a trivial matter?

i have been thinking about a previous blog i wrote entitled ‘weary’ and what it practically looks like to let go and abdicate to God…what it practically looks like to trust Jesus to be my Savior…what it looks like to pursue God’s desires, forsaking my own. i want someone to delineate 5 ways to get off the merry-go-round that is driven by selfish and sinful desires (as if that could be done…or even achieved by those who took note of these points).
i want it to be easy…and i want to do it myself.

i still don’t get it…do i? i still don’t grasp the fact that i can do nothing to save myself.
gosh, how frustrating this is…

as i read ezekiel this morning, i realized that God was similarly frustrated by the nation of Israel…yet in a different light.

he [God] said to me, ‘have you seen this, son of man? is it a trivial matter for the house of judah to do the detestable things they are going here?…
~ezekiel 8.17, today’s new international version.

it is evident from the comment God makes here to ezekiel that Israel does not get it. and it seems that Israel does not take God seriously. Israel goes about their own business, pursuing their own desires…regardless of how it affects God. Israel turns its back on God and worships other gods.

seems rather inconsiderate considering all God has done for Israel…
seems rather brazen…
seems like what i myself often do…

yet, i cannot point fingers at Israel long before these fingers find themselves pointing back at me. obviously, i don’t take God seriously either. i treat my sin as if it is a trivial matter. i guess i think it does not matter to God. i often act like it is not a big deal and go on with my life, pursuing my own desires.

do i not see my sin as God sees it–as detestable in his sight?

maybe i am not turning my back on God in pursuit of other gods, but maybe i am–the idol i have made of myself. i try to please God, striving on my own to be good enough…in vain because i can never be good enough.
and God sees this striving as detestable…

i forsake my need for a Savior, trying to be my own.
i see myself as capable, having the ability to manage myself when, clearly, i cannot.
i am powerless…

it is in this powerless position where God can work, where Jesus can be evidenced, where the Holy Spirit can be accepted.
it is in this powerless state where i see my sin as something to be taken seriously.
it is in this powerless reality that i see my need for grace…and am able to receive it.
it is in this powerless condition that God takes control of my life and evidences his power.

and life (or the ‘stuff’ of life) is no longer viewed as a trivial matter.

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taking time.

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i’ve always heard it said “take time to smell the roses” but i never really gave it much thought…probably because i don’t like the premise behind the saying. this thought involves taking time (which requires patience) coupled with doing something that seems rather unproductive (sounds vaguely like the concept of rest).
i enjoy neither…

but this morning as i began to contemplate how i would spend my time before having to be at work at noon (as i do each morning so that every minute is accounted for in order to be most productive), the thought of simply taking time flooded my mind.

of course i had no idea what to do with that thought, but nonetheless, i began to act it out. i haven’t been extremely productive this morning (no running, no exercise regime, no reading for school, no paper writing, no phone calls, no to-do lists, no errands run, no future plans made) but i have taken time out for me.

even as i write this, my dad’s haunting words “take time out for jenny” (or is it leave some for jenny?…the semantic is still the same regardless of exact words) ring in my ears…to which my constant annoyed response is “i do, dad!”…but do i?

or do i enough?

so today, i am taking time out…
i am exhibiting patience with myself, not feeling the need to spend every waking moment in productivity.
i am practicing the discipline of resting–doing that which truly refreshes my soul.
so, just until noon, i am taking time
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to smell the roses….

weary.

14-16 I can anticipate the response that is coming: “I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. Isn’t this also your experience?” Yes. I’m full of myself—after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary.

17-20 But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

21-23 It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.
24 I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?

25 The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.

paul, romans 7.14-25 in the message

what an apt description of my life now…yet at all times if i am completely honest with myself.

how often do i simply rely on sheer willpower to solve my problems? how often do i think i can overcome that which i am up against, especially the desires that seem to ensnare me time and again? and how come i continue to get on this merry-go-round…turning in the same direction, yet expecting to go in the other.

i am weary…

i am weary of this lifestyle of independence.
i am weary of my own quest to be self-reliant, not needing anyone or anything.
i am weary of thinking i can handle it.
i am weary of trying to maintain control, yet inevitably losing it…

and yet…
isn’t that what life with Christ is all about–abdicating control to him?
isn’t that what freedom with Christ looks like–allowing him to do that which i am utterly powerless to do on my own?
isn’t that what the power of the death and resurrection of Christ brings–a Savior who alone can conquer and master sin?

i am tired of trying again and again to no avail…
i am stepping off the merry-go-round, seeking a different direction…
i am surrendering my own best efforts, which are really no good at all…
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i am giving up…

coffee, anyone?

so i went to a coffee shop today in order to study for a final. this coffee shop actually resembles a home–little patio tables/chairs, plush couches, comfy chairs to crawl up in, candles, coffee mugs that look fresh out of your own kitchen cabinet. a great environment when one wants to be at “home” without actually being at “home”…

i started questioning why do people come to this coffee shop…or more like it, why do i come? why do i see the need to escape my 290 sq.ft. apartment with a futon, no tables, no patio, no chairs (save the retro butterfly chair by the AC unit), yet a few coffee mugs in my kitchen cabinet? well, maybe it is understandable for someone like me, but…

what is the draw here…why do i feel the need to go to coffee shops to study?
what is the draw for me? is it the coffee?
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hardly…i have tried all the non-coffee and less-tea flavored drinks at every coffee shop around.

the draw for me is the atmosphere…
it is a place where i can go to mentally make the switch. meaning, i have purposefully come to this location with the intent to study. i have physically left my home and the environment with which i am most comfortable, the environment that affords me the most distractions, and the environment in which i am most likely to procrastinate.

the draw for me is being around people…
it is a place where i can go to be around people–some foreign, some familiar. i have physically left my home where i am the only one who resides to be in a location where i am surrounded by people.

being around others causes me to focus–to drown out the noise and increase my concentration. being around others causes me to feel solidarity in my attempt to grasp a subject–seeing others engaging in similar behavior. being around others causes me to be more motivated to do that which i came to do–call it competition or inspiration, whichever. being around others causes me a sense of peace that i am not alone in this world–that i am surrounded by others, some still foreign and others potentially familiar.

with that being said…coffee, anyone?

in a land of barrenness…

habakkuk 3.17-19.
17 Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,

18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.

19 The Sovereign LORD is my strength;
he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.

why were there no buds on the fig tree, nor any grapes on the vine? such things occur spontaneously in nature…or so we think. it is always a mystery, to me at least, when nature does not produce according to the way it should. this is why it is hard to understand no figs or grapes when, clearly, there should be.

a land of barrenness…

and what do we make of there being no harvest after the planting…once again, a natural response. no reason is given for the barrenness of the land, just that it simply is.

a land of barrenness…

and what a disappointment to have pens and stalls but no sheep and cattle to fill them! it seems as if planning has occurred in order to make arrangements for livestock; yet, there was none.

a land of barrenness…

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the writer here claims that even though these unnatural or unexpected events occurred, he will choose to praise God.
when all that he is counting on and planning falls through, he will choose to rejoice.
even in the midst of barrenness and unfulfilled desires, he will be joyful in God (not in the circumstances but in the God who allowed the circumstances).
this writer realizes that God is his strength…that God is at work, despite the natural circumstances…despite the planning…despite his desires.
he realizes that God is moving him elsewhere–beyond what he can see, beyond what he has envisioned, beyond what he has desired. and this writer willingly goes…beyond his own ability.

and so must i…
so i must give up the lack of buds or the grapes (the potential), i must give up the crop (the actual), and i must give up the livestock (the future provision). in my barrenness of remaining single (with no potential, no actual, nor any future provision), i must surrender my expectation for the natural, for the expected, for even that which i deeply long for and desire.

i must learn to live in a land of barrenness…

yet to live in this land of barrenness, i must also choose to praise God when that which i have not expected occurs.
i must also choose to rejoice when all of the plans i have made fail to occur.
and in the midst of barrenness and my unfulfilled desires, i must choose to be joyful in God.
i must know and claim God as my strength.
i must know that God is at work…despite how i desire God to work.
i must know that God is moving me onward…beyond my own desires.
and i must be willing to go, to ascend the heights…

jim’s.

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what is so striking about jim’s? is it the B.B.Q. beef…the coca-cola (that you will for sure enjoy)…the pastrami..the char broiled burgers…the old-school sign advertising all of these delicacies?

or…could it be the atmosphere, the environment? now jim’s is a simple building with modest accomodations. i am not even sure there is indoor dining.

yet, everytime i pass by jim’s, whether it be 9a.m. or 9p.m., a throng is gathered around the building. it reminds me of another jim’s (located in rural alabama) which also beckons gatherers with a coca-cola sign.

neither jim’s is about food, beverage, or the advertising, but about community…the people gathered. people want to gather with others who have common interest, at least on some level…to gather with those who understand their needs…to gather with people who can somehow meet such needs.

and that is why these gathering places will continue to exist, despite the old-school signage…or in spite of it.

does God withhold forgiveness?

“…for he had filled jerusalem with innocent blood, and the Lord was not willing to forgive.”
2 kings 24.4

does God withhold forgiveness? are there things God will not forgive? apparently, there was a great injustice towards the people in jerusalem that God was standing up for. but does this mean that if the oppressors repented, God would still have not forgiven them?

forgiveness is a choice. and here, it appears God is making a conscious decision against it.

forgiveness is not automatic…and it is not automatic with God.

so, how does this affect my theology? are there things i do in which God is unwilling to forgive…in which God chooses against forgiveness? does God wait for repentance before deciding to forgive? does forgiveness necessitate my repentance?