So… what do you want to do with that?

What do you want to do with that degree?
Is this [job] what you were hoping to do as a career?
How long are you planning to stay?

The questions we ask people about life, whether it be careers, marriage, children, hobbies, etc… often are the wrong questions to ask.  During day one of orientation for my Master’s degree at Dallas Theological Seminary I was asked numerous times, “What degree program are you in?” closely followed by the question, “Oh, great, so what do you hope to do with that?”  Or, “What kind of ministry are you planning to serve in after you finish?”

So many of our questions are leading questions.  We intend to lead people to a specific type of answer.  An answer that belongs in a neatly organized box.  And not only that, but these questions do not focus on the heart of who the person we are conversing with, rather, we are forcing people to answer in a particular way so that we can categorize them.

Since my move here to Seoul, I have been asked too many times, “Oh, so is this job what you were wanting to do when you attended seminary?”

Um, no.  It isn’t.  Wasn’t.

I had no clue I would be here.
I have no clue how long I will be here.
I have no clue where I will go next.

God only knows.

And that’s the thing about all our grand plans: they aren’t ours.  We can plan all day until our faces are blue and our fingers are bleeding with callouses: we cannot know the future.

Proverbs rightly reminds us: “A person plans his course, but the Lord directs his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9, NET)

Advertisements

loss

The more days I travel as a pilgrim on this earth, the more I am convinced of this truth: to live is to lose.  As young children, somehow we think we can grasp and hold onto the things of this life, but to me now as an adult, loss seems to mark my journey more than gains.

Yet.

Yet.

The only loss we will not have as followers of Christ is just that: Himself.

The time we spend earning more material possessions or working hard to maintain our neat squares of grass called “yards”… less time we have to spend with the One who will carry our souls into eternity.  Where yes, we will spend the rest of time, until there is no more time.  Forever.  With Him.

God.  The triune God.  Father, Son and Spirit.

The more time we spend on this earth being quiet before Him, and allowing those “things of earth” to grow “strangely dim”… He will become more beautiful to us.

He will become that which we desire most in this life.

And that my friends, is GAIN.

“Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Ps. 34:4)

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt. 6:33)

d04412ad24ac33107842eda1430bf595

Throwing away old bras

I was raised in a frugal family. There you have it.

I have three younger sisters and I can recall in seventh grade only having two “cool” shirts and one pair of ultra cool wide-legged jeans (seriously, “classic” fit or “skinny” jeans were NOT cool!). I always hoped Mom would do laundry on Tuesdays so I could rotate and wear the two cool shirts again Wednesday and Thursday, and then of course Fridays we had to wear dresses to chapel, so I could some how put together a semi-cool looking chapel dress. On one occasion, I remember on a Saturday not having anything clean to wear that was “cool” so I threw on a pair of pink colored jeans and a non-cool shirt to make a trip over to Wal-Mart. To my complete horror and utter embarrassment, one of the popular girls was also there, shopping with her Mom.

Yes, I hid in the aisle.

We were on a budget.

So along these lines, I have this habit of never really throwing clothes away as a result of growing up in such a money-conscious family. I’m not a pack rat, I can throw things away, but clothes, that’s a different story.

Same thing with bras. (Sorry, maybe not so sorry if you’re offended by this post, but it’s true). I have so many bras that have been washed, rewashed, and then worn over and over again. Think about it, you wear a bra every day, so of course it’s going to get used a LOT.

Over time, these rather essential female undergarments get extremely worn out. Stretched. Sweat upon. Then there’s body fluctuations: weight gain, weight loss. All these things play into a bra really being treated poorly. Sorry there little guys.

I have a few bras I’ve been wearing for way too long, but, how could I possibly throw them away? Tossing one of those into the garbage can like a dirty tissue, then letting it sit there so every time I go into the bathroom and see it sitting there I hear it crying out: How could you do this to me after all we have been through? Why are you getting rid of me? Don’t you ever want to see me again? Let me give you another lift!!!

But you see, just like these bras I really need to toss into the garbage, tie the bag, walk out to the garbage bin and say: SAYONARA!, there are also many things like people, attitudes, fears, worries etc that we tend to keep around way too long in our lives, can I get an amen? We keep them around for security. What will my life be like without this person? Or, Can I really live with freedom instead of fear? Or…. the list goes on. Excuses to keep things around that honestly don’t belong in our lives in the first place.

Why do we hold onto these things?

There are probably many reasons, but one big reason: fear.
We humans fear the unknown.
We fear what we cannot control.
We fear that letting go of something that has become a security blanket for us, and we simply cannot imagine living without it. Him. Her. Security. Meaning. Future. Past. Pain. Worry.

So, I cannot promise anything. Letting go is scary, I know this. I’ve walked through this… BUT, we serve a God who is constant. Unchanging. Ever present. WILL NOT LET GO OF US.

Sometimes we are asked to give things up that we think are “good” but actually are not good at all. They serve a purpose of comfort for us, but ultimately may have no purpose in the greater story of our lives. They may be holding us back from what truly is GOOD for us, not just “good.”

This is not a sermon or exegetical paper, so don’t take these verses to mean I’m saying they directly can be interpreted or applied to what I’m speaking about. But let’s consider: God gives only good, that is His determination of what is Good, to us.

Psalm 34:8-10
Taste and see that the Lord is good.
How happy is the man who takes refuge in Him!
You who are His holy ones, fear Yahweh,
for those who fear Him lack nothing.
Young lions lack food and go hungry,
but those who seek the Lord
will not lack any good thing.

Philippians 4:4-7
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Romans 8:28
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

 

Now, I might still get a few more uses out of my old bras – don’t judge me, it takes time for me to let go of certain things!  But, can we learn to let go and trust the Lord in those areas of our lives where He is asking us to open our strong grasp on things that may not be ours to hold onto at all?

Beginnings

My time spent away from blogging more than just songs or devotional thoughts quoted from other authors has not been without reason.  And definitely not because I don’t have anything to say.  If anything, I have more to say now than ever before in my life.  And it would probably be an incredibly beneficial act as a Graduate Seminary student to craft some of the Bible and Theology I’ve been taught into my own words.  I also am in a journalism class that will likely be a huge contribution to my stress level this semester, but could possibly transform me into a better writer than I’ve ever been.  The book we’re reading now continues to stress that it is important to write regularly, and blog regularly.  Both I have failed miserably at recently.

This is an attempt to change my silent, non-blogging days into days filled with words.

We will see how long this lasts.

Time is quickly passing, just life, and time tonight.  My mind always comes alive in the early hours of the night.  I continue to blame this on “never really getting off West Coast time.”

My simple thought for tonight comes from the book of Genesis, in the first couple chapters of the book.  My Old Testament Professor has spent the first three weeks of this semester carefully navigating the first handful of chapters of the Bible.  The experience has been one of beauty and wonder.

Examining the fall, in Genesis chapter 3, there are a great number of questions we can ask the text as we study and look at it.  One of the most perplexing to me has been: where did evil come from?  The enemy of God, the serpent in this portion of scripture, wasn’t “created”; it simply is introduced as a character in the narrative.  Many argue the “old age earth” position, saying that this specific description of creation was a second creation, leaving a great deal of room for imagination to step back and consider about all the possibilities.  

Regardless of where evil and the enemy of God came from, it is beautiful to see the relationship between God and mankind in the garden; simply amazing knowing God walked with Adam and Eve.  God provided for every one of their needs, and they shared in deep, personal relationship with Him.  

The picture painted of God caring for mankind, who was made in his own image is one I long for today.  Theologians speculate about the change that happened after the fall for humans.  Did our God-likeness change?  Relationships?  Diet?  Atmosphere?  Needs?  Some of those questions are addressed and answered as the narrative of Genesis is told, but the relationship between God and man certainly was no longer what it was in the garden, in the beginning.

At this point it would be easy to pull out the “Jesus” card and talk about Christ as our mediator in our relationship with God.  But.  I’m not going to.  I think it is important to ponder these opening chapters of the Bible and simply consider.  Ask questions.  Wonder.

Image

Holy Week

      For the next week, I will (hopefully) be daily posting scripture readings, and book or quote excerpts leading up to Easter, on Sunday morning.  This time of year is one that resonates deeply in my heart, but part of the journey to Easter morning, with the experience of joy celebrating the risen Christ, is walking through Holy Week, which can often be shadowed by darkness.  Jesus Christ endured the cross, and went to the depths of Hell, the rose again in order to save us.

      We cannot fully worship the risen Savior until we understand the depth of our humanity and sin.  I look forward to the joy of Sunday morning, and worshipping in freedom.  I hope these next few days will bring light to your eyes, and turn hearts to Christ, and understanding more his immense love for us.

—–

Ephesians 2:13-16. “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  For he himself is our peace who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.”

—–

From A Letter of Consolation, by Henri J.M. Nouwen: “During this Holy Week we are confronted with death more than during any other season of the liturgical year. We are called to mediate not just on death in general or on our own death in particular, but on the death of Jesus Christ who is God and Man. We are challenged to look at Him dying on a cross and to find there the meaning of our own life and death. What strikes me most in all that is read and said during these days is that Jesus of Nazareth did not die for himself, but for us, and that in following Him we too are called to make our death a death for others.

What makes you and me Christians is not only our belief that He who was without sin died for our sake on the cross and thus opened for us the way to His heavenly Father, but also that through His death our death is transformed from a totally absurd end of all that gives life its meaning into an event that liberates us and those whom we love.

—–

From In Search of the Beyond by Carlo Coretto: “Jesus became a sacrament  for me, the cause of my salvation, he brought my time in hell to an end, and put a stop to my inner disintegration.  He washed me patiently in the waters of baptism, he filled me with the exhilarating joy of the Holy Spirit in confirmation, he nourished me with the bread of his word.  Above all, he forgave me, he forgot everything, he did not even wish me to remember my past myself.

When, through my tears, I began to tell him something of the years during which I betrayed him, he lovingly placed his hand over my mouth in order to silence me.  His one concern was that I should muster courage enough to pick myself up again, to try and carry on walking in spite of my weakness, and to believe in his love in spite of my fears.  But there was one thing he did, the value of which cannot be measured, something truly unbelievable, something only God could do.

While I continued to have doubts about my own salvation, to tell him that my sins could not be forgiven, and that justice, too, had its rights, he appeared on the Cross before me one Friday towards midday.

I was at its foot, and found myself bathed with the blood which flowed from the gaping holes made in his flesh by the nails.  He remained there for three hours until he expired.

I realized that he had died in order that I might stop turning to him with questions about justice, and believe instead, deep within myself, that the scales had come down overflowing on the side of love, and that even though all….through unbelief or madness, had offended him, he had conquered forever, and drawn all things everlastingly to himself.”

—–

Psalm 31:13-17

For I hear the whispering of many–
terror on every side!–
as they scheme together against me,
as they plot to take my life.
But I trust in you, O LORD;
I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hand;
rescue me from the hands of my enemies
and from my persecutors!
Make your face shine on your servant;
save me in your steadfast love!
O LORD, let me not be put to shame,
for I call upon you;
let the wicked be put to shame;
let them go silently to Sheol.

the paradox

One of the greatest mysteries
is the revealed
and the concealed, in life.

We serve a God of mystery and concealment,
but also a God of revelation,
who longs to reveal himself
to us.

But life continues to be filled with the juxtaposition of paradox.
We live in the mystery.
We live in the concealed.
The veil.  We live behind the veil.

Life is simple.  We can choose to live in faith, or we can choose to live in fear.
One of the great paradoxes.
Because if we do not actively choose faith
by default,
we have already chosen fear.

Our world wants to live in fear.  In the “what ifs?” and the “maybes”.
In the “30% chance this” or “1 in every 8 people that”

But the truth is we are all dying.  One way or the other.
Every breath is a second chance.

I’m beginning to see life differently.
It wasn’t that I chose fear in other times,
but there have certainly been many times that I did not choose what I should have:
Faith.

So, I choose to believe.
No matter what the outcome
no matter what the percentage
no matter what the cost.
I’m choosing faith.

Faith that HE is bigger than my humanity
Faith that mountains can be moved
Faith that HE is right beside me
Faith to believe HE has me exactly where I’m supposed to be

We walk by faith, not by sight.