Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A Worthy Discipline from John Ortberg

If you want to really experience the flow of love as never before, the next time you are in a competitive situation [around work or relationship or whose kids are the highest achieving or looks or whatever], pray that the others around you will be more outstanding, more praised, and more used of God than yourself. Really pull for them and rejoice in their success. If Christians were universally to do this for each other, the earth would soon be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God.

- Soul Keeping by John Ortberg

Monday, May 18, 2015

Bread and Water: Isaiah 30:20

There are few things as necessary to life as food and drink, but let's get more specific and say bread and water. These are staples that are necessary for humans to receive nutrition for growth. They provides energy and nourishment, relief and satisfaction. They are good things, and without them we would certainly die. 

It is shocking, then, to see these two human necessities compared to adversity and affliction in Isaiah 30:20. 

"Though the Lord may give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself any more, but your eyes shall see your Teacher."

In a culture that avoids adversity and affliction like the plague, indeed a culture that has learned to view them as harmful, the prophet tells Israel that these things can serve as gifts from the Lord. 

Though all adversity and affliction are not from the Lord, it is wise to receive them with thankfulness when they are. For in the same way that bread and water nourish and replenish our weary bodies, adversity and affliction can fortify out weary souls and shape our character. 

Indeed, they might just serve as the catalysts that open our weary eyes to the reality of our Teacher's presence with us. 

When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Marathoning: What I Learned

This is a reflection on what I learned during the 6 month period when I trained for The Flying Pig marathon.

1. You have to see why running a marathon might be a good thing. 

Without this the chances of sticking with a training program are slim, particularly during the cold winter months. 

2. Mind must master body. 

Many people are unwittingly governed by their bodily desires, food, sex, sleep, you name it. When training for a marathon you (your mind) must take the seat as governor and dictate to your body how things will be. This is difficult, especially for those who have long been the slaves of their bodies. It is a monster to subdue, tame, but eventually you can make it an ally. But it's foolish to think you can conquer 26.2 miles while incapable of conquering pie and ice cream.  

3. Share your vision of running

This step was important for me, because several people who were running it (or had run previously) become a type of accountability group to me. They would check to see how training was going, and give small but helpful words of encouragement. 

4. You are training, not trying. 

Words are important. When aiming for a goal that causes us to go through a process of transformation, it is important that we understand the process as training, not trying. Training involves gradual steps that move you towards the goal. Training causes transformation over time. Trying involves tackling the goal, often unprepared; it is a sure way to fail. When I started cramping up around mile 18 I could say to myself, "This is what you trained for..." I knew my body could do what it was telling me it could not do. 

5. Don't go back 

Finally, there will be a great temptation to return to the pre-training person who was ruled by the body. Continue to live the new disciplined life you've acquired. It doesn't necessarily mean you run another marathon, it does mean that you keep your mind as governor. If your mind governors your body, and your mind is connected to that which is good and right, you will keep achieving things that you once thought were impossible. 

Thanks for reading. 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Flying Pig Day: Done!

I've been working towards this day for about 6 months. It was my first (and last) marathon. My legs started locking up around mile 18, but I made it. From 18 to the end I silently cursed at all the people yelling, "You can do it 2040! Come on, finish strong!" So I apologize to those several thousand people. 

So I've checked running a marathon off my bucket list. Next up is... We'll see. 

I was so tired I was asleep standing up, I guess. In the picture next to me is a very inspiring human being named Scott. The man's story is moving... so moving it would be improper for me to share it. 

The end. 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Easily Distracted

I listened to a sermon by Tim Keller recently called Adoration: Hallowed Be Thy Name. It was about the primacy and importance of praise in prayer. If one does not adore God, and seek to hallow (or set aside as holy) the name of God, then all other functions of prayer and life will be distorted because they will be experienced from an improper vantage point. In other words, the person who adores God will pray rightly for their daily bread and other petitions. They will see forgiveness in the light of Christ, and so on...

Upon hearing the sermon I decided that I wanted more of this for myself. I wanted to become the type of person who adores God and hallows the name of God in word, deed, and life. And so I woke up keen on spending time simply praising God. It was fewer than 1 minute after beginning that my mind began wandering to other things. I couldn't even spend 1 minute of focused time adoring the creator of all things. I was easily distracted.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who is so easily distracted. The world in which we live trains us to be this way. We are rarely ever invited or encouraged to be still, or just do one thing. Our schedules are such that as we are doing something we are also thinking of what's next. Thus we are never fully in the moment. We are as those who are always between doors, but never fully in one room.

There is a story in The Silver Chair, by C.S. Lewis, where the children, who are on an Aslan endorsed mission, get easily put out of their way. They are journeying to find a missing prince, and their journey is tough, but manageable. They see the difficulties for what they are, and handle them as they come. Suddenly a queen comes up and tells them about a town with hot baths, beds, and great meals. Going there would've taken them off the path Aslan set them on, and they knew it. But the thought of all that comfort stayed with them, and distracted them.
After that talk with the Lady things got worse in two different ways. In the first place the country was much harder. The road led through endless, narrow valleys down which a cruel north wind was always blowing in their faces. There was nothing that could be used for firewood, and there were no nice little hollows to camp in, as there had been on the moor. And the ground was all stony, and made your feet sore by day and every bit of you sore by night.

In the second place, whatever the Lady had intended by telling them about Harfang, the actual effect on the children was a bad one. They could think about nothing but beds and baths and hot meals and how lovely it would be to get indoors. They never talked about Aslan, or even about the lost prince, now. And Jill gave up her habit of repeating the signs over to herself every night and morning. She said to herself, at first, that she was too tired, but she soon forgot all about it. And though you might have expected that the idea of having a good time at Harfang would have made them more cheerful, it really made them more sorry for themselves and more grumpy and snappy with each other and with Puddleglum. 
It's the same way with our lives and the distractions that come. The chief end of a person, as the reformed catechism says, is "to glorify God and to enjoy him forever." This is what brings the greatest life, and this is what must constantly remain our focus. The things that arise peripherally only draw our attention away from that goal and, like the children in the story, ruin our perception of the life we currently have and the mission we have been given.   

This is why I am endeavoring to adore God more and more. Since I am so easily distracted I must persevere with grace until God is the most important thing to me naturally. So important that any other thing will pale in comparison. It is then, I believe, that I will experience the world as I am meant to, and I will see life and creation in all their beauty, because then I will see them through God.

Saturday, April 4, 2015