Coincidence.

Perhaps it’s just a coincidence that things I have picked up through my life are coinciding in this manner at this point of my life.  But I feel like I would be downplaying God’s role in my life.  Ever since I began having a very real and tangible experience of Him, I began understanding that God does give us free will…but at the end of the day, He already knows the outcome of everything we do, so nothing we do can surprise Him.  This, plus verse 26 of Chapter 17 in Acts, which says, “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place,” clearly puts forth the notion that God has already planned out our lives, that no matter what we do, it doesn’t matter because He ironed out a path for us already.

And yet, what a depressing view on God’s plan this is!  What I’ve grown to grasp is that it’s not a bad thing for us to have no will; indeed, how much greater are the things that God has planned for us than what we have planned for ourselves?  He is a God who loves us, and what He desires for us should overwhelm us with gratitude because He continually molds us into what He sees in us.   No longer should we cry out “Lord, it is not fair that I have no say in the matter;” rather, we should say, “Lord, I pray that You take my say in the matter because I trust in Your faithfulness and Your love.”  Too many times, myself included, we hold onto what we view as important more tightly than what is actually important; I pray that I keep my eyes on the Lord and that He may soften my heart to fully cooperate with His will.

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Ruth in Children.

So, today was my first time ever working with the children’s ministry and teaching during WCCC.  Going into it, I honestly was not even clearly aware of what was going on, what provisions were made, and who was assigned to do what.  I was indeed lost.  It wasn’t until three weeks prior to WCCC that I had begun considering preparing for what I was going to be teaching an estimated 30+ 6-7 year olds…fun.  A week past, and thoughts of “Maybe I should get started” ran through my head.  Days went by and soon, I was staring right down the barrel of WCCC without even realizing how I was spending my time.  I got my head into things and began prepping for what was sure, in my mind, to be a trying time, both in patience and grace.

It wasn’t until last night that I had fully coordinated the lesson plan with my teaching partner, whose schedule was completely unaligned with my own.  We finally got down the order of the skit and the activity, and we seemed prepared for God’s work ahead of us.  I was in charge of doing the skit, and he was going to be working the activity; it seemed like a fair balance of work.  Today came (ironic that the theme of WCCC this year is “As Long as It is Called Today), and I found myself exceedingly nervous for what was waiting for me when evening drew near.  I second guessed myself way too many times in trying to understand how to properly present the life of Hudson Taylor before children in the form of a skit, and eventually, I settled for a few highlights of his journey with God, making sure to emphasize the aspect of “walking with Christ.”  I began fretting over time allotments that we had settled on because I asked brothers who taught the night prior, and it seemed like we skimped on the more entertaining parts of the lesson.  Whew.  Forget about it; when it happens, you’ll know what to do.

And sooner than I anticipated, it came.  Right after dinner, I did whatever I needed to do and headed to the room.  The brother and sister who were helping me were there already and we discussed briefly what our plans were for the night.  The children had arrived early, and the brother leading the Singspiration for the children had them settle down and wait patiently for the time to come when he could begin.  The children were rowdy and wanted to run about the grounds, so we consented and gave them five minutes to play as they pleased.  “Wow, these kids are really…really energetic…” was the thing echoing in my mind.  This did not serve to calm my nerves going into the meeting, but I kept a smile and made sure they didn’t hurt themselves playing.  Soon enough they were in the room, preparing to sing.  The Singspiration leader asked them to quiet their hearts and pray before the Lord, so I did the same.  All of a sudden, God put a prayer in me, and I found myself saying, “Lord, I’m not ready for this at all.  You know my heart and how nervous I am; Lord, give me the grace to teach these children Your word and instill a heart within them for You.” At once, a peace came within me, and I felt God center my focus on Him and give me His peace.  I sang the songs with the children, and one song in particular was stirring to me.  Some of the lyrics are:

“Wherever you go I will go,

wherever you dwell, I will dwell.

Your people will be my people,

and your God will be my God.”

The Singspiration leader had the boys sing it, and then he had the girls sing it, and for some reason, when all the little girls sang, with innocent hearts desiring to worship the Lord with their high, clear voices, something hard and pessimistic within me shattered, and I caught teardrops from my eyes.  I understood that my pessimism about six and seven year olds having a passion for God was a point of human judgment; it was me judging children for their lack of wisdom and on that basis, judging how well they could receive the Lord.  I was left humbled, and could only listen as they finished off the song.  The story, of course, is from the book of Ruth, where Ruth tells Naomi that she will follow her.  The children knew this and they answered accordingly when the Singspiration leader asked them where the song came from.  I was amazed at God’s work within these children, giving them the wisdom and knowledge of a beautiful story within His Word.  I realized, at that moment, that God was speaking to me from this experience; He moved my heart, knowing that I was not following after Himself, as Ruth followed Naomi, nor would I be reflecting something of Himself, as Naomi most likely showed Ruth.  He convicted me and blessed me all at once, knowing my need and fulfilling it beyond my expectation, and the night after the Singspiration went smoothly.  I delivered my skit with Hudson Taylor, and the brother and sister helping me worked marvelously with me to deliver the full message.  I got to take a picture with two of my favorite children from the group who participated the most, and the Lord just gave to me, in that instance, His overwhelming love for all of His children.  He showed me how precious these children were to Him, and gave me sight of how He was going to use what I taught them to grow within these children beyond WCCC.  I thank and praise God for this unexpectedly touching experience (for I didn’t really appreciate children prior to this), and I stand in awe continually of His goodness and faithfulness to provide.

Insecurities.

I don’t know why I think the way I do.  Maybe it’s just fear of losing something that matters for once; maybe it’s the realization that the situation is more familiar than I’d like it to be.  When all’s said and done, it turns out that I was wrong about how I thought, wrong about how I analyzed things that were said, and wrong about the outcome that I thought was so close at hand.  Because of these fears and these worries and these anxieties, I’ve been led to believe that I have no other choice than to ruin that which is most precious to me.  It’s a self-destructive, yet repetitive behavior for me, and it makes me question if I should even invest anymore in personal relationships.  It’s tiresome for me to have to bat away those thoughts, and it’s surprising and often quite hurtful to the other person when I express them.  I don’t know what to do.  It seems like no matter what I try to prevent what I fear from happening, it comes at me like a train that’s due to arrive, and all I can do is wait, bound on the tracks by my own suffocating insecurities.  It seems like the harder I try to improve things, the worse they get, and I leave feeling like I am the villain in everything that’s gone wrong.  And I am.  I have accepted this; no matter how much time or effort that I put into building these personal relationships up, a tragic flaw appears, one way or another, that leads me to ruining it for both people.  I’m tired of this pattern of incompetence and helplessness…I seem to just attach myself to people and watch them flit through my grasp as specters merely passing by.  So many pieces of my heart that have been placed in full trust of people have been lost to the ages.  My fatal flaw is that I am too willing to trust people and give them a chance, and I indulge in this flaw in complete ignorance and innocence by throwing all I have into developing that little chance.  It’s the hopeless romanticism that permeates into all areas of my life.  A young boy reading Shakespeare with Romeo and Juliet failing to feel the pain that gets his eyes wet after thousand daggers pierced his heart, making suffering a lonely art.  You read that sentence and think drama and, for the more keen observers of rhythm, poetry.  And that’s what I’ve built my life upon, to be honest.  The drama of a normal life has magnified itself in my eyes so that everything could be taken for something of worth, something meaningful, until my paranoia overwhelms my satisfaction with the present and swallows up my faith in personal relationships.  It’s my hopelessly romantic view of loyalty too that manages to mangle my faith in relationships; I take too much pride in having a blind loyalty to a select few people, and I somehow expect that loyalty to be reciprocated, knowing full well that only fools rush so quickly into giving that kind of loyalty.  And yet it hurts every time, waking up to the fact that maybe it’s not mutual, maybe I’m caring too much and just being an annoyance to that person.  I don’t know what they feel because things always end up dissolving into history’s clutches before I get a chance to review them in the present.  All I know is that I will keep on being loyal to the ones I care about whether or not they reciprocate it, or even notice it, because they’re really all I’m living for.  That blind loyalty to God ended up preserving my own life back in high school when suicide was just a bike and a car accident away, so I know it’s worth something.  I just need to make that leap of faith in loyalty to overcome the insecurities swimming in my head.  I know that someone will come along who understands what I mean and how I feel; in fact, someone has come along who seems to understand me at last.  But these insecurities keep harassing me to no end, and I fear for the end of this story; nevertheless, I will fiercely fight to show my loyalty to those who are loyal to me, trusting in them and hoping that they’ll understand how foolishly complex I am and that God even will surround me with people who understand and forgive me for the flawed, hopelessly romantic fool that I am.

Menacing Maelstrom.

Swept clean of every obstacle inside

a dark stormy sea, a fast rising tide.

A destruction of the cleansing type

Harvesting all things when time was ripe.

The roar of the white noise within hearing,

screams of a loss forever enduring.

An echo within an empty cave of soul

pleading for the path to fill the hole.

A desert of abandonment whispering low

for confusion to know where exactly to go.

Whirlpools of seafoam collapse within

swallowing tidal waves of the forgotten.

Skyscrapers scarcely shroud the sun’s set

as roads of rage course through channels of regret.

Sweeping winds of heart thuds amplified

around the mind so falsely dignified.

The chaotic peace within a heart that ceased

the disappointment marked by a brow creased.

The lost voice of a person drowned below

is a missed gift that we failed to bestow.

Pour Out the Soul.

(Verse 1)

When I pray to You,

I know I cannot strive.

But it gets so hard

not seeing You’re alive.

I cry out to you

O God, and You hear,

and in Your own way

You show that You are near.

(Chorus)

Just take my tears

and bathe my soul.

Wash me clean

and make me whole.

(Verse 2)

I trust in Your Word

for I have nothing else

but to live for You

and just die to self.

Reveal to me now

Lord, Your holy will

and in my heart

won’t You come and fill?

(Chorus)

(Verse 3)

The last tear drips –

You gently wipe it off.

And all that I feared,

You bear my heart aloft.

The sun shines forth

it’s a whole new day

and I praise my God

for He has found a way.

What a Shame.

A year and a half ago, my body proved itself breakable,

the bone’s repair slowly making itself available.

Yet now, standing at this waterfall’s base, I learn

that what seemed healed has not been able to really return.

And what I yearned to do, I could not move myself to try.

For fear of re-injury and to avoid that,  I had to deny

the pleasure of the risk-reward question and its treasure.

Great glory and pride or pain in abounding measure.

And now, I quail beneath the fountain’s great gaze

each jagged edge of rock, coated with age’s smooth glaze.

My leg quivered at the thought of scaling such terror

Sealing my lifetime with a singular error.

Phantasms of pain long ago incurred reigned

imagined thoughts of slipping my rusty leg pained.

And so, I just watched as my youth passed before me

while the rest of eternity’s travelers just ignored me.

Give Me the Glory.

At Mammoth Mountain, the activity I was looking forward to the most was fishing.  I was so excited to bring this newfound passion to the people that were going to be going with me that I prepared many rigs in preparation for the event and somewhat viewed all other activities as a less profound usage of time.  However, when the time finally came for us to go fishing, the day’s exploits brought out the worst in me, exposing me to the darkness that still remained.

Before we even fished, I already started hinting that I didn’t want them to be arrogant and think they knew everything – which, in hindsight, is just another kind of naïve enthusiasm – and warned them about listening to instruction.  In this, I was far more arrogant than my teacher was; given the opportunity to teach, I let it consume me and thus assumed the position of a teacher and not a fellow student.  My attitude in teaching was less patient than it could have been because I expected the fishing to be fairly straightforward given my “many” experiences with pier fishing.  However, the rest of the day would be telling in disciplining me and fixing my attitude.

Not too long after casting out lines, I found that the rocks at the bottom of the lake were frustratingly easy for me to catch my hooks on.  So, I waded out, letting my shorts get wet to wiggle the hooks out from the crannies that they were stuck in.  This worked well, I managed to get solid footing on the rocks that existed in the pond, exclaiming now and then due to sharp rocks in the sand below.  However, there was one instance where I slipped and fell on my side in the water, soaking me up to my shoulder on my left side.  To rub salt in my wounds, a ship full of tourists passed by and the passengers on the boat witnessed the tragic strike to my pride.  Someone exclaimed and I heard some jeering and laughing.  With my figurative tail between my legs, I stood up, soaked, and tried grimly to keep on keeping on.

We spent a full two or three hours before we were greeted by our parents for lunch.  At this time, I was mentally and physically worn down from teaching my friends how to fish, and began feeling my patience wearing thin.  They were doing well at tying knots, but some fundamental aspects of setting up the rod were lacking.  Finally, a mistake was made that let the line get unraveled and tangled beyond anything a beginner (but posing as an expert) fisherman could handle, and I lost my cool, sighing numerous times and shaking my head slightly now and then.  How would anyone want to continue fishing after seeing this discouraging display?

After a few more hours spent staring haplessly at the lake, I began realizing that this wasn’t how my teacher taught me.  He bore with me in patience and with matching enthusiasm.  After understanding that I had not brought them up the same way that he had, I prayed by the lakeside for forgiveness for my arrogance.  In praying that, however, I was also aware of the fact that it could have been a prayer disguised as a secret bargain for God to provide us with a fish.  I therefore asked God to somehow lead me to be humble and not be so full of self.  Soon after, one of my church friends caught a trout, and I moved to unhook it.  In all this, I understood what God was telling me; there was no greater lesson in humility than having someone else catch a fish as I stood empty-handed.

To be honest, I was a bit bitter about the fact that my friend received so much praise without attributing it to a good teacher, but I realized here that it was again that arrogance rising within me.  Although I mentioned having a great teacher when I caught a fish, I was struck by the fact that there was no need for my friend to say so.  Short on patience, mutual enthusiasm, and grace, I fell short of many things that should have been reflected in a Christian life.  This trip showed me a lot of how much glory I desired for myself and not for Him, and also how much darkness still remained within.  I understood that though I loved fishing, that love was not a godly love that would be willing to share, but a human love that was fiercely and wrongly jealous.  Lord, help me to love with a love like Yours for all things, be it hobbies, people, or the world.

Fight the Urge.

It seems like they’re all gone now.

Every time I open the blue box, how

the green dot goes to mobile;

it’s getting hard to stay noble.

FIghting off persistent coughs

of a future habit hard to stop.

A red and white envelope of paper

buy one now, to use for later.

With friends, no thoughts fly

to what I should be able to deny.

Yet alone, the struggle is close at hand

My ego striving against the id’s demand.

“All writers do it, it helps create,”

my mind says to try and deviate

from what I do not want to do.

A whisper in my ear, “It’s true.”

A secret desire, borne of the night

in daytime spent trying just to fight

the shameful appeal of the world.

My conscience consistently curled,

bent at the edges where it would not lose

holding onto morals it could not loose.

Lord Jesus, I need you here in this moment

to guide me away from my sin’s strong torment.

The lips utterance are tears of crocodiles

as the mind still lingers on that which defiles.

Just try it once, and it won’t be that great –

a statement spoken with bitter hate.

For self-destruction is made of self construction

Ashes fall down from purity’s reduction.

God, help me, and help me to want Your aid

lest I fall in the subtle grave I have made.

It’s Time to Rise.

Matthew 24:14

14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (ESV)

Hopefully more often than not, we Christians have encountered the looming topic of the end times in our respective churches.  In my opinion, it is a necessary topic because it serves multiple purposes: 1) it keeps us vigilant, watching after His return, 2) it should move us to further spread His Word to the nations in order to bring about His kingdom, 3) living a life with the awareness of the end times should alert us to the fact that…they are coming soon.

And what exactly should be our attitude as we set our faces against the incoming darkness?  Should we, perhaps, in our vigilance, deny all communication with the world to prevent ourselves from stumbling? Because surely we’re called to not be unequally yoked, right?  Do we, as “good Christians,” cling to our beliefs and try and weather the storm? Or do we, amidst raging waters around us, choose to jump into the tempest and rescue those whose cries for help are muffled by the roar of the environment around us?  I hesitate to call it a problem because I believe that every believer has his own experience of Christ and his own calling as well, but there does seem to be an attitude of indifference to the Gospel that is spreading among younger believers nowadays.  I myself, until pretty much freshman year of college, was guilty of having such an attitude.  However, standing on the other side of the matter, I firmly believe that there needs to be a rekindling of passion for the Gospel within God’s children.  And this passion needs to be founded on something that is intangible but material.

1 Timothy 1:18-19

18 This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith…

It is a warfare that we are gradually becoming more steeped in.  But unlike the wars waged by the nations, this warfare is invisible and ultimately, far more difficult.  For how can we, as seeing and hearing beings, participate in a fight that cannot be seen by eye nor heard by ear?  It is a matter of “holding faith and a good conscience.”  As a young believer growing up in a church filled with elder saints, I had always relied on them to fight my battles and tell the tales of their victories and defeats.  However, upon entering college, the great, and understandably fearsome, realization that the time has come for me to pick up and put on my armor as detailed in Ephesians 6.  The charge is now upon me to fight the good fight, and do so to bring glory to God and establish His kingdom on the earth.  However, another difference between the warfare we wage and the battles of the world is that unlike the worldly wars, our fight is won with love.

As it says in 1 John 4:18: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” In our fight, too often I see believers castigating the ways of the world and hatefully denouncing those dwelling in the world.  And yet, are they never reminded of their own beginnings in the world before God had grace and gave them His gift of salvation?  It’s little wonder that young believers are easily cowed by the argumentative ways of the world and shy away from taking up the mantle of sharing His Word to the nations.  This fear is a crippling fear that shuts our mouths and makes our knees to tremble; it’s a testament to the current condition of the Christian life that one of the hardest (and terrifying) things to do is to just share the Gospel with those we encounter.  There is no room for this fear in living the Christ-life that we have within us, for He came not in fear of the worldly, but to love those in the world.  This love overcomes all fear, reminding us that we are not so important that we cannot bear a little shame for His will.  After all, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, endured the highest humiliation when He died upon the Cross; who are we to linger behind and watch others pick up their crosses and follow Him?  So great was His love that He sent His only Son to die for the sins of the many that they might be restored to Him, and as followers of Christ, can we not do the same in our own varieties of sacrificial love?  It is not a matter of saving face, but a matter of His saving grace, and we must realize that the love of God within our hearts will move us into situations where we are not comfortable.  Even so, He has given us boldness in Him to be able to share our experience with those around us, believing and unbelieving.

In closing, 2 Timothy 1:7 is a direct exhortation to all believers:

for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”  Let’s be diligent to exercise some of that power, that love, and that self-control as we ready ourselves to be lights in the gradual onset of darkness.