Monthly Archives: December 2014

Better than Resolutions

I just realized this past week that this is my last post of the year. Ackpth! Where did the year go? Somehow the new year sneaked up on me…again. Pretty soon people are going to be thinking about New Year’s resolutions again. So I guess it’s time for me to revive my own New Year custom, isn’t it?

As a kid I bought into the New Year’s resolutions idea. It was fun, and at least one sister and I would come up with noble resolutions that we wanted to do that year. Resolutions that we promptly forgot about three days later. Then, about the time I hit my teens I realized just how stupid that was. I was promising to do something and then promptly turning around and breaking my promise as soon as I conveniently forgot about it. (Not to mention they were always stupid resolutions in the first place. XD) So, at the dawning of 2011, I came up with a new yearly custom instead.

Let me back up a tad. God had already been working a deep, gnawing hunger within me by that time. I had spent at least two years desperately trying to find Him on my own, doing the things I knew to do to get close to Him, but with no success. I was too afraid to ask anyone else for help, so I lived in silent desperation instead. Come 2011, I had realized that I couldn’t do this on my own. I couldn’t get close to God by myself, no matter how much I wanted to. Praise be to God, He initiated a thought in my mind – I couldn’t teach myself to draw near to God, but I could ask the greatest Master Teacher of all time to teach me instead.

So, when New Year’s Day, 2011, came along, you couldn’t find me making silly resolutions. Instead, I made a quiet request to the Maker of the Universe: “Lord, please teach me whatever You want me to learn this year, because I don’t know where to start.” That year was the beginning of something far bigger than I could have ever imagined.

2011 brought with it a nasty drought, and a corresponding dryness in my soul as I questioned why we couldn’t have rain. It sounds insignificant, but to a 14-year-old who had only just asked God to teach her it was confusing and discouraging to say the least. I struggled with bitterness at the taunting clouds that thundered but never dropped any rain. I questioned God; why didn’t He answer my prayers? I didn’t understand that the drought was only a tiny part in a much bigger picture. God was using the drought to prepare me for the breakthrough.

In 2012 I renewed my request for God to teach me. It must have been His mercy that I did, because I don’t think I sensed enough progress to try it for another year without His prompting. Over the summer of 2012 some girls from our church got together and studied some of Bill Bright’s stuff. God used that study to make the breakthrough in me that I so desperately needed. Interestingly, the day after we finished the last study for the year, my sister Noelle wrecked with a semi and ended up in the hospital and rehab for two months. (I’ve talked about that before.) If it had not been for that summer study, I don’t believe that I would have handled Noelle’s wreck well at all. Yet, by God’s grace He had prepared me just enough beforehand, and I felt – for the very first time in my life – that He was holding me, and that He would get me through it, no matter what happened to Noelle or my family.

Those first two years taught me something I will never forget for the rest of my life. They taught me that when you really want God to teach you, He will take that request seriously. It also taught me that learning from God is never easy. In fact, at least in my life, it has meant many more difficult situations than I ever had before I asked. A drought, a wreck with major relationship conflicts tangled up in the aftermath, health struggles, even depression and loneliness. A stranger looking at my life might say that these four years (2011-2014) must have been the worst years of my life. But he would be wrong. That they have been the hardest years of my life is certainly true. But more than that, they have been the richest, most incredible years of my life.

Asking God to teach you is dangerous. You’re giving up your right of control and telling God that He can use whatever He wants to teach you whatever He wants. You could be asking for trouble. And to someone who does not understand the Christian walk, it sounds pretty stupid. But in fact, it is the most wonderful thing to surrender to the control of the only One who ever really had control in the first place. To lay down your ideas of what you have left to learn and learn what the Master Teacher knows you need to learn. It is a glorious thing to learn from the very Creator of the Universe Himself! Of course it’s not ‘safe’. He’s not a tame lion. But He is good, and He is faithful. Asking God to teach you is not something you should take lightly, because God does not take it lightly. But if you honestly want to learn and grow in your faith, I don’t know of any other better way to do that than to welcome the teaching of the greatest Teacher of all time. He wants to teach you in 2015. I plan to ask Him to, and I challenge you to do so as well. It will be hard, I can promise you that. But it will also be the most worthwhile thing in the world, far more than any New Year’s resolution. 🙂

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One Life

YOLO – You Only Live Once: The concept that this is the only life you’ve got, and so you had better enjoy it as much as you possibly can. Oh, what a tasty lie straight from the devil! After all, who doesn’t want to have fun and enjoy themselves? I think even the church has bought into it to some extent, in that we have forgotten how to sacrifice; sacrifice our pleasure.

Truth is, we all love comfort (duh), and it’s comfortable and feels good to believe we are entitled to any fun thing this world has to offer. We like to be comfortable and we like to enjoy ourselves. Who would dare to take that away from us?

Well, there’s a problem with that. See, that’s exactly how the world thinks, and Jesus calls us to be different from the world. He calls us to a life of sacrifice, pain, and suffering. He never told us to enjoy this earthly life as much as possible. Why? Because that’s not what we’re here for. To tell us to fritter away this life in self-indulgence and selfish enjoyment would be a direct contradiction of the purpose for which He created us. God created us as humans to glorify Him, and He called us as Christians to follow Him and (among other things) to make disciples of all nations. He warned us the world would hate us because we are no longer citizens of the world. He also commended a lot of uncomfortable things (see the Beatitudes) and in a slightly overlooked passage in Luke (right after Luke’s version of the Beatitudes, interestingly) He pretty much cursed people who are complacent in their comfort. So how in the world can we possibly believe we need to enjoy ourselves to the fullest extent in this life?

[Now for a bit of backtracking. Don’t worry, it should all fit together when I’m done. I hope.]

I started thinking about this topic because recently I’ve started having a lot more trouble with food allergies. See, I’m allergic quite a few things that I really like (eg. tomatoes, most if not all fruits [including watermelon and apples *wails*], etc. with a possibility of gluten intolerance). I’m also allergic to things we eat on a regular basis. *Coughgrainscough* As the allergic reactions have intensified in recent months, I’m finding that I need to just stop eating them. Far, far easier to decide than to do! It’s hard to give up foods (that I love, or that my family eats all the time) for an indefinite period of time. (Tomato sandwiches, anyone? Alas, you tomatoes and gluten!) And then the other day a thought fell out of the sky and bopped me on the head: why in the world am I worried about tomatoes and apples when there will be much deliciouser (no, that is not a word; yes, I’m using it anyways) ones in heaven? Seriously! We can’t even begin to imagine the amazing flavors we’ll get to taste then – and that’s only the food.

In heaven, not only will we will get to experience all kinds of incredible things, we will get to spend all of eternity with the very God of the Universe that created us! It’s going to be the most mind-boggling, jump-up-and-shout-in-joyful-praise, awesome (in the true sense of the word) way to spend all of eternity forever and ever amen! So who cares if we skip some fun stuff in this life? There’s far, far better stuff coming, and we’ll get to do it forever. Plenty of time for everything.

Something there won’t be time for in heaven though: reaching the lost. By the time we get to heaven it will be too late to make disciples of all nations. We only have one life in which to do that. This one. We only have this life to work, battle, and die to self for the sake of wandering, dying souls, and if we neglect that quest in favor of enjoying ourselves…well, we’ve failed both our mission and our Master.

This life isn’t meant for self-gratification or selfish enjoyment. It is meant for glorifying God, battling on behalf of His kingdom, sacrificing luxuries and dying to self  in order to give God all we’ve got. We don’t only live once. But we only have one life in which to seek out the lost. We’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the very best things, more amazing things than we can even imagine, when we get to the next life. So what’s our fuss about Jesus asking us to give up nice things in this life?

Categories: Ponderizations | Tags: , | 2 Comments

Back to Square One

Ever feel like you just can’t get over your faults? They trap you inside like a mile-high brick wall that glares and threatens whenever you even think about scaling it. Ever just want to sit at the bottom of the wall and give up, because it is just too hard?

I have. Especially in the past couple of years as I’ve dealt with some depression. I think I’m just about to make a breakthrough and finally ‘be good’ like I so badly want to be, and then I trip and fall over my pride or my selfishness all over again, and it feels like I’m right back at square one. There have been days when I’ve wondered if I would ever be worth anybody’s while. There have been days when I just wanted to dispair and give up trying. Some days I just want to cry like Paul “Wretched man [girl] that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”

Thank God, that verse is not the end of the story! The next one provides the answer: Jesus Christ. It’s not going to be me that conquers these stubborn faults of mine, but Christ in me, as He slowly refines my heart to be more like His. Sometimes it just takes a painful reminder that I keep trying to do it on my own strength, and a smidgeon of dispair to send me back to Him for help and hope. So it’s not back to square one, but back to His word. And that’s a lot better place to go back to.

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Cure for the World

In the past couple of months I stumbled across a quote by Paul Farmer saying:
“The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world.”
It bothered me on several levels, so much so that I went on a four-page rant in my journal. I just wanted to bring up one point here. I think it’s pretty important.

Mr. Farmer here seems to think that he knows the cure for all the world’s problems, but there’s a little problem in his logic. He’s trying to diagnose the symptoms as the disease itself, whereas the real disease runs much deeper than his statement would imply that he ever looked. He looked at the outward effects of the disease, but he completely forgot to factor in the inward cause of the outward effects. Namely, sin. Mr. Farmer apparently thinks that a lack of value for life is the cause of all the world’s problems, when in fact the real disease is sin. Lack of value for life is just a natural effect of that. And ridding yourself of the effects of a disease, in my experience, never fixes the disease.

Valuing all life as equal might sound like a nice solution to the brokenness of this world, but it will never fix the problem. The reason is because a lack thereof never caused the brokenness, although it was an effect of the real cause. Sin caused the brokenness we see today, and a respect for all life cannot counteract that because it has no power over the ugliness of sin. It might cover over some of the visible effects of sin, but the sin nature is still there. You can teach a kid to be outwardly nice or polite to the other kids, but you can’t force him to love them, if you see what I mean. That’s because outward behaviors will never change an inward sin nature. Outward behaviors alone will never change the heart. There’s only one cure for an inward sin nature, and around this time of year you can find depictions of Him in a lowly manger.

Christ is the cure, not respect for all life, because without Christ you can have no genuine, honest, and sincere respect for the lives of your fellow humans – for the simple fact that we’re all sinners down here. We are not inherently good, but inherently evil. And so it is only by the power of Christ that mankind can overcome the rule of sin on this earth. Shame, shame on us if we ever attempt to cure this disease with anything else. Christ and Christ alone will fix all that is wrong with this world, one sincerely changed soul at a time. Shouldn’t we then be earnestly seeking to bring others to the one genuine Soul-Changer instead of griping about how people ought to just learn to love each other?

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Homesick

The past few years have been rather interesting for me. I’ve had a lot of major ups, but there have been quite a few downs that seem to cling to me like sand burrs in shoelaces. (Honestly, how much untangling do they take?) I’ve lost a lot of friends, some of which I had to choose to give up. I’ve watched people that seemed like nice decent folks turn around and bite me and my family. I’ve faced some depression and a lot of loneliness, and struggled through muscular pain, joint pain, headaches, (what seem to be) gall bladder attacks, multitudinous food allergies (I’m not sure I’m supposed to eat anything at the moment…), and it’s possible I’m also gluten intolerant. Now don’t get me wrong – I could look at all of that and decide I have a pretty rotten life, but the fact is I am incredibly blessed. I have a lot of great friends still, and I’ve made some new friends who have become such a blessing to me. I’ve never even (yet) landed in the hospital for any of my health conundrums (although I’ve aggravated my mom with all my aches and pains). Just thought I should clarify that. 😉

But the fact is that ever since I’ve gotten serious about my faith, life has not been easy. For a while I clung to the song “Blessings” by Laura Story. The bridge thingamabobber goes like this:

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know that pain reminds this heart
That this is not, this is not our home

Maybe all the hard stuff we go through is to keep us from getting comfortable in a broken world where we don’t belong. Maybe it’s meant to remind us that even if things never get better in this life, we have hope in the next. Maybe it’s meant to make us homesick for Heaven. I know it has for me. During a recent gall bladder attack (They mostly consist of excruciating pain all through the abdomen and up the back. Just so you’re not curious enough to get one yourself.) I had a wandering thought – what if I just up and died right about now? And it was weird because I instantly felt this thrill go through me at the thought of going Home. That hasn’t ever happened before (mostly because I’m usually all caught up in the things I want to do before then).

But shouldn’t it be like that? Shouldn’t we want to go Home to the Father instead of clinging to this broken planet? Shouldn’t we live this life homesick for heaven? What if we never acted like this world was our home? What if we pretended that we were wanderers in a foreign land, with nothing we could call our own, just passing through until we returned to our homeland? What if we lived like we were homesick?

Categories: Ponderizations | 2 Comments

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