Sunday, February 24, 2008

Holding on to it

Lying prone by the curb outside my neighbor's house today is a brown, tinder-dry, five-foot-long fir: a Christmas tree. It looks kind of sad, and I wonder how often we, as Christians, leave the weight of Christ's incarnation by the curb when it's not the "the holiday season."

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Things going through my head at 5:30 in the AM

As I woke up this morning, I couldn’t help but wonder if I was supposed to attend to my Wednesday morning Bible Study. Any 5:30 wake up call is intimidating. It’s even worse when a) you know you’re going to be running on less than five hours sleep; and b) you habitually fall into a pit of despair when your sleep is this limited.

With that in mind, I had divided loyalties this morning. A part of me wanted to go to church. A part of me wanted to grab an extra two hours sleep. I asked the Lord what I should do. No particular response.

Then something my roommate Dane once told me popped into my head: When you feel the urge to talk to someone – a friend, complete stranger, whomever – about Jesus, you shouldn’t doubt that urge. If every decision you make is motivated by either God or Satan…well, I think it’s pretty safe to say the idea of telling others about Jesus does not come from Satan. I can’t imagine that’s his strategery.

With that thought in my head, I knew I needed to suck it up and get out of bed. Like the idea of telling others about Jesus, the idea of me going to church could not have been prompted by Satan.

Examining this thought process further, my internal struggle is reminiscent of that described in Galatians 5: 16-17,

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.

My sinful nature desired another two hours in bed. Obviously being fully-rested for work – as my “sinful nature” desired – would not have been a bad thing in and of itself…but it also would have kept me away from what the Spirit wanted me to do (attend the morning Bible Study). I’m pretty sure the Spirit is the one I want to continue following. Call me crazy.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Why I love country music

1. Because country music reminds me of open roads, mountains, rural areas, places where you glance out the window and see for miles and miles. In short, country music reminds me that I am very, very small. When I’m at my wits end worrying about [insert issue here] it’s comforting to recall that there is there is an enormous, all-knowing, all-powerful God who controls everything. We miss out on that feeling when we live in cities, a mere bowling ball’s throw away from our neighbors. Country music reminds me how big God is.

2. Because, as my friend Las Frijoles once said, San Antonio in country songs is always just San Antone. I love that.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Mystery question of (after)life

When you sneeze in Heaven, do people bother saying "God Bless You"? Or is it a bit redundant by that point?

Monday, February 11, 2008

Bible verse to start you on your week

1 Corinthians 2:9

However, as it is written: "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him"

Romans 15:13
I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Jesus, Light of the world

The sun was out yesterday; it was warm, enjoyable, and intoxicating (without the fizzy bite or bitter taste!). It also got me thinking about light, which I'm going to chalk up as yet another obvious thing I probably would have taken for granted, or otherwise overlooked, had God contracted me to build the universe (breathing; fingernails; sex;... yeah, it's a long list). I know I take it for granted now. With its abundance and convenience (and yes, the sun), light simply happens, and often I only need to respond to its consequences. Sure, I'll switch or clap on a lamp, and I'll notice when the bulb in the fridge goes out. But that's to avoid tripping and breaking my hand in the dark, and to find my cold one. Light is a mundane tool.

So? Does this matter? Maybe not... Although, the concept of light seeps into scripture frequently. Jesus claims to be the Light of the world; Christians are admonished to be light to the world ourselves, and to live "in the light." I wonder how often we take this spiritual light for granted too, using it to deflect hurt and find our cold ones without embracing its true significance. As a sermon reminded me this morning, the gospel isn't essentially about us fixing what we perceive to be wrong around us; Jesus is an end unto Himself. His "I Am" statement is especially important, no doubt, and we ought to inspect it if we are to take Christ seriously (and I don't mean that we should hyper-interpret His metaphors, but that we should explore who Jesus really is).

Friday, February 8, 2008

The fun is in the faith

When I look back at Friday, February 8th, 2008, I'll try to overlook the part about missing a great journaling opportunity (I love writing cursive capital F's) and instead focus on how I dialed it back to college Mike and took a FOUR HOUR nap. True story.

Now why, you may ask, why is a 30 year old man taking a four hour nap? Here's my answer for you: because I lacked faith.

Headed to bed on Thursday night, I felt like God wanted me to not set my alarm for the morning. I know it sounds ridiculous for our almighty, all-knowing God to speak to me on something so trivial as alarm clock settings, but I believe I'm a person who needs to be shown lessons on a micro level.

Anyway, I followed God's instructions and went to bed sans alarm. I woke up in a panic. I'd overslept. I checked the time: 5:31, a solid two hours, 39 minutes before the time for which the alarm would usually be set.

I fell asleep, then repeated my "oh my gosh I overslept" routine at 6:36, and 7:24. I woke up for the final time at 7:58, completely tired despite a rare almost-eight hours sleep. I didn't actually hear anything aloud, but I felt God saying to me "Michael, you have such little faith." Why couldn't I trust He'd wake me up in time? I left the house exhausted, as if I'd just worked an eight hour shift. In a way, I had. My entire sleep cycle was spent in panic. I never trusted the simple likelihood of waking up on time.

This whole ordeal reminded me of a basic truth I've noticed as I continue learning to trust Him: the fun is in the faith. The times when I've gone full speed ahead, completely trusting that He will provide for me -- those are the times I've enjoyed the most. The moments of which I'm ashamed are those where I limit my trust in God, where I don't believe He'll be my alarm clock. Silly Mike. He is the all-knowing, all-powerful God of the universe. I'm pretty sure He can take the place of my $29.99 Sharper Image alarm.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

"Turned right to it"

Remember how your teachers in grade school used to make you "open up your textbook to page 87"? And remember how much of a thrill it was when the fates aligned with your fingers and you "turned right to it"? And how you then needed to tell everyone in earshot?

I think the adult version of this is when the pastor tells you to turn to a certain Bible chapter and it happens to be the one you're reading. Like, at last night's Ash Wednesday service, the reading was from Deuteronomy 8...which I happened to have gone through on Tuesday. Giddyup! I wanted to leap up from my seat in the second pew, turn to the rest of the congregation, and say "hey, I'm reading that!"

It seemed kind of out of place with the whole Ash Wednesday thing, though.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

The disciples' 401k plan

What occurred to me today: all of my planning about investing, 401k and such is based on the assumption that I live to an old age. Thing is, this might not be true. Look at the disciples. Only one of them lived more than a few years after meeting Jesus. But do you really think they would trade in that experience for the vested interest on their 401k? Heck no!

While we're not alive at the same time as Jesus -- not yet anyway -- our attitude needs to be the same: experiencing Him comes first. We cannot allow our love of money to alter our remembrance of that truth! If our security is truly in Christ rather than in a bank account, we should know to first listen to Him. He might not be telling you to invest your money. Maybe He wants you to spend it traveling, telling others of His greatness. Maybe He wants you to donate your money to a specific charity. Regardless, the point is to listen to Him! Like the disciples, you might not be cut out for a long life, either. That Roth IRA does nothing for you if your life ends in the near future.

(Technically I guess it could benefit a family member. But you know what I mean)