Sunday, February 28, 2010

Fencing My Garden

So I fenced my garden in New Home this afternoon.

This is an admittance of sorts, a realization and affirmation that we are here for a while. I had planted a winter garden of course - I've become a gardening addict - but it was unfenced. The dog ran through it multiple times, undoubtedly knocking a few plants down. Still I waited, not wanting to admit the truth - that we are staying, at least for a time.

So I fenced it - ran the posts down we brought home from Old Home in December, and ran a 3 foot wire fence around the outside of it. When it was done, it looked more like a garden. I'm not sure what the magic of fencing is, but it works: I started with a place that I had planted some seeds this morning, I ended up with a garden.

But I ended up with more than a garden. I ended up with an affirmation that we are here, in the will of God at this time, somewhere other than where I expected. All from putting up a fence.

Pretty cool.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Avoiding Responsibility

It is disconcerting to realize that individuals at the top of any chain: work, school, other groups - know your name and are expecting things of you. Especially if you're the kind of person that does not particularly embrace responsibility for projects.

I theoretically enjoy projects. I like defined expected outcomes, the improvements that projects often create, the planning (O, how I love planning! The diagrams, the time lines, the visions of things being better) - but then when it comes to the execution of projects, I immediately tend to slow down or figure out what work I can outsource rather than plunging in. Why is this?

I would love to use the excuse that it is because I am too busy, and that I have burned in the past by putting in a great deal of effort to not be rewarded in the end. I would really like to say that. It's true, of course - but no more true than any other person, and there are just as many examples of handsome rewards for the effort. And, of course, not all rewards are financial.

No, the sad reality is that I too often am lazy. I make great plans, I even talk a great game, but then once the function of rolling up one's sleeves and getting to work occurs, I find reasons not to engage. Then, suddenly, when push comes to shove, I suddenly "realize" a reason that the project has to be much less in scope than what it was, and then have to "argue" that reason up the chain.

What would happen if, for once, I executed precisely the vision I had laid out?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Who am I?

I'm feeling out of control of my persona this morning Lord,
A compilation of thoughts and actions I never intended to become.
There are things I do which I do not understand,
And those that I do that I do not understand.
The good intentions I dream of I seldom do,
While those things that are less than desirable flow out and around me
Like slow, stagnant stream.

Who am I really: what I see and feel, or what I seek and dream?
Am I that one I aspire to, or the one that I find myself living with day after day?
Is the trajectory of my persona set straight into the air
Or is flat, clipping the treetops as I go over them?

Who am I: the man I long to be, or the man I am?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Prayer for Lent II

"All I have is Yours, and myself with it. Yet is is really You who serve me, rather than I You. Heaven and earth, which You created for the use of man, await Your pleasure and obey Your laws day by day. And even this is a little, for You appointed the very Angels to minister to men. But what surpasses all these, is that You Yourself stoop to serve man, and have promised him the gift of Yourself.

What return can I make for all these countless favours? If only I could serve You faithfully all the days of my life! If only could render You worthy service, even for a single day! For You alone are worthy of all service, honour, and eternal praise. You are truly my God, and I Your poor servant, who am bound to serve with all my powers, nor should I ever weary in Your praise. This is my wish and desire; whatever is lacking in me, I pray You to supply."

- Thomas A Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sowing and Soil

This morning in Mark 4 I read the parable of the sower and the four soils. It's a parable I must have read, heard, or heard taught on 200+ times. But, like so many things in else in God's word, something new caught my eye.

Your familiar with it, of course. A sower goes out to sow seed, which in the Ancient World would most likely have been pulling out handfuls of seed and tossing them. They land on four kind of soils: one by the field, where the seed got eaten; one on stony ground, where the plants initially grew but were then scorched by the sun due to lack of soil depth; one among thorns which grew but were then choked out, and one on fertile soil which yielded a crop. Christ then explains the four soils: the first is are people which hear the Word but whom Satan steals it away from; the second are those which hear the Word and initially receive it but give it no root in themselves and so it withers; the third are those who receive the Word but the cares and delights of the world choke it out, and the fourth are those who receive the Word and bear fruit.

But the thing that hit me this morning as I read it was twofold: the sower and the soil.

In our world of high tech and precision, the idea of a person just casting handfuls of seed is ridiculous and moronic. What a waste of seed, we cry - we have farm equipment that precisely plants each seed (we do, trust me - or look on the internet!) or we do precision plantings in our home gardens. What a waste of seed.

And secondly, what did this sower not get about where he was planting? He didn't know the difference between soils? If I look out my window, I can tell where there are rocks pointing out and where there is a good place of deep soil to plant. What kind of nutty farmer is this?

And then it hit me: I've always been confusing the sower for God. The sower is not God. The sower is us.

Everyone who is a professing Christian is the sower. But we're not the sower of our own land, where we intimately know every inch of soil; we're tenant sowing on another's soil, where all we can see is the new turned earth. We sow the Word of God by our deeds and our words. However, we are like the sower in the parable: we don't really know the condition of the soil which we are sowing on. It looks all the same to us, just as looking at people does not give us an insight into their inner nature.

In these situations, how do you insure the greatest return of your crop? By sowing as much as possible, because you never know what soil your seed will hit on or how fruitful it will be. We try and make our seed fall where we believe it will be most fruitful. There can be a time and a place for all things, even as Solomon says in Ecclesiastes 3. But too often we mistake timing for how much seed we should be liberally spreading.

The sower planted much because he knew that only by sowing much would he reap much. Would that we all sowed more.

Monday, February 22, 2010


"A person who doubts himself is like a man who would enlist in the ranks of his enemies and bear arms against himself." - Alexander Dumas

As I do a short mental inventory (as evidenced by this blog over time), I find that I swing between two extremes: complete confidence in my abilities and a readiness to start at things versus the sense of being completely unable to do anything. I'm sure if I looked a bit closer I could detect a rhythm involved, but regardless there is is.

Why is this? What causes me to oscillate between these two extremes, sometimes to the point where I feel unable to take any action?

Part of it (based on a poem from yesterday's sermon) is that I sometimes confuse what my part is and what God's part is.

The poem (I'll have to see if I can find it) had the lines "I asked God to give me happiness; He replied that He gave blessings and that happiness was my job. I asked God to take away my bad habits; He replied that he had given me the power, but I needed to get rid of them myself."

Sometimes I can get so wrapped up in the omnipotence of God that I forget that He is doing works in all His children but like any good father, He expects His children to do their part themselves. One does not learn to walk by always being picked up and lifted across the floor; one stand up, fall down, and repeat to learn the concept of walking.

All the things I want (or need) to do at this point in my life require some effort; they will not just fall into my lap. I have the desire, but desire without commitment equals frustration and depression. The inability to do these things then leads to doubting that one can ever do them, which leads to greater levels of depression and frustration.

How do I begin to combat this? I think I have to start on the (rather silly) level that nothing is ever really easy, but easy is not an indicator of God's pleasure or displeasure. As I posted earlier, if one starts with the concept that the purpose of our lives is To Advance The Kingdom of God, then things start to take their place not by their level of difficulty but by the question of if they advance God's Kingdom; if they do, difficulty is no excuse, if not, ease is no guarantee of lasting success.

If I used this as a metric, how would this control my oscillations?

Friday, February 19, 2010


"Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her 'Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?'

She, supposing Him to be the gardener, said to Him 'Sir, if You have carried Him away, tell me where You have laid Him, and I will take Him away.'

Jesus said to her 'Mary'.

She turned and said to Him 'Rabboni' (which is to say, Teacher).

Jesus said to her 'Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father, but go to My brethren and say to them 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to My God and your God.'" - John 20:14-17

It occurs to me that we often take for granted the power of Resurrection. We know the ending of course, so that helps. But do we really grasp the reality of Christ rising from the dead?

We're insulated from death in so many ways today. Death is something that often happens in movies but is bloodless, or carefully hidden from us and controlled through the societal mechanisms of mourning and funerals. Compare this to the recent disaster in Haiti, where Death literally stalked the streets and for one moment, the world was confronted by death in its raw, ugly form.

It's this death that the apostles and Mary were confronted with that day: the raw, bleeding tortured body of their Master, naked and crucified, wrapped and sealed in a tomb. Mary did not recognize Christ? It's quite likely that she wouldn't have, because she simply wasn't expecting to see Him - He was dead and His body was in no shape to appear as a man walking around normally. To see Him who you saw die, to see Him walking around normally and calling your name - how could Mary do aught but cling to Him?

And for us - if we truly understood death and its finality, the reality of eternal choices and the great gift we have been offered, how is it we can also do anything but be stunned, humbled, and accepting of it? How can we be passive about the offer to live beyond the grave, or in telling others about it?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Prayer for Lent

A Prayer for the Grace of Devotion

O Lord my God, You are my all and every good. And what am I, that I should presume to address You? I am the poorest of Your servants and a wretched worm, far more poor and worthless that I can ever realize or express. Yet, Lord, remember that I am nothing: I have nothing, and can do nothing. You alone are good, just, and holy; You can do all things, fill all things, bestow all things, leaving only the wicked empty-handed. Remember Your mercies, Lord, and fill my heart with Your grace, since it is Your will that none of Your works should be worthless. How can I endure this life of sorrows, unless You strengthen me with Your mercy and grace? Do not turn Your face from me; do not delay Your coming, nor withdraw Your consolation from me, lest my soul become like a waterless desert. Teach me, O Lord, to do Your will; teach me to live worthily and humbly in Your sight; for You are my Wisdom, who know me truly, and who knew before the world was made, and before I had my being.

- Thomas A'Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Dreams of Glory

I have had the unusual experience this year of being around when the Olympics (Winter, in this case) are occurring but (due to having no cable) have not seen them.

It is an odd experience, sitting down in the morning and evening and being bombarded electronically with pictures and personal stories and medal counts for something that you have no idea of, are not really following, and in which you do not have a great deal of interest. For example, this morning I opened up my e-mail and noticed that a young female snowboarder (US, I'm guessing) is pictured along with caption "Denied a medal four years ago due to a gaffe, she may be denied again".

Then it hit me, as the screen disappeared as I moved to my e-mail inbox, that this is exactly the same as our entire life here in comparison to eternity. We become caught up in our lives, our plans, our goals, thinking that they are the most important thing going on in the universe and that surely (if we were able to ask Him) God would see it that way too. Any bumps or errors we make along the way are surely justifiable and well understood.

What we fail so often to realize is that eternity is simply that: eternal. It is (in a very broken analogical way) the same as the Olympics: our lives are the two weeks the Olympics occur, eternity is the 3 years and 50 weeks when they are not occurring.

The Olympics will fade; at best the medals will appear on a wall or fireplace, the records kept until broken, the roar of the crowd quickly fading. Likewise for us Life is too quickly spent, the items we worked for all our lives fading to gray, the people around us forced to leave us as we travel on. Are our Dreams of Glory placed towards that which is truly lasting, or on a brief span of time that quickly disappears?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Action and Inaction

"No captain can do very wrong if he places his Ship alongside that of an enemy." - Admiral Lord Nelson

"But be doers of the Word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." - James 1:22

How often do we spend time wondering what to do instead of doing?

It seems to me that we spend a great deal of time as a society, indeed as a civilization, planning instead of doing. Planning is easy - it takes effort and resources, but it requires no decisions and no commitments up to the final point of making a choice.

Acting is hard. It means actually taking action, committing to a course and in some means, not committing to others. It means doing something rather than doing nothing.

For myself, how often have I spent planning what I will do, or should do, rather than doing? How often have I had the intention to do something great for God, when God really wants is for us to do something? "If you love me, keep my commandments" Christ says in John 14:15 - but keeping is again a form of doing rather than just hearing and pondering.

Life is short - indeed, shorter than any of us knows, and the Enemy of our souls would like nothing better than for us to spend our time thinking and considering and planning - anything but doing and keeping.

What to do? In some cases, the very simplest thing of all. With Nelson's quote, a captain in the British Navy, if he could do nothing else in battle, could at least move alongside an enemy to attack. In our work lives, we can at least do the one thing at hand. In our spiritual lives, we can at least work to do good to one person in the name of Christ.

A place to end? Not at all - there is always more that can be done and that, to the extent we are able, we should do more (time, once gone, cannot be recalled). But a very very good place to start.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Unseen War

As part of my trip last week, I picked up (from a used book store, no less) and read Randy Alcorn's Edge of Eternity. It is an allegory of sorts, a cross between Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan and The Pilgrim's Regress by C.S. Lewis.

It was a good and powerful book, one of those that makes you sit and think - a great deal - after you read it.

It follows the story of Nick Seagrave, a business man who suddenly wakes up somewhere he does not recognize. He discovers that he is on a road, The Red Road, with other travelers, all on their way from the City of Erebus to the City of Charis. It chronicles his backslidings, his meeting with the Woodsman who helps him bridge the Chasm, and once the Woodsman carries him across the Chasm, the trials and tribulations as he travels onward. Eventually, he arrives at Charis, where meeting Elyon (who is the Woodsman and Christ) he is sent back to his life back in this world to serve until such time as he called again.

The part that sat deeply with me (the part I'll write about today, anyway) involved Seagrave as he looks over a field. He suddenly realizes it is a field of battle, with two sets of warriors intensely struggling against each other:

"The plain suddenly became an immense battlefield, full of great gladiators, with eyes of fire, lifting their swords against other warriors, these with cold shark eyes. The warriors of both sides seemed to be of the same stock, as if it was a civil war - the gray city of the east versus the bright city of the west. Some troops fought on the ground, some above it, as if the air had an invisible floor. Sparks flew off their swords and lightning bolts pierced the sky. Swords clashed against shields, and thunderclaps exploded. Even at a distance the noise was almost unbearable.

People, some of whom I'd just seen, walked on the ground underneath the great combatants. Now they appeared translucent, almost invisible. Most of them stepped casually, unguardedly, apparently unaware of the battle raging above and around them. One man was out on the battlefield in his underwear, lying on a recliner, sipping a soda. I laughed, but when I saw a huge warrior with a mace raised over him, I turned away, cringing as I hear a sickening crunch." (pp.73-74)

Seagrave will see this battle in brief time and time again, a sort of bifocal view of the universe, the seen and the unseen.

This passage above, as well as the concept, spoke deeply to me as I hurtled home on the airplane Wednesday night. It speaks of the unseen battle that rages around us over our eternal destiny, even as well blythely continue on without a clue. Paul in 2nd Corinthians speaks of the fact that though we walk in the flesh, "we do not war according to the flesh (10:3), and to the Ephesians he states that "...we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places" (Ephesians 6:12).

But how often and in how many ways do I wander about this battlefield either uncaring, unaware, or just testing my luck? If I truly grasped the nature of the battle and the nature of the stakes involved - at least on a regular basis - shouldn't this change how I think and what I do? We would consider it an extreme act of foolishness if an individual randomly juggled hand grenades assuming that just because the pin was not pulled it would never go off - but when I, without thinking, allow things into my life which are maybe questionable and certainly not God glorifying, am I not doing the same thing? When I put myself on the precipice, do I grasp that sometimes the cliff crumbles?

God help me - indeed, God help us all - to remember every day the stakes that we are dealing in our own lives and the lives of others.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Purpose and Critical

Ah, Friday. The last day of the work week, giving one the hope that we can make it to the day of not having to get up and face a whirlwind of activity without purpose.

There's that purpose thing again.

And it doesn't have to be important to have purpose - in fact, in many cases there are no direct comparisons between the two. I spend my days at my current position working on things that are "important": critical, timeline driven, help us make the current years goals, etc. The reality is, these critical matters are only critical for a time: they will be accomplished, the timeline will slip, or the project will be halted.

But items of purpose are few and far between, at least at work - and arguably, have little to do with the actual position itself. The things of substance, the things that matter - really the interactions that we have between people - are hardly the "criticality" of one more report, but infinitely of more purpose.

The same is true of home life as well: so much of what occurs here is not "critical" or "timeline driven", but has purpose, whether it be raising of children or communicating with The Ravishing Mrs. TB or even working to know God better. It's here that purpose is made and lived out.

When did we reach a place that critical and having purpose became so opposed to each other?

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Having arrived home after my quick jaunt around the company doing audits, I was confronted by a couple of things as I went and visited other companies and talked about what I do:

1) I seem to move around a lot.

2) I am tired of living in fear.

1) Move around a lot? In the course of my audit conduct, I ran into numerous people that have been in their positions 5, 6, 10 years. I have an average life span (over my entire working life) of just over 13 months; in my current industry, I'm guessing it's about 1.5 years. If I'm moving around so much, is this because I keep trying to find something that is not in those jobs?

2) I realized, as I dealt with the issues of work as I was away doing work, that I spend a lot of time (in regards with my job) living in fear: fear of what my superiors will do, fear of what others will do, fear of having to deal with confrontation, fear of simply not having a job. I literally say that every day, in some fashion, I have to deal with fear as I get out of the car and walk in the door.

Why? I'd love to say that it is due to the fact that I work in difficult personal circumstances (which may be true). Unfortunately, I also think that it is due to the fact that I work with my own issues as well.

I have always struggled with the fact that others are in control of my life - work especially. I have little patience for those that say "Do This" not knowing (or caring) what it requires to do that. I also find that I hate being overruled - either let me do it, or tell me how you want it done, but don't "empower" me and then do it your way.

What this leads to is being afraid: afraid of discussing issues, afraid of making a decision, afraid of doing what you understand is the decision but having the rug jerked out from you at the last second.

Fear drains. Fear depresses. Fear makes you tired and unwilling.

And my fear seems to bleed into #1. Why would I continue to move around if I found what made me happy? Does my fear drive my need to leave every job because I end up freaking myself out?

I'm not sure, but I have a lot of thinking to do. All I know is that I am tired of being afraid.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Tourist in a Familiar Land

I have an opportunity this week that few who have moved so recently do: going back to Old Home for business.

It’s odd, because it’s the first time since I relocated to New Home that I have had the opportunity to return on business: not as a visiting family member, not as a tourist, but as an outsider. For example, it’s the only time that I’ve been at a rental car place and been able to say “No, I don’t need a map. I know my way around.”

The day was a sort of surreal experience as it involved driving through most of the last 10 years of my life – and even farther back in some cases, as I am staying less than a mile away from where I got my graduate degree and am auditing in a town I lived in for a year.

On the one hand it gives one a critical eye, as you can look at things outside of being involved in them. Changes to the landscape are subtle but there: a building torn down, a building put up, a road rerouted, cars from renters parked outside the house that used to be yours.

On the other hand, it gives one a sense of loss because you are passing through the landscape, not staying in it. My prior visits have been to visit family or move; there was a sense of becoming part of what I was seeing. This time I am truly a tourist with a little visiting thrown it: I’ll go do my audits and fly home.

Does it make sad overall about the move? I don’t think so – our financial position is inestimably better than it was a year ago, even with forfeiting the house and (in a lot of ways) financially having to start over. In other ways I feel like I’ve grown in the past 8 months, going down new paths which are only now becoming heightened in my consciousness. Also, having to move throws you squarely back on your family, both for the good and the bad, raising the awareness of strengths as well as presenting weaknesses in a way that they can be no longer ignored.

So I will go do my audit today, have a fabulous dinner with Songbird and Le Quebecois, audit tomorrow and fly home with my heart, if not fully content, at least with peace with where I am.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Better and Worse

Disheartening news this morning. An old friend - falling into that "Old of the Old" category - apparently got married and then unmarried within the space of two weeks.

I weep for my friend - a father of five who already went through his first divorce last year - even as I shake my head. I know my friend, even after all of these years. He is a passionate man, dedicated to his children and the profession he has chosen, and that he feels his emotions deeply, so I am sure that he is in pain that I cannot imagine at the moment, even as his parental responsibilities, indeed his life responsibilities go on and he is expected to function.

But knowing my friend - and again knowing my passion - it is a good reminder to me about the use and abuse of passion.

I am a man of imagination - I spend more time there than most people know, even today. It's not all bad if channeled - apparently I was using "visualization" and "Theater of the Mind" long before it was popular. That said, sometimes the mind tends to run along rills of "What if" or "If only things were different. If only I had made different choices..."

The reality is that as often as I'd like to believe otherwise, the best of all worlds seldom occurs. Life is often far more messy that we expect or give it credit for, and passion (for anything) is often not enough to overcome the reality of life. That's why thinking about all the possibilities carefully before implementing the activity or relationship is so crucial, yet is something that we (especially me) fail to do so often - especially when we are young.

So what's the lesson here? Beyond a request for the pain of a friend, a reminder (again, mostly to me) that an imagined life is often not nearly as much of an improvement over the life we currently have. Imagine, yes. Implement change for the better, of course. But never let the feelings of "Things could be better" overshadow the reality of "No, they could be worse."

Friday, February 05, 2010


So something unusual happened yesterday: I got a bonus.

I could, of course, make all the usual complaints: it's not enough, I worked harder than this, etc. However, it's interesting to me because this is the first bonus I've received in two years.

Two years? Last year was due to the layoff - literally weeks before they would have been issued. You don't miss something until it's gone.

And it's good this year because I have a reason to be thankful for it: so many people have lost their jobs, so many are going without the additional compensation, and here in the midst of things, I got free money.

Sometimes we get so caught up in amounts and how we should feel when gratified that we fail to simply be thankful.

Thanks God!

Thursday, February 04, 2010


"It is a doctrine of war not to assume the enemy will not come, but rather to rely on one's readiness to meet him; not to presume that he will not attack, but rather to make one's self invincible." - Sun Tzu, The Art of War

The counterpoint to happiness: preparation.

I think about this in relation to my industry (it's not a question of if a government body will come, but when), but also in life. Counterbalancing yesterday's comments on seeking to be happy in the circumstances one finds now is the reality to now that events will occur. The question is, do I continue in the belief that they won't - that "bad things won't happen to me" theory - or do accept the fact that events that are bad will occur and prepare for them.

The first one is the opinion of the immature - and I've spent plenty of time there. The Firm may be the greatest example of this, but decisions on Old Home, on jobs, on any number of things could fit here as well. It's a sense in which I have consciously made the decision that I will not prepare for the occurrence of certain events, by assuming that they will not occur.

Here's the catch: those things happen. Those events occur. The question is, do I make myself ready for them coming, or am I the deer in the headlights as they briefly light up my face before they run me over.

I write this as half a dozen things float through my mind, whether work or home related. Yes, I don't want to think about them or do them. Yes, I would rather spend time on other things.

But to act as if the possibility of them occurring is null is the height of irresponsibility.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010


"We are never living, but only hoping to live; and, looking forward always to being happy, it is inevitable that we never are so." - Blaise Pascal

"Men are disturbed not by the things that happen, but by their opinion of the things that happen." - Epictetus

These two quotes served me as bookends last night before I went to sleep because they are both true: by looking forward to something in the future, we are never that thing in the present, and even within that present, how we perceive things happen are much more important that what actually happens.

How often have I looked forward to some future occurrence or event in my life thinking that "If that happens, then I will be happy" only to discover that the thing I thinking of really didn't have that power. My immediate response: I suddenly start thinking of the next thing or phase or event or whatever, passing by those day to day occurrences that I can savor and enjoy.

And when events occur in my life, how often have I not just accepted the event as it is but poured my own meaning into it? A simple request can turn into an onerous command by someone who is out to get me; a simple mistake can turn into a well thought out campaign by an enemy; a temporary failure is suddenly evidence that I never should have tried because I never could have done it.

So here's a thought: Instead of looking forward to being happy, why not just be happy now? Instead of pouring meaning into events, why don't I just accept them as they come, learn from them, and move on? Am I so important that the very universe itself is conspiring against me? Or is that I think that I am so?

Don't answer that. I'm just going to take a moment, drink my coffee, and be happy. Any coffee spills are, I'm sure, only my own fault and not that of the universe trying to get me...

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Seeking Christ

"If you seek Jesus in all things, you will surely find Jesus. And if you seek yourself, you will surely find yourself, but only to your ruin. For a man who does not seek Jesus does himself greater hurt than the whole world and all his enemies could ever do him." - Thomas A'Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

Well that puts everything on its ear, doesn't it? It is precisely 180 degrees opposite of what virtually all the world says. We essentially have two choices: we can seek after Jesus in everything, or we can seek after ourself in everything. Ourself is far more pleasing than seeking after and serving Christ.

But the reality is that in seeking ourselves - in fact, in seeking anything but Christ - we lose in the end. As A'Kempis says elsewhere, " must be parted from them all". Everything stays behind.

What struck me the most as I read this in the morning is the idea that in the end, we are the ones who inflict the greatest harm on ourselves by not seeking Christ, more than any other could do to us. It's a pretty long term form of harm to be sure: waiting for the whole life of an individual for the final punishment. But in the end, if we do not know and seek Christ, the harm that is inflicted on us - eternal separation from God - is truly more severe than any that our enemies could have imagined, dreamed, or schemed. And the irony of the all is that we, in the end, did it to ourselves.

So what will it be today: one more day of preparing harm for ourselves eternally (and giving the enemy of our soul happiness) or seeking Christ?

Monday, February 01, 2010

Advancing the Kingdom

I've being mulling over the statement I posted yesterday (see below or here), especially the following sentence (which is the core of the argument): " task in life is to serve to advance the Kingdom of God." I've been mulling because I don't know that I've ever heard it put in such an unadorned and straightforward manner (at least in modern English).

It certainly puts things in black and white, doesn't it? Everything I do, everything I undertake, even everything I think and dream and dwell upon should be in the context of advancing the Kingdom of God.

It's a thought that I shied away from as I thought about it, and am shying away from it right now simply because it is so stark - and puts so much of my own life into the waste bin of eternity. By this standard, how much of what I have done in this life could truly be said to be on behalf of advancing God's Kingdom? Or more correctly, how much of it can be said to be serving myself, either openly or under the guise of "doing the right thing"?

If I just did this for 24 hours, let alone on a daily basis, what would my life look like? What am I now doing that I would scrap? What would I pick up that I am not doing? Interestingly, as I type these lines the response I had expected comes into play: I would quit doing everything I enjoy, and start doing things that I don't enjoy. Not that that is true at all (God is more gracious than we can possibly imagine), but that is my initial (and human) reaction.

Because at the heart of it, these thoughts are really about me - as MacArthur summed it up, fulfilling my own desires, indulging myself, making more money, getting any number of material things that will make me "feel" better or more secure. The thought that I would live my life not in pursuit of my own best interests but that of God's is at best a scary thought, and at worst a condemning one given my own penchant for self-service.

But the real question, the one that I keep weaving from side to side to avoid, is in the presence of God, will all my justifications for how serving myself served God at all be acceptable in the light of doing things to advance the Kingdom of God first? Will I truly be able to say "I advanced Your Kingdom", or will it be "I spent my life seeking to maximize my potential and make the best me; and when possible, advanced Your kingdom"?

In one lies the joy of reward and the pleasure of the Lord, in the other the pain of regret and of opportunities lost.