Friday, September 28, 2012

At the end of the day

What matters?

God's glory.

What does that mean in my life?

Obedience, delighting in God, dedication to His truth.
Which overflows into relationships with others.
Which ultimately brings Him glory.

What are the things that don't matter so much then, in light of that?
Probably a lot of the things that I care so much about.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Purpose of Studying the Bible

To know God better.
To sharpen our swords for the battle.
To guard ourselves with truth against lies.
To learn how to live in obedience.
To store it in our hearts
And share it with others
And pass it to our children.
To meditate on it day and night.
To keep our ways pure.
To delight in God.
To wash ourselves each day.
To appreciate the depth of the Gospel.
To eat daily.
To renew our minds and revive our hearts.

To renew and deepen our dependence on God.
To always be able to give an answer to those who ask us to give reason for our faith.
To become more like the One we spend time with.
So that God shows us how he searches our hearts.
To be sharpened.

...

The Word is SO GOOD

Friday, July 27, 2012

What are you doing?

Where are you going? What are you doing? Why are you going? Why aren't you going?

"I can't go if I don't know where I'm going."

But what if you do already, but it's been buried under piles and piles of stuff? What if you don't know, does that mean you stay where you are?

"I don't know how to get there."

Do you always have to know how to get somewhere in order to take your first steps? Do you have to know how to take steps?

Yes and no?


It will be well with my soul.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Pop Psychology

One interesting tidbit of pop psychology that I've learned recently is this:
If you're feeling bad about yourself or like you are a failure, make a list of all the things that you fail at. Then you'll feel better.
And here's the reasoning behind it: if you try to make a list of things you fail at, you'll inevitably fail at doing that. And then lo and behold, You've failed at trying to make yourself fail. Instant win!!!! Right???

I admit I've gone before to the trove of pop psychology, I've tried using and have even recommended some of the tips and tricks found there... but I am now becoming more and more aware of how much I've come to depend on them, and perhaps unconsciously, but nonetheless, to begin viewing them with a spirit of awe and reverence that really does not belong... They're interesting, and often times yes, helpful. But I'm seeing now that at their root, perhaps they are not so good after all...

Just a few things about this one:
  1. Some people are really good at making lists, especially lists like that (aka me - I admit I tried this once and my list rambled on and on and on and on...), and doing that just leads to the clear opposite effect. One might think, "oh man, I fail at so many things, nooooo", or if in a really self-deprecating mood, even "I fail at making a fail list, I'm such a failure!!!"  
  2. The way that several proponents of this method have described it, this also encourages you to write lists of things you don't like about yourself, and then ignore it completely. Because hey! You're not so bad after all. Then again I guess there's then more pop psychology to suggest other ways to help yourself help yourself.
  3. I've found that ultimately, the heart of this message (and many other pop psych messages) is this: Focus on yourself, because within yourself is the power to make yourself happy and complete. 
It sounds lovely right? That inside the depths of our souls lie an inherent power for us to fill in our own gaps, to find our true satisfaction and happiness, to unlock all that we can do and discover who we were meant to be.


You have the power. You have the truth. It's all there inside yourself.

It's the battle cry of post-modernism, the flying banner of humanism and the victory flag of feminism. It's empowering, encouraging, gives you a pat on the back and a nice shot of adrenaline on those inevitable days.
And isn't that exactly what Satan would love for us to think?
That we are capable on our own? That we have the ability to do all of these great things? That we can find our fulfillment in activity, in relationships with others, in digging within ourselves and finding out our own true purposes? On our own? Apart from God?


That may not be at the heart of all pop psychology... yet so much of our world has sought to seek their own.
Romans 1:12 --
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 
1 Corinthians 3:19-20 --
For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.”

As wonderful and helpful that tips and tricks from pop psychology may be, perhaps we shouldn't (I shouldn't) look to them, at all, after all. My question to self is, would I look similarly to other sources that I know do not honor God, and in fact seek at their heart to usurp His authority and wisdom? I should like to think not.

May we look only to the only Wise God, and give Him all the honor that is due... 


Friday, July 13, 2012

Unlearning

This past year was really focused on learning - not just because I was at the ed school but personally in many areas of my life.

In learning, especially learning that leads directly to behavior change, there is often a lot of unlearning that first needs to be done. At the ed school they like to call it "conceptual change", or as I think of it, tearing down your old thoughts and rebuilding them again - different paths and different philosophies on that, but the root of it is twofold:

  • One, that one must see the error of one's ways by seeing just how much it does not make sense.
  • And Two, that this must arise from an "A-ha" moment, not simply from someone else's lecturing but from really thinking about one's own thoughts.

Anything else is likely to only be temporal and surface level, if not outright forced and often begrudgingly so.

I'm sure that spouses and parents can see this clearly, no ed school degree necessary haha

Every thought, every interaction, every response we have to a given situation, every thing that we let influence our lives - that all builds into the structure of our mental repertoire. Slowly, the brick and mortar of self-centeredness, self-sufficiency, and arrogance is scaffolded and fleshed out.

There's a lot yet to tear down. Wow, praise God, that His demolition of these Towers of Babel is loving, and His disciplines trustworthy and kind...

2 Corinthians 7:10

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Jeremiah 17:9-10

The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? “I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.”

Friday, June 22, 2012

Sometimes I don't understand myself

Actually, make that a lot of the time..

Isn't it wonderful that we have a God who knows the depths of our hearts? Who sees everything, gross and disgusting and all, the things we may not yet see or understand or admit, yet still loves us so?

To be fully known and fully loved is something that I think every heart seeks but I also think so few really understand or get to experience. Maybe that is just the cynical part of me? God doesn't wish that any should perish [a], yet so often even we who have been bought with a price live as though we were not. Who can say that their heart is pure? [c]

I think I understand more and more Paul's laments of what I now see as utter despair in Romans 7. He cries out with such desperation, "Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" Can you hear the sorrow in his voice?

Maybe we need to be in such a place of desperation before we can understand the depth of what he says next. The Gospel, without an understanding of sin, is still the Gospel, in all the glory and majesty and awesomeness that it is. But who can accept it and its weight without that understanding of sin? And even as Christians, no matter how long a Christian, if we do not continually come to a place of this recognition, I think our faith can then teeter into the realms of self dependency, ungratefulness, salvation by works, and a whole other host of stuff..

Lord, please keep us at your feet, always, according to your mercy...

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Thank you God

Before I forget

For late night emergency work crisis miracle remedies

That take 20 minutes rather than 6 hours.

Whew...

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Psalm 1

Blessed is the man


who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, 
     nor stands in the way of sinners,
          nor sits in the seat of scoffers;




But his delight 
     is in the 
     law of the Lord,


          and on His law he 
          meditates
               day 
               and night




He is like a tree
     planted by 
     streams of water.     
          that yields its fruit in its season, 
          and its leaf does not wither;
     In all that he does, he prospers. 


The wicked are not so, 
     but are like chaff that the 
          wind 
               blows away.




Therefore 
     the wicked 
     will not stand 
          in the judgment,
     nor sinners 
          in the congregation of the righteous;


for the Lord knows 
     the way of the righteous,          
     but the way of the wicked will perish. 



Friday, June 8, 2012

Psalm 23

The Lord 
     is my shepherd;


          I shall not want.


He makes me 
     lie down
          in
          green pastures.

He leads me 
     beside 
       still waters.

          He restores my soul.


He leads me 
     in paths of 
       righteousness 
     for His name's sake.



Even though I walk 
     through the valley of the 
        shadow of death,



I will fear no evil,


          for 
          you 
          are
           with
             me;



Your rod 
     and 
         your staff, 


              they comfort me. 



You prepare a table 
     before me 

          in the presence of my enemies;



You anoint 
     my head 
          with oil;

               my cup overflows.


Surely 
          goodness 
          and 
          mercy 
     shall follow me 

               all the days of my life,




and I shall dwell in 
     the house of the Lord 
               forever. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Hunger and Thirst

More today from Revive Our Hearts, I feel like I've just been pubbing for them nonstop lately

I had dinner with Liz yesterday, and we got to talk, among other things, about how we've been learning and growing spiritually - ahhh so beautiful!! She spoke of the feeling of joy, of being on cloud 9 in a sense, when we are walking steadily with the Lord and firmly vested in His Word. And she also said this (paraphrased) - if we can attain so much joy from readings books written about God (or, I might add, talking to others about God and listening to others about God), how much more joy would we gain from reading directly the Words of God? (And I might add, spending time in communion alone with God?)

Oh my goodness, yes. A thousand times yes.

This is the hunger and thirst that we need, all the time. Not for physical food, and not for physical rest or even mental rest no matter how great that desire may be. We need to hunger and thirst for the living Word, for a resting of our souls in the arms of His embrace.

Revive Our Hearts today was about family devotionals, but a few poignant lines:
"I knew at that moment that I needed to just start right there. So I gathered all four of my children andI said, "We're going to start reading through the Bible." And they all cheered and said, "We've been wanting to do that.""
"When you consistently read the Bible, it requires you to make changes to your life. The point of reading the Bible isn't just a read, it's to act on what it says."
Those were children as young as three, cheering at the prospect of reading God's word. Three year olds. What a blessing to grow up in such a God-fearing, and God-loving, home.

I learned recently that sometimes, Jewish men and women keep a box of Scriptures tied to their heads so that the Scripture may always be near them. I would love to do that, though maybe not literally tied to my head. I remember I always used to be jealous of the other boys and girls in church who knew the Bible well - for me though, it was more a status symbol (they get more stickers?? why not me!!)

But it's not a status thing. This is a life thing. Lord, let me hunger and thirst for you.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Rivers

1 Peter 3:3-4 and NLD

A gentle and quiet spirit is not the same as a gentle and quiet personality. There are some women in whom I see this spirit very clearly, whether or not there is a stereotypical personality to match - a spirit such as this is hard to miss and quite impossible to merely imitate - and it's really really so beautiful. I remember telling Vaneh once early in our BCEC days how I thought one of the women there was downright the most beautiful woman I'd ever met; I had absolutely no solid reason to point to in order to back this, yet this feeling that I'd just encountered true beauty was totally unshakable. I think, still, this was because of the godly character that just overflowed and completely poured from her.. Of course, there is nobody out there who is perfect. But her beauty was and is so evident.

Some time ago I think we had a sermon about rivers and undertows - the surface of a river may seem serene, but its undercurrent may be crazily harsh and turbulent. And, the surface of the river may seem tossed and churned by the winds and waves, yet its undertow may be steady and controlled. Essentially, outward appearance and circumstance do not determine one's spirit; but one's spirit will reveal itself a midst the circumstances.. At Highrock the other night we talked about this as well through NLD's message. Is the river of my life calm right now? Unfortunately I would have to say that it's probably not.. I think I feel more often the turbulence of storms that I often dream about rather than the quietness that should come from an utter dependence on God. Seasons will come and go... Let this not weigh you down, oh heart.. Sit at the Lord's feet and lay your burdens down, remember who is your sustenance, strength, and source of life and renewal.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

From Him, Through Him, To Him

God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform; He plants his footsteps in the sea, And rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines Of never failing skill, He treasures up his bright designs, And works his sovereign will. 
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take, The clouds ye so much dread Are big with mercy, and shall break In blessings on your head. 
Judge not the LORD by feeble sense, But trust him for his grace; For behind a frowning providence, He hides a smiling face. 
His purposes will ripen fast,[You may say, “Not fast enough for me!” It’s fast in God’s timetable.]Unfolding ev'ry hour; The bud may have a bitter taste, But sweet will be the flow'r. 
Blind unbelief is sure to err, And scan his work in vain; GOD is his own interpreter, And he will make it plain. 
- William Cowper


And some highlights from Nancy: 

Every day, every moment of the day, living with that supreme purpose at heart. It means having a God-centered perspective, turning our eyes upon Jesus, in whose light the things of this earth grow strangely dim. Am I right?
When you see the magnitude of His greatness, that gives us a context for our puny, little problems and challenges. 
... 
Married to Christ, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, and a lot of people are going to be finding out in the days ahead, “Did we really love Christ for who He is, or were we paid lovers, loving Him for what He can give us?”
... 
I love that quote of Martin Luther, who said, “God can draw a straight line with a crooked stick.” So when we cannot understand what He is doing or why He is doing it, it’s not our place to resist, to resent, to challenge, to dispute, but to humbly bow before His sovereignty, and His goodness, and His mercy, and His greatness, and the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God, and to align ourselves with His purposes and embrace His will.
The true woman who trusts God doesn’t have to strive. She doesn’t have to be afraid. She can relinquish control. She doesn’t have to manipulate and control the whole wide world, as if we could.
She doesn’t resent, or resist, or run from the cross. She embraces the cross with faith.

The need for micro-control, the need for certainty before every step, the need for confirmation and affirmation from others always, the need for A-B-C-D-E on top of what Christ has already given and what He has already promised... is that not just me saying to God, "It's not enough!! Give me more!!"?
"The leech has two daughters. 'Give, give!' they cry."
-- Proverbs 30:15
Ugh. Gross. I don't think I've ever understood what that meant. But perhaps this is it. What does God owe to me, other than his righteous and just judgment and wrath? Yet by His grace we are given life, mercy, love..

Rest content, soul, be still in His mercies and rest in His care...

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Reflections from the weekend (so far)

[Pulled from Daylilies 2/26/12 and 365+Grateful Project 2/26/12]

Two posts in one day on this blog! This hasn't happened in a while. (Except with 365+ bahaha) But this will be short.


I'm at Starbucks, I was going to write my essay for the two hours between Evelyn's departure and the PDPT meeting ~~ but here I am almost an hour and a half in and I still have not done anything for my essay other than review all my chicken scratch.

Evelyn came to visit this weekend - not really to visit me but for her audition :) But we were able to have lots of fun too! We did the classics - Fanueil Hall/Quincy Market and North End (for cannolis!!!), Russell House for oysters bahaha, and dim sum this morning. I really enjoyed having Evelyn here for the weekend.

Her visit has also taught me a lot. I would say they are reminders, which I suppose they are in some sense, but what is a reminder but a re-learning, and what is a re-learning but a new learning? Everything is old, and everything is new.

I am selfish and prideful. 
I think so much of myself... it is not natural for me to think of others, truly, even though I like to think that it is and that I am a compassionate and loving person... it's not true. At all. Anything that seems that way in my life is the blessing of the Lord as He works in my heart. Evelyn has definitely shown me so much..

God is good. 
He knows all. He works through all. He understands us so well, and yet loves us so deeply... He has been working so powerfully in her life, even though she may not be seeing it yet. Just the same, the words she spoke to me and the ones I even spoke to her struck me in my heart deeply. God is so good. He knows what we need and when.. He knows what we struggle with and why. He knows also when and how we will grow because of these struggles and be delivered from them because He has already planned that path. And He loves us so much that He does not let us go mindlessly about...

God is faithful. 
He doesn't let us go... He doesn't leave us hanging. He fulfills his promises without fail, and He works in our lives sometimes quietly and unnoticed, sometimes less so, but always powerfully. His allowing us to see that is yet another blessing from Him as He guides us in our walks with Him.

There is more.

And there is still more that I have yet to learn. I know there will always be. And I hope that I will never feel that I've learned enough. 

I'm thankful for being able to host Evelyn this weekend. Wow I love the Tsen fam. <3

Winter Teen Conference 2012

[Pulled from 365+Grateful Project 2/20/12]

I hope that this conference was a blessing to the students who went, as well as the counselors and P. Justin too. It was definitely a blessing for me - a humbling, encouraging, and very revealing weekend.

Last year I went to WTC with literally a day's notice - one of the regular counselors had suddenly fallen sick and I went in her place. I think though, perhaps I was more prepared going in last year than this year. This year, I knew I was going to go for at least a month beforehand, yet even the week before, up to the day before I hadn't truly prepared for it... I was distracted, stressed, tired, putting my heart and thoughts more into other things than into a mindful, prayerful preparation of my own heart for the weekend. I prayed for the students and the retreat as a whole, for my girls... but not even half-heartedly. It seemed much more a rote, almost reluctant and forced duty than a genuine and burdened crying out to the Lord.

I arrived to PDAS on Friday with my mental, emotional, and physical baggage in tow. And I was frantic and fearful at this point - what was I going to do? How in the world was I going to do it! What was I thinking, signing up for this retreat? Why was I here??

I told myself fretfully, God can work through all, no matter what they deserve; I comforted myself by saying that it was ok that I didn't prepare myself, God was still gracious. And that He is... but the words that I spoke to myself were only empty shells of comfort attempting to cloak my excuses...

So I went into retreat carrying these feelings of shame, uselessness, disgust with myself, and fear of the inevitable failure I'd face as a small group leader (again, so revealing)... I also carried an enormous desire to do well, hoping to change the girls' lives - these two sides struggled against each other and all through the weekend, on the last day especially, I was convicted of this self-centered, not-at-all-God-honoring, utterly pointless struggling within myself. Jess shared during our morning meeting that she felt convicted of wanting to be the one who makes a difference in the girls' lives; I felt this as well, so so very much. It's really ridiculous how I felt this way especially given the state I was in prior to going, though perhaps that also explains my completely irrational and pompous attitude about it - if I had been more grounded in the Word and led by the Spirit, would I have realized how utterly dependent I ought to be on the Lord?

All throughout the weekend, God spoke to me through His word, P. Justin's messages, my small group's conversations, huddles, conversations with other counselors, times alone with Him... He was gracious to expound to my soul the half-hearted excuse-ridden empty words of comfort that I'd been giving myself earlier - He truly works through all as He wills and to His glory.

On the final day of WTC, one of my girls wrote me a little note of encouragement - I was reminded again of ATD's trip to DC and the hospital rounds we made. Sometimes God allows us to see a little glimpse, always so undeserved, of how He still chooses to work in and through us... I am so thankful for WTC this year, and the tremendous grace that God poured out in my life through it...

Monday, February 20, 2012

Temporary WTC post

Back from retreat! It was wonderful. I have not the mental capacity to write about it now. But I have suddenly noticed that I have 14 new bruises on my knees alone - how did this happen and why are they all separate/not one giant bruise??? I don't understand.

Relating to strange bodily ailments, my sister has finally found the medical term for our family's congenital ear piercings. In the event that anybody on Google searches for this, they're called preauricular pits or cysts and are not the most pleasant life experience. But not the end! Good luck to you and happy cleaning.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Cleaning Day

It's cleaning day! Because today is Yoojin-comes-to-stay-over-day and tomorrow is retreat and it's rainy which means it's perfect for laundry-vacuuming-dusting-packing-reorganizing.

There's a little trick I've learned recently to controlling clutter::: take a picture of the space, and you'll be able to more easily identify what should and should not be there. Our brains are wonderfully adept and can quickly skim over things that it's grown accustomed to -- i.e. patterns (this is a really poor and cut down explanation of why we can read things like this). Patterns can be in text, concepts, or spaces. I have no research-based scientific backing for this, but I think that based on our brains' ability to chunk things into patterns and store them into long term memory as "habits", we can similarly chunk our cluttered spaces into patterns. So unless you are very intentional about looking for clutter, it's easy to ignore it because it's "just always there anyway" (patterns!).

Cameras don't do that. When we look at a picture, we're looking at a frozen instance of space. Yes, inanimate objects are still inanimate objects (unless you live in Harry Potter world and every picture is alive), but the finality and distinct boundaries of a picture force our eyes and brains to explore the finite space, to actually process those patterns that we otherwise overlook (literally). Sometimes, we need to be slowed down by a physical picture (or digital, whatever) so that we can really process what's going on in that space.

I think the same goes for life in general. There is a lovely article on the Harvard Business Review about prioritization, with one quote that I really like:
"Many of us have become addicted, unwittingly, to the speed of our lives — the adrenalin high of constant busyness. We mistake activity for productivity, more for better, and we ask ourselves "What's next?" far more often than we do "Why this?""
I would say that's very true, and generally descriptive of what I do with myself. Activity most definitely != productivity, and more != better, yet somehow we convinced ourselves otherwise (or just me).

From the article,
"It's only when we pause — when we say no to the next urgent demand or seductive source of instant gratification — that we give ourselves the space to reflect on, metabolize, assess, and make sense of what we've just experienced. 
Taking time also allows us to collect ourselves, refuel and renew, and make conscious course corrections that ultimately save us time when we plunge back into the fray."

It's been a theme in my life for a while now, I'm such a slow learner... but I think that I've been internalizing and exerting this more. Hopefully.

Welps, happy cleaning day! And also I can't wait to eat my lunch!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

What does it matter?

That's the common theme in my thoughts lately. Not in a solely cynical or depressed or hopeless way, but in a (what I hope is) genuinely pleading, solemnly considerate way. Perhaps because I've never entered the work force before, I feel especially daunted by the sheer magnitude (and felt constraints) of it. Also, perhaps because my studies and work so far haven't all focused on one specific field, I feel unbound in a sense, with seemingly too many possible directions and not enough guidance. I like structure.

A few weeks ago I was talking to some PDAS kids about what they wanted to be when they grew up. What a question... I don't know what I want to "be", still, and while I can't say I'm necessarily "grown up" (where does that begin and end? Psychology will tell you I guess. HAH), I definitely am already "grown up" in their eyes (because anybody above 20 is "really old"). We talked about what they like to do, what they want to do, what they are doing now, and our childhood dreams... For me, I wanted to be a singer, actor, teacher, writer, artist, architect, archaeologist, doctor, designer (ALL AT THE SAME TIME - I guess I haven't changed much in that sense). Some of those were because I thought they were fun. Others because I thought it would be nice to help people. Those reasons, while lovely, also seem so superficial right now.

I think that's how we often approach career and work. We're told time and time again and even tell others (I know I have) that we should pursue work that we love and enjoy. While I think that's wonderful and good and that God's calling can be precisely that, I also think that the way that we (Christians) sometimes view it places the work above the calling, even if we phrase it in a way that places calling above work. Example, in Christianese, "Your passion is often a God-given calling". It's beautiful and true! But often at the heart of the matter this is actually played out as "God calls me to work that I love and enjoy; therefore anything else simply can't be my calling." It may not be said exactly that way, but I feel that it's the undercurrent.

I think this almost implies that God does not ever call us to things we don't like. That we can always look at this formula to mean "If you don't feel affinity toward this or a passion for it then clearly God's not leading you here." It makes a lot of sense, and I think that it's definitely a good and even right way to test a leading. BUT I think too often we make it the only way. I'm not talking just long-term-career-type-of-calling either, but really just about any type of call to obedience - whether it lasts for a day, a week, a month, a year, or a lifetime. Because how do you know how long it will last??? God's plans for you are not always so clearly laid out at those crossroads.

I think that where and when God calls, He also equips - and that means in skill, knowledge, and passion. God does not call the equipped so much as He equips those He calls (where did this come from? I can't remember and I'm attributing it to like 5 sources right now) - a simple and perhaps subtle change that means so much. What am I saying!?

"Career (or whatever we're called to do) is just another talent given to us, and we should be good stewards of it." (from Cat! I used that without permission :X But I cited you now puhahahh) It's just another piece of God's plans for us to live for HIS glory. And this is something reiterated again and again, through the young adult retreat last Fall and also the college retreat last year. Pastor Steve said in sermon this past Sunday, Discipleship is costly. "Those who do not renounce all he has cannot be Jesus's disciple." Cannot. Is not able to. Will fail at. For some time, I thought that meant that God was preventing them from becoming Jesus's disciple because they were not worthy or something... But through other sermons recently and this one as well, I think it crystallized for me that for those people who said, "Lord, let me first go bury my father", or "Lord, let me first say goodbye to my family", and even "Lord, wherever you go I will follow" -- it was out of God's grace that the answer was No. (And who knows if it was a resounding and final No or if it was a Not yet? Does that matter for our purposes? I don't think so anyway.)

That means putting Christ ahead of all our personal possessions, personal relationships, personal desires (also from P.Steve's sermon). The question then is, are you, am I, willing to accept that and let go of my own dreams and desires? To trust and obey God, wherever that takes me, wherever that leads, and even if it doesn't include dreams and desires of a nice cushy life and all that it entails? It's hard for me to do that. I daresay it's impossible for anyone to do that. But by His grace and power, the impossible becomes possible.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

If-Then and Food

If-Then statements are so beautifully simple. When they become nested in any more than just a few layers though, it quickly becomes significantly less beautiful to look at, but the beauty in its simplicity remains (for the most part - then of course there is good and bad coding).

I think that's how many people operate - we live by a series of if-then statements, many of which become deeply ingrained into our systems, hopefully enhancing productivity. If the homework for tomorrow is not done, then finish the homework. If the bills are due in a week, then send those payments today. If the 1-bus toward Harvard is due in 10 minutes, then start heading out in 4. Simple, efficient, beautiful.

From a health standpoint, it'd be good to know and understand what your body needs based on what it's yelling out to you. It would be nice if the if-then statements were also equally simple: for example, if I am hungry, then I should eat. If I am thirsty, then I should drink water. But sometimes, as I've learned, if I am hungry, then I should drink water. Not so straightforward anymore - there's another nest inwards in the if-then statements. There is also if I am tired, then I should sleep, which is sometimes actually if I am tired, then I should drink water, at other times if I am tired, then I should eat, and still at other times if I am tired, then I should ingest some caffeine. Confusing? Probably also not the best way to think about things.

Now onto cravings. I used to think this would be simple too - if I crave lasagna, then by golly I'm going to eat lasagna, and replace lasagna with hot dogs, pickles, apple juice, whatever. I guess it makes sense, but I've only recently learned that those cravings are usually not the best thing to go by (surprise-surprise). For example, if I crave MSG like mad, then I should actually eat fish. If I crave chips, I should try eating kale. If I crave tea, I should eat some chicken. Well, that's all a bit confusing. Why can't they be more straight-forward? If I crave a burger, then can I just have a burger? I love burgers.

The scientific explanation, as far as I understand, is that our bodies will often lack a specific nutrient. When we lack that particular mineral, our bodies naturally start to crave things that will provide us with that mineral - another one of the ways that we are so beautifully crafted. However, we've also developed not-good-for-you foods that also provide us with brief satisfaction and temporary relief of those cravings, while not actually meeting those true needs instead. Thus, your body might be screaming to you for iron, and while you would be very well served by eating some leafy greens or meats, you've instead developed a taste for gnawing on ice (true story, many times over).

I think this also extends to our spiritual lives. If I am in need of spiritual food, then I should eat spiritual food. It's simple, but it becomes so incredibly complicated when we start to replace that need with other things. We develop and attach ourselves to many many things that provide us with brief satisfaction, with temporary relief of what we really need. One example in the list is this: If you crave burned food, you actually need carbon, and you should thus be eating fresh fruit. How simple, ironic, and sadly true. We need to fill ourselves with life-giving fresh fruit, but we instead push that aside to stuff ourselves with burned junk. And we love it, even as it kills us.

Those "burned foods" can be good things like love, friendship, acceptance, success -- even great things like opportunities for service, growth, and humility... but those things easily expand, and they easily come to completely replace what we truly need. We warp our if-then statements, fixate them onto other points, and stubbornly hold to that which will not satisfy.

Lord, have mercy... change my heart and mind, and let me desire You where I have filled myself with other things, no matter how lovely and wonderful those things may be...

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

In our weakness

A few months ago, my dad spoke about Samson - about how as a man of faith he was made strong in his weakness, and how through suffering we can experience God. Hebrews 11 has always been both interesting and confusing to me. None of the people brought up in the passage led sinless lives -- far from it, and of course not unexpected. (After all, who can say that they've lived a sinless life? Only one holds that right.) But of course I didn't understand that. I used to think, "hey wait a minute that's not fair, I know that person did this and that other person did that, they're not people of faith!" ......HAH!! How ridiculously judgmental. How foolishly arrogant. How utterly, shamefully, and pathetically did I miss the point. (And still do, so easily.)

Faith does not come alone, and good works are the fruit, the evidence of faith. BUT those men and women's actions alone didn't earn them a rank in Paul's writings, nor did their actions disqualify them from faith. Faith, and all that comes with it, is from God and God alone... and ours is a God who, though He is the Holiest of Holies who will not tolerate sin in any form and holds the absolute right and authority to destroy us with no hesitation... had His own Son carry our sin in our stead, and offers us life everlasting in return. Redemption, grace instead of punishment, life instead of destruction. (What in the world did I know of fairness?) What could possibly be more unfair? Ours is a God who blesses and curses, who heals and breaks, who grows and destroys, who gives and takes away. This is a God under whom we rightly ought to live in fear and trembling, and by His fathomless grace gives us hope, forgiveness, a new identity as beloved sons and daughters.

Samson was the promised son, granted divine strength, power, and blessings far beyond his family name. And he was arrogant. He took his gifts for granted and fastened those blessings to himself as part of a self-constructed identity -- and he didn't realize that the Lord had left him when he told Delilah of his secret, having totally forgotten who granted him that gift in the first place. After months in the Philistine jail, Samson was physically weak, literally blind, and publicly humiliated... but he was also changed. No longer did he believe that he could do it all, but I think we can see he recognized the true source of all that he had. He called out to the Lord, crying out in desperation for God to remember him just once more... Though we do not know the exact state of his heart and thoughts all those months later, we can know that he truly lived to be the man of faith as Paul wrote of him in Hebrews all those years later.

How often do I look to a self-constructed identity, based upon the things I think I've accomplished and the things I think I have? I think that I can do it all, while in truth apart from God's grace I can do nothing. And I think with deep undertones of arrogance, while so oft forgetting the source of everything I have been given. All that I have accomplished and all that I have is only through Him and Him alone.. I can rightfully take no credit... And though my penchant for overscheduling and overloading is a pattern that I've noticed over and over in my life, it wasn't until recently that I finally realized, wow, this is not just a "personality thing". It's not something for which I can simply point to my ambitiousness and leave at that, nor try to explain is due to my wide-spread interests, or even say is the fault of poor time management or "poor stewardship". No matter how true or untrue each of these may be, they are only a mere outward layer. The core of the matter is that it's yet another idol, another deeply lodged sin and a whoring of the heart after other gods. It's a meaningless pride in "my own" abilities, nurtured, indulged, and manifested, and it'd be pointless to try and sugar coat that. Like Samson, I so easily forgot what the true source of my strength is..

From one view, it would be so easy to just try and patch this all up with a simple formula, with a little "oh ok that's fine Lulu, let's just start to limit the amount of activities you take on" and "psh no worries, let's just do a re-vamp of your schedule". While I do think that is necessary at any rate, a silly little bandage like this does not heal. How circular and utterly meaningless. Sheer determination can only get me so far, and I realize this over and over again as I try my best and continue relying only on that. But realization is not repentance. And praise the Lord for His mercy which does lead to repentance! Even still, "I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate... Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" How true Paul's words now ring - of a true hopelessness in light of himself... Yet he ends it with hope, in light of God's mercies. "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin."

All this running about, all this doing this and doing that, it's all meaningless without a driving force and fixed vision that is firmly rooted in and fed by all that God is, and all that His Gospel means. It's all just sinking sand, a blind chasing after the wind, all meaningless ventures if there is not a constant recognition of where I come from, who I am, why I am the way I am, and where I am going. And all these selfish little "I-I-I" questions, in the end they all only lead back to who God is. There is no other answer. He says to me, Childbe still and know that I am God. Heart, soul, why are you so often not still? In the rushing of troubled waters, there is only turmoil and a hurried and rash obscuring of that which truly matters. When you are weak, there He will be shown all the more to be strong... When you are weary, there know again Who grants you rest... When you remember again how you are only a jar of clay, and how broken and withered a vessel at that, there, remember also what you are crafted and constantly remolded to carry.
"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen."

Look back on this later, self. Look back and remember.