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Location: Dallas, Texas, United States
Interests: Theology, Reading, Cooking, Travel, the Arts
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Ordinarily my blog entries tend to take the form of devotionals – a little scripture, a little reflection, a little admonition. They aren’t normally quite as personal as this one will be, but I wanted to share something that God has been showing me recently that is really changing the way I approach my daily walk. Simply put, He’s shown me this:
The devil doesn’t have to get us to believe a lie, he just has to find a way to distract us with it for long enough that we lose our focus.
I don’t know how your personal walk of faith works on a daily basis, but I know what mine is like. And personally, I know I’ve spent a lot of time in my life informing the devil that I wasn’t going to believe his lies, and that he didn’t have any power over me, and that I was a child of God and he’d better stop trying to convince me otherwise because I wasn’t going to believe him no matter what. Did you see what I said there? I’ve spent a lot of time…
I’ve heard pastors, Bible study leaders and friends encouraging one another not to believe the lies of the devil – and that’s absolutely right. We shouldn’t believe the lies the devil throws at us. However, neither should we be spend so much time being reactive in our faith that we forget to be proactive.
Actively pursuing God in the context of this life that He has given us is a completely different thing from just living life based on what we already know about Him. I believe that the spiritual powers of darkness that the Bible refers to are aware of this – that it’s not even necessary to get us to believe a lie if we allow ourselves to be pushed down the road of distraction. And I know that I’ve allowed myself to be pushed that way far too many times.
The interesting thing about this is that I’ve been a Christian long enough now that I absolutely know what the truth is. If you asked me if I believe that I am a child of God and that I am fully and wholly loved, I would answer, “Yes!” 100% of the time. And I don’t believe that anything the devil throws at me is really convincing me to the contrary. So why, then, have I spent so many hours of my life informing the devil of things he already knows, and I technically already believe?
I really think it’s for this reason: If the devil can get us to spend a lot of time informing him of what we both already know to be true, he can keep us from deepening our understanding of God in new ways. He can keep us from experiencing the infinity of God.
I believe that God loves me. But do I understand every facet of what that means? Absolutely not. I believe that I am a child of God. But do I understand every aspect of that relationship? Absolutely not. I believe that I can find complete wholeness in God. But do I understand every detail of what true wholeness is? Absolutely not.
What I am realizing (and hopefully you can see too) is that what I should be focusing the majority of my time on as a believer is not what I already know about God but is what I do not yet know about God.
How often, when we are battling temptation or difficulties, or even just living our daily walk of faith, do we actually take time to contemplate the infinity of our God?
Ephesians 6:11-17 is the passage we usually run to when we talk about battling the devil. We love these verses, with their incredible imagery of the Christian in full armor, fending off the darts thrown by an evil archenemy. Verse 16 of that passage reads, “In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.” We usually think of this shield as faith in the sense of what we already know – the Bible verses or truths we quote when we’re tempted or when we face grief or pain or struggle.
But what if this faith that is our shield isn’t supposed to only consist of what we already know? What if we intentionally set out to make this shield of faith a living thing in our lives that grows daily? And what if we looked at every attack as a new opportunity to discover how infinite that shield can really be?
If God is infinite, then our relationship with Him also exist in an infinity of possibility. If we ignore God’s infinity, we lose something vital to the growth of our faith. We might not be able to fully grasp the infinity of God, but we do need to recognize it and embrace it. For me, the practical application of what I’ve been discussing above is this:
I will no longer be content that what I know of God is enough, and react to attacks by asking, “What do I already know about God that can help me survive this situation?” Rather, I will proactively and intentionally seek a fuller understanding of who God is on a daily basis, and when I do encounter attacks I will ask God, “What new aspects of Yourself are you going to show me through this?”
I believe that this can be a revolutionary way of thinking in our Christian walk, because it means that in every single circumstance, the focus remains on who God is. If even the temptations and struggles of life are seen as opportunities to experience the infinity of our God, then the devil literally no longer has any power at all. Even his attempted distractions won’t have the intended affect because they will propel us even further into relationship with the Lord.
This is not a way of living life that we can achieve overnight. It will require sacrifice, and discipline, and time – but there is nothing more worthy of our focus. Nothing, and no one, more worthy than our infinite God.
Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about cleansing rites, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so.
1 Corinthians 2:9-10
“What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”— the things God has prepared for those who love him— these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.
I know that I've probably posted this poem before; it just seems to have an unusually strong grip on me. It's one of the few pieces of poetry that I have memorized, and I return to it over and over. Last night I was quoting it to myself again. I think I will forever be struck by this as an example of the fact that throughout history we have all been struggling with the same emotions; I don't understand how this is possible, but it is. Although the words are antiquated, the sentiment comes through as clearly and with as much impact today as it would have in the 16th century.
Take a minute to read it; if you've ever struggled with feeling helpless in your Christian walk, this should speak directly to you. And if it does, reflect on the fact that you are not alone - you have centuries of saints walking beside you with the same desperation to be utterly conquered by the Divine.
BATTER my heart, three person'd God; for, you
As yet but knocke, breathe, shine, and seeke to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow mee,'and bend
Your force, to breake, blowe, burn and make me new.
I, like an usurpt towne, to'another due,
Labour to'admit you, but Oh, to no end,
Reason your viceroy in mee, mee should defend,
But is captiv'd, and proves weake or untrue.
Yet dearely'I love you,'and would be loved faine,
But am betroth'd unto your enemie:
Divorce mee,'untie, or breake that knot againe;
Take mee to you, imprison mee, for I
Except you'enthrall mee, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish mee.
By John Donne
It's the most wonderful time of the year. At least that's my own version of it. I'm not talking about Christmas, or New Year's Day, but rather of that lovely portion of the calendar year that bears the title "Baseball Season".
If you had told me a few years ago that I would be sitting watching multiple baseball games a month in 2006, I would probably have jumped off a bridge in an effort to avoid that fate. But when Amy got sick and ended up in the hospital right around the same time that the Yankees were in the World Series battling the Marlins, everything came together in a very unexpected way. I found myself sitting with her in the hospital and, later, in our living room, watching baseball with every intention of learning to enjoy it. All because both of us needed something to be happy about - something to find some joy in.
But then perhaps it came naturally.
My great-grandmother, Lena, was a diehard Yankees fan. She was born in 1900, so I suppose Amy and I can claim a subconcious return to family history as a good reason for our sudden obsession with the Bronx Bombers, though in truth the decision was influence more by a southpaw pitcher and his best friend than anything else. The heritage plea just makes our random choice seem a bit more valid.
To say that we actually fell in love with the game of baseball first would be a bit of an exaggeration. It's more accurate to say that we fell in love with the characters in the game before the statistics began to matter. Now, however, by the halfway mark of each season we can quote batting averages for most of our starting lineup, know the number of runs scored by our favorite players (not just Yankees, either) and the ERA for at least a dozen pitchers in both leagues.
My dad teases us that we only like the players that we think are hot, but we would counter it by pointing out that in no known universe would anyone classify star pitchers Randy Johnson, Roy Oswalt and John Smoltz as "hot" unless referring to their pitching expertise, and we pay as much attention to their numbers as to those of the excessively more attractive Johan Santana, Andy Pettite, Mark Mulder, and Mike Mussina. We have been known to catcall certain players, but for their sakes I'll leave them nameless...what they (and you) don't know won't hurt them.
So this year when Spring Training started, the first thing I did was to buy tickets to a Yankees-Tigers game in Lakeland, and Amy and I drove the two and a half hours to sit in direct sunlight behind two men who between them raised the stock of the Miller Light company by several points that day, eat pizza that really didn't deserve the name, and watch our Yankees take the field. And we loved it. Every hot, sun-drenched, sunscreen-filled moment of it.
For me, baseball represents entertainment and excitement and an opportunity to enjoy something that is ever changing, but it's more than that.
When Amy got sick, and I realized how much I cared about her, and how much I couldn't bear to lose her, spending time watching baseball games with her, memorizing stats so we could discuss them, and learning the names of the children of men I'll never meet, became my way of expressing that. It might be silly; it might be a cop-out; it might be an outcropping of my hesitancy to express it in a more sentimental way. But it is my way, and it is the reason I love baseball.
I don't believe I'll ever be able to watch a baseball game without thinking of my sister and that horrible year. But I wouldn't trade that for anything.
I am currently trying to think of ways to warm up my fingers, which are fast becoming icicles in the frigid air of our office - we really have to find a happy medium between Arctic and Gobi Desert climates.
I've been wishing this week that my passion for my work was as great as my passion for my hobbies. It's not that I don't enjoy my job, but I just don't thrive on it. I know that I'm here for a purpose, and I know I've learned a lot from the experience, but my heart is somewhere else.
I think it's best illustrated by the fact that last night when I got home (tired) from a really long day at work, I decided that I wanted to cook a full meal. So my lovely mother agreed to help me and we made mashed potatoes, steamed broccoli, baked chicken with stuffing, cranberry sauce and a pumpkin pie. It was Thanksgiving in the wrong week of November, I know, but I had a "hankering" and it just had to happen. And while I was putting the meal together and cooking I was perfectly happy and could have kept on going for hours. It's always that way when I cook. I feel more completely awake and alert when I'm working in a kitchen than I do at any other time. And I get more satisfaction out of a well-made meal, no matter how simple, than I do out of successfully coordinating a huge event. Don't ask me why - it's simply the way I'm wired. I find watching people enjoy a meal I made so completely fulfilling it's almost silly.
Someday, I know, I'll see why I'm built this way. Right now I just wish I had a way to share it with more people, but finances and the fact that I don't live alone are a bit of a hindrance.
I just wish I had the same excitement about my work. I'm praying that God helps me to see what He is teaching me and helps me to see people as He sees them - through a heart of love and compassion. I'm not too strong on compassion most days, nor on mercy, but I'm just trusting that God is creative enough to figure out how to start my heart in that direction.
Well, it's happened again. Proof that I'm human. Yesterday I forgot to take care of a small item at work and as a result I inconvenienced some of our most faithful volunteers. I feel terrible about it, though there isn't anything I can do to change it now. I've given them my apologies in the most sincere way I could, and can only hope they'll forgive me for it.
This morning I was praying before I got ready for work, and I used the phrase, "give me presence of mind." I stopped after those words and thought for a minute about what that phrase means. Usually it's meant to indicate a full awareness of a person's environment and a consciousness of surroundings. But when I used it in prayer I realized that it was the wrong phrase - that what I really wanted the most was not to have "presence of mind", but to have His presence IN my mind.
When I operate in my own "presence of mind", I'm left shaking my head over small forgetful moments like the one yesterday. I find myself frustrated because simply being conscious of my current environment doesn't take care of the stress that goes along with it, and my human brain still has gaps in its operation. No matter how hard I try, no matter how intently I focus, I am bound to lose my temper sometime or forget something that is small to me but strategic in someone else's life. Having His presence in my mind means that all my experiences, all the things in my environment, every thought and every action of the day is filtered through His infinite store of wisdom and grace. How amazing to think about what the result will be if I can learn to invite His presence in my mind every day.