but please don't blow smoke right into my face...that's not exactly what my lungs need right now. 
So it's over. Hooray! And I'm really pleased with our performance. There was a time, not too long ago, when I couldn't run very far at all. And I remember being so hype about being able to run 4 miles without stopping (click here for old blog). But my faith, in myself, was at a place where I could run four miles. And now my faith is at a place where I can run for 26.2 miles in one of the toughest marathons in the world.

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek (shout out!). For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.”"- Romans 1:16-18

This is one of my favorite scripture of all time.  The life of the Christian is all about faith. And I've said it before, faith is in levels. Faith gets stronger and stronger. Faith grows bigger and bigger and it has to because we are living by this. The faith that gets you through today will not be the same faith that gets you through next year. The awesomeness of God, the truth of his divine mercy and justice and all the promises that He has made through Jesus Christ became more evident over time. And we totally need that.

Faith keeps us going, just like in my race. In my first marathon (which was two weeks ago to this day) I knew I could run without stopping, and so I ran 26.2 miles without walking for a single second. For this marathon, I believed I could run up that huge hill, and make it back down. I prayed about it so much...around the 30k marker (almost at the end of the hill) my ankles felt really bad, so bad that I debated within myself about walking. I knew I could PR if I kept running (on this difficult course), but that walking would make my ankles feel better. It was a few minutes before I decided (by faith) that I could do both. I really love the Lord! And I really loved this race! I beat my time from 2 weeks ago by 10 minutes even though I walked. All glory goes to God. 

Lord, thank you for growing the measure of faith that was initially given to us when we accepted Christ. Sometimes, in the Christian walk we find ourselves in the valley, but it is in those times that you are refining our faith so we can rejoice more fully on the mountaintop. Thank you for being mindful of our growth and development spiritually and naturally. Keep us on course so that we finish every race and PR every time! In Jesus name, Amen! 



The Finish Line!


Saturday, November 9, 2013

It's All Greek to Me: Part 4


Traveling mercies n. <Prayer> (origin - Christianese) - prayers for safe travels, often includes the phrase "over the highways and the byways" even though no one knows what a byway is. It is a prayer for deliverance from mishaps or tragedy during a trip.

Bianca and I decided that traveling mercies have not really been our strong suit:
  1. The mistake with our seats that had us seated separately on the flight over
  2. The exploding luggage (my poor bag)
  3. The run to the train (that resulted in a fall for Bianca)
  4. The strike that delayed our flight out of Rome, and then just our horrible experience with Aegean airlines
Today, or rather last night, we had the bright idea that this morning we would go to an island! The weather has been pretty warm, so we thought it would be perfect. We had to make our way to the Piraeus port to catch a ferry to Hydra island at 9 am. This is how our day went:

  1. 7:07 AM - Awaken. Hurriedly get dressed and ready to head to the Port. 
  2. 7:50 AM - Walk to Syntagma station - we actually know where this is. We buy two metro tickets each (one for the train and one for our bus transfer to the port)
  3. 8:05 AM - We just miss the first train. 
  4. 8:15 AM - We are on the train! We don't know what any of the signs say, nor do we actually know where to get off. But there is a picture of a boat at the end of the line...so that must be it! 
  5. 8:33 AM - We walk out of the train station and right into a crowd of people waiting for the #843 bus. Of course all of those people are also going to the port! Yay, we'll just follow them onto the bus. 
  6. 8:45 AM - The bus transfer was only supposed to be a mile...
  7. 8:50 AM - "Bianca, I think we should get off this bus..." Bianca: "hmm..."
  8. 8:53 AM - (doors have opened and closed, we're moving further and further away from the port) - "Are we getting off?" 
  9. 8:54 AM - We jump off the bus. Bianca attempts to speak to a few people, but I know what's up "no speakiti any English"
  10. 8:54:30 AM - We start to notice we are in the sketchiest place in the world. 
  11. 8:55 AM - Panic is starting to set in
  12. 8:57 AM - "There are cabs!" We immediately jump into a cab. I'm thinking: we are defeated. Let's go home. So I'm shocked when Bianca says: "Piraeus Port." She will not surrender.
  13. 9:13 AM - Arrive at ticket office. Where can we go? Nowhere but Aegina at 10 AM. 
Where are our traveling mercies?! Just kidding. They were in that cab at #12. Had that cab not come...
view from the boat

Fast forward. We arrive on the island. We realize we know NOTHING about this island. And it's not because we switched islands due to missing the first boat. We didn't know anything about Hydra either. We had no plan. We just jumped a boat, and once ashore said: "now what?" No one answered us.

feet in the Mediterranean
So, on the island we ate food, had some awesome baklava with pistachio ice cream, saw historical sites older than anything I've ever seen. Ever. Went to a little museum. Put our feet in the Mediterranean, and experienced a Greek line (queue) boarding the boats.

The Greek line is an angry mob of geriatric heavyweights. There is no actual line, per se. It's literally younger people getting elbowed, pushed, and ultimately run over by really old Greek people. When I say really old, I mean age spots. HARDCORE age spots. I didn't feel right pushing back, but I had to get pretty aggressive at points. What made me mad was that all the pushing and shoving happened even on the return trip and we had assigned seats. WHY? I can't steal your seat!

Anyway, my thought today comes from Psalms 139. To me, it kind of goes to show why I don't really need to pray for traveling mercies.
steps leading up to oldest place ever

O Lord, You have searched me and known me.  
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
You understand my thought from afar. 

You scrutinize my path and my lying down,
And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.

- Psalms 139:1-3

I'm a huge fan of this verse because it lets me know that God is so completely aware of me. He knew when we woke up that we were dumb. He understood that we had no idea what we were doing or where we were going. God "scrutinized" our path. Which means He thoroughly examined and inspected our comings and goings today. Knowing that God is watching that closely, plus knowing that He is an ever present help in a time of need kinda makes the panic at 8:55 AM seem stupid. I know that bad stuff happens, even to Christians, but that stuff didn't happen because God was unaware. It doesn't happen because traveling mercies were absent. Even in bad things, God is with us.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,
And the light around me will be night,” 

Even the darkness is not dark to You,
And the night is as bright as the day.
Darkness and light are alike to You.

-Psalms 139:11-12

My darkness is still light to God, because He sees when I'm blinded. It's kinda deep. 

I just realized that I didn't add a devotional prayer to yesterday...I can't go back. Plus, I finished re-writing that one today so today's prayer does double duty.

Lord, thank you for being so aware and mindful of us. It is comforting to know that your eyes are upon us, and that we are never alone in this world. We might do things haphazardly, but you are always in control. We thank you for your sovereignty in all situations. End results are your domain, and we thank you for the good that You promised would work out of all things. In Jesus name, Amen!

It's 10:15 PM. I'm going to bed. Race day tomorrow. Eek!! Pray for us! Wish us well! Marathon stories coming soon!

It's All Greek to Me: Part 3


I'm at the point where I can definitely say: Athens is no Rome. Are we having a bad time? No! God forbid! But it has noticeably less magic than Rome. We walked around Rome, wistfully noting how we could live in Rome. If only our jobs moved us there. Or, if only we married an Italian. Oh to be a Roman citizen! In Athens, it's more like: "I could never live here." I leave room for the fact that Athens may have a hidden charm that we're not here long enough to discover.

Acropolis
Today was our touristy day. First stop: The Acropolis. We've been treated to glimpses of the Acropolis since we arrived. We can see a corner of it from our terrace, and we saw the whole thing from atop the rooftop bar, A for Athens, last night, and you can't miss it while walking around the Plaka neighborhood. But all that is from afar. Up close, it's pretty impressive (my camera took THAT picture!!).

What you can't see here, but what I noticed everywhere was construction. They would call it "restoration" but they're definitely adding and taking away (the taken away pieces are placed in the Acropolis Museum). The added pieces are holding up the other pieces, making it more accessible to visitors, etc., etc.

What was interesting about the construction (to me) is that much of it was to fix or correct the errors of past restoration projects. What was meant to preserve was actually destructive. What was meant to help was actually harmful.

This made me think about the church and the preservation of the gospel. How often is the gospel treated like the Acropolis?

Note: the Acropolis only put me in the mind of the church/gospel. This is not a direct allegory for the following reason:

The Acropolis would crumble on its on without intervention, but the gospel of Christ stands forever...without our help. "The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever" - Isaiah 40:8

New steps built over old steps - Acropolis
The true, unadulterated gospel is super hard to find. Not just because of evil in the world and passage of time. But, also, the gospel has been distorted and changed due to well-meaning preservation attempts. Sometimes the "fixes" are to make the gospel culturally relevant or politically correct. Sometimes, we "fix" the gospel to make it more accessible, so we can fit a universal gospel to a specific demographic. Usually, this is well-meaning (we can even view it as kingdom building), but much of it has resulted in the recent need for correction and restoration. The "fixes" might fill up pews, but there is only one thing that saves: faith. And faith is only gained one way:

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. - Romans 10:17

The above verse speaks specifically to the preached word, so we have to be certain that the word we hear and the word teachers teach is that of Christ. We have to be careful that when we're building new stairs over old ones...that they still lead to the same place: repentance and a true/saving faith in the finished work of JC.

IN OTHER NEWS

We had a lot of fun today. The Acropolis was pretty exhausting (as it is high upon a hill), so we decided to treat ourselves to some frozen drinks (orange juice in the case of Bianca). We were so happy to get those drinks. They cost us 4.50 Euro.

A few minutes later we realized we had been had, as we passed a Mickie D's advertisement. How does a drink cost more than a meal at McDonald's? So then we calculated how much these drinks really cost us:

4.50 EUR x fx rate of 1.32 = $5.94 + $0.06 worth of pride

SIX DOLLARS for frozen lemonade! OMG. Look at us. Look at how happy we are to be fooled (this photo taken before realization hit us). 

We then hiked around, climbed to the top of a hill and saw an ancient statue of muses. I would add a picture, but one more picture download might kill this post. So...you'll have to imagine: 100s of steps up. We finally get to the top, and it's like a rock. I felt pretty let down. I saw this monument from atop the Acropolis and it looked so pretty from far away. I thought: "I have to go to there. " I was starting to wallow in self-pity when Bianca says: "Hey! This side is cool" and it was! I was looking at the back of the historical site! Once I went around I could see the body of the Muses (their heads were gone. Heads are a luxury in Greece).

For dinner, we went to a Greek restaurant that had so-so food, but excellent ambiance. Live music. Plate breaking. People yelling "OPA!" it was legit. Bianca had a plate broken over her head. Sitting across from us were two British gals (Dani and LeAnn) who pretty much made our night. They were hilarious. They had been slightly over-served and kept yelling out random things like:
  • "Stimata!" (Greek for "stop it!")
  • "Stupid fat hobbit!" 
  • My dinner was trout, which came to me on fire. They began chanting: "The fish, the fish, the fish is on fire. We don't need no water...let the fish burn!" 
Random. They also asked us fun questions: "What is meatloaf?", "What are yams?" and my favorite: "Are you guys in uni?" As in, are we in COLLEGE?!!! Woot woot. Old people looking young. We left the restaurant with them to go to a place called 42. But on our way out Bianca almost got french kissed by a slightly gross older Greek man. He kissed her about three times, all of them missing her mouth by inches due to some last second head turns. As a (bad) friend...I did nothing. I didn't think she was going to make it. She's got skillz.

We stayed out way too late kicking it with 25 years olds from Kent and Brighton. But, they were awesome, and we'll look out for them on Facebook!











Thursday, November 7, 2013

It's All Greek to Me: Part 2

We started our day off right today: with breakfast! We just started it off in the wrong place: our terrace! Though it's beautiful up there, it was a bit chilly. Bianca tried to power through, but I had to exclaim: "I'm outta here!" Our eggs and bacon were getting colder by the second! The star of breakfast was the homemade granola our host, John, made yesterday. We're almost out, but plan to have the same b-fast tomorrow. Yay! 

Every time we leave our little apartment here in Greece, we have to be ready to do battle! Battle with the language barrier, and it is a fierce warrior. Today, we really had one goal: pick up our race bibs. 

After having to jump out of a cab that had no idea what we were talking about. I mean no idea. We found a cab driver who would take us to the Taekwondo Exhibition Center in Filaro near the Olympic village. That's pretty much what we said when we got into the car, because none of the communication we received from the Athens marathon people included an address. It just said: "Pick up your bib at the Taekwondo Indoor Hall." Apparently, everyone who's anyone knows where this is.
Anyway, we found a cab driver who knew where this was. And he took us. But the whole way he kept offering to drive us to all the sites for the low low price of "too much" and intermittently said "no pressure" while applying insane amounts of pressure. Since we weren't in a rush to be taken for every penny we had, but also didn't want to anger this cab driver, we hemmed and hawed the whole way to the marathon expo. At that point, we allowed ourselves to be taken a little. He's already overcharged us on the way there, and offered to wait for us, to take us back for the same overcharged priced. Since cabs looks pretty scarce and we were in a graffiti-laden area, we accepted his "kind" offer.
Mission Accomplished:
Upon leaving the marathon expo, a fellow marathoner asked us what we thought our time would be. The conversation went like this:
Random guy: "So what are you guys thinking for time? 6 and a half?
Me: (flabbergasted)...umm...we were thinking 6.
Random guy: WOW! Good pace!

And then he was gone. Like the ghost of Christmas future. Leaving me scared and confused: six hours is extremely slow. Maybe he thought we'd run six and a half minute miles? No. Then we'd almost win...he really meant hours. What manner of race have we gotten ourselves into?!

I became discouraged. 

But success does not lie in our speed; it doesn’t lie in our minute per mile statistics, or in our split times. Success is in enduring to the end, and in having enough strength to finish the race. Sometimes I have this desire to be a superstar. I definitely have this desire as a runner, but also as a Christian. I have to be awesome. And when I let myself down, when I make mistakes, or when I press towards spiritual perfection much slower than I would like, I become discouraged. 

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. – Isaiah 40:28-31 

Ultimately, this is what I want. Not just in this marathon, but in every aspect of my walk with Christ and my daily life. I want God to strengthen me to press on. When the people who should have strength (the young) fall down in exhaustion, I want to be held up by the power of the Lord. Some would say it’s dumb to pray for help with a marathon. But if you read my previous blogs, you’ll know: I think God cares about every aspect of my life. If he cares to know the number of hairs on my head (Luke 12:7), then I’m thinking he cares if I fall to pieces at mile 19. But more than the marathon, I want to wait on the Lord to make me who He has called me to be and to not be discouraged by how long it might take. 

Lord, I know that the race is not given to the swift or to the strong, but to the person who endures. People can train their bodies, sometimes we believe we can train our heart, but human effort cannot always win the race. Bless us to seek endurance rather than performance. To seek staying power rather than speed. Strength comes from you, Lord; bless us to always seek our strength in you. Help us not to fear the journey, but to rest in the knowledge that you will lead us across all of life's finish lines. In Jesus name. Amen! 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

It's All Greek to Me: Part 1

Today we traveled to Greece. I really don't have a lot of pictures to show you because we spent the whole day in the airport. I must say, I was rather peeved. So it was nice to finally arrive at our apartment to this sign:

I'm not sure who this Frankie is, but he's a genius. I needed to relax and calm down, majorly. From what? Well, this is how our day went:
  • 6:45 AM - Wake up. Hurriedly pack our crap and head to the Termini train station where we have to catch the Leonardo Express to the airport
  • 7:21 AM - the train leaves at 7:22 and we are standing at the kiosk waiting for tickets to print. When the tickets come out, we run as fast as we can to the wrong platform. Then, once realizing our mistake, we book it to the correct platform (I'm sad to say, Bianca fell along the way) and jump on the train before the doors close for good. 
  • 7:55 AM - arrive at airport. We are an hour early for two hour pre check-in, but no big deal, we figured we'd just eat breakfast. We noticed on the Arrivals/Departures board that our flight wasn't showing...thought nothing of it. 
  • 8:15 AM - Our flight is not listed ANYWHERE. Time for customer service again. Apparently, there is a strike of some sort, and our flight has been delayed to 12:50 PM. No notification from Orbitz. NOTHING! We could have slept for at least two additional hours. But you know what? Life happens. We keep it cool. 
  • 12:20 PM - We board the plane. On our way to our seats, Bianca spent a few moments organizing her carry-on prior to sitting in her seat. I wait for her. This causes a brief bottleneck, but this happens in airplanes at airports in cities all across this world. Every day. But no. The evil Grecian flight attendant rudely asks me where my seat is. "Where is your seat?!" I answered her: "It's right here." What could she say? She hated me. And I hated her. A feud was born. 
  • 12:21 PM - I'm angry AND sleepy, so I immediately pass out, thinking in 2 hours we'll be in Greece. I wake up an hour later: we are still on the ground. I ask Bianca what's going on, she has no idea. Lack of notification is apparently the Greek way. Is there bad weather? Are we refueling the plane? Is there something on the wing? We'll never know. 
  • 5:00 PM - We have arrived! **My new bag arrived in one piece. No tape! Boom!**Time to catch the train to Plaka. So we walk five minutes to the train platform, stand in front of closed gates for an additional five minutes attempting to buy train tickets. All this in front of a sign that with bold letters says: THERE WILL BE NO TRAIN SERVICE FROM THE AIRPORT ON WEDNESDAY NOVEMBER, 6TH DUE TO THE STRIKE. We must have been subconsciously thinking: screw the strike! We're going on the train! But alas, we had to cab.
  • 5:45 PM - We give a cabbie a piece of paper with the address on it. Problem, the address looked like this:  
    • "Konstantinou Tsatsou 9, Athens, Attica 10558"
    • This is English
    • Cabbie doesn't understand English. He understands this:
    •  I haven't the foggiest what a single one of those letters stands for. None. So we hand him a Google map. Google rules the world. 
  • 6:40 PM - After a scary drive at high speeds, through thick traffic (after fearing for our lives), and the car scraping alongside the curb we arrive at our B&B.
Needless to say, after nearly 12 hours of turmoil, I needed some Jesus. Some real life Jesus, like in the flesh, with nail-scarred hands. But alas, the Frankie sign had to do.
Our granola! We bought Fage to go with it!

Our host is a very good-looking man of indeterminate nationality named John. He made us granola. We love him now.  And he walked us to the local grocery store and showed us where to get good eats this evening. He was a lifesaver.

We will definitely have to get much rest tonight, so as to have amazing things to tell you tomorrow. You may be thinking: what about the devotional?!

Ahem...praise was far from me today. But I realize now that was a mistake. This day, though rough makes for a great story. Doesn't it? I'm thankful for stories and our safe arrival in Athens. Our time here will be epic. But there's something about Greece and the Greek language that actually puts me in mind of scripture:

...there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch...He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” - Acts 8:27-31

Bianca and I are here with zero understanding of Greek. No matter how much we look at the words on menus or on maps, no matter how badly we want to understand, we simply cannot. We needed a guide. We needed a teacher. At dinner tonight we found such a person. He taught us a few necessary words: "hello", "goodbye" (these are the same), "yes", "no", "please", "sorry", and "thank you." And we were so grateful!

There are people in this world who want to know God. Who want to understand the gospel of Jesus Christ, just like this eunuch. They buy Bibles and they read them, and they try to gain an understanding. But they need guides. Sometimes that guide is definitely the Holy Spirit. But oftentimes...it's us. Are we available? Are we joining our chariots to those of unbelievers? Am I open to being a teacher. We like to assume that people who have read the Christian Bible know something, and so we let them drown in their opinions and suppositions. We ignore their debate and arguments because "ain't nobody got time for that." But are people really looking for and desiring a guide? Do you feel led by God to be that guide? Just some random food for thought.

Lord, it's so hard to actually have understanding. It's something that we take for granted every day and that we assume everyone has. But we are often in darkness, and we don't recognize others who are in darkness. Please, Lord, shine light into our hearts and minds. And where we find more light, bless us with the strength to walk on that lit path. Help us to be lights, not hid

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Roman Holiday Part 3: A life in ruins

You look into a keyhole
SADNESS ALERT: It is our last day in Rome (weeping and gnashing of teeth). As we walked around the streets today--for hours upon hours--I realized: there is no place like this on Earth. Or, at least, I've never been to a place like it. We saw so many amazing things today:
  • The Capitoline museums
  • The Spanish Steps
  • The Mouth of Truth
  • Some awesome view of St. Peter's Basilica through a keyhole  
We were walking all over Rome, passing schools, passing residences, restaurants, government buildings...and of course ruins.

This is what you see in the keyhole!
And it hit me that this entire city is built on and around ruins. It's new built on top of old. It's beauty, literally, coming out of ashes.  They live full lives surrounded by brokenness.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved) - Ephesians 2:4-5


Dead things should be discarded. Broken things should be thrown away. I never keep broken things. I hate broken things. I only really deal with new stuff. But in Rome, when they find a broken thing, when they discover ruins, they take care with it (to do no more harm), and go to great lengths to restore and to save them. And it made me think: OMG, I am Rome.

I was born into the brokenness of this world, into the ruins of sin and death (which equaled separation from God). But God went to great lengths to restore and save me. To restore and save all of humanity. To take ruins and make a kingdom out of them. Maybe it seems like a stretch to you, but that's how I thought about it today.

In other news, clearly Rome has rubbed off on us! We went into a boutique this morning; the saleswoman sized us up, an then spoke to us in Italian. At which point I made a face that loosely translates into: "We no speak-iti any Italiano..." and she laughed and said in English: "I'm sorry, you looked like you were living here! How may I help you." Well, ma'am. You've already made my day: I look like a Roman Citizen. Boom!

 Prayer for the day:

Lord, thank you for making me over, from the ruins of broken heart, a broken spirit, and a broken life. I thank you that you have made alive what once was dead in my heart and in my mind. Thank you for not discarding us! We pray for continued restoration, and pray that the evidence of our broken past be a testimony to non-believers who see our ruins while at the say time seeing our new found glory. Thank you for making all things new, in Jesus name. Amen!
Panoramic view of Rome. Do you see the "life" built around the ruins?

Monday, November 4, 2013

Roman Holiday: Part 2 "Lost and Found"

I think the theme of today is "LOST." Imagine the creepy music and L-O-S-T swiping in then fading. 

Vatican City
Roman Forum
The first thing we lost today was time. We planned to wake up at 6:00 am to catch an early morning mass. But those plans were made the previous day when were awake for 24 hours/high on adrenaline. So naturally, the next morning, we slept like the dead until 10:00 am. We hurried to the Roman Forum, and then hightailed it to the Vatican City (desparate not to lose any more time)

Second thing lost: photo op in the Sistine Chapel. I had my camera out, poised to snap my personal pic of God almost touching Adam's finger when Bianca (real name protected) says: "no photos!" And there are signs every where and guards are watching our every move. I considered doing it anyway. Other people were, and they only got a verbal warning. But it just seemed wrong to be disobedient in the pope's private chapel. Obedience is better than sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22)...so perhaps that was no real loss.

After that we went for pizza at a little cafe near the Vatican and got into a rather passionate conversation about the crappiness of America with an older Roman lady. The conversation was struck up after she took pity on us as we struggled with our uncut pizza pies. Note: cut your pizza into fours and fold it up to eat. Genius. She spoke of the loss of American morality and elegance (I think she was referring to the 50s) in favor of American decadence and selfishness and the resultant socioeconomic disparity. She was from the Beat generation and spoke of the loss of our ability (or simple desire) to fight for good and justice in our world, and yet she felt like all was not lost. That a comeback of sorts was possible.

While she spoke, an image of a picture I took in the Vatican jumped into my mind:


Maybe you can see this, maybe you can't. But this is one of like a zillion frescoes painted on the ceiling of the Vatican. In it, an idol is broken down at the feet of a statue of Jesus Christ. Christ wins over idols. In this current time, I wonder how much of our purest spirituality/faith in God is lost to our idols.

"And [they] exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things." Romans 1:23

I know what you're thinking: "Umm...I'm not guilty of that." True. Few of us have made a molten image and worshiped it. Or worshiped a chia pet. It just doesn't go down like that in modern times.

"What if I told you that every sin you are struggling with, every discouragement you are dealing with, even the lack of purpose you’re living with, are because of idolatry?" - Kyle Idleman 

I like that question, because we all want to know what is at the bottom of struggles. Why is this happening. And we want to lay it at the feet of Jesus. We want to give it to God. But is our idol broken at Christ's feet? I don't know. The common idols these days are: food, sex, entertainment, success, money, achievement, romance, family, self-adoration. What are we sacrificing for these things that we think make us happy? Think on that.

Throwing coins (backwards) into Trevi Fountain
Back to the trip. So after the lunch at the Vatican, we cabbed to Termini train station and I bought new luggage! Success! This was a really productive thing to do, and as a tragically unproductive person, I found myself extremely proud of this feat. Then, we walked home and decided to go for a run. I was skeptical about the run, because...I didn't want to do it. Running sucks. But out we went. And we were endlessly heckled by Romans the whole way. They made fun of us, they raced us (and beat us) and made "pom pom" sounds as we ran passed (this include the polizia). Our plan was to run to 1) the Trevi Fountain, and 2) the Spanish Steps. We made it to Trevi Fountain. We became woefully lost on the way to the Spanish steps. We were lost and it was starting to rain. I don't "do" rain, so I saw a lineup of taxis and thought: SALVATION. But then I thought: why so many cabs? Then I saw so many people. And then...we were at the Pantheon. I kid you not. We ran into the Pantheon in workout clothes. And it was beautiful/gorgeous/epic/perfect. So we went in, took a ton of pictures, said a prayer: and I thought about the people who transformed a pagan place of worship into a place of Christian worship. They exchanged an idol for the truth, and yet we so often exchange the truth for a lie. How did we become so backwards? I prayed about this at the Pantheon, which was built in 27 BC!!!! So, I literally prayed in a super old building, that has been used by Christians since the 7th century. Crazy. And awesome.

altar at the Pantheon
After that, we tried to run home. And became lost again. We found ourselves at a sign that said: "These Cats Died..." it seemed like a memorial for cats. Then we we realized there were cats everywhere. Scary cats. Sick cats. LOST cats. We were at the Cat Sanctuary. It's really Roman ruins that were discovered during construction, that was just left in the middle of a city neighborhood. These ruins came to be occupied by what I would think are hundreds of cats. You cannot feed the cats. If you feed them, they leave the sanctuary, run into the street, and are killed by cars. We are like the cats. We get fed by the things of this world, and we leave the sanctuary of God's will for our lives, and get hit by LIFE. It can be tragic. But everything that is lost can most definitely be found. We found our way home in Rome, and God finds us where we are in life, and puts us back on path (despite our idols and despite the food that leads us astray).

This post was a little long, but hey, I still want to drop my devotional prayer:

Lord Heavenly Father, we thank you for ordering our steps, and for your Word being a lamp to our feet. By this I know which way to go; but why do I sometimes walk along the unlit path? Why do I walk the course that is not set before me? Because I am led astray by the pursuit of happiness, not knowing that happiness is found in You. Deliver me from the way of thinking that has me looking outside of you, for the security and joy that only comes from you. I know there are idols in my life. Show them to me, and strengthen me so that I can break them at the foot of your cross, from which all blessing flow. In Jesus name, Amen!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Roman Holiday: Part 1

While I'm on vacation, I thought I'd take a break from Hebrews 11 to make some quick daily notes about my trip and about Rome.

Today was our first day here. It's 10:20 pm, so we've officially been awake for about 24 hours. Boom! We're hardcore. We left Washington, DC expecting everything to go smoothly and be amazing and epic...but Murphy's Law is real.

Murphy's Law: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.
  1. Our plane arrives an hour early. This would be great if we could check in early, but we cannot. 
  2. This was actually for the best b/c we spent that hour looking for my bag. 
    • I've never had lost luggage, and so I was crazily dismayed. I said to Bianca: "whenever it takes a long time for my bag to come out, I imagine that it's going to come out all wrapped up in tape" and we laughed. 
  3. No taped up bag came out. NO bag came out. We hit the customer service line. 
  4. While we waiting in the CS line, and other flights' bags came and went on the baggage carousel, from a distance I saw something covered in white tape...and I knew. 
It sucks to have your bag explode. But torn up bag is better than no bag at all. So off we went. And we had an amazing day touring the Colosseum, making ourselves a little early dinner of wine/cheese/meat and just hanging out on the streets of Rome (all before it started raining 10 minutes ago). The trip started out like a bad omen, but it turned out amazing.

Really, the whole bag fiasco was hilarious. And we laughed it off. I'll buy a new bag before I go. And so I'll just have a new, better bag. Yay!

Cliche Romans thought of the day:

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. - Romans 8:28

Maybe it seems shallow to apply this to the crappy way our trip started out, but like I said in my previous post: nothing is out of scope. God cares about all the little things in my life. Nothing is haphazard or by chance. Nothing. Bad stuff happens. It happened this morning. Bad stuff may happen tomorrow. Bad stuff will definitely happen in my future. But that bad stuff works together will all the good stuff for the ultimate payoff (what that is...I have no idea).

Today's prayer: 

Lord, thank you for amazing opportunities. We know that you put these opportunities in our lives for all sorts of reasons: for personal enjoyment, for personal growth and development, and ultimately to bring You glory. Bless us to always have calm heads and to see every mishap for what it is: something that is working together with, and in, our amazing opportunity for our good.  Bless me to see your perfect will at work in imperfect situations. In Jesus name. Amen! 

 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Out of Scope

I have never had a problem believing God for my salvation. I believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:2), the finished work on the cross (1 Peter 3:18), and access to grace by faith (Romans 5:2). I believe in all of that! I can make mistakes all day, but none of my "badness" is greater than God's "goodness" when it comes to grace/forgiveness. I'm not afraid of my sin, because of my faith in Christ's blood.

But when it comes to my day-to-day struggles, I find myself filled with fear that nothing is going to work out. Absolutely nothing. I kid you not. I can get pretty gloomy. 

Somehow I often do something that should be impossible: I split divinity from humanity.

Not saying that I, Kristen, am divine (for I am a wretch undone). But there is a divine element to the life of a Christian:

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? - 1 Corinthians 6:19

I belong to God. All of me. My days. My nights. My future. But somehow, because there wasn't a direct and specific promise about my career, my social life, or my health...it felt difficult to overcome fear in those areas with faith. It was difficult, because (in my mind) God's grace wasn't for my petty, earthly, first world problems. There was no specific promise to me regarding those things like there was for my eternal salvation.

They were separate.

Which leads me back to Hebrews 11. And maybe you're not going to see this the way I saw it...but I see it like this:

By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. - Hebrews 11:23

This scripture kills me, because it displays a different kind of faith than I think is shown in the other verses. Prior to this moment, we're dealing with people who have had direct and specific interaction with God (Cain/Abel, Enoch) or people who had received direct and specific divine instruction from God regarding a specific matter (Noah, Abraham/Sarah), or were patriarchs of a direct and specific Promise, who acted in direct faith and belief in that promise (Issac, Jacob, and Joseph). 

But this is different. This Moses verse is different.

Background info: Pharaoh has commanded that every Hebrew male child was to be killed (cast into the Nile to drown).

These parents are in the hall of fame for doing something amazing without having a direct and specific reason other than their own desire. What do I mean:
  • What happened? By faith, Moses was hidden. 
  • Why did they hide him? Because they saw he was beautiful and they wanted him
  • How could they hide him? Because they weren't afraid
They hid a baby that was supposed to be dead, not because an angel came and said he was the chosen one and that everything would be okay. No. They did this without angelic intervention. Without thunder and lightning. Without a booming voice. Without all that, they believed. And their belief chased off their fear. They weren't afraid when they should have been afraid. They were slaves, already afflicted by hard labor in Egypt (Exodus 1:14). An execution probably wasn't out of the question.

They believed without a plan. They believed without a promise. Based on what? Their over-arching knowledge of God coupled with their overarching knowledge of who they were. They were Israelites. Children of promise. And even in bondage, they knew that meant a LOT. In a time when tons of other parents were tearfully tossing their baby boys into the Nile to drown, they said "not mine."

Don't you see that a person could toss their son in the Nile, but still believe that they were going to a land that flowed with milk and honey. Because that was promised. The life of their son wasn't. That was "outside the scope."

But these parents felt like everything was in scope. And it got them in the hall of fame.

Everything is in scope...so what are we excluding?