Musings by a second grader. How ironic I used to get in trouble for talking too much in class…
Distance creates perspective.
It’s ironic that not having been to church in awhile has helped me understand how much I need Jesus. I’ve become hypersensitive to my own depravity, my impatience, my lack of empathy. Is there hope for me? Well fortunately for me (and everyone else), there is, but it will not wholly be by my power but by the Holy Spirit. Try as I might, but my power is limited.
The time away has rekindled a fire in me — one that is beginning to illuminate God’s will for me.
As is often the case when I have realizations, there are songs that speak my mind, in particular, “Instead of a Show” by Jon Foreman:
I hate all your show and pretense
The hypocrisy of your praise
The hypocrisy of your festivals
I hate all your show
Away with your noisy worship
Away with your noisy hymns
I stomp on my ears when you’re singing ‘em
I hate all your show
Instead let there be a flood of justice
An endless procession of righteous living, living
Instead let there be a flood of justice
Instead of a show
Your eyes are closed when you’re praying
You sing right along with the band
You shine up your shoes for services
There’s blood on your hands
You turned your back on the homeless
And the ones that don’t fit in your plan
Quit playing religion games
There’s blood on your hands
I want real living. I’ve been part of two communities where it felt that real, but I suppose my eternal question is do you look for it, or do you try to build it yourself? If my time in SF has taught me anything, it’s that I can’t do it on my own.
Thankful for escape.
Why do we live to justify our existence? It seems that human beings cannot live with the dissonance of not having some sort of identity or reason to justify who they are or what they do. They feel incomplete.
“I’m an entrepreneur and my existence is justified by a successful startup”
“I’m lonely and finding the one will justify my existence”
“I’m doing <this or that> because you only live once”
What is this need to feel complete? Why is it necessary to improve who we are? Evolution is changing to adapt to new environments. Do we evolve just to succumb to what is a vicious cycle? We adapt to our environment, it is then changed by our own hands (whether via technology or pollution), and then we adapt some more. Similarly we get what we think we want but then realize that it was all a dream and we move on to the next one. More begets more.
Humans often fill their hours up with busyness in order to eschew this sort of self-introspection that causes dissonance due to the lack ability to resolve one’s own questions. Though to be fair, perhaps the self-introspection is a waste of time and our time is better spent drinking it away. But that still doesn’t fix the void that resides within us (at least for more than a night…). We can try to cover it up as much as we want, but it is our human condition to long for something more, for something better than we now have. But why does any of it even matter? Is not death the equalizer?
Ecclesiastes 5:15 - As he came from his mother’s womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand.
One cannot help but hope that there is more to this life than what we have seen and experienced.
The New Testament gives us a framework for how to think, rather than a set of laws as outlined in parts of the Old Testament. Christianity isn’t a set of laws, but a framework for us that allows us to live our lives with the right freedoms and restrictions in place, afforded to us by Christ’s sacrifice. It is freedom to utilize the minds we have been blessed with, with Christ as a model for how to best use our minds.
We weren’t created to blindly follow, but rather to test everything and hold on to what is good.
Yesterday, while we were praying at Bible study, I was hit with a short vision. Prayer is an interesting thing — I’m not usually so much a visual person when it comes to prayer. I’m an engineer — I think in words and number, not abstract pictures. I decided to really let myself go and see what would happen and I was given a vision. To be fair, it was really just a vision of a Bible verse, so not really that imaginative, but it was a vision nonetheless. I started seeing a figure I understood to be Jesus and he walked with me along beautiful green grass, in a pasture, towards water. The verse was the well-known Psalm 23:
1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
3 He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
And it was then I understood — lately I had been feeling tired and felt like I needed a vacation, but I had been looking for rest in places other than my Lord. I mean I had prayed about getting rest and asked God for energy, but I don’t think I really fully gave it up to him.
In the end, He restores my soul. And now I feel great. I feel rested. I don’t feel like I need a vacation anymore, though I should probably still take one just because I haven’t taken one in the last 6 years except for a family cruise once, but that didn’t really feel like a vacation haha.
I’m really thankful for God’s presence in my life.
I stopped writing for awhile, partially because of lent — I found that after I stopped using tumblr on my phone I stopped jotting notes/thoughts down and thus never ended up really posting anything.
Now that I’m resuming…wonder if I still write again? I haven’t been reading and writing as much as I’d like…will have to get back on that.
Lamentations comfort only by lacerating the heart still more. Such grief does not desire consolation. It feeds on the sense of its hopelessness. Lamentations spring only from the constant craving to reopen the wound.– Fyodor Dostoyevsky (The Brothers Karamazov)
As part of Lent, I decided to give up a number of apps on my phone that I check daily — I logged out of them or deleted them, so now whenever I go to one of those apps out of habit, I end up reading my Bible app instead. For whatever reason, God put Nehemiah on my heart (probably because of a really convicting sermon by David Wilkerson that’s always stuck around in my head) so I started reading and came upon this verse that comes after Nehemiah and others start rebuilding Jerusalem and it made me wonder whether prayer without action is useless:
Nehemiah 4:7 But when Sanballat and Tobiah and the Arabs and the Ammonites and the Ashdodites heard that the repairing of the walls of Jerusalem was going forward and that the breaches were beginning to be closed, they were very angry.
8 And they all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it.
9 And we prayed to our God and set a guard as protection against them day and night.
It doesn’t say exactly what they prayed for, but based on the context it’s probably safe to say that they prayed for God’s protection over the restoration project, as well as for their own lives. Though if you read it slightly differently, it could also be prayer + guard = protection. Why not just pray about it and stop there? Is prayer that ineffective that you have to set a guard as well?
Prayer is really misunderstood. Yes, it is a conversation with God, and yes it usually contains questions/requests, asking God for things of which we are not assured, and yes God performs miracles. But prayer is not a genie you just summon whenever you need something — it doesn’t matter how much you believe or trust in God, faith without works is useless (James 2:17).
In these verses from Nehemiah, they took action and set a guard in addition to praying — they didn’t just leave it at prayer.
Prayer without action is lip service — when you want something to change or something to happen, you need to do something about it. However, action itself can mean different things — it doesn’t mean you rush head way into danger — action could take the form of planning, finding people to help out, or even just a change in your heart.
That said, perhaps the phrase should be:
Prayer without change is useless.
Actions don’t necessarily push change towards what you’re praying for so it’s not enough to take random actions, but focused actions that produce change in the direction you are praying.
Are you praying for a friend’s sick family member? Don’t just pray for them — follow up and ask how things are going and perhaps you can help them get medicine or you have connections to good doctors.
Maybe your heart has hardened towards someone because they wronged you and you ask God to soften your heart — perhaps your heart will be changed by you offering a conciliatory gesture.
Are you praying for a spouse? Well you’re not going to find them sitting where you are and being who you are.
If I had to summarize things more succinctly:
Active Prayer > Passive Prayer
We should strive to be active prayers — we pray and we effect change (don’t pray for something you’re not willing to be part of the answer for), rather than passive prayers, people who pray and expect things to come to them or something to magically change them. Prayer is telling God that you want to help or that you need help, and that you want His support and perhaps His vision/wisdom in figuring out what you can do or change.
#halfmoonbay #latergram (at The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay)