Wednesday, March 21, 2012

But the Wilderness Is So Nice

I just looked at the Lent calendar and realized how close Easter is.

My first thought should have been getting excited about eating brownies made from scratch again.  But it wasn't -- that was the second.

My first thought was, "I don't want it to be over already."

Beginning before Lent, I began seeking God in a more open and direct way.  But during this Lent season, my daily devotionals, my meditating, praying, and scripture reading have increased to almost be where I'd like them to be.  Many mornings have skipped my viewing of "The Daily Show," and instead read or listened to teachings of faith. 

In addition, my relationship with Angela has reached a new sincerity that my own sin and selfishness and fear prevented.  It has certainly been tough.  Opening to Angela and remaining honest is not something I'm good at.  In fact, the only reason I used to be open to Angela or anyone else was to share "just enough" to appear open and honest.  Only through God's grace and mercy and Angela's, have we come to a point where joy is always near even in times of hurt.

I wonder how Jesus felt.

I'm not sure when God revealed to Jesus the path to death.  He probably knew it all along.  In the wilderness, though, he wasn't going to die.  Jesus was tempted in major ways, but he knew he wasn't going to die there.  In Matthew, after the temptations, it says, "Angels came and were ministering to him" (4:17 ESV).  That must have been a wonderful experience.

So wonderful that I would have been tempted to stay.  What if that was the last temptation Jesus faced in the wilderness:  Just stay and be fed spiritually and intellectually. 

That's where I am right now.  Sure I want desserts, but my connections with God is such that I don't ever need something sweet again (I know I never did -- I just always wanted it). 

More than dessert, I'm scared about what will happen with this connection that is so strong.  And even if it continues until we leave Thailand, how can we keep close contact with God when life in America tries to get in the way again?

I really like the part of Fireproof when she asks what day he's on, and he says, "43. . . . Who says I have to stop?"  That's the complete truth. 

There are 40 days of the Lenten season.  But once it's over, who says I have to stop?

Each day is a new day, and each day I continue to seek God.  Luke tells us that when he left the wilderness, "Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit" (4:14 ESV).  Each day we are seeking to be filled with the Spirit.

One day at a time.

Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

I spent a lot of time focusing on this song, listening to Sufjan Stevens's performance of it.  He changes it up a bit, but I've included the original lyrics by Robert Robinson (1778).

Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,

Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.

Sorrowing I shall be in spirit,
Till released from flesh and sin,
Yet from what I do inherit,
Here Thy praises I’ll begin;
Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.

Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood;
How His kindness yet pursues me
Mortal tongue can never tell,
Clothed in flesh, till death shall loose me
I cannot proclaim it well.

(The verse that speaks loudest to me)
O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

O that day when freed from sinning,
I shall see Thy lovely face;
Clothed then in blood washed linen
How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace;
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransomed soul away;
Send thine angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless day.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Rest along the way

"It's a long road ahead."

I've heard this statement a lot lately.  My initial response is "I know, I know." 

When I stop and think about it, though, I wonder, do I know? 

I'm notorious about having great ideas, getting them started, and then passing them off to someone who will continue it.  Either that, or the project dies due to my lack of follow-through.  This doesn't happen all the time.  Maybe not even the majority of the time.  But it happens.  What I want to know is why.

After thinking a lot about this for a few days straight, it comes back to my need for control and my sense of fear. 

I see things in the big picture.  The postive in that is that I try to look at things holistically, getting to the root.  A negative is that I can see how hard and how far one needs to go to accomplish the vision.  Having the vision is great; getting there is hard and sometimes overwhelming. 

This is where the fear comes in.  With such a long road ahead, the chances for failure are much greater.  So instead of pushing through, I checkout and give up.  I've done this with relationships, workout routines, news articles, fighting temptation, and just about everything else. 

I want the results.  But I want them now without the journey.

That's why I think it's so important to follow up the "long road ahead" comment with one that is just as important: 

"One day at a time."

Rest and reframing are so important each step of the way.  It's the same idea as "baby steps" in What About Bob?

Angela had a great run this morning.  She said she usually poops out early because it seems so far.  The key was to mark "halfway."  It's not a physical stop, but the mental marker gives her strength to regather her motivation and strength.  She can shout, "I made it this far.  No way I'm giving up now!" 

That's what we need on this long and bumpy ride:  rest stops. 

The opportunity to refresh our minds, get a little nutrition, clean out the "waste" that has been stored on the journey so far.  This is what I'm praying for now.  I want to keep running the race, but I have to do it each day.  I don't need to and can't run the next 50 years today.  I just have to run today.

How the heck did Jesus hang out in the wilderness for 40 days?  Despite the few paragraphs dedicated to this time in the bible, I'm almost certain it was just one day at a time.

Lent is long.  The wait is long.  Seeking reconciliation can be long.  Life is long.  You have to rest along the way.

It's a long road ahead.  But it happens one day at a time.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Dying to self

This is exactly what I've been fighting recently:  Dying to myself.  I've spent a good part of my life creating an image of a man who is seeking God.  Part of it was sincere, but at some point, I became obsessed with the image rather than the truth.

It was exhausting, and I'm so thankful that I'm ready to be honest.

Here's the video from Rob Bell's Nooma project.  Feel free to fast forward 4 or 5 minutes if you're short on time.

I hope you are encouraged to continue to seek God through Lent.

I've had this song stuck in my head all day:
I want to know Christ,
     And the power or His rising,
     Share in His suffering,
     Conform to His death:
     When I pour out my life
     To be filled with His Spirit,
     Joy follows suffering,
     And life follows death.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

A thought from C.S. Lewis

I'm a patient of the Great Physician, but it cannot be all about me.  The new "C.S. Lewis Bible" is now available, and, along with it, this nice little piece from the Huffington Post.  I took this from slide 6 at the bottom. 

It's a reminder that we are called by God, even though we need Him just as much as anyone we serve.

C.S. Lewis "'Thy will be done.' But a great deal of it is to be done by God's creatures; including me. The petition, then, is not merely that I may patiently suffer God's will but also that I may vigorously do it. I must be an agent as well as a patient. I am asking that I may be enabled to do it." -- from "Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer"
Bible Passage "Now he was casting out a demon that was mute; when the demon had gone out, the one who had been mute spoke, and the crowds were amazed." -- Luke 11:4
Keep serving this Lenten season. 

Friday, March 2, 2012

Beautiful Things

Angela shared this song with me yesterday after it moved her to tears.  You can get the lyrics here along with another interesting blog to follow.
When Angela sent this to me, I had just finished a chapter in Scott Todd's Fast Living where he discussed quite well how in one slum the "excrement was integrated with the soil" after 20 years of "flying toilets."

I realized that in my own life, my soil and dust were not the pristine soil of a Garden of Eden, but rather the dirt-excrement combination of a slum.  Yet, God makes beautiful things even out of this -- even out of me.

During this Lenten season of wandering and renewal, I have to keep reminding myself:  This isn't all about me.  God is renewing me.  But he also renewing all of us.  Lent is not only fasting in our lives, but also fasting to glorify God through serving others, not ourselves.  Read Isaiah 58.

I have been selfish all of my life.  Now it's time I fast from myself.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Strong Enough

I'm not a big fan of Christian Contemporary Music, but you can't argue when somebody nails the lyrics so well.  Take a listen, or put it on mute and just read the lyrics. 

Continue to reach toward God this Lenten season.  We're not as strong as we pretend to be.

Matthew West's "Strong Enough":

We don't know how to confess anymore

As I continue to realign myself with God during Lent, I continue to recognize how broken and misled I am.  I have created an image of a man who seeks God, but in fact have become a man who seeks this image rather than seeking God.  In other words, I have a heart that would make me God rather than seeking the true God.

I've been reading Dallas Willard's Renovation of the Heart (or here).  It has been speaking powerfully to me about who I am.  As I continue to share and confess to others, I desire to do it right.  Here is an excerpt (pp. 59-60):
The Necessity of Remorse

To prosecutors and judges in our court system, as well as to people in ordinary situations of life, it still matters greatly whether wrongdoers show signs of remorse or seem to be truly sorry for what they have done.  Why is that?  It is because Genuine remorse tells us something very deep about the individual.  The person who can harm others and feel no remorse is, indeed, a different kind of person from the one who is sorry.  There is little hope for genuine change in one who is without remorse, without the anguish of regret.

Much of what is called Christian profession today involves no remorse or sorrow at all over who one is or even for what one has done.  There is little awareness of being lost or of a radical evil in our hearts, bodies, and souls -- which we must get away from and from which only God can deliever us.  To manifest such awareness today would be regarded -- and certainly by most Christians as well -- as psychologically sick.  It is common today to hear Christians talk of there "brokenness."  But when you listen closely, you may discover that they are talking about their wounds, the things they have suffered, not about the evil that is in them.

Few today have discovered that they have been disastrously wrong and that they cannot change or escape the consequences of it on their own.  There is little sense of "Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts" (Isaiah 6:5, KJV).

Yet, without this realization of our utter ruin and without the genuine revisioning and redirecting of our lives, which that bitter realization naturally gives rise to, no clear path to inner transformation can be found.  It is psychologically and spiritually impossible.  We will steadfastly remain on the throne of our universe, so far as we are concerned, perhaps trying to "use a little God" here and there . . . .
As my confession grows, I expect ruin.  It is only by the grace of God that I am saved.  Not by my hand, nor by any others.  It may cost me my life, but I am guilty and should expect no less.

My journey through the wilderness continues.