Saturday, September 27, 2014

Like An Asbestos Blanket Covers Flame

I’m swimming in a pool of dark
People who've lost their way,
Or never knew how to find it.
We bump into each other,
You say I bumped into you,
You throw words and fist my direction.

Jesus said we shine,
Lights in a perverse generation,
I feel your darkness, my darkness,
Quenching light,
Like an asbestos blanket covers flame.

Can’t count the ways we've parted with principle,
Walked away from preserving life,
Choosing self-preservation,
Not realizing it’s not a stand at all,
It’s a fall,
At least that’s what theologians call it.

Saving self seems worthwhile,
A busted life preserver,
Principles not fleshed out
Preserver without air,
Whitewashed sepulcher like a zombie with make-up on.

We come full circle,
We find our life by losing it,
Strength to stand because we’re already dead.
Riches in broken clay,
He shines and sets souls on fire,
Saving bodies from drowning,
As in the days of Noah,
This time we get on board.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Maintaining Joy: The Tools In My Toolbox

“Maintaining the joy of faith in the face of horrific evil does not hap­pen by coasting. It happens by conquering.” —John Piper, Spectacular Sins and Their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!”—Philippians

Joy is not consistently found upon waking up.  Most think that joy is a natural occurrence in the same way that ‘being in love’ on your first date should feel the same as ‘being in love’ after ten years of marriage.  Neither occurs without a determined decision. 

The way feelings work is counter-intuitive.  Larry Crabb delineates a process by which we arrive at our feelings: fact, faith, feelings.  We believe a fact.  We take that fact by faith.  Our feelings follow.  The process involves disciplined thinking wherein we choose to believe the truly right thing. 

Feelings are simply framed by perception.  I’ve found it helpful to define problems in terms of first world or third world problems (h/t GB).  Some weeks ago our washing machine stopped its agitating only to agitate us.  For many throughout the rest of the world the amount of clean water we use to wash clothes would provide basic healthy sustenance.  Framing the problem correctly keeps me from becoming anxious over my first world problems.

Work’s been a wearying battle lately.  The current trend in retail is to demand more from the employees while providing less for customers.  This frustrates me.  Learning to lead others stretches me outside my comfort zone.  I try leading with gentleness and patience.  Some days I lead well.  On others I let people down.  The wrong perspective would easily lead me into destructive behaviour.

I remind myself that God is in control.  He has the view from eternity.  I quote Spurgeon to myself,

 "The man who has got Christ has got everything. There are all things in one in Christ Jesus, and if you once get him you are rich to all the intents of bliss. What, have Jesus Christ, and be discontented? Have Christ and murmur? Beloved, let me chide you gently, and pray you to lay aside that evil habit. If you have Christ, then you have God the Father to be your protector, and God the Spirit to be your comforter. You have present things working together for your good, and future things to unravel your happier portion; you have angels to be your servitors both on earth and in heaven. You have all the wheels of Providence revolving for your benefit; you have the stones of the field in league with you; you have your daily trials sanctified to your benefit; and you have your earthly joys hinged from their doors and hallowed with a blessing; your gains and your losses are alike profitable to you; your additions and your diminutions shall alike swell the tide of your soul's satisfaction…”
In understanding that God has a greater purpose I realign myself with joy.

At the end of the day there is one other significant weapon in the arsenal.  Find friend or family to make you laugh.  On most days my close friends (and I include my wife among these) help restore perspective.  One person I know is fond of saying, “Tell me what I would tell you if the roles were reversed.”  Positive relationships keep us from being overwhelmed by closed thinking and thoughts only of self.

Maintaining joy is work.  It’s not always as easy as singing “The Sun will come up tomorrow.”  It’s a daily decision to hunker down and keep fighting.  The song in the night will be worth it when it comes---but it won’t come if you’re not engaged mentally.

Monday, September 08, 2014

A Wash In Trouble

I’m thinking I should stay far from flowing water.  Today should have been an easy drive into work.  There were no signs indicating otherwise.  That’s the problem actually.  There were no signs.  There were none of the usual signs indicating a road closure. There was no blockade telling drivers to “Stop.”  So I kept driving. 

I had a hunch that the pelting rain on top of the pass would create some flooding on the plain.  So I wasn’t surprised to hit some wet sand and immediately a patch of water.  No problem navigating those.  My brain lit up in the same millisecond the headlights fixed on water coursing across the highway.  It was too late to do anything but continue driving straight---through water, mud, rocks and sticks all swept down the wash as water sought a place to rest.  I breathed a sigh of relief as I came out the other side.  The indicator light began to flash on and off-a tire was losing air pressure. 

The wife and I were visiting her brother-in-law for vacation.  Her brother is an avid outdoorsman, kayaker, rafter and water-guy who encouraged me to take a rafting trip on a section of easy water.  I’d spent some hours kayaking and canoeing in the past (in novice situations) and had never had any trouble.  In Boy Scouting we’d canoed down a portion of the Colorado River with no issues.  “Piece of cake,” I thought.  As anybody knows, rafting is completely different than kayaking.  It’s awkward, there’s no great place to rest your feet and little security to keep one in the vessel. 

The bro-in-law gave me a quick (all you’ll ever need to know about rafting in two minutes) course in rafting.  Three of us took the boat to the water and began paddling downstream.  Somewhere between the shouting of a direction and the practice of my stroke I moved my foot again—seeking comfort and foothold.  That second the raft went up and so did I.  I flew out of the raft and began floating over rock and wood while trying to get my head about me.  Finally I was pulled into the raft; flesh slightly damaged, ego suffering significantly.

The bruises my flesh sustained on that rafting trip are almost gone.  I’m certain I suffered an ingrown toenail as a result of the pounding; and the blood-blister under my fingernail is almost gone.  As for today’s adventure, the tire lost air due to a damaged rim.  The rim was easily repaired and the tire remained intact.  Still all these things are causing me to think about water anew.  I’m thinking about water in a new light-the light of photographing it from afar.  I’m running from running water and sticking to lakes and swimming pools—with lifeguards on duty.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

The Danger of Hero Worship

We Christians easily engage in hero worship.  We enjoy a rock singer, a disc jockey or a preacher and we put them on a pedestal.  I suspect that’s one reason Brant Hansen gave up his gig.  I suspect he felt he was becoming the focus of worship and not the Christ he served.  That too is the reason God didn’t plop Moses into a cemetery grave---He did not want the Lawgiver worshipped.  That too is why Calvin chose an unmarked tomb.  If you want to read his works you can, but if you want to pay respects to his body you’re out of luck.  Fortunately I don’t have to worry about being anybody’s’ hero.

To quote Mercy Me, “I’m not saying follow me; I’m not the one who leads…”  I just share life hoping we can walk alongside each other and be encouraged.  Take today for example.  Management changed the schedule I wrote and shorted me a person.  It’s a more complex situation than that but today that was the case.  It frustrates the heck out of me to work in a customer service position and not be able to provide good service.  I spent a chunk of my day wrestling with anger and flip flopping from thought to thought.  I prayed for a good attitude, I prayed to walk in the Holy Spirit and I prayed for those who are persecuted for righteousness in other countries.  Then I’d flip into anger and quote Psalm 58:10 which speaks of God’s vengeance.  So hero I’m not.

The thing about hero worship is that it’s usually make believe.  We place perfect people in little alcoves for worship and there are no perfect people.  Our real worship needs to be God directed.  That means being real with who we are.  We wrestle to be better.  Certainly we can emulate, after all Paul said, “Follow me for I follow Christ.”  God has never been satisfied with the worship of clay idols in place of Himself.  “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves…”