Friday, December 30, 2011

hannah

 in her deep anguish hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly...hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard..."i was pouring out my soul to the Lord"
~1 Samuel 1~

listened to a sermon today about prayer and was convicted anew of my lack of attention to this area of my life, which consider to be quite important. so time to contemplate...

when i read 1 samuel 1 i was struck by hannah's model of prayer.  first of all she is honest. i think we often feel childish praying to God of our heart's desires.  we feel like we can't or shouldn't ask for things we want, in a grand attempt to display that we recognize that "His will be done."  He is not so easily fooled though, He knows our heart and i believe He is pleased when we are just honest about what is on our hearts, what our spirits long for.  such was hannah's prayer for a child.

the second thing about hannah's example is that she prayed to God in anguish.  how often do i pray to God with such passion and zealous emotion?  i too often treat it as a part of my routine, a ritual i must or should do as a follower of Christ.  instead i should see it as the forum i can be most open, most myself.  the venue to truly relate to my Creator things that i'm wrestling with, articulations of my utmost joy and most penetrating sorrow.  i am too often robotic in prayer.

finally i was struck by hannah's example of praise-in-sacrifice.  she prayed in anguish for a child, and then gave him back to the Lord to become a priest.  how hard that would be to do, to give away the thing you prayed for, longed for, for so long.  yet, look at the fruit that was born out of this sacrifice, this example of praise to God: samuel [hannah's son] became a great prophet, who ended up anointing david as king of israel...and Christ is of the line of david...all is traced back to hannah's prayer.  the power of prayer never ceases to amaze.  it was one prayer and look how many blessings, in a ripple effect, emerged as a result of a honest request and a praising heart.

prayer is really just a conversation with God, which out to have equal portions of speaking and listening.  too often i think of prayer as me just laying out my woes to God...how infrequently i endeavor to listen for His half of the conversation.  as with all forms of communication in relationships, honesty and openness are important.  although it is true that God already knows our hearts, our thoughts, it pleases Him when we converse with Him, just as it pleases a parent when their child comes to them to speak of problems or joys, even when they already knew of them before the words were spoken.

so my encouragement to myself, and writing it here to keep myself accountable, and to anyone else who might happen to read this is to treat prayer as a conversation with God. come to Him honestly, do not shy away from conveying what is truly on your heart.  see it as an investment in your relationship with Him, the best and easiest way to grow closer to Him.  but also listen for Him, for what He has to say to you, show you.  in the pouring out of our soul to God, as hannah exemplifies, God is able to use our lives to further glorify His name.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

light


your Father's the light within all that you see
~mewithoutYou~


one 4th of july a few years back [i guess the notion of 'Christmas in july' has me thinking of july now around Christmas] i remember discussing fireworks with friends, and it struck me how in awe we are of light.  i mean, the highlight of any 4th of july, the grand crescendo of festivities is the fireworks display.  its more or less the same show each year, yet we gather in a mass, every city all over the country to watch brief explosions of light in the sky with a chorus of the most childlike, over-hyperbolic 'ooo's and 'awww's.  i'm right in there with the best of them

the memory of that brief discussion of light with friends over fireworks, hit me anew now that it is december and we are all putting strings of lights around trees and on the roofs of our homes.  yet again we are enamored with light.  light seems to be an honored guest of most holidays: fireworks on independence day, candle light for valentine's day, string lights for Christmas, candles on a cake for birthdays, the menorah on hannukah, full moon on halloween...

on a materialistic note, most of us are attracted to things that glitter and shine: a new car, diamonds, gold, chandeliers...all which are self promoted through the reflection of light.

sightings of light in nature also hypnotize, in my opinion these are the most worthy of awe.  take lightening:  a momentary flash of flight across a dark, stormy sky.  the celestial vein or tree branch in its intricate, jagged structure. it makes our hearts skip a beat [or at least for me] less out of fear of being struck [for we all know the odds of that occurring] and more for the spectacular display that it is -  a reminder of a power and majesty that is beyond us, bigger than us.

shooting stars have the same sort of effect.  a brief streak of light across the sky, a divine paint brush stroke.  no one later notes much of the details of the black sky after surrounding, just that trilling moment of a glimpse of light.  i challenge you not to stop to look at such moments, not to marvel at the beauty of light.

let us not forget dawn, twilight, and sunset.  the times of day which light changes its form, constructing a harmony of colors and shadows.  these times of day are the settings of many of our favorite memories and photographs, the imagery favored by poets and musicians, the muses of artists.  and while the colors are mostly spoken of, it is the rising and fading light that is the origin of such captivating hues.

i'm a bit of a collector of words...so...the following was a natural progression in my musings about light:

words we use that are related to light tend to have a positive connotation:
  • bright/brilliant - smart
  • brilliance - genius, intelligence
  • glowing
  • enlightened - well informed; tolerant of other opinions
  • luminous - easily comprehended
  • lucent - marked by clarity
  • shine - to excel
  • sparkle - to be brilliant
  • spark - inspiration or catalyst
  • aflame - impassioned
  • sunny - cheerful; joyous
idioms of light typically are used to translate hope:
  • beacon in the night
  • light at the end of the tunnel
  • guiding light
  • begin to see the light
there is something about light that warms the soul, inspires, and makes us stop for a moment in awe of this substance that is intangible.  it cannot be held or touched or aptly described for all the significance it has to and emotions it inspires in us. we are in adoration of light, in awe of it, give it a sacred respect and that is what leads me to marveling at how God uses something earthly to reveal His nature to us and His will for our lives.

mentioning of light abound in scripture.  the first words that God spoke "let there be light" [genesis 1:3].  Thus light is something that God  saw of great importance and is something that has long been connected to His nature.  He led the israelites through the wilderness by a pillar of fire at night to give them light to travel by [Exodus 13:21-22].  His word is a "light unto our path" [psalm 119:105], and a guide for our steps.  God petitions that we "let our light shine before men, that they may see our good deeds and praise our Father in heaven" [matthew 5:16].  Christ Himself is defined as "light of the world" [John 9:5]. 

beyond the scriptural appearances of "light," the nature of physical light has the aesthetics, awe-inspiring wonder, and striking beauty that stirs the soul, a form of language of our Creator in my opinion.  it has always spoken of Him to me.

but for all that light is, we are incapable of understanding it without its opposite: darkness.  no one can define light without darkness, no one would marvel at light without moments of its absence.  so it is life: we would not value and treasure blessings if we did not also experience struggles and trails.  God is the "lamp that turns my darkness into light" [2 Samuel 22:29], but I would not comprehend the treasure of light without its contrasting cousin.  As Job said "God rescued me from the grave, and now my life is filled with light" [Job 33:28].

Thursday, November 17, 2011

moon

we are ever like the moon:
no natural light of our own,
yet created to reflect it,
the closer we get the brighter we burn.
we are ever like the moon

we are ever like the moon:
when we are most full,
we then become most captivating,
causing other to glance heavenward.
we are ever like the moon

we are ever like the moon
for light we reflect stands
in direct contrast to the enveloping night
the glow God's silent symphony for creation
we are ever like the moon

we are ever like the moon:
we go through phases,
some in which we are only half ourselves:
the earth an obstacle to our source.
we are ever like the moon.

we are ever like the moon:
we often embrace shadows,
seeking bits of darkness with light,
a smudging of the glow.
we are ever like the moon

we are ever like the moon:
periodically veiled in fog-
blurred, unclear, ildefined
until thawed by warming, distant light.
we are ever like the moon.

we are ever like the moon:
we all have a dark side-
things we shield from the light,
part of what makes us a natural satellite.
we are ever like the moon.

we are ever like the moon:
deceived by earth's gravitational pull.
the sun unceasingly beckoning us to our true center,
to be an echo of its radiance.
we are ever like the moon.

Monday, November 14, 2011

jury

reporting for jury selection is a bit like...

1. going to the airport: a room full of strangers all waiting around to go somewhere when told to by the voice of an unidentifiable authority.  uncomfortable chairs making it impossible to be completely comfortable, a constant reminder that you are neither at home nor where your destination lies.  the paradoxical combination of invisibility within a community.

2. being home sick from school: away from your normal work routine.  a simmering sense that you are forgetting something, the the activities of your everyday life are running along without you, which is leaving you more behind every moment.  but mostly because price is right is playing on the tv screen to placate any anxieties.

3. going to an audition: everyone wish each other "good luck" when names are called, but only half heatedly because we truly want that luck ours, so only wish it on others if we keep our share.  its a reverse of the typical trying out for a part - we're all equally hoping that we are selected to not be selected for the role.

4. recess: as we wait watching our peers get called, we suddenly realize that we may be chosen last to play...or not chosen at all

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

typing

i don't play a musical instrument.

unless you count a few years of piano lessons with minimal practice between the lessons, resulting in a short career and limited [to two songs] repertoire of piano playing...

i don't play a musical instrument.

and you may think i am strange [i would not blame you] for what i am about to say, but to me typing has long operated like a playing a musical instrument for me.

first it is for the cadence.  when i get an inspiration to write something creative, suddenly get a flow of what i am trying to argue in an academic essay, or merely am in a conversational flow in a chat or email, it feels like i am in the rhythm of playing a song.  the tinkering of keys, the pauses as my fingers reach for the far off "p" or "q" or the staccato steps of using the shift or enter or space bar.  it has the movement of a song.

second is for the therapeutic nature of it.  striking keys and hearing the sound of the gentle tap-tap is soothing, calming.  like unwinding with an enveloping session of a classical concerto: just you and the instrument conversing on a subject that might one day receive a harmonic accompaniment, an answer to your melody.  there is this developing of a chorus of letters becoming words, expressing emotions and musings, and all from the push of finger tips.  it becomes a venting of feelings, an unburdening to a safe place.  it is catharsis.

third is for its function as a second language, cryptic yet frank.  it lets me speak the unspeakable, much like the notes of an instrument can.  it allows for a stream of consciousness that can only exist on paper, through the written not spoken.  i can be my most unedited, my most open and honest.  and all in a way that makes the expression of  emotions, ideas, and creativity simultaneously vulnerable and enigmatic.  in almost all ways it is my most fluent language.

forth is for its ability to appeal to personal aesthetics.  the way the keys feels: smooth tiles with defined edges.  uniformly spaced.  i remember as a child going through the computer aisle at the office supply store, running by small hand across all the key boards, seeing which felt the best, the most natural to the touch.  for not all keyboards are alike, just like strings or keys of an instrument, some require greater pressure to press or stroke in order to play.   the putting of simple tones to my thoughts and words, voiceless yet full of song. 

i don't play a musical instrument.  but sometimes i feel as though i do.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

peter

simon, simon, satan has asked to sift you like wheat.
~luke 22:31~

peter's story has always been a great source of comfort to me.  i often find myself feeling defeated, see myself as a failure in my weak attempts to live to glorify my Creator.  most times, when i think of how i would feel if i were in Christ's physical presence as the disciples were, of Him looking at me and i at Him, i am filled with a sense of shame for all my shortcomings, of how unworthy i am to be loved by Him. and of course i know that being worthy is not the point, that salvation is a gift we simply accept...but being human, and satan being aware of my vulnerable spots, i am very often overwhelmed by a sense of how i fail God.

now how that relates to peter.  peter very apparently loved the Lord and he was zealous in his devotion [even cut off a man's ear to prove it so], i am humbled by that kind of insatiable devotion.  at the last supper he swore that he would never be disloyal to Christ ["i am ready to go with you to prison and to death"], yet he did just as Jesus predicted: denied Him three times before the rooster's crow.

how often i feel like such a hypocrite, such a disloyal and disfigured reflection of Christ's Love.  every sin is a rejection of knowing Him, just like Peter's was.  while i'm not uttering that aloud consciously, and while i do not want nor intend to do so, i am rejecting knowing Christ by things i do, think and say which are not Godly...not aiming to bring glory to the gift He gives and sacrifice He made for us.


but Christ gives us many opportunities for healing, to regain a sense of peace after failing Him.   for peter this was the chance to redeem himself [not that this matters to God, but it matters a great deal to our human nature, to feel that we had a chance to make amends].  Christ have peter the chance to proclaim his love for Him three times, which covered up his thrice denial of knowing Him [john 21:15-18]. satan knows our weaknesses and aims to exploit them, in order to break us down.  but God knows them too and gives us the ability and opportunity to overcome them, uses them to bring grace to us and glory to Him.


i am encouraged that peter wasn't perfect, a bit hypocritical at times...had good intentions but failed [just like the rest of us] to always have his relationship with Christ be the forefront of his words, actions, and thoughts.   his story gives us all hope that Christ will be able to use us do great work in His name...for look at the legacy peter left behind, despite denying Christ so bluntly...satan may have aimed to sift peter like wheat, but God used his failings to transform him into a man that aided in growing a greater harvest in Christ's name.


Monday, August 29, 2011

cloak

throwing aside his cloak he jumped up and came to Jesus
~mark 10:50~ 

as i listened to a podcasted sermon centered on this scripture*, of bartimaeus throwing off his cloak and going to Jesus i was convicted by how tightly i hold onto and depend on things that are not Christ.  for bartimaeus the cloak was everything: it was his livelihood [a place for people to put coins as he begged], it was his place of rest [something to sit on during the day and sleep under at night]. and his identity [marked him as a blind man].  yet, and might i add without physical sight, when he heard Christ's call he did not hesitate but completely abandoned his security and identity [cloak] and went to Jesus.


i'm sure i've heard this scripture in a sermon somewhere before, or read it at one point...but it never impacted me as it did this time around.  i so often take scripture too lightly, do not absorb it for what it is worth, and miss how relate-able all the stories in the Bible are to my own life...most especially ones about blindmen


all of us like comfort, and its not a bad thing. but we can't like comfort, our sense of security, so much that we would not discard it in an instant if Christ called us to do so.  i think i too often fall into that category of clinging too tightly to comfort.  Comfort is well...comfortable...and i wonder that if Christ did call me to discard it...or perhaps He has in some fashion and i have not listened, not chosen to hear...would i wrestle with doing so...mourn the loss of it?



so looking at bartimaeus' example hit me hard, he just threw off his cloak, his one item of comfort and security and went to Jesus.  wow. looking at the world today we are all constantly struggling to have enough savings, a better salary, a reliable car, a house,the newest iPhone...the list goes on and on.  and our identity is something we're always clinging to, trying to solidify the definition of.  how humbling to see this example of throwing away one's self-constructed, personally defined identity, and running to Christ for our identity instead.  too often we choose, or at least i know i have, to remain blind to the identity Christ calls me too...because i am just too comfortable in my cloak.

so thank you bartimaeus [a rather awesome name you have, by the way] for your example of abandoning comfort and identity to seek both in Christ.

* Podcast from reality carpinteria


Monday, July 25, 2011

give

you know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.  though He was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by His poverty He could make you rich
~2 corinthians 8:9~

giving is the language of Love
~Bible commentary~

last night at the home group i am part of we studied 2 corinthians 8 & 9 and discussed the topic of giving.  [as a disclaimer up front before i continue, the musings that follow here are not exclusively my own but rather the product of discussion in fellowship] as followers of Christ we are called to give, not commanded, but called.  when we accept the gift of salvation, and believe in our heart that Christ is our savior and the son of God, our heart naturally transforms, making us instinctively want to give as He gave so graciously to us.  Christ gave the greatest sacrifice, His life for the sins of all mankind...so how could anything we struggle with giving to others even compare?

often times, as we all discussed [and i know i personally struggle with this] it is hard to determine how much is 'enough' to give...i mean if we look to the story of the widow giving her very last coins [mark 12:41-44] it seems that we are called to give up everything we have...but if our heart is bitter in the giving, how does this glorify God?  as we discussed this we came to agree that determining how much is 'enough' to give, is really case specific, and something that you will know through prayer and seeking the Spirit's guidance.  as modern westerners i think we are so often fixated on definitions, formulas, and clear-cut answers..."3 steps to successful giving"...slaves to comparisons and rankings...but our God is a relational God, and He is much more interested in the quality [not quantity] of giving, invested in the heart behind the giving. 

the leader of our study read from his Bible commentary that "giving is the language of love" that struck me as the most authentic understanding of what giving truly is meant to be.  the motivation behind giving is a hope to glorify God and a desire to share His love with one another.  and if we prayerfully approach giving with this in mind, it will become clear how much is 'enough' to give and when to give this 'enough'.

at the end of the night we answered the question "why do we give?"  and that may sound like a simple question, but it actually inspired a good discussion.  with all our possessions, money, time, and talents [for "richness" is not merely based on dollars and physical ownership alone], we ought to be open handed to God, ready to give those things up if called to do so.  that image of being open handed convicted and humbled me, for i realized how often i cling to certain things in my life, my time especially, out of a lack of faith, a lack of trust, and a fear of the unknown.  but, giving frees us from becoming chained, enslaved, to other gods: the god of success, the god of pride, the god of selfishness, the god of contentment, the god of comfort, the god of security...and it is not that our God does not want us to have success, contentment, or comfort...because He does...but He has the full perspective on our life, and to cling, tunnel-visioned, to such things creates barriers between us and God, will sidetrack us from living a more fulfilling and freeing life that brings glory to the one who gave it all for us.

reading a bit over what i've written, my thoughts seem a bit convoluted and the rhetoric not easy to follow, but it was a great evening of fellowship and wrestling with what the Word means and how to truly live it out in our daily existence.

ultimately what i took away from those two chapters in 2 corinthians and the discussion that followed is that if we give ourselves to God first it will become clear what we are to give, how much we are to give, and when to give it...and this enables us to joyfully come open handed with all we have [in time, money, possessions] to God, freed [at least in that moment] from enslavement to lesser things, communicating the intended definition of giving: the language of love.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

wonderful

i'm gonna see the world. italy, greece, the parthenon, the colosseum. then i'm comin' back here to go to college and see what they know. and then i'm gonna build things. i'm gonna build airfields, i'm gonna build skyscrapers a hundred stories high, i'm gonna build bridges a mile long...


you know what the three most exciting sounds in the world are?...anchor chains, plane motors, train whistles.


each of us has a vision, an imagining of what our ideal life would be in the present, in the future. yes…even those among us that champion themselves to be ever “living in the moment” or the ultra-glass-half-empty type who claim to have no ambitions, cannot completely ward off day dreams and hopes for a “perfect” existence.


the way we each develop an idealized life reminds me of the film “it’s a wonderful life.” [STOP HERE if you don’t want plot spoilers]. meet george baley. the text book example of lofty ambitions, who dreamed of traveling the world, living abroad, and building things to make a memorable impact. his life was to be one great adventure with constant variety, everything that was far away and different from the tiny-why-even-put-it-on-the-map beford falls [actually, in greater honesty, i rather wish bedford falls existed…seems like my kind of town].


but alas, george's dream life never materializes, although he attempts to force it into existence several times. but, each time some sense of obligation and responsibility to be self-sacrificing gets in the way. george reaches an all time low when his uncle billy looses a huge deposit of money, which, if not recovered, will result in the family business [the building & loan], which george had sacrificed all his dreams to maintain, being bought out by the detestable, money grubbing, mr. potter who has all but spat upon the grave of george’s beloved deceased father. george contemplates suicide and proclaims to the Heavens the sentiment that had been murmuring in his mind for a while: "i wish i had never been born." he thought his life such a disappointment, so painful, that he wished he'd never lived it, longed to be erased from the lives of all those near and dear to him. what follows is george seeing what the world would look like, how the lives of all near and dear to him would be, if he indeed was never born.


in my senior year of high school if found myself in a class titled ‘the theory of knowledge.’ among other things, each student was required to lead one class discussion. having recently watched the film [its family tradition to watch it at least once a year…usually more], i decided to formulate some sort of discussion topic centered on the film [not only because it is my favorite movie of all time and believe everyone should see it, but also because it would allow me to show a film in class…and what high school student wouldn’t love you all the more for enabling class time to become cinema time? if facebook had existed then i’m quite certain i would have had 30 friend requests that evening]


i posed the question, "would your life still be wonderful if it does not turn out as you plan?" when I penned it, i felt vainly proud of my cleverness in integrating the film title into a discussion question, and it was timely topic too since we were all dreaming of what our college life would lead us to.


i knew so little then how much this very question, Spirit-inspired though i then knew not, would come to flavor my life


although i have not yet logged as many life experience points as george had in the film [he was a career man with a wife & three kids by the end], my own idealism had echoes of his. i too had planned on a life lived abroad [working with the state department rather than george's dream of being an architect], moving from place to place, jet setting, befriending and living among people of various cultures. i wanted to not only see things all over the world, I wanted to know them intimately. i felt i had found my own destiny, did all but declare it aloud to God...but as is often the case , as soon as we think we've with-out-a-doubt found our way, most times without prayerfully consulting God on the matter, God rips the carpet out from under us to cause us to fall back into His arms. this often is the only way to thwart our best efforts to go down a path that is not meant for us, and that will ultimately not yield as fulfilling of a life because it won't allow us to glorify His name as much as the path He has lovingly designed for us for.

once i finally saw what God was showing me about myself, that i was not meant for such a life, but one more simple, that would allow for deeper relationships, foster a greater ability for Him to use me as a vessel for His love in the lives of others, i was thankful for it but also made anxious by it. an identity crisis [for lack of a better word] descended, which caused me [and is still causing me] to cling to Him in order to stay afloat. and thus far my leaning upon Him has caused me to remain in my own bedford falls. and i in no way regret staying. in no way regret discarding the far-and-away life i dreamed of. i've had many fun excursions and a million otherwise un-notable memories with a great group of friends that are invaluable to me. i would not swap such a gift for the world. the relationships i have with them, grown deeper each year with every joy and hardship we’ve born together in fellowship, are my greatest treasure on earth.

what george realized, i have realized too: life can indeed be wonderful even if it does not turn out as you planned. in fact, i think it turns out to be more wonderful. if, as i am ever learning to do, you focus more on the present, chase after serving God where He has sent you, placed you for that particular chapter in your life, and then wait and be patient for what comes next [not my strong points as a chronic planner], then your life will become more wonderful than you could have imagined, could have planned on your own with your limited [human] perspective. once george renounced his wish to have never been alive, he realizes how blessed he is in bedford falls because of the relationships he's had there. as an observer, you can see how much his sacrifice and kindness made the lives of those around him wonderful, so it all comes full circle.

so that question i so smugly posed to my class has followed me ever since. it has influenced the way i give advice, contributed to the re-forming of my perspective on life, and caused me to more consistently appeal to God on the choices which are shaping my future. i may not have the wisdom of a lifetime yet, but God has revealed this much to me which i put my faith in: the wonderful life is obtainable, if we seek after God first. sometimes this will allow our idealized life to coincide with God’s plan for our lives, but often times it will not. it may not always lead to happiness, but it will always foster greater joy and an greater ability to bring glory to our Creator.


strange, isn't it? each man's life touches so many other lives. when he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?





Friday, May 13, 2011

easy

when we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure
~peter marshall~

easy has always been something preferred by society...easy living, the easy life, the easier path are the things we chase after. but why is it that easy is valued above the hard? why is struggle seen as some complete evil. we seek products and invest our dollars in methods to make our life easier, faster, more convenient. there seems to me there is something lost, a cost, with all of this insatiable searching for ease. has it always been so? has easy and fast always been preferred?

i won't deny that i feel the same most times, that hard work and longer waits are a disappointment and irritation, but when i stepped back from my conscious definitions of such, i began to question just why i was seeing things in this light.

in most of my life i feel that hard work has yielded greater fulfillment, greater rewards in the end. a job or tasks that requires more effort and more time i must infuse more of myself into, and i feel more pride in at the end of the day. a book that takes me weeks to read i feel i know more intimately than a quick read i can complete in a day, the characters have become intimate friends of mine rather than mere acquaintances. running a marathon, while torturous for a majority of its duration, gives such a since of achievement, builds up a sense of perseverance. back packing to high altitudes, while bringing burning soles and aching shoulders allows you to see such breathtaking natural beauty that is absent from the paths of an easy day hike. and every trial i've had in life, spiritually, physically, emotionally, has built me up as a person, allowed me to love better and relate more deeply to others.

it seems to me that difficulty and waiting should not instantly be thrown into the category of a curse, but should rather be looked at, embraced, for the future beauty and gift such things are likely to become in hindsight.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

personalize


The desire for self-expression afflicts people when they feel there is something of themselves which is not getting through to the outside world.
~fay weldon~

so much of our world today is characterized by personalization. i have yet to see a home, apartment, or dorm room with bare white walls: no paint, no posters, pictures, or paintings. even working space at your place of employment gets personal touches. most bring in photos of family or friends, have a special pen or trinket that sits upon a desk. we personalize the way we look to: a hair cut here, jewelry and make up there, and top it off with a pair of designer sneakers. few of us keep the default wall paper on our computers, our phones, we make screen savers, and playlists that somehow summarize our life, our interests into neat little bundle. we add key chains to our key rings, bumper stickers to our cars, colored rubber bands to our braces...

we are driven to self expression.

the social media craze is the best evidence for this. facebook "likes" and the pinterest allow you to tag all sorts of things to yourself, to your virtual identity. you put out pictures, change your status to a favorite quote, a fleeting thought, and observation. you post links from favorite websites, share articles you find of interest, all as a way to connect to others and to share pieces of yourself.

there is this innate need to be simultaneously relatable and distinguishable, to connect with others while define yourself as something apart. we enter this subconscious struggle to personalize our personality on a daily basis.

there is something about us that simply cannot stand a blank slate, and vacant palate...we have to throw character onto it. we seem to be overflowing with expressions that simply cannot remain residents of our thoughts alone.

and that got me to thinking about how we are truly expressions of God, designed to reflect His nature, His love. so all this personalization and self expression we are dabbling in is merely an echo of what the Creator has already done when He created the heavens and the earth. He did not long dwell in "formless and empty" (Gen 1:2) before He reflected bits of Himself elsewhere in the wind, forests, rivers, deserts...and man, made in His image, vessels of of His self-expression who are naturally driven to be creators themselves.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

reason

the heart has reasons that reason cannot understand
~Jacques Bossuel~

reason has become the praised method of decision making, upheld as the sacred way of thought. but i struggle to see why decisions made using reason should be championed while those motivated by the heart are deemed unwise, dangerous, and shameful. cannot good come out of either? cannot both cause future regret?

since the enlightenment, mankind, at least in the western world, has become very skeptical of any cognition not singing the tune of rationale. logic has been risen on a pedestal so high that all other modes of thought have become mere specs on the landscape, it can no longer see them accurately, their worth becomes microscopic in memory.

when people alter plans or make choices based on their passions, in response to emotions, out of love, such actions are ridiculed, feared, and earn warnings of caution. such heart-driven steps are deemed to be poor decision making, something that leaves a stigmata on your reliability-record, something you will grow to regret, if you do not regret it instantaneously. dispassion is glorified, celebrated, and adored.

i often wonder if this can really be true. growing up in a western society, you are instilled with certain notions that follow the argument of reason being safer and more sound in decision making: you should "not change your life for anyone else" (for who knows when they may betray and hurt you?) and "look after yourself" (for you are the only person you can truly trust), and always "go after your dreams" (because happiness is the epitome of perfection in life). while being ambitious and going after life goals is not bad in-in-of-itself, much of this mantra simple illustrates to me the foundational selfishness of reason.

how is shaping your life based on the sentiments of the heart, whether they last or are requited or not, any different in shaping your life and changing your course for other seemly more "rational" reasons like a career opportunity or a hunt for happiness? those categories of choice-motivators are colored as more worthy, respectable, and forgivable, but are equally if not more self-centered. making decisions based on love can certainly be driven by selfishness this is undeniable. but choices made out of love can also be driven by sacrifice, and by a response to the Spirit revealing where one's priorities ought to rely.

we live so much in a culture that fears regret, yet somehow the fear of regretting choices motivated by love is fare more powerful than the fear of regretting choices driven by ambition, logic, rational. for, few people can lecture you on making a choice that followed "sound reasoning," but many an i-told-you-so would be thrown at you for any regrettable decision made out of love.

this is likely a pure waxing-philosophical of a hopeless romantic, but when i hear and read of stories of ages past, where notable figures (both fictional and real) lived a lifetime of unrequited love out of a the obligations of duty, honor, decorum, practicality, and societal norms...it seems a greater folly to me then it would have been to throw all that away, disregard the mind for sake of listening to the heart.

the same goes for the way most of western society goes enters the working world. so many people put their passions aside, going for a "practical" career because doing what we love most, what we are most passionate about is either not prestigious enough (for our selves, our parents, our spouse), does not earn enough money, or seems impossible to obtain. i have seen so many people pursue law or medicine that never use terms of endearment when speaking about it. but, when talking about art, cooking, or linguistics, they light up. to go after the career or emphasis of study despite all the odds seems foolishness, yet, which life is more fulfilling: one with less honors and comfort but fills our days with satisfying work? or one with stability, that wins the envy of others, but provides so little fulfillment in the moment-by-moment?

so often we struggle to make decisions using the mind alone, but wouldn't it be better to let the heart have a say as well? a collaborative effort? at the end of the day, at the end of life, which would you regret more: making a poor decision based on logic or one made out of love, out of the passions of the heart? or, to put it differently, which would you find more reason to rejoice in, even if the joy of the choice was momentary, lasting for but a breath?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

tears

there is a sacredness in tears...they speak more eloquently then ten thousand tongues. they are messengers of overwhelming grief...and unspeakable love
~washington irving~

tears are often taken for granted, but, when one really ponders upon them, they are actually quite mystical and fascinating. i mean, how is it exactly that our body responds to moments of sadness and purest happiness with tears? more interestingly, how is it that tears of happiness physically feel like something entirely different then tears of sorrow. it is obvious that tears of happiness emotionally feel quite different, but truly, tears of sorrow feel like a different substance than tears of joy. this release of water becomes the release of emotions, the outward and anatomical expression of overwhelming sentiments, ones that words could not express fully enough...our body had to take over to complete the communication of it. if you wikipeidia (yes, its a verb) "tears," it mentions bits about hormones and the limbic system, which is all well and fine and certainly factual...if you are looking for a reductionist sort of view...but i am more in awe of the fact that Someone was creative enough, wise enough, to know that humans have such limits to expression, and that weeping and the release of droplets of water would be able to say all that could not be said.

tears are both infinitely sad to behold and expressively beautiful at the same time...they are contagious, like yawns, they spread like an epidemic from one observer to the next. they give sweet release, both bliss and soul penetrating pain, even simultaneously, in the same emotion. there is something about the warmth of them as they fall down your cheek, roll gently off your nose, drop onto you pillow case our shirt that is an expression of an aesthetics that has no language. it is a therapy, catharsis, and often times a desirable joy.

there is something sacred about tears, they speak this mythical language of emotions that none remember learning and that none can teach or describe. it is a silent communication with our Creator, an inner dialogue expressed outwardly, universally understood regardless of culture or class. tears are a mark of mercy, they free us to let go, to allow ourselves to, for a brief moment, escape our robotic insistence of maintaining control, keeping face, and let our soul speak for itself in a language we did not know we could comprehend.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

thorn

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
~2 Corinthians 12:7-10~

this passage has always spoken to me, and spoken to a principle understanding about sin and grace in my life. i believe that there are some sins in our life, yes we all have them, that we habitually and continuously wrestle with. it is these sins that are the "thorns" that paul speaks of here. we recognize them and long so deeply to be freed of them, yet are tempted by them and are prone to repeat them time and time again. we cry out to God in frustration, in deep desire to be rid of them, yet they remain. but this is grace.

God knows of our struggle, and our wrestling with it...even if it is one step forward and two steps back, pleases Him, brings Him glory. but, these thorns are the sins in our life that i believe we will never fully be rid of in this life. that is not to say that we should not seek improvement on them, that we should not strive toward the goal of eradicating them completely, but some such thorns will always remain until we meet eternity. if i think upon this with human logic, reason tells me to give up in despair. for what point is there to strive for improvement if the goal cannot be reached? but, when i focus my vision to see as the Father sees, i can understand quite clearly that this is His grace for us. it is these thorns that keep us humble, keep us connected and dependent on God, remind us of our humanity and our need for mercy.

i actually find the premise that we should strive for a goal (complete freedom from sin) that is unattainable to be quite freeing. in knowing that i cannot reach perfection, i am free to give God praise for the small improvements i make along the way in my mortal life. and God does rejoice in these small victories. so we must keep our eyes on the goal of escaping the thorns, of their removal while acknowledging that some thorns will never completely leave, but their presence can be less felt as we grow closer to God. the more we seek God, the more we are filled with His Spirit, the less we will notice the thorns, the less room there will be for them. in a sort of back-door tactic, instead of going after the thorns, trying to will them away, we are called to go after God, and to accept His grace by responding in love in how we live our moment-to-moment.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

incomprehensible

"why do you ask my name?" the angel of the Lord replied, "it is too wonderful for you to understand."
~Judges 13:18~

heaven is difficult to conceptualize...eternity simply impossible to wrap our minds around. if you really stop for a moment and try to think about the word eternity, what illustrations and imagery can we possibly apply to it? the inability to put heaven and eternity into words is most frustration for someone so swept up in words...yet the inability to put such things into words makes the attempt, the stabbing at it, all that more enticing and fosters much more creativity then if God allowed us to easily conceptualize the incomprehensible.

and faith is built upon such things. trusting without fully knowing or understanding, because, quite often, evidence and full knowledge do not necessarily lead to greater trust, peace, and contentment. the human mind was designed to have its imaginative and cognitive limits, some knowledge would be far too much for our mortality to handle. God, is gracious in this way among many.

many things that fall into this category, of being too beautiful, too wonderful for us to understand in the hear-and-now. i find that as simultaneoulsy a frustration to curiosity and a freeing blessing for, as was seen in Eden, too much knowledge is just...well...too much. just to know that heaven contains things too wonderful to understand provides me with great hope and peace as i go through the day-to-day. as the Lord wisely withholding such things but yet promising us that blessings beyond our comprehension are yet to come He provides what we need to sustain mortality, to endure trials, and to shape our sight (as much as humanly possible) into an eternal perspective, all which make our present more beautiful in ways we will only come to fully comprehend when we become a part of eternity.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

wind

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.
~John 3:8~

the wind has always been a vehicle for God to speak into me and an opportunity for me to give praise to God...it is power & majesty, omnipotence & mystery and reminds me that these are the qualities of Our Father. it is a way for me to sense His presence in my life, or rather a symbol of how His presence materializes in our lives: we sense Him but cannot tell where He comes from or where He is going.

there were heavy winds today, which prompted me to think about the wind. storms always have made me childlike, excitement wells up inside me, leaking out as i run to the nearest window to watch the storm rage outside or to the nearest door to go and feel the wind blow across my face, in my hair...perhaps it is because i rarely get to take in such storms...but in truth i think that i would feel the same even if it were any every-day occurrence

wind hits at something deep in my soul, it speaks to some fundamental of my personal aesthetics. i could listen to it for ours on end and watch it make tree branches dance and leaves fly without growing tired, it is almost like i can't take it in enough

so to me the wind is symbolic of what heaven will be like...what being in the presence of God will be like...we just won't be able to take in enough of it, we will never grow tired of worshiping Him, He will capture our spirits, and equate to everything that we personally define as beautiful

that day is yet to come, and for now i will take the small glimpses of eternity...one being the wind

Saturday, February 26, 2011

image

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
~Genesis 1:27~

that God has made us in His image is something i have long heard in church and read about...but today, when speaking about the idea passingly at my small group, it hit me anew. that i could reflect a portion of our Creator simply blows my mind. what an incredible blessing to be so closely associated with Him, and what a great responsibility. certainly convicts and encourages me more to seek ways in which my actions, thoughts, and words would reflect His image more and more. the idea, also, that each person we see is made to reflect God instills in me a new way to look at people, to see them from our Father's perspective, to see them as reflections of God. i have also long felt that each person i meet encapsulates a piece of the reflection of God, and taken as a composite, the Body acts as a composite which gives a shadow of the image of God. He still far surpasses our conception, His glory is far more beautiful and humbling than our human perception could stand, but as an artist Himself, with us made in His image, taken together, His followers are transformed into His impressionistic self portrait.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

gloom

the offing was barred by a black bank of clouds, and the tranquil water-way leading to the uttermost ends of the earth flowed somber under an overcast sky - seemed to lead into the heart of an immense darkness.
~joseph conrad~

i have always known there was something...err...a bit off with me. i am sincerely filled with joy when i wake up, look outside and find a sky full of gray and disgruntled to find a window full of sunshine. i prefer autumn and winter to summer and spring, much due to the weather that typifies those seasons and for the type of melancholy lighting that characterizes the first two. i love rain, even if it catches me by surprise and i have damp denim the rest of the day and brown-stained feet for a week from rain-soaked rainbows [sandals]. i get a child-like excitement at the sound of thunder and sudden flash of lightening or at the rattle of hail on a roof [tin or metal roofs being most preferable]. i feel more creative and productive when gloom prevails...compelled to write due to the overflow of words and potential poetry emerging from my gray-stained musings. but a perfectly clear and sunny day...rather a disappointment to me and almost never improves my spirits. when someone comments "nice day today, huh?" or "it's beautiful out!" reflecting on the pristine sunshine, i always feel a bit conflicted on how to respond because to me "nice" and "beautiful" weather mean something quite different altogether. but i rarely [if ever] admit to harboring such definitions, because there is no sense in putting on damper on the joyful sentiments of others just to for the sake of being perfectly open and honest about your own reflections on the weather.

i fully recognize this as abnormal behavior and i can't really explain my preference adequately to myself, let alone others. trying to explain this to others usually receives questioning looks and even i end up thinking i sound crazy...such are the symptoms of melancholy soul. but it got me to wondering: why is it the norm to prefer sunshine and clear skies over gloom and gray hues? how have golden tinted days become the symbol of joy and weather-perfection? it is considered bad luck, and a down right catastrophe, to almost every american to have it rain on your wedding day...but to me it adds an aesthetic element that cannot be achieved in any other matrimonial detail. sadly, suicide rates are known to be higher in areas that experience periods of increased and consistent gloomy weather. in other words, most seem on the same page of dark skies and gray conditions being foreboding and generally bad news... but it just doesn't translate into my personal soul-speak. perhaps part of why i prefer the gray because it is so little preferred and, like the "unlucky" 13, it must have something of value for someone...


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

autograph

autographs are something i've never thought twice about, but earlier this week it struck me that they are...well...a bit of a mystery. when we meet someone famous, the thing that we ask for (besides, perhaps a photo with them) is their autograph. why? why do we care about having their name written on some scrap of paper we found in our pocket, a book they authored, or the back of our shirt? why is it an item to be coveted and how does it obtain such value in society? When you boil it down, it is just a name, written by the hand of another...yet it has greater significance, for many-a-fan, it becomes a treasure.

my thoughts then flew to musing over the idea of a signature. our name is perhaps the only thing we ever write in cursive these days, or write with pen-and-paper at all in this era. we type, text, and post everything else we think and feel...the art of handwriting is being lost...but that is another topic entirely. the signature, however, becomes a microcosm of a person...it seems to symbolize them in some fashion. it is almost as if the type of curl an individual gives to their "g"s and the position they place their dot over their "i"s somehow reveals something of their personality and character. it is a stamp of authority, a bond and word of honor...all encapsulated in a single first & last (perhaps with a middle initial or middle name thrown in for good measure) name

whether celebrity-status or average-joe, each John-Handcock is full of symbolic meaning and socially-created levels of value

what's in a name? i'd say quite a bit more than we think

Thursday, February 10, 2011

prayer

prayer in its purest understanding (at least i believe) is having a conversation with God. what i find interesting about prayer is that one's voice and manner of speaking (outwardly or internally) changes. i started to notice this in communal prayer at the bible study i attend. when i or other in our group pray out loud...something in the manner of our voice morphs into something soft, the cadence something perfected as if the sound of all such elements combined, encapsulated in our words directed at our Father, is at last that which He created it to be. it is similar when one reads the Bible out loud...it isn't like reading poetry or Shakeasphere...something instinutual in us acts without us ordering it to...aknowledges that these are the Words of God and only our prayer voice will suffice while speaking it aloud. it is with this transformed voice, this prayer voice, the the body feels communal, connected, and as one. i have noticed that when praying in a small group there is something in the core of my being that feels drawn to the others around me as if i feel part of them and they part of me, their prayer is mine and mine their's...it is impossible to describe in words really...but it is in those moments of prayer, surrounded with the sounds of individual prayer voices taking their turn to share their bits of conversation with God, that i get an inkling of what it truly means to be part of the Body...with the Spirit morphing our voices such that we all speak the same language with the same lovely resonance, adding harmony to the melody of other Brothers and Sisters around us.