Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Warriors and Lovers

A warrior lives deeply. He knows that life is short, that nothing is worth fighting over but some things are worth fighting for. You could accurately interchange the names Warrior and Lover because it is impossible to be one without the other. You can be a fighter, a killer, or a soldier without love but it is impossible to be a Warrior without love.

It is also impossible to love without being a warrior. You can have sex, you can like people, you can enjoy all sorts of things, but you cannot Love without being a warrior.

If you love, you are willing to sacrifice yourself in whatever way necessary and only a warrior’s heart is strong enough to be able to sacrifice itself. But if you are a fighter without a love to fight for than you are an uncontrolled and aimless weapon.

A warrior lays down his life either living or dying for those weaker. This is a great mystery, why do the strong die for those who are too weak to keep themselves alive?

Warriors see the world as it really is and so have hearts full of deep pain, this is what makes their eyes sad and grim. Pain is everywhere. They have the choice to close their eyes to it, but they can’t stand to be willfully blind. They must see clearly. They believe the worst can and should always be faced because the worst is only the inverse of the best.

They would go crazy with despair if this were all they see, but it isn’t. Remember, warriors are lovers and lovers see beauty when no one else can. Warriors don’t fight so much against the pain but rather for the beauty. Warriors know that pain is a fungus, living off of the beauty; it has no life of its own. Where some see only despair, they see hope. If the pain is so great, the beauty it is living off of must be even greater. This is what gives their eyes a smile, in spite of the horrors within and without that they continually live through.

If you don’t understand warriors, or are not one yourself, then you will think that they have buried all emotion. In fact denying their emotions is a common fault among them. The truth is that they are more emotional than everyone else combined but their emotions run deep, fathomless as the ocean. This is their one fear, that their own feelings will sweep them away and toss them about uncontrollably.

The wise overcome this fear with humility. If God would sweep them away on their own emotions then so be it. They are not foolish and hate to be taken as such, but if God would make fools of them with their own emotions then they would gladly face that fate too. They find instead that God does not make fools of them but gives them the very keys to become the warriors and lovers they live to be.

Far from their emotions tossing them about, they find that they propel them very precisely, that they give them greater strength and greater insight. To be unafraid of weakness is to find fearless strength. Do not think that this means you will ever see the depth of their emotions. It is just as likely that you will see the bottom of the ocean. In fact, they will still seem to be particularly unemotional, because they despair of ever truly communicating their emotions at all. You must see them by faith or not at all.

They feel sorrow so deep that it seems they could weep without stopping forever. But they cannot weep forever and any fewer tears seem so inadequate that they may seem to never weep at all. They also feel joy. Joy so encompassing, so true, so fulfilling that heaven itself will spend eternity celebrating it. But here, they have not the time or the means to celebrate it appropriately so in fact, you may only see a content smile and a twinkle in their eye. Joy and sorrow are not mutually exclusive to each other; they are usually full of both.

They feel hope, but this is no light hearted hope, neither is it a hope that wanes or waxes. It is the hope of those who die without obtaining the promises but are assured of what they hope for. They feel the strength of their own hearts. A deadly strength that only gets stronger as time continually assaults it. A strength that is capable of laughing in the midst of despair because it has learned that despair is a grim illusion that will vanish in a moment. They feel desperate but far from panicking, they become even calmer to compensate and so even more deadly.

They are full of compassion and will care for the wounded with a touch more gentle and tender than a Mother’s. Their hearts do not break for themselves, but for you. They are fierce protectors, fiercer than wild animals. Nothing is more dangerous than a lover at war.

Sometimes, they forget that they are not made to love or fight alone. Sometimes they forget that they too have weaknesses that need protection. Sometimes, they are so used to comforting that they don’t realize that they need comforting too. Sometimes they protect so fiercely that they begin fighting the very one they are trying to protect. Sometimes they forget that it is good for those who have healed to become warriors in their own right, that they should not be protected from becoming great.

Every weakness that appears in themselves they throw back to God and between His strength and the protection of those warriors around them, they are an invincible force. The faster they are slain, the quicker they will rise again and claim that God is victorious.

Truly, the spirit of a warrior-lover can only be found in one place and that is God himself. But he has made his bride to be worthy of a warrior as noble as he and so has given her no other spirit than his own.

My friend, I perceive that you are a warrior.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Adventure: It's a dangerous business, trusting God.

As I have grown, my desires have become more basic and my dreams more fantastic. All I’ve dreamt of is adventure and all I desire is Jesus. “I desire to know Jesus, the power of His resurrection, to share in the fellowship of His sufferings and to be like Him in His death . . .” (Philippians 3:10) That is all I want from either this life or the next.

But how can I know Him? Knowing is a slippery thing; hard to understand and hard to define. Even those we think we know regularly surprise us. Think about someone you know, when did the relationship change from knowing of them to just knowing them? How does an acquaintance become a friend? It is a mystery to me.

I think the verse itself gives some significant clues about knowing. First, that suffering together is one of the truest forms of fellowship. Second, you must share experiences, either by physically being there with the other person or through them by communication. Third, you become like those you know, in the oddest ways. It is impossible to know Jesus apart from the power that raised Him from the dead, or without sharing in His suffering, or without becoming like Him in His death. None of these things can be separated.

I want to live a life of Adventure and I am convinced that He is The Adventure. The dictionary defines it this way, “Adventure: a bold, usually risky undertaking; a hazardous action of uncertain outcome.” What I’ve dreamt of was a risk worth taking. What I’ve waken to is that Jesus is worth risking everything for.

I want to experience every moment of my life with Him. I want to see everything through His eyes. I want to see how He acts as He walks through my life. I want to rely on Him alone. When I suffer, I’ll do it with Him. I want to be the pitcher that His life giving power is poured from. I am convinced that He is already making me like Him in His death.

I’ve realized that my goal cannot be defeated by circumstances or time. Most circumstances are outside of my control and many are not what I would have chosen. Thankfully, all those things I cannot control Jesus is controlling.

This takes a lot of pressure off of what most people would call my ‘life choices’. Whether or not I have a job, a car, a lover, friends, health, or a college degree does not affect my goal. Whether or not I trust Jesus is all that will.

Sadly, I do still have to make basic choices for my life and I only wish that I could state that I don’t constantly agonize over them. If my only goal is to know Him then how do I choose what to do with today?

I will choose boldly, courageously, by faith, and by a different standard than the world uses. I will not choose practically, because God is rarely practical according to human judgment. Many things I thought were frivolous He has revealed to be necessary and many things I thought were practical, He has proven to be useless.

I am afraid when I think about the standard He is telling me to choose by. The Life inside me compels me to continue bravely. I will choose soberly, but I will not choose fearfully.

I will not be concerned by my inadequacy because I no longer live but Christ lives in me. I will not be alarmed by what is bigger than me because I want to experience that nothing is bigger than Him. I will not be anxious about the unknown because I want to experience the wonder and joy of trusting the Knower.

I will not dread physical limitations because I want to experience Jesus' healing. I will not fear pain because I want to suffer everything that He suffered and to know the Comforter. I will not be concerned by death because I want to see His face.

I will not be uncertain about my influence on those around me because I want to experience that His influence is greater. I will not be alarmed by the judgment of others because I want to experience that God’s good opinion is enough. I will not hesitate to love because I want to experience His love for me and through me.

I will not be uneasy about a lack of resources because I want to experience that Jesus owns everything and watch Him treat gold like concrete. I will not fret over mediocrity because I want to experience what Jesus experienced of the Father in the 30 nondescript years. I will not despise the mundane because I want to see Him turn it into a miracle.

I will not be alarmed by my weakness because I want to experience His power. I will not worry over my flaws because He tells me they're redeemed. I will not scorn failure because I want to experience that He never fails. I will not be startled by temptation because I want to experience His freedom.

I will hope because the Hero promised. I will search for beauty because I've seen the Beautiful One. I will give myself to those around me because I watched Him give everything, freely, for me. I will fight for goodness because I'm betrothed to a Warrior. I will cry when it hurts because I know the Man of Sorrows. I will boast of my trust, not because it is reliable but because the object of my trust is.

I cannot explain or justify my choices up to this date by any other standard than this. To my physical eye they appear haphazard, irresponsible, unreliable, moody, flighty, foolish, and a host of other negative and undesirable adjectives. If you judge them this way as well, I don’t blame you.

However, as far as God has revealed to me, I have followed Him obediently every unpredictable and ludicrous step of the way. My only hope is that the foolishness of God is wiser than men. If you disagree with the standard I make my choices by or don’t see my actions lining up with my words, I would appreciate your honesty on the subject. I would like the opportunity to change my mind according to new information or to agree to respectfully disagree.

If, on the other hand, what I have written here resounds with what God is growing in your mind, then be encouraged. You aren’t the only one.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Power Perfected

“I need Your strength to feel this weak . . .”

Two things have always been strong and constant in me, weakness and pride. I’ve always been small but I’ve always believed that if my will power was strong enough I could do anything, ‘anything’ in this case only falling slightly short of flying by sheer will power.

My small size never was brought home to me by circumstances so I understood that I was ruling the world through awesomeness. I was fast, witty, I learned easily, I spoke easily, my health was good, I was really good at reading, people told me I was beautiful and I easily believed them, my family was happy (in my eyes) and well respected. My circumstances were perfect, I was perfect, and I gracefully accepted the accolade.

Only one thing crept in to rankle my pride. About the same time that I was responsible to get my own school completed for the day I realized that I was too lazy to keep myself on task. Far from making me humble, this realization was only a minor blot in my perfect record of self-willed accomplishments and I was sure I could conquer it.

I was really young, not much older than 10, and looking back two things astound me. First that such a young person could be so confident and second that I really thought that my own will shaped my life.

Between then and now, things have only gone downhill, honestly. It turns out that the laziness I noticed in myself was the first symptom of health problems that worsened for about 9 years before they were noticed. In the mean time I was consumed with guilt, while constantly promising myself and God that I would do better.

I didn’t do better. I was guilty through my school years, floundered through high school and still maintain that what I did do for high school was well below the minimum. Today, my family is broken and my health is bad. I can still learn easily but forget even more easily. To use the word ‘fast’ to describe anything about me will bring genuine laughter. I can seldom think quickly enough to be witty, and more often than not, I can’t remember the word I need just to finish the sentence I started. People still tell me I’m beautiful but they almost as often assume that I have an eating disorder. I can still read; I can’t tell you how grateful I am for that.

These are the things I placed my pride in. When those things that I was proud of failed me you would think humility might have had a better chance but pride will easily change from gloating to self pity before it will leave room for humility. Not to say that I haven’t learned humility, because I have, and I have loved to learn it.

Humility is not realizing that I am nothing, but rather that I have nothing, nothing besides Jesus that is. I have learned to accept whatever He is pleased to give me whether I would call it weakness or strength. He was satisfied with this lesson of acceptance until yesterday. Yesterday, He upped the ante.

He said, “You’ve been asking for My power all year. Do you even know what power is? Who taught you to distinguish between strength and weakness? My power and your weakness are inseparable. I’ve made you weak and you’ve accepted it but if I told you that your weakness is My power would you believe Me and thank me for it?”

Because I’m stuck being a human and a baby my first response is always, “Cruelty!” In fact, though I’m not calling Him cruel anymore I’m still considering . . . my option. This is too big for me to do. I must rely on His strength and power even in the simple choice to be thankful.

Which reminds me of something else He taught me this year. To admit weakness and ask for help is not a demand for attention but an action of humility. I don't understand this. But the truth persists being itself in spite of how I feel about it.

I feel like I'd like to lock myself in a room and cry for years instead of move forward in the face of these truths. I would in fact, except that Jesus carries me forward even when it feels more like He's dragging me on. You might think that I have a choice but I don't. The life inside me would be picking the lock from the inside even while I was trying to cry in the corner. The only thing more miserable and impossible than believing Him is trying not to.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Goodness: [That's what I asked for but not what I wanted.]

I love God. No really, I do. I have all sorts of love for God. I love Him like a very little girl loves her father because not only does He love her but He also knows what's best for her even when she doesn't. Not to mention all the monsters in reality or her imagination flee when He's around.

I love God like a dog loves its master. I may or may not pay rapt attention to Him in the moment but I think He's the best thing since my squeaky toy and no matter how many trash bins, skunks or rabbit trails I simply must go check out we both know it's Him I'm coming back to.

I love God like I love my sisters and brothers, I would do anything for Him and really enjoy hanging out even if we've spent almost equal amounts of time fighting and playing.

I love God like I love my friends, He gives me thoughts besides my own to think and encourages me to be myself even when it isn't pretty.

I love God like I love my Mom, because I know that no matter what I ever do He's gonna be there for me just because that's who He is. Not to mention He's already seen me through every triumph, failure, embarrassment, low spot, silly spot, and emotional outburst already. He keeps giving Himself, and still hasn't given up on me. In fact, He's proud of me.

Not only that, but I trust God. I am so confident that He is the hero of the story He could seem to be the villain for an indefinite amount of time and I would still believe in His goodness. In spite of the fact that I know He is ultimately in control of everything and my life still sucks a good portion of the time. I know that He is good.

One time, I realized that His goodness didn't match up with my life story the way I thought it should. So I told Him He was a fraud, a liar, and a villain. I won't tell the whole story here but let's say that He treated me with such kindness that I am convinced for a lifetime of His goodness.

There's just one rub. In spite of the love I have for Him, in spite of the trust I place in Him, in spite of the goodness I have seen in Him, He is still scary. The truth is, He plain freaks me out. Makes me feel panicky. Makes me want to close my eyes and pretend He's not really that big, or . . . other-than-me.

Sometimes, instead of inviting me to His level, I wish He would just settle for mine. Mine is so much nicer than His. I wish that He would let "goodness" mean "mildly adventurous", "nicely unpredictable" and "reasonably comfortable".

I know that He knows best but isn't there another way to know Him besides the one that leads straight through hell? I wish He would have set life up with lower stakes. You know, made it a poker game, instead of a war.

Goodness is much more beautiful than I had imagined and much more severe than I had hoped for. Goodness hurts. Excruciatingly. Don't get me wrong, its a healing hurt, but the pain to bring healing is sometimes worse than the pain of the original wound.

In fact, excruciatingly is oddly appropriate because the ultimate picture of God's goodness was His plan to crucify Himself for our healing. God's goodness not only invites me to be healed and whole as He is, He invites me to be wounded willingly, as He was, for the healing of others.

I cringe and sometimes sob when I think of what His goodness might do next, what He might ask for. I fear the very goodness I love and trust Him for. But then I think of Jesus, not just vaguely fearing what God might ask, but knowing what He had already asked and begging in desperation for another way. His desperation and fear did not make Him any less. If He asks me to join Him in His suffering, then at least I know He empathizes in my trepidation.

I have known Him, I do know Him and I will know Him, all through the fellowship of His suffering.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Operation March: Completed

Miraculously, I did finish my goal of reading through the entire Bible in the month of March. It was pretty close at the end, I ended up having to read almost the entire New Testament in two days. I cannot recommend this.

Then, when I got to the end and tallied up all the chapters I'd read, I came up 24 short. After a bit of searching my record I found 22 of them in Psalms; I had messed up my "read through Psalms in a month" plan. I still haven't found the other two missing chapters but I'm pretty sure that the mistake is in my tallying, not my reading. On the other hand, I may have read the Entire Bible Except Two Chapters in one month, but I can't convince myself that I should be concerned about it.

So, at the end of this silly idea, what did I come away with? That's what I'm asking myself.

For one thing, the Bible seems to have shrunk some. I have conquered my childhood feeling of it being an impossibly long book that I might hardly read through in a lifetime. I also have come away really liking The Message version but with the conviction that what version is read matters very little in the scheme of things. It's not about which version, it's about God's words, Jesus' story, and the Holy Spirit teaching us from the inside out.

At the same time that the length of the Bible shrunk the amount and depth of information, as well as the general delightfulness of the stories grew. I loved reading through Paul's writing in common American English. For once I could identify in many ways.

It was no longer some old frowning scholar from another world laboriously lecturing over the niceties of the Gospel. Instead it was just a man, like men I have met and heard, speaking boldly because God had told him to use the authority God gave him. He felt many of the things I felt as I taught what God had taught me: love, urgency, hopelessness, exhilaration, inadequacy, boldness, and above everything trust that God would complete what He started. I noticed and could understand how in almost every letter he mentions that he longs to be with them and that letter writing isn't sufficient.

With the New Testament in general I was reminded that Jesus is amazing, and of course loving, but definitely not nice. I was reminded that I live a mystery, a wonderful, scary, ludicrous mystery; Christ in me.

I noticed that in the Old Testament it seems as though God promised good things for whole-hearted obedience but in the New Testament Jesus teaches that trials will come just because you follow Him, promising only internal and eternal rewards. I didn't reach any sort of conclusion about this, just noticed it.

I realized that God is not only sarcastic to me personally but that He always has been. This delighted me and made me feel a bit smug. Not all sarcasm is bred from insecurity, sometimes it's just the best way to get the point across. (And coming from God, it is most definitely a Love language.)

Overall, I think that God has answered a few of my questions from this post about reading the Bible.

What am I to look for as I read it?
I don't need to look for anything as I read it. If I already have something on my mind then I'll know what to look for, if I don't, just enjoy the read.

What am I to do with all the questions that surface as I read?
Ask them of course! But don't get worried if they aren't all answered. It's not about understanding everything, it's about knowing God one day at a time.

Why is it so important to keep reading this book?
I really love the answer to this one. You've probably heard people say that the Bible is a letter from God to us, they usually go off about how awesome this is and how deplorable it is that we don't believe how precious it is.

I can tell you why I never could feel the preciousness of this idea. One really old, really long 'letter' from God and not even to me personally, was all I got till heaven? That is about as good a deal as getting to eat old bread crusts for the rest of your life without even getting any water.

The problem with a letter is that it usually means the person isn't there. It's just something to let you know they're still alive while they're off vacationing. The problem with that idea is that God isn't off vacationing, He's with you, in you, communicating and presently available for two-way conversation. So, why would I read a letter from Him if He's already here?

But, a book, a story written by a person I know and love, even a memoir, I would read that even as they were sitting in the room with me. I would eat it up and read it aloud to them and laugh at their jokes and ask them questions, and learn more than I might have ever known about them from a conversation.

Once, I saw a poem that Cassie, (my very dear friend who has been writing copiously ever since she could hold a pencil) wrote hanging on the bulletin board on her wall. I would guess that we were about 12 at the time and I had never really noticed any of her writing until I saw this poem. I don't remember what it was about or anything it said. What I remember is thinking, "She is thinking some of the exact same stuff I've been thinking about but we've never talked about it."

I mentioned something about it to her and told her I'd like to see more of her writing, to learn more about the Real Cassie. That year for my birthday she gave me a book of hand copied poems of hers with this inscription in the front:
To My Very Dear Friend
{Who expressed the desire
to know the real 'me'}

You can bet that I treasure that book and that I did learn more about her from reading them. I learned that when you read a person's writing you get to see and know a part of them you might have totally missed otherwise. Is it just me or does it sound better to you to read a book because it's written by a dear friend of yours, then to read a letter by someone you will meet someday?

Another thing I've learned about reading the Bible is that if you go to it without an agenda, without the need to search for something in particular, without being driven to deduce or apply whatever principles might be lurking, it can be soothing. Not in a silly, vague, sense but very realistic comfort, like a mother soothing a scared child with a touch of her hand, or a wound being soothed with the right ointment, or being reminded, when it looks like all is lost, that Goodness does prevail. It restores hope and gives courage freely.

The Bible can be returned to again and again not because it's become comfortable or familiar but because it fits, it's right, it's real. In an upside-down world where most things are terribly wrong and even the right things aren't quite as they should be it reminds me that life is bigger than what I see in front of me and God is more active than my feelings tell me.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Day 12, Operation March

  • Ezekiel 41-48
  • Daniel
  • Psalms for yesterday and today
  • Proverbs 11-12
Recently I've been thinking about, and by extension talking to God about what He really wants. Is it undying, unwavering, unquestioning trust and faith that will hold to the most extreme tests or is it a relationship? Not that these are mutually exclusive but right now in my life it seems like whenever I invite Him into my life all He says is, "Trust Me."

I do trust Him. In fact, I am willing at this point, to trust Him indefinitely with little or no validation from Him. I'm willing, but I'd really rather not. I believe that He is after an active, real, and present relationship with me, it just doesn't feel like it right now.

Right now it feels like His attitude is, "Our relationship isn't nearly as important as your devotion." Which, frankly, are the words of a jerk. Hence the talking with God about it.

He hasn't responded much to what I've said, and I'm trying not to be annoyed. Today, though, when I read Daniel I noticed that God told Daniel things that were superfluous to their relationship. He didn't stick to what Daniel needed to be obedient. He showed him things in the future, that Daniel couldn't possibly control, influence, or even be affected by.

I got the feeling that God told him just because God was thinking about it and wanted to share what He was seeing and feeling with someone. God's messenger even tells Daniel things like, "As soon as you asked for understanding, the answer was sent. You must really be loved!"

So, I'm thinking that I really shouldn't take my feelings too seriously. God is into relationship, just as I suspected.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Day 9, Operation March

I spent most of the day traipsing over the farm and therefor only had time to read the daily allotment of Psalms and Proverbs. You would think that since I read only five chapters instead of 70+ I'd have a much better idea of the particulars of what I read. Fact is, I was about to fall asleep so all I remember is that I would love to throw a party like the one Wisdom throws at the beginning of Proverbs 9, and I really liked one of the Psalms and should go read it again. I'm not sure what I liked about it or which one it was.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Day 8, Operation March

  • Jeremiah
Today was the first day that I thought I might never convince myself to make it through the book. I don't think this had anything to do with the book I read, I think it was because I went to bed way to late last night and so I was less likely to be excited about doing anything.

Reading The Message version of the Bible makes a big difference. Sometimes it bothers me that the wording and phrases that are so familiar to me aren't in it but for the most part I've really appreciated it. To me it brings the entire Bible back to real life, reminding me that the Israelites weren't some alien race from another moon but rather people exactly like the ones I know.

It also reminds me that God is not Victorian, does not speak in Old English, and does not shy from making your skin crawl when necessary. It's amazing the difference it makes when the Bible is talking about sex for that word to actually be used. (Shocking!) If it weren't the Bible, I don't think my parent's would have let me read such a book.

Speaking of which, the difference between the plight of Israel and America today seems to be only that Americans are too advanced to bow to or name their idols. This is not judgment, only a statement of fact. Some people seem to think that America has reached new heights of sin, as though we have become even worse than God has ever seen. I think not.

As I read the thought keeps reoccurring, how much of my belief in God is really honest belief and how much is due to being taught about Him from a very young age? At first this thought scares me, "Am I falling away from God!?" Then I decide not to be silly, if God is God (and no matter the reason, I am very bad at doubting this) then He cannot be threatened by my questions.

Irrational as it may be, I love it that no matter how many questions surface about what I really believe, I am always asking God for the answers and expecting them from Him. It's like expecting light from the sun. As much as I try to be objective about it, it never works.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Day 7, Operation March

Today I finished off the minor prophets and Isaiah.
  • Isaiah
  • Micah
  • Nahum
  • Habakkuk
  • Zephaniah
  • Haggai
  • Zechariah
  • Malachi
Today as I read my mind seemed to wander even more than usual. I wish that my mind never wandered. I wish that it would at least limit it's wandering to those times when nothing in particular needs paying attention to. Unfortunately, I am only a mortal.

I have accepted the fact that my mind is not perfect and that it does not reflect my heart. Thankfully, the Bible was not written for the perfect, the genius, or even the scholar. It was written for me.

Reading the prophets makes me wonder, exactly how is God unchangeable? How can I rely on such a moody person? Can God be desperate? Does He work so differently with nations than with individuals?

I feel like a friend of mine has suddenly appeared in a vastly different shape and I am forced to ask, "Who are You?" I know that I am not the first to consider splitting God into some sort of cosmic personality disorder: the "God of the Old Testament" and "The God of the New Testament".

Every now and then, it seems like I catch for a second that God's judgment, mercy, love, and holiness do fit together as a seamless whole. Like seeing something out of the corner of my eye but finding it gone before I can turn to focus on it, it never becomes entirely clear.

I've heard all sorts of answers to these thoughts, I've discussed them, probably taught a few of them. In this moment, these questions or worries are not enough to shake the foundation that God has laid in me. He is in control; He is good; I am His. I am content to continue puzzling over the other questions.

I don't want to settle for any answer that doesn't satisfy. For now, I'll stick to "I don't know." If there was such a day when I would finally know everything I would be gravely disappointed. I believe that receiving answers, looking for and looking forward to answers are our divine rights as humans. I expect to enjoy exercising them for eternity.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Operation March: Introduction

Edit: I wrote this in March after deciding I needed to blog about reading through the Bible in a month to keep me from going crazy along the way. I kept it up for a few days and then it somehow petered out. My apologies. I decided to go ahead and publish the few that I did write; I hope you enjoy them.

A friend of mine inspired me to try to read through the entire Bible in one month. This month. I was rather surprised that this would sound appealing to me but the more I thought about it the more it seemed to be the thing to do.

I have the time, I have been thinking about the Bible and it's role in life, Christianity, and my life in particular, and I believe I have finally matured enough to have a chance at accomplishing a deadline I set for myself.

This morning begins the seventh day and, as further proof that this is God inspired, I am still relatively excited about the idea. The few days before March started, when I was still deciding whether I wanted to go for this and risk making a fool of myself I was already thinking of strategies to help myself make it to the end.

I decided that I'd best get the boring and specially intimidating books out of the way as soon as possible, this mostly included the last three books of the Pentateuch. I would spread the Psalms and Proverbs out so that I'd be reading some of them each day. I'd try to read whole books at a time seeing as I am much more likely to keep reading if I have a book to finish.

I found out that there are 1189 chapters in the Bible and to finish reading all of them in 31 days means I'd have to average about 40 a day. I decided to use The Message as my version of choice because the more I hear of it the more respect I have for it. It was only a few days into it that I realized that it's also the only Bible I currently own that has words big enough to read for a month without going blind before the end.

Thus far I have read:
  • Genesis
  • Exodus
  • Leviticus
  • Deuteronomy
  • Joshua
  • Judges
  • Ezra
  • Nehemiah
  • Lamentations
  • Hosea
  • Joel
  • Amos
  • Obadiah
  • Jonah
Reading through them at such a rate is maddening, relieving, and surprisingly enjoyable. It gives me enough to think about that my brain is near exploding but it keeps my thoughts moving so fast that I can't get stuck on one idea. So far, the biggest thing I have come away with is God's shear size. He is delightfully terrifying and totally beyond me. I am humbled in a very non-humiliating way.

As I read certain parts and ideas from my life surface regularly, I often think of a quote I recently heard on TV " . . . in mythical religious books such as the Bible." I have no very strong opinion about this quote. When I consider the absurdity of God, both as recorded in the Bible and as experienced in my own small life, it is no surprise to me that He has been relegated to myth. If you want to look wise, beware of God.

I think of my current plan to apply to Oxford University before the year is out. I believe that I have a good chance of being accepted, or at least that hurdle does not concern me because there is another that seems much bigger. How could it be payed for? As I read, I think that God is big enough, but also that no one can predict Him. I have always wanted adventure but I don't think I bargained for one as big as God.

As I read, my past motives often haunt me. They are little more sinister then Nearly Headless Nick but still a bit annoying. A few years ago, (maybe even months, who knows?) if I had undertaken this plan then it would have been full of conflicted thoughts.

"I would be so proud to read the Bible through in just a month, everyone would be impressed! Is it okay to read the Bible so quickly? It's probably very disrespectful to read the Bible so fast. If I do start, I know I'll never finish, I never finish anything."

Variations of these swim through my head but I have made it my habit to ignore them as much as possible. They are neither here, nor there, nothing more than passing thoughts. It is not my business to deal with any of them.

With fresh revelation of God's sheer size also comes some awkwardness in our relationship. I cannot, yet, ponder for long His vast terribleness and still come quite as boldly to His presence. If our relationship rested on me, this would probably be the time when I repented from elevating myself to the status of His child, fellow heir with Christ. Oddly enough though, I didn't elevate myself to such a position, He did. I am not likely to argue this or any point very animatedly with a God as huge as I suspect He might be.

As I watch God grow in my mind, the questions grow as well. This scares me. Until I realize that He is inviting me to grow with Him.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Front Lines

I believe that there are two realms. One is spiritual; we do not often, if ever, see it. One is the physical, which we are all aware of constantly. Both are important and created by God, but only one will last.

As humans, we are the only beings who constantly inhabit both realms. We are spirit beings walking around in bodies. (If this concept is hard for you then you should watch more fantasy.) The physical world derives its importance solely from its connection to the spiritual, largely through us.

There is a war going on in the spiritual realm, fought by spiritual beings. Like most wars, it is fought on many levels, and Biblically, I could point to a few different reasons it is occurring. That's not my goal at the moment.

I am interested, for now, in the ground the war is being fought over, which in fact, is us. We are where the fighting occurs and the prize for the winner. Interestingly, we are also (arguably) the most dangerous force involved.

Biblically, we have been given more power than the angels as sons of God whose spirits are indwelt by His Spirit. Practically, most of us don't have a clue. Those of us who are catching on still have much to learn. We get the idea that our duty in this war is to fear God and obey Him by generally doing good in this world and telling others about Him. These are worthy goals and things that I personally practice, more or less.

Ever since I was little my life goal was to live right in the middle of the most confused and hurting people I could find, build my house at the gates of hell as one poem talks about, and do good and tell people about Jesus. I have always been frustrated that I was stuck in wealthy America, in a house where everyone knew Christ, and only moved in circles where people had heard the truth. If I was willing to be sent to the front lines, why was I being kept on leave?

As I got older, both physically and spiritually, I was allowed to actually have a hand in the fighting here and there. I still dreamt of really being moved to the front lines when orders came to move to my sister's farm, which is, in my estimation, nowhere near the fighting. One day, I watched Hotel Rwanda. Now there was a picture of the front lines, terrifying, heartbreaking, desperate.

I knew that as I sat on my comfy couch entertaining myself with a movie, similar things continue to happen all over the world. My frustrations rose to God with these words, "Why can't I be there for them?"

"You are here for them." His response took me by surprise. Then He explained by putting pieces of the spiritual puzzle together in my mind in a way that I had never seen before. He reminded me that this is a spiritual war and as such is fought with spiritual weapons.

The weapon or power that trumps all others is to know God Himself. This is not just a requirement for fighting, it is the fighting. Doing every day with God is not only a blessed right as a child of His but is also a thing so powerful that it extends through the cosmos. In the spiritual realm, which is more real than the physical, my everyday choice to walk with God affects every person on the planet. The fact that it doesn't look or feel like it to me or them, doesn't change what is.

I'll admit it's not as glamorous as I had hoped for. It requires that I trust my Commander maybe more than I wanted to. It's totally counter intuitive.

On the other hand, who would complain about such power? How can I be upset that while I chafed at losing time to normality, I was actually already wielding the greatest weapon? How can I be disappointed that instead of traveling over the world, my actions have already reverberated to the farthest reaches of the spiritual realm?

I know that I am not the only Christian who has had this same frustration. I hope that this is encouraging. Tell me, does it ring true in your spirit?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Finding a Gift for the One Who Really Has Everything

This Christmas I had a few "Blinding Flash of the Obvious" moments about Christmas itself. First, it hit me as slightly odd for the first time that no matter how many Christmases go past we are always celebrating baby Jesus. I don't know what your family traditions are, but on my birthdays I have never had someone tell my birth story to everyone present, or even pulled out the photo albums of when I was a baby.

Not that this is good or bad, it just struck me as slightly odd. For me, this yearly celebration of a baby had helped me forget that I was in fact celebrating a person that I know. So, this year, I asked Him what He wanted for Christmas.

I know, He kinda owns the universe and all, but He also lets us give Him stuff periodically. Kind of like when Mom used to give us kids money (that Dad earned) so we could buy something for Dad. I kept my eyes open to hearing the answer as Christmas came and went. (Yes, I can hear with my eyes.)

A few days after Christmas, I was telling Cassie about how I was suddenly going to the Passion conference. A few months ago, I wasn't even interested but now I was very excited about an opportunity that God had practically forced on me. Cassie made a comment about how God was probably looking forward to that time of me worshiping Him too and I smiled about how refreshing her perspective is.

Later, God reminded me of what Cassie said. "Remember what you asked Me about Christmas? This is it."
"What is 'it' God?"
"You at the conference, that's what I want for Christmas."
"But that's cheating! You can't give me a gift for Christmas and then say that I gave it to You!"
I have never seen God's face but I know, somehow, when He talks to me what expression He is making. At this point He shrugged His shoulders and grinned and said, "You asked what I wanted for Christmas and that's what I wanted so I got it."

In spite of the complexities of giving gifts to God, it was special to be a part of His Christmas.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Why Read the Bible?

You may have noticed my status update asking about Bible reading, or you may be one of those unfortunate souls who I have already asked you way too many questions about it in person or spent forever giving you background information. None the less, if you are a part of the body of Christ, and have some honest thoughts on the subject, I am dying to hear them. Here's the deal:

I spent a large portion of my growing up years trying to make a habit of reading the Bible and mostly failing miserably. I never thought too much about why I should read it, but looking back my motives ranged from ridiculous pride to defeating guilt.

I read the Bible because I didn't think God would really be inclined to hang out with me the rest of the day if I didn't read the Bible first. I read the Bible because I thought it was my only chance to maybe actually hear from and communicate with God. I read the Bible because I really wanted to remember all the things that I was supposed to be doing to keep God from being disappointed in me.

If you use your imagination, you can probably figure out that when I did get around to reading the Bible even the kindest loving verses were guilt inducers for me (God loves me that much and I can't even save15 minutes of my day just for Him?) and the rest terrified and confused me.

I came away with interpretations like this:
"I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me." Philippians 4:13
There is no excuse for my failure. It's my fault that I'm not trusting Christ enough. God expects me to be capable.
"If you love me, you will keep my commandments." John 14:15
How can I say that I love God when I fail again and again? I want to love God. If only I could figure out how to love Him enough to keep His commandments.

If you are depressed by this method of interpreting the Bible, you should be. You don't know the half of it unless you've used this method yourself for over 10 years. If you're thinking I should probably get psychiatric help you're probably right. But that was then, what about now?

Now, God has re-written me from the inside out and re-started our relationship from square one. Now, I know that above all, God is good, He is in control and that He pours out grace upon grace. That He actually enjoys me, and that He is kind towards me.

BUT (and it's a big but)
I still don't know how to read the Bible through this new understanding of God.

For a long time, over a year, I left off trying to read the Bible on some sort of regular schedule. In fact, God told me to. This did not mean that I swore off having anything to do with the Bible ever again. Around the time that God told me to quit worrying about reading it every day, I had to teach a short devotional every day and therefore spent more time in the Bible then ever before.

He has already taken many verses, often one at a time, and re-programmed them in my mind. For instance the two I've already mentioned.
Philippians 4:13 no longer condemns me. Instead it brings me joy to realize that without Christ I am perfectly incapable, unless He does it, it will not be done. It leads me to a joyful complete trust instead of a cringing and hopeless repentance. God knows that I am incapable and He is not concerned by it, Christ is capable in me.

John 14:15 is in fact a promise. God has placed the heart of Jesus in me, which absolutely adores the Father and desires above all else to obey His commandments. I am no longer constantly fighting an uphill battle to do the opposite of what feels good to me (sin). My way is smooth and the road is straight, obedience is my only desire.

So, the other day, it was suddenly time to pick up my Bible again, but as I picked it up God brought all these questions to my mind.

Why did God write and preserve this book for so many centuries?
Why is it in my hands?
What am I to look for as I read it?
What am I to do with all the questions that surface as I read?
Why is it so important to keep reading this book?

I'm not asking these questions as a challenge, or in defiance. As I said before, I believe that God brought them up because He wants me to wrestle with them. There is nothing I love more than asking questions of God because I know a really good answer is coming. Maybe He's already given you the answers. Maybe He wants you to give them to me. Maybe He's inviting you to wrestle with the same questions.