Heading in to work

Heading in to work. Had a good weekend.

In particular, I immensely enjoyed another Moot with the Thinklings. It was a great night with those guys. I do fear that I spent too much time during it bemoaning the state of our politics and also bashing away at neo-Calvinism.

I have been wondering how much emotions are tied into my stances. I’ve been, in a way, granting myself more license to be angry at what is going on. In other words – and perhaps this is a function of age – I have shortened my approach to the “this has gone on long enough and needs to end now” phase of discourse.

Approaching decisions and stances driven by emotions is not the best way to go. It produces too much heat, not enough light. But emotions have their God-given role. I’m working out the balance.

Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city. – Proverbs 16:32 ESV

“Slow to anger” doesn’t mean you never get angry. But the runway is long, and the transition between the “on the ground” phase and “wheels up” on your anger should not be abrupt and catastrophic but smooth and controlled.

It seems we live in such an angry culture. I don’t know if it’s just that social media amplifies the angriest voices; I hope it’s not as bad as it seems.

I certainly don’t want to be a part of perpetuating destructive anger. There is too much good and necessary and gracious work to be done.

As I said, I’m heading in to work. In more ways than one.

Now

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”
Psalms 46:10 ESV

And when that happens, all of our temporal cares and worries and labors won’t have the attention of our hearts and minds, will they?

And yet… I find myself falling into the trap of forgetting that, although the full exaltation of God in all the earth is yet to come, stillness is commanded now. Knowledge of God is something to seek now. God’s exaltation is already happening, now.

How is he exalted? In the hearts and lives of his followers, now, growing and spreading over the earth.  Now.

For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. – Habakkuk 2:14 ESV

To live in this “not yet”, now, as if it already is, brings it about.small and close and (I hope this makes sense) is all a part of bringing it to completion far and wide.

I’m wiped out by the cares of this world; in particular by cares related to my family. It’s natural and tempting to look toward a future, a “then”, when I’m through with the day to day struggles and efforts. Then I will be able to be still.

The passage’s grammar doesn’t allow that.

Be still and know. Now.

Direction

In a follow-up to this post, I’ve picked a way.

I’m not 100% certain of the direction I’m headed with this. But I never am, really. That’s why it’s called faith. I’ll take steps and the Lord will correct me if I’m wrong, I trust.

Really, there is a lot of good that can come out of taking a step. Because not taking a step usually results in . . . nothing happening.

Somewhat related, I mentioned yesterday that one of our family members hit a setback. Took a wrong turn, really, and is now working through the results of that. But the great thing is, there is still a direction. There is still an open way before him. That’s an incredible encouragement.

Pressing on.

. . . forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. – Philippians 3:13–16 (ESV)

Hurting just a little bit

I’m hurting, but just a little bit.

These past two years have had their share of joy, but also lots of staring over the cliff. Most of the joy has been related to the fact that we didn’t go over.

The Lord has been our Savior, in every sense of the word. Really.

We had a setback today; it’s recoverable. I’m feeling the loss, but I worship the Restorer.

It still hurts.

Just a little bit.

As he walked

… whoever says he abides in [Jesus] ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. – 1 John 2:6 ESV

There are passages like this all over Scripture. Sometimes they seem to grow a bit dull with the friction of repeated reads, or maybe a better way to express it is we’ve become dull to their wonder, fear and sharpness.

We should walk in the same way in which he walked? I’m thinking through the implications.

He walked in courage. Courage is often the first thing I think of when i think of Jesus in his incarnation. Boy was he brave. He had physical courage, social courage, intellectual courage, spiritual courage. He was fearless. Perfect love does that.

He walked in wisdom. Jesus was brilliant in his dealings with friends and especially with those at enmity with him. He astonished people. He drove those who wanted to take him down mad with his answers to their loaded questions. Their ordnance blew up in their faces.

He walked in passion. Jesus doesn’t come across in the gospels as needlessly emotional. But he wept over Jerusalem and grieved over his followers’ lack of faith and cried at the tomb of a good friend and sweat blood in the garden. He felt the extremes of human emotion: joy, gladness, anger, sorrow, peace, agitation. All while being in full control.

He walked in gentleness, especially toward those who the rest of the world walked over. Both Rome and the Jewish religious leaders were a hobnailed sandal smashing a human face, forever. Jesus touched and healed and blessed the ones that were underneath this crushing weight of earthly power. He placed himself under all that weight and took the worst they could give him.

He walked in authenticity. Look at the commands of Jesus. Try to find one that he himself didn’t follow and fulfill. Jesus is the definition of walking the talk. That is incredibly rare.

He walked in faith. The faith of Jesus was in full operation at all times. He relied on the Father for everything and trusted the Father for everything and courageously did the works the Father put before him, in faith.

He walked in hope. He went through more brutal temptation and more brutal physical and spiritual suffering than we could ever face or withstand, for hope in the joy that was set before him.

We walked in love. “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” He was the expression of the Father’s love, of the one who is love itself. He loved us to and through the whips and the humiliation and the nails. He loved the Lord his God with all his heart, soul, mind and strength, and he loved his neighbor (us) as he loved himself. He chose the greatest path, the path of self-giving and self-emptying, of redeeming the irredeemable out of the muck of our homemade pit. Love.

He raised us from the dead and gave us new hearts and a new Spirit and made his home with us.

So that we might walk as he walked.

Pick a way already

I face either/or decisions frequently. On the really big ones I have a bad habit of kicking the can down the road.

I’m currently considering working toward a post grad degree. There are two ways to go.

When I’m finally done with day-job I have a desire to become a community college professor. I also love history. So one of my options is to get a masters in history and see if that would be enough to get a position at Lone Star.

My other option is seminary.

I also need to keep taking random undergrad courses at Lone Star so I can be part of the Core.

I also only have 24 hours in the day.

I’m wanting to push through to a decision and commitment because of the incessant pull of the aforementioned tried-but-not-so-true kick the can down the road methodology that will keep me mulling this decision until I’m 80.

Praying for wisdom.

As many as they were before

“I will whistle for them and gather them in, for I have redeemed them, and they shall be as many as they were before.
Zechariah 10:8 ESV

It has occurred to me
That the first garden and the last garden
Were always the plan

And the glory of the last garden
From its bejeweled walls
To the majesty of its tiniest leaf vein
Is brighter, deeper, more profound and poignant
Than it would have been
Without the serpent

Not because he was anything
But he believed he was making something
Something big
Yet in the end what had been intended
For very good
Turns out to be inevitable
And very good
And like the serpent never was

And even – and he’ll hate this –
Better
As if he’d never slithered

Because of the middle garden
And the blood-like sweat
And a cup drained
By one who did not slay the garden invaders
But submitted to their serpent whips
And venomed nails
And sweated out blood like thick rain

So to gather
All of his
Without one of them lost

Again

Without one of them lost

A snake-bitten people looked up at the exalted one
Crowned in thorned fangs
and were healed

And in the end
The serpent
Got nothing at all

Grateful

I was tired yesterday evening when I walked onto the Lone Star College University Park campus. It was time for our weekly Core meeting (the Core is the Christian club I help lead at LSC UP). I was lugging my backpack and a carry-case of thirty Chick Fil A sandwiches that Lone Star generously provided fo us. They are good to us.

It didn’t matter that I was tired. When i walked into the building i had the same energizing feeling that I get every week: deep affection for this great little community college campus and gratefulness and wonder that I get to do this.

Here is a picture of the group last night. They devoured the sandwiches, by the way. I’m blessed a million ways.

Escape

I haven’t posted recently because I  haven’t been on the bus for awhile. I spent last week in California at a data conference. Jill came with me; it was an enjoyable week and we even got some vacation time on Friday in San Francisco.

While there we visited the prison at Alcatraz. That was fascinating. Alcatraz housed the worst of the worst. As far as is known, in its 29 year history no one ever survived an escape attempt from Alcatraz. Even if you were able to get out of the facility, Alcatraz is an island a mile and a half off the coast of California and it is believed no one would survive the tides and hypothermia of the swim. But people still tried.

Fight or flight? When to escape from your circumstances and when to dig in and push through? I think about this a lot when I’m in difficult times, but I almost always pick “fight” over “flight”. I believe persevering through results in a better man in the end. Push through.

God has given me a lot of escapes in the midst of all that fighting and pushing. Home is an escape. Jill is an escape; home is where she is. My kids and grand kids are an escape.

I use the word “escape” the way J.R.R. Tolkien used it when responding to criticisms that the Lord of the Rings was “escapist.” He agreed that it was, in he same way that escaping from prison is “escapist”.

One thing I love about Jesus is that he didn’t escape when he could have. He persevered through the most horrible trial imaginable on the cross. He escaped death, not by avoiding it, but by literally submitting to it and then breaking out of a stone cold prison and walking forth in resurrection power.

In the same way, he didn’t die and rise so that we could escape this world. He is redeeming this world and building his Kingdom and one day he will set this world all to rights again. We won’t be escaping, we will be coming home to the garden for which we were created.

And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. – Revelation 22:5 ESV