Investing in the right talents

It just occurred to me that some gifts, though flashy and useful now in the present, will become useless when we are in heaven in the future. Prophecy has no use or place when we are home and fully in the presence of God.

Therefore, let us focus on the gifts that will echo into eternity and never be useless – the skill of loving each other well.

May we never be so consumed with being important and useful that we lose sight of the need of loving a neighbor well.

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The call of something different

It was almost too tempting to title this entry the call of the wild.

I’ve been thinking more about what I’m best suited for in this growing and changing world. As social media, smartphones and instant everything paves the pace for the future, I find myself feeling more and more at ease. I am entering into some kind of adrenaline inspired comfort zone. I say this even because (not in spite of) I’m journaling with pen and paper in Starbucks, while checking email, twitter, and writing this post. And it energizes me.

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Forced Solitude

Jesus went up on the mountain to pray
-somewhere in the New Testament (many locations)

I’ve heard enough of Jesus going up on the mountain to pray. I get it. It’s a good idea. Get some solitude, chill with God the Father, and get away from the hubub of all them people following him around asking him for stuff. It’s a common message among any church or fellowship group… anywhere.

But why did Jesus go up on the mountain? What I mean is, why didn’t he just… go in the basement somewhere, hide in a closet, etc? You mean to tell me he couldn’t just walk outside of town and climb a tree or find a cave or something?

As I found myself struggling to isolate myself today, I realized that it isn’t as easy as it seems. Yes, shutting off my phone was difficult and I definitely reopened my facebook several times. But aside from that, when I finally got away from everything, I landed on my knees and tried to pray. And it was hard. It was hard to focus and really connect with Jesus. Like some kind of mental fog-barrier that prevented me from even finding the words to speak.

So that led me to wonder, why did Jesus climb a mountain when he could have just hidden in a field? Did the act of ascending an incline help the process? Did the physical exertion of pulling himself up clear his mind and free it for communion? Maybe the journey itself did in fact matter.

I did manage to have a pretty cool prayer time today. But I do wonder if it would have been different had I spent 30 minutes in solitude just climbing a hill before praying. I suspect that it would have been a whole different experience entirely.

I hope to test out this theory sometime this week. If I do, I’ll be sure to note it here.

A beautiful day

I have been tossing around and developing an idea for the better part of 2+ weeks. Admittedly, for the past week, I wrestled with whether or not it was worth pursuing, and how it might be received when implemented. Throughout the course of this day, though, I realized that I did not have it in me to resist this idea. There is something… right about sharing and giving. At this point in my life, I just can’t help myself. (Although, 5 years ago, I don’t think I would have thought or felt the same). There is a joy in sharing/giving that I cannot yet describe in words. It simply must be done.
The idea will be put to action. The results… well, I guess I’ll see what happens.
Today was a beautiful day. It was too nice to not be shared.

Half full

I don’t typically think of myself as an optimist. I would prefer to think of myself as a realist. It feels more respectable.

Today I am filled with a yearning. On a day where I have been given freedom, I am in search of beauty and things to enjoy and appreciate. With only a few hours available to me, it doesn’t matter that the weather is terrible outside or that I have no idea where I am going. There is so much beauty in the world and I am going to avail myself to it.

…there is so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing it all at once, and it’s too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst… And then i remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain …and i can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life…

Embracing the chains for Christ

“One of our workers in the underground Church was a young girl. The Communist police discovered that she secretly spread Gospels and taught children about Christ. They decided to arrest her. But to make the arrest as agonizing and painful as they could, they decided to delay her arrest a few weeks, until the day she was to be married. On her wedding day, the girl was dressed as a bride – the most wonderful, joyous day in a girl’s life! Suddenly, the door burst open and the secret police rushed in.

When the bride saw the secret police, she held out her arms toward them to be handcuffed. They roughly put the manacles on her wrists. She looked toward her beloved, then kissed the chains and said, “I thank my heavenly Bridegroom for this jewel he has presented to me on my marriage day. I thank Him that I am worthy to suffer for Him.” She was dragged off, with weeping Christians and a weeping bridegroom left behind. They knew what happens to young Christian girls in the hands of Communist guards. Her bridegroom faithfully wait for her. After five years she was released – a destroyed, broken woman, looking thirty years older. She said it was the least she could do for her Christ. Such beautiful Christians are in the Underground Church.”
Passage from Tortured for Christ, by Richard Wurmbrand
When I read this on the plane, I started to weep. The little boy beside me looked up at me wondering why I was so emotional with what I was reading. I wish… I wish I had words to say at that moment. To share this gospel that we have…this Christ. But I was at a loss. I was grieved at the injustice and the atrocities for sure; the book is not shy about mentioning some of the horrors that happened under the Communist regime. But I think what struck me the most was the hope that was stolen from her that day (from my privileged Western perspective, the hope of marriage, love and purity) and the juxtaposition against the fact that her hope was, in fact, not stolen from her. She kissed her chains. She thanked her heavenly Father. She chose the cross, as her Saviour once did. And she received her cross with joy. Such bravery, such faith. It is a beautiful thing… and yet… how my heart grieved so.

Three thoughts in response to a reading

“As in the book of Daniel when the three young men who were put in the furnace did not smell like fire upon being delivered from it, so the Christians who have been in Communist prisons don’t smell like bitterness against the communists.

A flower, if you bruise it under your feet, rewards you by giving you its perfume. Likewise Christians, tortured by Communists, rewarded their jailors by love. We brought many of our jailors to Christ. And we are dominated by one desire: to give Communists who have made us suffer the best we have, the salvation that comes from our Lord Jesus Christ.”
–Richard Wurmbrand, founder of Voice of the Martyrs
from Tortured for Christ
I take three things away from this passage. The first is for me right now. The second is for me and for others; an analogy to be shared. The third I have known all along, and yet fail to practice with consistency and integrity.
1) Do not become what you are immersed in. I can not be tainted or covered by something I am even intensely affected by. I must wear the coat of Christ love to repel such things, so that they do not become stuck to me. I must fan into flame the fire of Christ inside, that I may stay the same. Do not become corrupted. Be set apart. be holy.
2) When we are crushed, what does it reveal inside of us? Is it anger? is it bitterness? Is it love? Is it grace? With what do we color the foot that stomps on us? Am I the flower that perfumes the foot that stomps me? Or am I the bitter root that leaves the stink of anger and resentment?
3) Do I respond in love to the people who hurt me? Even worse, the people who intentionally hurt me? We excuse ourselves when we offend someone by saying “it was not my intent,” but this is wrong on two levels.
Firstly, intentional or not, we must own our wrongs and the offenses we give. We must make reconciliation and if applicable, recompense. A man who runs over his neighbor’s dog does not excuse himself by telling the boy it was unintentional. Is that much better than if it were? What consolation does this offer the boy who has lost a cherished pet and friend? The man must acknowledge the wrong he had committed and the grief he has caused.
Secondly, the person affected by a wrong must not be hung up on whether something is forgivable based on intent. Ultimately, we are called to forgive. To hold on to anger and unforgiveness hurts everyone: Christ, the offender, and the offended. I once heard that unforgiveness is like swallowing poison and waiting for the offender to die. Unforgiveness may affect the offender, but it will never harm him as much as the one who withholds forgiveness.
All of this is an aside. All offenders, intentional or not, are our enemies at the moment the offense is given. How we respond to our momentary enemy reveals our heart. Do we love this enemy? Do we see him as Christ sees him? Do we see in him the imago dei (image of God)? Do we see Christ in him, whom Christ himself suggested we should provide a drink of water? Or do we see him as an enemy. An offender. An invader of our boundaries and a destroyer of our peace? Is he an adversary whom we must steel ourselves against? Do we raise up the walls of defense? Or worse yet, are the words of the counter-assault already on our lips before we know what we are saying?
How do we react to our enemy-in-the-moment? Do we love him or hate him? Do we give him the best we have?