Showing posts with label Jaimie. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jaimie. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

(Much Delayed) Reflections on a Month of Blogging

Last month, I wrote 24 consecutive days, missed one, and finished out with a small bang on Sunday. I still have a dozen more ideas for posts, and plenty more to say. I am not entirely sure where to go from here, however.

Blogging takes time. Even a short post demands a certain amount of mental energy, and producing 500 words takes me at least 20 minutes. That's a bare minimum: depending on the 500 words in question, they might take me an hour to whip into a satisfactory shape. I might be able to push out 1000 words in 35 minutes—but only if I refuse to edit the piece, if I intentionally let the written record be simply what I thought at first. As any good writer—and especially any good editor—will tell you, that's a terrible strategy. So, given that I was publishing posts between 500 and 1000 words long every day, that was an average of 45 minutes each day that I spent on blogging. That, in turn, was an average of 45 minutes each day I did not spend on other things.

As it turns out, I didn't particularly miss most of those things. While there were a few days I didn't want to put out a blog post, by and large I enjoyed writing far more than I missed any of the other things I wasn't doing with that time. Halo: Reach is fun, but not nearly as enjoyable as thinking through interesting concepts, synthesizing ideas from the books and articles I'm reading, and generally forcing myself to grow by forcing myself to write.

That is part of why I love blogging so much. Like many others before me, I find that I learn by writing. I start out with a rough idea what I think on a subject, and tease out its intricacies, its twists and turns, its interesting corners by writing about it. Sometimes I find that I have to rewrite the opening of a position piece because, by the time I finish it, I have changed my mind. The process of wrestling through ideas and their consequences is transformative. At its very best, it forces me to distill vague notions down to concrete terms, forcing the vapor of my original conception to materialize into a solid shape.

Add to that the challenge of saying something meaningful day after day, and writing proves the best sharpener of my thought—and indeed, the best means of provoking careful thought throughout the day—that I know of. I enjoy writing not only for its own sake, but because it forces me to think throughout the day, not merely to drift along in the current of consciousness but to seize a paddle and force a direction through my stream of thought. It forces me to take hold of a notion and grapple with it until I understand it well enough to say something about it to others.

On the whole, I loved blogging every day last month. It was draining at times, certainly, especially when combined with a busy schedule and another major project running simultaneously. (You can see the results of that project here.) That sort of busyness is not itself a problem, at least from my point of view. My time was being spent productively and effectively, and I enjoyed it more than I would have enjoyed any of the purely entertaining alternatives.

For my beloved wife, however, the month was a bit different. She was not inside my head, enjoying the adventure of thinking, processing, understanding with me. Much as I try, I can never quite communicate the thrill I get from thinking and writing—to anyone, even her. For her, those hours not spent playing Halo were hours not spent playing Halo with her. She felt separated from me, isolated by my tapping away at the keyboard. We are different, she and I. I feel happily connected if we are sitting near each other, occasionally pausing from our own tasks to talk, or share a quiet moment of holding hands, or an amusing thought or idea from a book or our own musings. She feels connected when we are sharing the activity itself. In short: I like writing side by side, she likes watching movies together.

While there are several reasons I haven't written a post since the start of November, one is that I haven't yet worked out the balance here. On the one hand, blogging is good for me. For all the reasons outlined above, it benefits me deeply. It sharpens my thinking and forces me to think, and in the sheer mundanity of my daily routine, that's important. At the same time, my relationship with my wife is exceptionally important. If I value my own intellectual satisfaction over caring for her and making sure her emotional needs in our relationship are met, I am just being selfish. When you add in all our other activities, especially in the evening, it is easy for her to feel disconnected (even if I don't). That is not a situation I can or will tolerate. As such, I am chewing on how to both serve my wife and achieve the ends that blogging helps me reach.

When I figure it out, I'll let you know. Until then, I will be here, fitfully and irregularly as ever.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Musings from the Month

I have blogged a good deal less this month than the previous few. The transition into fall is always interesting. I have on the one hand been working on another web design project (which, to my annoyance, has stagnated through creative blocks, but hopefully will continue to come along soon), and on the other spending a great deal of time enjoying Halo: Reach. Most of my remaining writing-oriented time has been taken up with Pillar, whether actually writing or editing others' articles.

A few things I've been chewing on recently:

  • The necessity of the Holy Spirit in Bible study. I was reading Psalm 119 on Sunday (I'm working through it with a younger guy I'm meeting with) and a number of features caught my attention. Foremost, however, was that the author of the psalm repeatedly asks God for understanding and to be taught. This plea for instruction is the most topic with which the psalmist most frequently addresses God, at least so far in the psalm!

    So, here in a psalm which is filled with references to the author's delight in and love for God's commands, law, word, and way, are constant pleas for help in understand those very things. Striking, and convicting. I need to rely more thoroughly on God for wisdom as I approach his word. While I know that to be true, it's a good reminder.

  • The appropriateness of "personal relationship with Jesus" language, especially in the context of evangelism. [This one is still very much in the early phase of thinking about it, and so subject to immense revision.] While Scripture clearly speaks of our interactions with God in relational ways, and even goes so far as to affirm that eternal life consists of knowing Him (John 17:3), I find it interesting that none of the evangelism (or any other discussion, for that matter) in the New Testament comes anywhere close to using this phrase.

    While restored fellowship with God is occasionally in view, the primary ways that the New Testament writers speak of the good news is in reference to the Messiah who has come and given himself in payment for our sins. The call the apostles offered was not, "Come have a personal relationship with Jesus," but rather "Repent and believe; call on the name of the Lord and be saved!" Even in the discussions of sanctification, the relational aspects of the restoration are rarely the focus—whereas faith and the Spirit's active work are.

    I am not suggesting that we drop this language entirely. I think it is biblical in much the same way that the word "Trinity" is: that is, it depicts something that is true in Scripture in an accurate way, despite being external to Scripture itself. However, I am pondering whether it is the most helpful way of describing conversion and all it entails to nonbelievers, and whether it should remain our primary means of characterizing the Christian walk.

    What do you think?

  • One can learn a lot of things from a book that have nothing to do with the point of the book. This has come at me from two very different angles: one, the massive and incredibly important The Resurrection of the Son of God, by N. T. Wright, and Joyce Meyer's The Confident Woman. The two books could not possibly be more different, on any level. The first is a massive, scholarly treatment of its topic, while the second is a brief, popular treatment of its. Wright is (at least in this area) thoroughly orthodox, while Meyer is heterodox throughout.

    What have I learned from each, then? From The Confident Woman, I learned a great deal about communicating the faults of a book and a writer graciously. No doubt I still have much more to learn, but I spent hours wrestling through my review of the book, striving to be gentle, courteous, and kind while being sufficiently firm with her myriad errors. From The Resurrection of the Son of God, I have learned a great deal about exegesis and exposition of Scripture. Wright does a masterful job of situating passages in the context of their author, and authors in the context of their cultures. (I am aware he sometimes argues for positions outside historic Protestant orthodoxy in other books; here he is on so foundational a point that his arguments are profitable to everyone.) In turn I have been able to start doing the same in my own study of Scripture—most notably in my final treatment of alcohol in the series I wrote at Pillar.

    From both, I learned perseverance: from Wright's book because it is simply long; from Meyer's book because it is simply bad.

I have of course also continued to learn a great deal simply from being married to my beautiful wife—not least that I still tend toward arrogance and unteachability. God graciously points out our folly and our sin consistently; where I would be without His sanctifying work I can only imagine.

Grace and peace be with anyone reading! If you are reading, do me a favor and leave a comment to say hello. Sometimes it's nice to know that people are actually reading.

Monday, August 16, 2010

In the mixer

In the mixer for the week are quite a few things. I just got back from Colorado, and it was a busy if wonderful trip, seeing friends, family, and friends that are like family. For the week ahead, I have just a few things planned:

  • a summary of my oft-used but never written-out description of healthy dating relationships
  • a plea for young women to have high but realistic expectations of the men who seek their hearts and hands in marriage
  • another poem at 52 Verses—it'll be the 10th
  • a treatment of Romans 14:1-23 and 1 Corinthians 1:7-13 for my ongoing treatment of Christians' use of alcohol, to be published sometime next week at Pillar on the Rock
  • lots of good time spent with my wife before she gets absurdly busy by going back to school for her second-to-last semester next Monday
  • work
  • working out
  • brainstorming and plotting for a fascinating short story hook I came up with today
  • reading books, a few of which I'll be reviewing (either here or at Pillar) when I'm done with them

God bless! Hopefully you'll see some of that content before the week is out.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Weddings, Photography, and Writing

I edited—in whole or in part—three articles for Pillar on the Rock tonight. They'll all be going up over the course of this week. If you haven't stopped by in a while, you should; Pillar is slowly shifting in the direction of an online magazine (a format we've been close to for a long time). Among other things, we're increasing the number of authors we have writing for us, and offering some broader perspectives on Christian living as it relates to the church.

Due to helping with Anthony and Megan Plopper's wedding, I had little time to write last week. I anticipate having only a little more this week (on Wednesday evening), as Jaimie and I will be traveling to an in Colorado from Thursday through Monday. We will have some time with my family, and I will get to reconnect with a number of friends from Focus on the Family Institute (now the Focus Leadership Institute) at a reunion being held this Friday through Sunday. I'm looking forward to seeing both friends and family again. It will have been a good week for visiting; Jaimie's whole family came up and visited us today. We really enjoyed spending a few hours with them—especially since it didn't involve driving to Fort Worth.

One of the little ways I helped Anthony and Megan with their wedding was taking engagement pictures for them. I was reminded, in the two or so hours we were at it, how very far I have to go as a photographer. (I also recognized the one significant shortcoming of my current camera body: it won't do spot metering. When you're shooting in high-contrast environments, that can be a serious time-killer!) Below are my favorite two pictures I took that day. You can see the rest of the ones I've put up so far here.

While those two came out well, I definitely still have a long ways to go as a photographer. Unfortunately, I have more hobbies than I can manage to sustain at any given time. I have my often-mentioned web design interest (I just added some more functionality to Pillar last week, focusing on a simple but pretty new animation for the navigation menu and on post snippets on the home page), music, writing, and reading projects!

I mentioned early in the year that I was planning to write a string quartet based on the life of David. I have never been able to get that project off the ground, thanks to a combination of busyness and a general lack of inspiration. Despite spending a great deal of time mulling it over in my head, I could never quite get the ideas to gel. I've recently been contemplating taking the same idea and writing a full-scale symphonic work (probably totaling 30 to 40 minutes of music). Obviously, that's a huge project, and it would take me a while with my current schedule. Nonetheless, I'm thinking hard about attempting it. I know I would enjoy it.

I have a few other projects in the dock as well. In addition to writing the final post in my series on alcohol over at Pillar (a controversial one, as you can imagine), I am brainstorming a post on discipleship, outreach, and the relationship between the two. I am continuing to work on my essay regarding media, pop culture, and relational wisdom; with some writing time set aside on Wednesday evening I may even be able to finish it. 52 Verses continues to plug along nicely; fully 8 poems are live now—each one a bit different from the others.

I've also been reading N. T. Wright's massive treatment of the historical evidence for the resurrection, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Christian Origins and the Question of God, Vol. 3). It's good, but very thick and very heavy reading. I also have a Joyce Meyer book waiting to be read and reviewed. (Odd as that may sound, I make a point to read and review a wide variety of books, because lots of other people read a wide variety of books, and the most useful content on this blog is in the book reviews, at least in terms of the reasons people come here from search engines.)

Jaimie is contentedly working her way through the latter parts of The Wheel of Time, and I am enjoying watching her do so. The further she gets, the more we can discuss, and since the series is one of my favorites, that makes for a lot of fun conversations. She also keeps baking me good cookies—which is great, except that it makes it far more difficult to steadily lose weight in my bid to get in shape for a marathon someday in the future. My running speed steadily increases, as does my strength, but it would be much easier if my wife weren't such a good cook. (Even so, I am managing to keep on target. It's hard, but I'm getting there, and enjoying it.)

Speaking of Jaimie: you should go take a look at the most recent posts on her blog. She has a knack for hammering out spiritual truth in compelling ways that pushes me to do better myself in my own writing. Her most recent posts, It Is Finished and Baby, Baby are both exercises in communicating transparently, honestly, and Truthfully about the realities of this life.

With that, I am going to go; I have some reading of my own to do this evening, and I plan to be up at 5am and at work at 6am tomorrow. May God bless you with his peace, whatever your circumstances, and may his grace be your hope and strength in all things.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Long Process

I finished the duet. Or at least, I finished the semi-final rough draft of it. Four and a quarter minutes of music for clarinet and cello, a dance movement, written in about a week and a half. (That's why I am up late right now, and why I have not done much blogging in the same span of time.)

I will post a link to the piece once I get the recording of the actual performance of it (presumably in a few weeks). I have good sound sets... but they are still sound sets.

Yesterday was our one year anniversary. I will try to post some reflective thoughts on that occasion later this week. Tonight we enjoyed some of our cake, which was surprisingly good a year later (it was very well sealed).

I have a stomach ache. The two, gladly I suppose, are not related; I had the stomach ache first.

We will have another friend staying with us for a few weeks soon: the one and only Megan Tevebaugh, who is now counting down the days till her impending marriage to the equally unique Anthony Plopper. They will be living in the same apartment complex as us; it should be a wonderfully fun year (even as the next few weeks promise to be particularly fun as well.)

Sleep calls me now.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Quick status update

I promise to be mostly absent and certainly not as extravagantly poetic this week as last. I have training classes every day from 8:30 to 5:00 this week... which makes for long, tiring days, to say the least. It affords me an excellent opportunity to build up some extra time so I can enjoy a day off with my wife in a week—but it certainly has a cost in the meantime! And of course, thanks to the joys of mono, I still have negative amounts of paid time off, though I'm getting close to being back in the positives.

In other news, there were tornadoes in Norman and Midwest City (and Edmond, and many other places) today. The one in Norman was about three miles away from Jaimie; the one in Midwest City was about half a mile to a mile away from me. Craziness!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Poetry, Failing Memory, and Redesigns!

Strangely enough, writing poetry helps my prose. I imagine the same is true in reverse. A blogger I read recently commented to the same effect, quoting someone famous. Apparently, however, neither writing poetry nor writing prose seems to be helping my memory much, as I cannot remember the blogger in question or the famous writer he referenced.

Interestingly, I have had a great many poetical thoughts driving to work this week. I am not entirely sure why, though I have made a point to shut off the stereo system the last several days. Silence (even of the terribly partial variety one gets well driving on Oklahoma highways) is terribly helpful for thinking. For better or for worse, it is also better for exposing just how weak one's mental constitution is. (For the record: it is better to have that exposed, so that one can work on it, but it feels worse in the moment of realization.)

some current projects: I have just finished the final tweaks (most of them very subtle) here at Thoughts; A Flame. Jaimie's blog, Refining Process, just underwent a significant redesign using Blogger-In-Draft's new Template Editor (the same tool used to redo this blog). Pillar on the Rock will be getting a fresh new look sometime shortly, as well, this one courtesy of my imagination and quite a few hours spent coding... no default templates, however customized, for us!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

How Mono is like Sin, and other ramblings

It's been a month since I last blogged here. I've had mono, and one of the consequences has been an inability to focus for long periods of time. For obvious reasons, that puts a bit of a damper on my blogging ability. Seeing as I have a pretty solid commitment elsewhere on a regular basis, the result has been my absence from this blog. (I'd have been more worried if I had more regular readers!)

Before anyone asks, I haven't a clue how I got the silly disease. The only woman I've ever kissed, my beautiful and amazing wife Jaimie, has never had mono, and I don't share drinks with people. Mysterious infections are even lamer than unmysterious infections.

it's in times like this that I'm particularly grateful for a job like the one God provided. I'm blessed by being able to actually take the doctor's orders and stay home and rest. Mono is what's often called a nuisance disease: you don't feel terrible, and in fact you're often relatively functional. Bad spells of headaches, dizziness, and extreme fatigue are offset by the relatively regular times in between. The trick is, you won't get better unless you rest... a lot. So, when the doctor prescribed bedrest, I counted myself blessed to have a job with good short-term disability benefits, so that I can stay home and rest.

Being unable to concentrate for long periods of time has been strange. Normally, when I'm at home sick, I do a lot of reading. I've done comparatively little in the last two weeks, though, because I've simply been unable to drive my mind through any substantive books. I've managed a little Star Wars, a little Asimov, and a very little bit of a neat anthology I picked up recently, Leland Ryken's The Christian Imagination. It's a good one, but as is often the case with anthologies, it doesn't have a solid line of thought through; it's organized by theme, so it gets a little repetitive. Not really the best recipe for overcoming mental stamina problems...

As I'm thinking about mono, I realize that in a lot of ways, its day to day effects are an excellent picture of how sin works in the life of a Christian. In some ways, you barely notice its effects, especially once you get used to them. But the effects are always there, dragging you down, preventing you from doing what you truly want to do. I can't play Ultimate, write blog posts easily, read long, difficult books, or even go to work. Similarly, sin keeps me from loving my wife as well as I want, from reaching out to neighbors or peers with the gospel effectively, or serving selflessly in the church. It attacks in subtle ways that, save for the rare flareups, are hardly noticeable. But, like mono, it simply will not go away unless you get serious about dealing with it. I'll paraphrase John Owen: if you're not attacking mono, it's attacking you, and the same thing goes for sin.

Hopefully I'll be back to normal soon, posting here at least once a week and going to work and even, a few weeks later, playing some Ultimate. In the meantime, if you want blog posts from me, head over to Pillar on the Rock, if you want Ultimate somebody's playing it near you, and if you want work, well, there's always some to be done (though I'll definitely pray for you if you're out of work in the current recession).

Come back next time, when I'll get really crazy and compare sin to some sort of carnivorous plant! (No promises.)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Glory unfurling

One of the mysteries of my life is my friendship with Stephen Carradini. I met him within fifteen minutes of his arrival on campus at OU his freshman year, and he stuck to me like Velcro. Nearly every experience I had in college he repeated in one way or another. Despite our myriad differences in background, opinions and relationships, God has ordained that the major strokes of our lives run in parallel, with Stephen just far enough behind to watch and learn from my successes and failures.

As Stephen himself commented to me recently, he lives my life.

I have rarely seen such a simple, perfect picture of the sovereignty of God. In the three and a half years since we met, God has consistently put me in positions that I found frustrating, painful and inexplicable—until months later, when Stephen invariably found himself in the same straits, and I could lend an ear and sometimes a hand. I rest on God's sovereignty because Scripture declares it, but I find it easier to believe because I have seen it.



Jaimie recently spent some time reviewing old journals and observing how God has answered prayers she offered up half a decade ago. Though we are not to live in the past, we are to remember it and savor God's works. When the present grows dark, God's past faithfulness comforts us. He has saved us and cared for us before, even when we could not see.

The months since our wedding have been a time of upheaval, struggle, fear and pain as Jaimie battles depression. She's winning, by the grace of God. And joy has filled our lives. We love being married. Day by day we see God's goodness more plainly. Whether it is in a quiet evening spent reading together, the wondrous dance of married love, or the hours we have spent crying and praying together, we remember that the Holy Spirit is working for our good. We hold to that truth with all our strength; sometimes we have nothing else.

Day by painful day, I see Christ's image growing in Jaimie. I see her slowly freed and gradually perfected. I see her face unveiled and the glory of our Savior unfurled by the breeze of the Spirit in her heart. Suffering is producing joy inexpressible as He forges us into complete dependence.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A man like David

I'm back, and life is at last settling down into something of a normal routine again. I'm posting twice a week for Pillar on the Rock, and trust me when I say that writing two posts a week is a lot more manageable than doing the web design. I was spending 10-20 hours a week working out kinks on the site design back when PJ and I were getting it ready to deploy. The four or five hours a week I spend writing, editing my own and PJ's posts (he edits mine), and posting links to them on Twitter and Facebook seem pretty trivial in comparison. Now the holidays are over, I'm back at work, and our personal lives have settled down a bit, at least for now.

So here I am, in the few minutes I have before heading off for worship practice, tapping away at my computer on my own blog. A shock, I'm sure, to my many (ahem, not-so-many) readers.

It is, as ever, difficult to express just how much change a year brings. Certainly this year brought more than most—transitions out of college and into marriage and the working world being chief among them—but every year has its share of challenges, victories, and changes. I spent less time writing poetry and music this year than in any year since high school, and I missed both. I missed spending long hours late at night tapping away at my blog, too, in some ways. Yet I would not trade my life now for the one I had before in any way. Though I sometimes wish for more hours to read and write and compose instead of programming, I count myself the most blessed of men for the wife God has given me and the life He daily provides. Besides, programming is a good job.

My resolutions this year are few and simple: diligently study the word of God, by His grace kick a couple of troublesome sin habits in the face until they truly yield, and read a lot of good books. My goals are a bit broader: they include studying Greek at least once a week and composing equally often. My desires, from playing guitar to ranking up in Halo online, well... we'll see.

This I know: God will do mighty things this year, even if I can't see them. I'm going to content myself with learning, as best I can, to be a man like David. Early in his life, a man said of him: "[He] is skillful in playing, a man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a man of good presence, and the LORD is with him" (1 Samuel 16:18). That seems a worthy goal to me.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Surprise: neither sermon notes nor 500 words long!

Life is good right now. Challenging, but good.

Today, I'm going to do two things: work on an Advent composition, and clean the apartment before my lovely wife gets home from visiting her family.

This morning I posted the first book review we've done for Pillar on the Rock, Who Runs the Church?

Christmas is three days away, and that means that I've been chewing on and contemplating a good Christmas post. Look for it on Thursday or Friday.

Speaking of Christmas, this is my first Christmas married, and correspondingly it will be my first Christmas day spent apart from my own immediate family. Jaimie and I are going to spend Christmas together in Norman before we drive out to visit my family. We have the wonderful opportunity to begin to decide how we will celebrate it together now. One of our biggest thinking points is how we're going to really celebrate Christ without being distracted by the material aspects of our culture's celebration of the holiday. When we figure out what we're going to do, I'll probably make a short post to that effect as well.

You can look forward to more regular posting after the new year. Thanks to a good deal of change—from marriage and a new job to car accidents—and the launch of Pillar on the Rock, this simply hasn't been the best semester for this blog. Don't worry... I'm not going anywhere.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

From LEGOs to Theology Proper to Tasty Food [5 100-word thoughts]

LEGO Star Wars is the most purely enjoyable game I have played since MYST. (The two games couldn't be more different, but they both appeal to our childlike natures.) Jaimie and I played through the prequel trilogy six months ago, and now we're working our way through the original trilogy. Whether it's hilarious variations on the original or simply watching Chewbacca pop LEGO stormtrooper arms off, the game is fun. It helps that dying just loses you a few coins and a moment's frustration; you're back quickly enough that you hardly know you died. Good game.



I'm taking today off to spend time with my wife. God has provided above and beyond what we expected in my current job: it's relatively close, it's work that I enjoy, and it far exceeds meeting our basic needs. I pray He keeps me focused on how He provides and reminds me of the excellence of his provision, even when the job is hard. I also pray that He reminds me that, as wonderful as the material provision is, God's provision for me (and all believers) spiritually far exceeds it. He gave himself.



Friendship is a beautiful thing. Every new moment in the friendship is better than before, even as the budding of a rose is increasingly beautiful—and every time you think it cannot get better, it does. The day when the petals first open is amazing—but seeing them fully open a week later is something else entirely. The early thrills of friendship, fun as they are, eventually give way to a much deeper, richer and more satisfying maturity. That's a good thing. Early moments of meeting cannot last forever, but the steady exploration of personalities that follows can and does.



The study of theology is not, as some have thought, something reserved for the white halls of academia. It's gritty, practical and meaningful for the everyday Christian. We rightly reject the intellectualism that thinks that knowledge is the same as godliness, but we should be just as quick to scorn the opposite crime of thinking ignorance equates to holiness. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, and the knowledge of God—theology proper—is eternal life. I study my wife every day, and I do mean study. How much more we should study our God!



Food is a strange and wonderful thing. Eating not only satisfies our needs, it delights our senses. (At least, it does when well-done. Badly cooked food is another story entirely.) The same holds true for nearly every aspect of life: even when something might be marked by need at best and pain at worst, it's often accompanied by pleasure instead. The mark of a happy God could not be clearer, as far as I'm concerned. It makes me think: the wedding feast of the Lamb awaits us... how much better will that food be than today's fare?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Lessons learned... and pudding

If, dear reader, you wonder why I have not posted in so very long - 8 days, in fact! - then I have something of a story for you. If you wonder no such thing, then you're simply going to have to content yourself with reading anyway, in the hope that I'll says something informative, edifying, or at least mildly amusing.

10 days ago, my wife and I were in Colorado on a short trip for a wedding. Midway through that trip, I began feeling somewhat less than optimal - by which I mean, I sat around most of that day feeling barely better than miserable. That, luckily, was not our traveling day. On our traveling day, I only had minor dizzy spells and a medium headache. Come Monday, however, all of those symptoms were worsening. I, being a daring master of the fates, not to mention still unused to have personal allowance time at work, toughed it out and trudged through my day. I was miserable.

Being stubborn, I proceeded to do the same again on Tuesday. I've been accused of possessing above average intelligence, but I can find no trace of anything in my behavior to suggest the accusation to be anything but the basest sort of falsehood.

Wednesday, heeding the wise counsel of my wife, I stayed home and promptly spent the day feeling miserable again, but with a good book and nary a glance at the computer screen. It turns out that staring at a screen - especially one at a bad angle and under bad lighting - tends to significantly worsen headaches. Over the course of the remainder of the week, I read several thousand pages of fiction, which was splendid, however unproductive. By early this week, I was feeling much better, and was able to go work without feeling like a walking corpse. Lesson learned: remember the value of personal leave and heed my wife's wise advice!

In the meantime, I managed to suffer yet another catastrophe. This one, I'm thankful to say, was not of my own making. Thursday night, you see, is date night for Jaimie and me. Every week we make a point to do something special that evening - a pleasant dinner out and a movie, or a candlelit meal and long talks and cuddling, or any number of things, but always a date.

This is harder to pull off when you have the flu.

We decided it was to be pizza and a movie - in. Best not to spread the dreadful contagion. A woeful decision. As we returned from picking up the pizza - no paying delivery fees for us that night! - we were struck from behind. Some basic math will help you get the picture: 1984 Chevrolet pickup truck + 2005 Hyundai Elantra = CRUNCH. And the truck won and my neck lost: cursed transfer of momentum resulted in a little thing they call whiplash. My wife's poor car ("La Bomba," in case you were wondering... she names the cars, not me) is once again in the shop, with the back bumper, . (If you don't know the story, it involves scenes from an action movie and sleepless nights. Seriously.) The final result of the whole thing is yet to be seen, but needless to say it made for a far more exciting date night than we anticipated. Lesson learned: all that physics information about transfer of momentum was quite accurate. (The seatbelts work.)

In the midst of all of it, God reminded me that health is a gift, and to thank Him more regularly for it. (Lesson learned: don't forget to thank Him immediately after you get better... like I did today until I wrote that sentence.)

If, dear reader, you are still with me, you are doubtless wondering why I'm addressing you, and most particularly why I'm using the trite, over-the-top, and absurdly overused "dear reader" appellation. I'm afraid you will find no answers here. You're simply going to have to get used to it. (I'll leave you wondering whether I plan to keep up the absurdity. You'll be waiting with unbridled expectation for the next post just to find out, I'm sure.)

Lesson learned: pudding is good. (That was for free.)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Traveling thoughts

This past week, my beautiful wife and I visited Colorado. One of my good friends from high school was getting married on Friday evening. The wedding stirred up a number of thoughts in me.

I thought a bit on how much has changed since high school as I saw a few friends I've literally not seen since graduation day four and a half years ago. I though for longer about how much I have changed in that time, and how much God has done since then. There have been some deeply transforming periods of time in my life, some painful and others joyful. Most of all, I've seen the faithfulness and the deep love of God as He has transformed me. He continues to do so; I learn a bit more every day about dying to myself and living for Christ, and about walking as well as talking out this faith.

The pastor at the wedding was Lutheran, as are the friends who got married. I am not. Yet I have to say that the man's teaching on marriage was some of the best I've heard, and he brought the focus back to Jesus over and over again. It's always such a joy to be reminded that the Church is indeed a body, whole and complete. We have our differences, some of them profound, but we are part of one universal whole that lives and breathes in Christ. No matter what our disagreements with other believers, it's essential that we remember that we are united in Christ. There must be a deeply irenic spirit among us in our interactions, no matter how deep our disagreements. There are lines drawn, of course, beliefs that we hold place one outside the framework of true Christian profession. It is not wrong to call a cult or a heresy by name. Yet we must always remember that God's truth came not in judgment for this age, but in "grace upon grace" (John 1:16). We should strive to model Christ's grace to all who we meet, and above all to be a picture of His love as we interact with other believers of whatever stripe. My friends and their Lutheran pastor, all of whom I have many theological disagreements with, are my brothers and sisters, and I love them. Now, I only need to learn how to love them as Christ does!

As we descended on our flight back home, we came through two and a half layers of cloud. There was a beautiful moment as we passed through the first layer and then were flying between it and the second when we could see all the way to the clear sky between the layers. Then we plunged again into cloud, and there we stayed for some very long minutes. I was reminded, as the plane bounced to and fro, as I caught my wife's nervous eyes, and as I prayed, that we were no less safe in that moment than in any other. We really are resting in the hands of Almighty God every moment of every day. Even in those troubling minutes before the clouds broke and we could see ground only a few hundred feet below, we were as safe as could be. Should our Father wish to take us home, no effort of ours could stop the plane from falling, and should He wish us alive, the plane would land whatever our fears. It is a comforting thing to know that God is truly all-powerful and good. We can rest then in His will, assured of His hand in all that passes through our lives. What hope, to know that God Himself is orchestrating our days! What comfort in the midst of affliction to remember that we are bought with a price, and that there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God in Christ!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Life right now

LIfe is interesting for me right now. I'm working 8 hours every day, newly married, and involved in ministry at church. I'm reading as much as I can, writing on a semi-regular basis, finding time to practice piano and study Greek from time to time. I'm busy, though hardly as busy as I could be. (That's intentional: Jaimie and I made a point to take the first year with a minimum of commitments so we can focus on learning to love each other well. It's a Biblical principle, in case you think I'm crazy.) It's an incredibly joyful season in my life. It's also proving to be a very challenging season.

Jaimie is going through a difficult season. I'm learning how to walk well with her in the midst of it. Marriage is, lest anyone deceive you into thinking otherwise, hard work. As men, we get to die for our wives as Christ died for the church. That's an every day task, sometimes an every hour task - not a when-I-feel-like-it task. It's certainly easy enough to say that I love Jaimie enough to die for her, but to actually do it every day takes the grace of God. It's more than I can do on my own. (I should note that I think she needs just as much of God's grace to walk through every day beside me!)

We've set up our house, and it's quickly become a home. More than merely a place to sleep, our apartment has become a place of rest. I can't express how much a blessing that is: I spent four years in the dorms at OU, and while they were fruitful and wonderful years, they were also long. OU was never home like this apartment is. There are a lot of reasons for that. My wife lives here with me, and a good family makes for a home very quickly indeed. It is ours; while we share walls with neighbors, we do not share bathrooms or living rooms or any personal space at all with them. We have spiritual authority here in a way that we did not in the dorms. So, we have a wonderful home.

I am learning a great deal right now. Much of God's sanctifying work in my life is through marriage and Jaimie; most of the rest is quiet, underlying growth I can feel the Spirit accomplishing. A little more each day, I learn to live with my eyes set on Christ and the gospel. He shows me my sin more clearly, and reminds me that He has delivered from darkness to His kingdom and His "redemption, the forgiveness of sins" (Colossians 1:13-14). I get to listen to a sermon every day on the way to and from work, and I've learned a lot from Godly preachers like John Piper and Matt Chandler. I've learned as lot, too, from Bruce Hess and Mark Robinson, who teach at Wildwood, and Dick Stewart, one of the elders there. I thank God for His work in our church, as I do for faithful friends that He's surrounded us with.

My heart is joyful and hopeful in this season, though sometimes troubled and tired as well. No circumstances are more powerful or stronger than our mighty God, and it is on Him, His love, His grace, His salvation that I am learning to lean. My own strength fails, but His mercies are new every morning and His love is steadfast and sure.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Five 100-word thoughts

Things that passed through my head today that I thought my be interesting:
  1. A snippet from the Today show this morning that I caught while waiting for new tires: a couple expecting a child... to be born from another couple. Both couples were using in vitro fertilization because they could not conceive naturally. The doctor made a mistake and implanted the wrong embryo. Now one couple is carrying the baby to term (praise God!) and giving it back to his parents. What exactly does that mean? It’s a confusing, painful mess for everyone involved. Situations like this make me question the wisdom of in vitro. There are no easy answers here.
  2. In a Christianity Today interview published last Friday, Kara Powell argued that the age of age segregated ministry is over, or should be. A few highlights from the interview, especially the last one:


    • Now we tend to think that we can outsource the care of our kids to... the youth and children's workers.
    • Teens should not only be the objects of ministry; they need to be the subjects of ministry as well.
    • Tenth graders study Shakespeare. What are we offering them at church? Nothing comparable...
    • ...it's also very important for parents to share about their own spiritual journeys with kids.


  3. God’s grace is a pretty stunning thing. As the author of Hebrews puts it: through death He overcame the one with the power of death (the devil) and delivers those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. That’s huge. I can’t conscience dropping penal substitutionary atonement in favor of Christus Victor, but we must remember: Christ’s life and death did more than eliminate sin’s penalty! We should revel in His victory, excited about His final triumph. Praise God: we’ve been saved from God’s wrath, death, fear, and Satan’s power, and to freedom, life everlasting, joy and love.
  4. Marriage is a delightful and painful treasure. Delightful, because every day is filled with companionship, love, and adventure. Painful, because I realize more every day how wicked I am:. Yes, wicked: I am self-absorbed, unkind, rude, thoughtless, harsh. Jaimie is a delight and a treasure to me, yet too often I do not show her the depths of my love. I am just beginning to grasp how immense a thing it is to die for her every day as Christ died for the church. I desperately need the Spirit’s help to love her well. On my own, I fail horribly.
  5. In a pair of sermons on Luke 18, Matt Chandler (lead pastor of The Village Church in Texas) absolutely hit the ball out of the park. He looked at the text hard. The result: a solid scriptural rebuke to our self-reliance and our love of anything other than Christ. Topics covered: A Pharisee with a theocentric prayer who missed justification because he thought his God-given works saved him. A rich man who was still looking for how he could find eternal life in religion. And God’s way. Give them a listen: May 28 and June 7.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Marriage

I find it difficult to put into words just how much has changed since last I sat and began to write in this virtual space.

In many ways, of course, I'm the same as ever I was. (Including, probably, a hint of verbosity. See?) At the same time, I've changed. I'm not who I was, never will be. I'm married, for one thing - to the most beautiful woman I've ever met. It was a marvelous ceremony. It's been a better marriage.

Not perfect. Never that. Though my marvelous wife (I rather delight in saying that, you'll find) is certainly a better woman than I deserve, God sees fit day by day to supply me with grace enough to serve her, and grace enough to serve a little better than the day before. I begin to see and understand, just a little, how a life with a family will transform my understanding not only of service to others but indeed of service to God. (Being married hasn't changed my delight in use of non-colloquial words and phrases, either, you'll note.)

Many of those who follow this blog were at my wedding - and it was a delight to see you there. For those of you who were not, however, I'd like to share here the Scriptures that God laid on our hearts as we prepared and that we had read aloud in the course of the ceremony: selections from His everlasting word that, we thought, helped paint a picture of how great this mystery is, and then comment briefly (yes, briefly; don't laugh!) on why these verses. Some of them may be obvious, others less so.

Genesis 1:27-28
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”


Genesis 2:18-24
Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,
“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.”
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.


Song of Songs 4:9:
You have captivated my heart, my sister, my bride;
you have captivated my heart with one glance of your eyes,
with one jewel of your necklace.


Song of Songs 5:16
His mouth is most sweet,
and he is altogether desirable.
This is my beloved and this is my friend,
O daughters of Jerusalem.


Song of Songs 8:7
Many waters cannot quench love,
neither can floods drown it.
If a man offered for love
all the wealth of his house,
he would be utterly despised.


Song of Songs 8:6
Set me as a seal upon your heart,
as a seal upon your arm,
for love is strong as death,
jealousy is fierce as the grave.
Its flashes are flashes of fire,
the very flame of the Lord.


1 Peter 3:1-2,7
Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.
Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.


Matthew 22:30
For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.


Ephesians 5:31-32
“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.


Revelation 21:1-5a
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”


Revelation 19:6-9
Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,
“Hallelujah!
For the Lord our God
the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure”—
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”


There is a flow here - a flow from the moment of creation, when God made man not to be alone, to the shocking close of history, when God comes to dwell forever with man whom He made. These passages also tell us something incredibly important about what exactly marriage is: a picture of Christ and the Church He came to redeem to Himself, that He is redeeming to Himself.

Marriage is not, as we all too often proclaim, some eternal state in which we will remain for all time. It is inherently temporary, because it does not exist merely for its own sake. It is meant to be a glorious, shocking truth that represents a far greater Truth. The unity of man and God through the redeeming work of Christ is a deep mystery. Then again, so is marriage.

How can two people from completely different backgrounds leave behind their families and become one? And how is the becoming one flesh - joining together in every possible way - even possible? How is it that our joining in marriage is not merely a lifelong commitment to mate only with each other for social stability but a real spiritual unity that transcends the mundane and reaches to the deepest parts of our nature? It certainly does. Jaimie and I have already experienced ways in which our being married ties us far more closely than ever we were before. Most of all, we affect each other spiritually. It is, as Paul says in Ephesians 5, a mystery.

God, in His wisdom, has chosen to use this mystery to help us understand a deeper puzzle yet: How can immortal, omnipotent, omniscient God who knows us, our thoughts, our deeds better than we ourselves, relate to us? How can we and He who are so very different ever be joined in any degree of relationship? How can His transcendence meet our very thorough smallness? How could there ever be more to that relationship than distant dictator and abject subjects? How could there be intimacy? Most especially when we are so abjectly fallen, so utterly depraved in our thoughts that we run to every kind of evil whenever we can!

No, this marriage is a temporary one, so that we can glimpse the greater one that awaits: the union of God and man, Christ and His Bride. There will be, as there was in our wedding, a feast to whom all are invited. There is only one acceptable garment at that feast... the garment provided by the Lamb that was slaughtered, choosing from the foundation of the world to redeem us to Him, to make us His, to cover our transgression and make us white as snow... white as the dress a bride wears to her wedding. Our righteous deeds, prepared for us by God, will be the shining linen worn by the Church as a whole as she joyfully runs into the arms of her God-King on that last day.

This is what our wedding and our marriage are about, not some nonsensical idea of eternal bliss together. We will strive every day to be a faithful picture of Christ and His Bride. I will strive to die for Jaimie as Christ died for the church. And we together will be part of His church, striving ever to purify her for the day of His return, starting with our own hearts and reaching out to every man, woman, and child that He places in our path.

Our marriage is about the good news that Christ has redeemed for Himself a people who will share all eternity with Him.

Our marriage is about Him!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Trust

It's been a while. No apologies, though. I've decided to stop feeling guilty about how much I'm not writing and to simply enjoy writing when I am in the mood. And right now, I'm in the mood.

You might be surprised to find a recent college graduate (praise God!) up at midnight tapping away at the keys of his laptop, pondering his life in front of the whole world. Doesn't work call early? you ask. Funny you should bring that up. It doesn't, because my only job right now is finding a job. Well, that's not perfectly true, either. I have a couple jobs. First is chasing Christ wholeheartedly. Always that, always first, always most. Second is building my relationships with others in a way that reflects Him - with Jaimie, with my family and hers, with friends at Wildwood, and soon with neighbors. Third is finding a job. Interestingly, I've been recognizing even more of late just how deeply tied all the other tasks of my day rely fundamentally on my walk with God. Do I put Him above all else, or do I put everything else first?

"Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil."

Prayer. It's a funny thing. God answers every single prayer we pray. People usually think God doesn't answer their prayers. That's silly. The real problem is that people expect that they're praying the right things -- that what they want is in accord with their Father's will just because it's what they want. In other words, they expect God to say yes, and if He doesn't say yes, then He hasn't answered. Which is, of course, nonsense, but rather attractive nonsense to our sinful nature. We wouldn't usually put it in those words, but it's how we operate. It is, thankfully, not how He operates: for our good and His glory, He often says no.

Oftentimes it's not difficult to see why, looking back. I look at the young women I was interested before I met Jaimie, look back and her, and thank God from the depths of my heart that He always said no before her. I ached from His noes at the time, struggling to see a reason for them, fighting to believe that His plans really were better than mine. They were, of course. They always are. Even when, unlike my example above, it's harder to see -- as it often is. Some things we may never have an answer for: God's reasons may remain ever mysterious. Are we okay with that? Are we okay waiting to see the final fulfillment of His promises, and to rest in the assurance that what He does is good?

For behold, I create new heavens
and a new earth,
and the former things shall not be remembered
or come into mind.
But be glad and rejoice forever
in that which I create...

They shall not labor in vain
or bear children for calamity,
for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the Lord,
and their descendants with them.
Before they call I will answer;
while they are yet speaking I will hear.
The wolf and the lamb shall graze together;
the lion shall eat straw like the ox,
and dust shall be the serpent's food.
They shall not hurt or destroy
in all my holy mountain,”
says the Lord."

A good deal of relationship is trust: trust that the other party in the relationship will be good on their word. Whether that's a business arrangement or a marriage, it's still true. There's more than an intellectual assent to the idea that the other person will uphold their side of things. Trust is as much a deep emotional commitment as it is intellectual assent, because when you trust someone with anything, you bare your soul a little bit. You leave yourself open to being hurt, betrayed, left hanging by your fingernails at the edge of a chasm.

And all the more so when it's life itself you're trusting, and God you're being called to trust it to. Faith is so easy: it's not of us, a gift of God given freely, and a good thing, too. Because faith is hard - impossibly hard, harder than any of us could ever manage. The dead infant, the slow creep of dementia, the blow of a stroke at 45. We ask why, cry out to a God we think isn't there, and get no answer. No answer we want, that is.

He does answer, of course. He tells us that it is for our good and His glory, that all things work according to His purposes.

So we come full circle. I'm looking for a job. Not finding one, either. Though I've been looking since August, looking hard since November, I've had only one interview, and it went nowhere in a hurry. I'm marrying in 53 days. I have bills to pay: rent, utilities, a car payment, and -- very soon -- a few student loans. The questions rise. Will God provide? Will He take care of me? Will He take care of us? Will the bills get paid? Will we have food to eat? When will it happen? Why is it taking so long? Why are all my efforts seemingly in vain?

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

The real question? It's whether we believe Him. He's already answered.

Do I put Him first? Do I seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, trusting Him? Do I, no matter the circumstances, rest in the Truth that took on flesh, or do I flail about in a panic, relying on my own strength to accomplish these tasks?

Every task I am set is ultimately answered only in Christ. He provides, not me. He takes care of Jaimie, not me. He sets the course of my days, and no other.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Amen.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

A few thoughts...

I'm in Fort Worth, now; I was in Lubbock on Wednesday; I was in Colorado before that; tomorrow I will be in Norman again.

Christmas break has been a whirlwind. Time with family, time to catch up with a few friends, time with Jaimie, time with her family. It has been incredibly good, refreshing, encouraging, and I'm very much looking forward to the coming semester. Not least, I'm looking forward to seeing all that God will accomplish. Every time I go into a new season of life, I find myself more expectant about His work and more excited about seeing Him glorified in that season.

There are interesting days ahead, to be certain. We live in days of uncertainty. There has perhaps been no worse time in my life to be seeking employment, and I am coming quickly to the close of college. Interestingly, I find myself not at all troubled by this. I know not what form God's provision will take, but that is of little consequence. Why? A moment ago I momentarily made a typo, writing "Good" instead of "God," and in that typo is a shadow of the truth on which our hope is pinned: God is indeed good. He is the source of all good; indeed, He is the very definition of good. And on that truth I rest all my hope. I have a wedding coming in July (yes, July!), and a family to support from that wonderful day forward. I rest, though, in knowing that it is not I who will ultimately provide; my source of provision as ever is my great King. All that is made is His; He is not troubled by struggling economies or by...

any of our circumstances. Why the pause? Because there was 24 hours or so between the writing of the beginning of that sentence and its finish.

I sit now in my dorm room in Norman, having completed the final leg of the trip I spoke of above. I sit here, missing Jaimie, but looking forward to seeing her in a few days. I sit here, frankly not looking forward to RA training this week - that is another post, or no post at all - but excited about the semester ahead as an RA. I sit here, not ready for classes to begin, but yet very much anticipating them and expectant that I will enjoy all of them. I am, it seems, something of a mess of contradictions. Then again, as I have reflected with friends, so are we all, and so we will remain until perfected.

I will be posting at least once a day the rest of this week, or such is my goal, and if God willing I will meet it. I look expectantly to the rest of this hour, of this day, of this week, of this month, of this year, knowing that all that God has in store will be far better than anything I might plan. May His grace fill you and keep you in perfect peace; may His glory be your one passion!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

After Christmas, thinking...

It's strange, sitting down to type and wondering what to say.

I've alternated between periods of prolific writing and posting and periods of posting hardly at all. I'm not really sure what the difference is.

Some of it is simply circumstances, of course. The difference it makes to be dating and engaged is... immense. There is a time commitment that is simply absent when one is single. I recognize in this the seeds of Paul's comment that he wished all were single, "as he was". There's a great deal more time that must be devoted to the one we spend our life with. And, to be clear, this is a good thing. A married couple can reflect the gospel in ways that a single person alone simply cannot. That is, after all, the very reason marriage exists, as Paul reflects elsewhere.

So many things I have pondered of late. A sampling:

The greatest miracles in history:
  • The Incarnation of Jesus Christ - God takes on human flesh... permanently.
  • The death and resurrection of Christ - God the Son bears the wrath of God the Father, separated from the presence of God the Spirit, bearing the punishment of the sins of mankind.
  • The salvation of any one soul to the kingdom of God. (We miss this one more than we ought. It's big. Really. Stop and think about it.)

The purpose of marriage: to be a living reflection of the way that Christ wins the Church to Himself, and of the loving response of the Bride to her husband and Savior. I will never be Jaimie's savior, and she will never worship me as the Bride does Christ. Nonetheless, herein lies a glorious reflection of the way that Christ and His beautiful, redeemed Bride will relate for all eternity. And this I am honored to be a part of? Incredible. Undeserved, to be certain, this gift.

Family: a treasure of incredible value. I haven't words to express beyond that, and so I will leave it there.

The profundity of the goodness of God. I hadn't realized how deeply God had impressed this on me until conversing with my family the other day. We act in our own will - we disobey - we sin - because we don't truly believe that God is who He says that He is, and because we therefore do not trust His word. We do not believe that He really is sufficient for all our needs, and that His ways truly are higher than ours. We (I!) thus embrace lust and pride and selfishness because we (I!) do not believe that God's plan for sexuality and His call for our humility and His instruction of utter devotion to Him are really better. That ultimately amounts to a horrifying sin far deeper than those: we don't believe He is who He says He is. We don't believe He loves us - though He says it - and we don't believe that He is good - though He says it - and we don't believe that the reward of obedience is better than the immediate pleasures of sin - though He says it. In short, we don't believe Him God at all.

The glory of His grace: that for His glory and our good, He saves us from sin, from death - which we have ourselves [i]chosen[/i]! It is by grace we have been saved, through faith, and this not of our own doing... it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast! He has done this to the praise of His glory, not because we deserved it. Not by our works are we saved.

Yet His salvation is efficacious! It accomplishes something real. He freely gives us grace and faith that we might believe. And when that faith is given, it births rebirth and new life... it births works, as a clear and apparent sign of what God has done. The fruits of the Spirit are present in ever-increasing measure in the life of the believer, that God's glory might be shown in His mighty transformation of persons following Him. What was dead is now alive, and that by the selfsame faith given so freely. Praise be to God who has saved us with a mighty salvation indeed!

May the glories of God consume us! May we be daily more devoted to Him. May we deepen in our love for the Church, our brothers and sisters in Christ, and our passion for together honoring our God and King. May we hunger for all the world to know Him as He is!