Monday, April 28, 2008

From me? Or from God?

If you’re like me, you often have trouble discerning whether your motives are derived from yourself or from God. Of course, if you’re like me, you’re still eating PB+J three times a week at age 30.

The question of motive is a difficult one. Am I walking with God or walking with myself? I’d imagine everyone has asked this at some point.

Too often I allow this crisis of motive to paralyze my decision making. I’m always “waiting to hear from God” or “praying about what He wants me to do.” On some level that process is a good one. We should seek the Lord when making significant (and even minor) decisions.

Yet this method of decision-making can also present a lack of faith in Him. Ultimately I should trust that He has “trained” our hearts in such a way where we can follow our instincts. Revelation 3:7 tells us that Jesus has “placed before you an open door that no one can shut.” That’s the sort of thing we (or at least I) always focus on. Depending on His will, we can do anything. We've heard that before. What deserves equal focus is the second half of that verse, where we’re told “what he shuts no one can open.”

The "what he shuts no one can open" part of the verse is one we should focus on once we make our Great Big Decision. This is when I should ask for God to make obvious if the decision was based on the God – Mike partnership or on the Mike – Mike one. If it’s the latter, I have to trust that He’ll close the door. Once He does that, no one can open it.

(especially not someone who still relies on peanut butter and jelly to get him through his day)

Friday, April 25, 2008

A tiny taste of Heaven

Have any of you ever been walking through life, casually minding your own business, when a tiny bit of Heaven just drops on you?

Sometimes for me that has been a shaft of light through storm clouds or a sunrise or something like that.

Last Wednesday it came on NW 21st Ave on my way to happy hour through the inconspicuous guise of NPR.

Apparently this last Monday something virtually unprecedented happened at the Metropolitan Opera House. An audience was so moved by a performance that Peruvian tenor Jose Diego Florez gave an encore. They played part of his aria and my heart caught in my throat.

I have no idea what the premise of the opera 'The Daughter of the Regiment' is, or what Florez was singing about, but I think I may have come to a complete stop on the sidewalk while I just basked in the sound of that song. The sound felt like tangible beauty, and has been haunting me since Wednesday night.

You can listen to his performance here:

I have no idea why this song made me feel that way, but moments like that remind me that the Kingdom of God is pressing in all around us, if we are only aware.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The "freedom of religion" illusion

One of the things you'll hear all the time from people is "I think it's cool that you have religious faith. I think everyone should have freedom of religion." This is probably true -- to a point.

People love to pretend they're open to all religions. I have my doubts. I think what they're really saying is "I'm open to all religions the media tells me to be open to."

(note: if the person saying that were a grammar snob s/he would probably avoid ending in a preposition and instead opt for "I'm open to all the religions to which the media tells me to be open)

Think about it: do you ever hear people or "the media" defending Mormonism? Christian science? Scientology? Absolutely not. I certainly can't ever remember hearing it, anyway.

The term "freedom of religion" exists a) so people can avoid offending other people; b) to protect the powerful religions; and c) so people can use this as a way to justify not coming to Jesus (i.e. "I believe anyone who believes in a religion goes to Heaven" and that sort of thing).

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Quote of the day

From a man whose 14 year old, Swahili-speaking American daughter saved the lives of his family and others who would otherwise have died on a burning plane:

"I think we'll keep praying about [whether or not to move to the Congo]. We know that the safest place in the world to work is where the Lord wants you to work."

Amen, my man, Amen!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Speaking of Judges 7

Instead of commenting on Mike's previous post, I felt I had to create a new post. You see, I love Judges 7. For some reason, it is one of my favorite chapters of the Bible. Seriously.

I think the main reason I love the story of Gideon and his little army is that it does seem so preposterous. Which is why we know God had to have a hand in it. I mean, God actually told Gideon his army should be smaller so the odds were so incredibly against them, they could only give credit to God.

Probably my favorite part of all is the dream the man in the Midianite camp had involving the barley loaf coming in and destroying everything.

One, because the mental image of a loaf of bread being that powerful and actually causing fear is just a bit funny. Two, because the meaning behind it is quite fascinating. A loaf a barley bread was considered not the greatest food of the time. Perhaps the Ramen noodles of the day. And it was an interesting way for God to show Gideon to trust Him, that his army could win this battle as they were the equivalent of a little barley loaf. So often throughout the Bible, God uses people/ things the rest of the world sees as insignificant. Really, no glory can be attributed to anyone but God because nothing could be accomplished without Him.

(A side note on the cartoon: I realize the barley loaf is saying "Midians" when the correct term would be "Midianites". This is actually intentional as a barley loaf would be uneducated. Yes, I have thought too much about this.)

Friday, April 11, 2008

What would Gideon think?

I was reading Judges 7 and 8 recently and thinking about how improbable it was. Gideon's army of 300 men defeating one of over 120,000??? How? Is it my Christian duty to believe this?

(Sidenote: I'd never seen this movie 300 but got all excited because I thought it was about this section of the OT. Apparently that's not the case. Woulda been cool though)

(Especially since multiple people have told me I look egg-zactly like one of the main characters)

Soon thereafter, I started thinking about whether I actually believe every word of the Bible. Ten foot tall giants felled by a slingshot? A man hanging out in a whale's mouth for three days? Every living organism crowded onto a single ark? Seemed pretty improbable. Did I really believe in ALL of it?

Then I mulled it over from the other person's point of view. Would Gideon believe that I could sit here at my dining room table, typing on a white box that could somehow transmit my words to every corner of the globe? Would he believe there are faster means of transportation than walking or riding donkeys? I mean, just think of all this stuff. Driving in cars. Watching movies. Flying across the country in five hours. Taking a pill to help your headache disappear. Pressing a few buttons and being able to unfreeze food.

Point is, I know I tend to view these events from thousands of years ago as being completely unlikely and borderline false. But what would Gideon (or any Biblical character) think if he were reading about my life? Would the technological age make any sense to him? Somehow I'd imagine this seems improbable as well.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Too Busy to Notice

I heard about this story on NPR the other day where, as an experiment, they placed a professional violinist in the Metro station posing as a street performer to see how people would react. Obviously, the music was beautiful, but the overwhelming majority of people did not stop or take any notice. After a stellar performance, a grand total of $32 was all he made. The main observation was that most people were just too busy or focused on anything else to pay attention.

This reminded me of awhile back when we were discussing the homeless population and the majority of people refuse to even look them in the eye. We've become apathetic and ignore the poor, the street performers, the people begging on the street. But just like the people at the Metro station missed an amazing, beautiful performance I think there's so many times I miss something really beautiful too. Each of these people has a story, has a life, and is loved by God. I should take more time to listen.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

I wonder if the Rose Garden was in 2 Samuel somewhere

You know that feeling when you were a little kid and your school was on the local news? I think I found the church equivalent. There, I was, innocently reading Judges 4, when I stumbled upon verse 6:

She sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Napthali and said to him, "The LORD, the God of Israel, commands you: 'Go, take with you ten thousand men of Napthali and Zebulun and lead the way to Mount Tabor.'

If you don't think I said "Mount Tabor" aloud while exaltedly lifting my arms over my head, you don't know me very well.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

There are three things which Leisha hates, yes, four which are an abomination to her

my own lazy assI've been convicted consistently over the past few weeks that I need to get my butt up in the morning in time to spend some quality time with God. Yet, consistently I wake up when my alarm goes off, and talk myself into snoozing for ten more minutes, sometime like, twenty times! What is up with that? One the one hand I think "just try harder!", but that's just not what God wants from me. He wants me to desire that time with Him, to look forward to it as a precious part of my day. Unfortunately, Pastor Pillow is sooo seductive, which leads me to...

My addiction to comfort
This is something I've been battling for ages, this addiction to making my life as child-proofed as possible. No sharp edges, no places where I might fall and get a boo-boo, no discomfort of any kind. It reminds me of this Archie comic tract thing I saw one time where Archie's car breaks down and he and Jughead end up at this creepy mansion (all Dracula-slash-Hotel California style) where all of their desires are offered them. Archie is sent to this room full of cushions and beautiful women who feed him grapes, and Jughead is sent to this room full of food, all of his favorites. Eventually they come to realize that it's a prison, and escape by the power of Jesus somehow. (I'm a little fuzzy on that part, although the owner of the house was called Beelzebub.) Anyway, I see my life very much like that prison cell full of pillows and cushions where the more I settle in and get comfortable, the more isolated I become from the real world, and more resistant I am to change, especially change that attacks...

How cool I apparently think I am
A couple of weeks ago in church I was struck by the amazing potential God has put in me. I mean, if I were wholly submitted to God, He could do phenomenal things through me. I think of the incredible work that He's done through truly humble vessels, and I marvel that He could do amazing things in and through me as well. Even my imagination of what that could be is only a tiny fragment of God's imagination for me, but that fragment astounds me. As I was envisioning that, I was struck with the thought "What is it about me now that I think is so cool that I'm fighting to maintain this current state?" Apparently there's something about me now that I am so impressed with that I would rather preserve it than to abandon all and just run hard after Jesus, but in reality, that something is nothing. There is nothing about me now that I can boast in, because what is good is already a gift from God, and what is bad is ugly and petty.

If only knowing these things in my head was enough to make them active in my life, but alas, it's not.

Oh, yeah, the fourth abomination:

Eating a supposedly healthy snack, a fruit cup, then finding this on the back

Seriously?! It's the fifth ingredient behind the chunks of fruit, but AHEAD of the cherries! Also, this pre-packaged serving is not, in fact, one serving, but two. Why? What the crap is the point of putting two servings in one un-resealable package?! (Who knew fruit could enrage me so much?)