Armor of light

Besides this, since you know the time, it is already the hour for you to wake up from sleep, because now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is nearly over, and the day is near; so let us discard the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. (Romans 13:11‭-‬12 CSB)

I remember waking up as a child, say in the middle of the summer or on a cold winter morning during Christmas break. What I remember is light and hope in a new day. It was . . . Bliss.

The contrast between that and trying to rouse my old, tired self in the darkness of 5:30am is, well, quite a contrast! When days are new and one hasn’t experienced very many, each day holds bright secrets and splendid serendipities.

Days pile upon each other and over time the sharp, bright trumpet of each new day becomes a dull pffft.

This should not be. Each day is a gift and, for the believer, one day closer to glory. Yes, jobs and responsibilities and routines and morning alarms might dull the edge of expectation and turn the morning spring into a desultory roll out of bed, but it ought not be that way.

We are alive. We are now. Each breath is a gift and the promise of the soon coming dawn should enliven us. It’s time to get up and get dressed.

And I’m not talking about khakis and a button down.

(351)

Passages

Today I decided to pass on to others a ministry that I have given a lot of my heart, soul, mental and spiritual energy to over the past 4 years.

It is time.

This ministry has student officers now, they are organized and getting things prepared. I am not truly a student at that community college anymore, even though I still have an ID.

I have my doubts about how effective I have been after these four, almost five years and definitely about how well I have prepared these students. I only have them around two years, tops. Some are brand new. I don’t know what will happen.

“Faithful yet ineffective” may have to be good enough as an epitaph on my time there!

God surprises me all the time. I hope I am very pleasantly surprised by how well things work in this ministry without me (I hope that makes sense). We come and go. We have moments of triumph and regret, deft action and woeful mistakes. He, on the other hand, does all things well and works all things for good.

I am at peace. I have other ministry before me and still so, so much to learn, so much more love, grace and humility to gain, so much decreasing to do while He increases.

A little sad, but at peace. Thank you Lord!

(356)

Hungry and thirsty

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Matthew 5:6 ESV

Satisfaction. It is elusive. Many of us live with a gnawing sense of hunger, a dry thirst that cries out to be sated. But what are we hungry and thirsty for?

There is only one hunger and thirst that Jesus promises satisfaction for: righteousness. Many of us spend our lives hungering and thirsting for money, fame, influence, power, fun, pleasure, food and drink. We are a sad lot, because none of these things ultimately satisfy.

Hungering and thirsting for righteousness can be a hard road in this world that is so devoid of it. But ultimately that is where satisfaction lies, because that is where the golden Kingdom of Christ is. Our righteous King is beckoning us on and running before us, walking beside us, carrying us. Further up and further into the one who will set all things right.

(360)

This is lovely

I was never a fan of Jimmy Eat World (nothing against them, I’m just a just a few generations too far back to be a fan) but I love this beautiful rendition of The Middle by Audrey Assad.

Everything will be alright.

(365)

I need joy

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:7–11 ESV)

So many things are going on. So many of them are good. Actually, biblically speaking, all of them are good (because I think that’s how all things work out in the end). I’m blessed to be able to do ministry at the local community college, to be working at an interesting (albeit stressful) job that provides a good, regular paycheck, to be married to a wonderful (and getting younger-looking and fitter every year, somehow) woman, to have four children, five grandchildren. I belong to a great church, have great friends, I get to teach at church, I am attending seminary, and I have so many etceteras to add to all that.

But I need joy. This need has become acute.

I need joy. This is not a circumstantial problem: there is so much in my life that offers joy. I have no excuse. This is a me-problem. I find it hard to receive joy, to give up anxiety, to live in the moment. A thought hit me the other day: failure dogs my steps. I think about failing all the time. Failing at my job, failing in ministry – and by that I don’t mean disqualifying myself somehow, but just flat failing. Not being good enough. I fear failure in providing for my family, Failing socially. Failing spiritually. Failing physically (because this old body is starting to break down a bit). I ran-walked a half marathon a week ago and I still feel this way.

So, it’s been established. I’m kind of a mess. None of what I wrote above makes rational sense. On paper, I’m doing very well. My internal landscape is darker, though.

Failure dogs my steps.

Yet Jesus writes “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.” I think that ultimately what’s going on in me stems from a seeming inability to really believe Jesus loves me. Yet he writes here that He loves me in the same way God loves Him. How does God love Jesus, the sinless Son with whom He is well pleased? Beyond my comprehension.

Jesus loves me.

There’s great joy in believing that. May I learn to believe it without effort.

The result of believing it, I think, is deeper obedience to Jesus. There is a beautiful feedback loop here: “Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.”

As I obey, I abide, which leads to more obedience and more abiding. Which leads to joy. Fullness of joy!

One-lane bridge

“At the one-lane bridge I leave the giants stranded at the riverside. Race back to the farm . . .” – Rush, Red Barchetta

I’ve loved that song since the first time I heard it. Heck, my tagline is a lyric from that song.

I love it because it tracks very well with a constant struggle in me; the quest for simplicity and for the solidity of tangible, non-digital life. Odd and ironic that I’m blogging about this, no?

I feel like God has put that longing in me; a longing for single mindedness and focus, to understand priorities from His point of view. It’s a  longing to work toward what’s truly important. That way lies joy.

I’m miles away. “I spin around with screeching tires…”

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. – Matthew 6:31‭-‬33 ESV

All together

If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
1 Corinthians 12:26 ESV

I had a meeting with the Core officers on Tuesday. One of them pointed out this verse while we were talking about themes and values for the club.

I love it. That’s a Body.

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

Wait

Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!
Psalms 27:14 ESV

Waiting is hard. I’m dealing with some things at work that have really taken their toll on me. It shouldn’t be that way, but seems I always find myself here, awaiting strength, courage and rescue.

This exhortation and promise is repeated lots of places in Scripture. Be strong, be courageous, and wait. It is hard to know how to do all three at once. In this formula you have two traits that only exhibit themselves, seemingly, in action: strength and courage. Then there’s “wait”.

I’m not particularly good at waiting, though most of the time I don’t have a choice.

Lord, make me a good waiter.

 

Always running

We’re flying down 290, it’s a beautiful morning, and I’m burdened with the knick knacks and spider bites of life.

I’m in a tough spot at work with a project that is significantly overdue.

I stayed up till nearly midnight last night deploying another project that is also significantly overdue.

Why can’t I catch up?

I think this feeling is common to humanity. Seems we’re always running somewhere: either chasing after something we can’t quite catch or being chased by something that’s gaining ground on us.

I had a moment a little over a year ago. It was an important moment. It happened, as a matter of fact, at high velocity 30,000 feet over the Atlantic.  I was headed to Eastern Europe for non-work activities; what I had left behind was a project that was struggling and a sharp encounter with my boss that had put me in the pit of anxiety.

I’d spent a day shifting gears, leaving the pile at work behind to fester while I prepared for some new challenges in the upcoming week and started the comfortable but still tiring grind of a modern intercontinental journey.

It was late. I was sitting in my seat and the anxiety was as heavy as the darkness around me. Then, in a moment, the burden was gone. Gone. This has only happened to me one or two other times in my life. It was almost as if a Voice had said “Bill, it’s going to be alright, and all of it will be alright.” It was the peace that passes understanding.

And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
Mark 4:39 ESV

It was kind of like that. And everything did turn out alright and better than alright.

I’m running against the wind right now. So I say to my soul, remember. Remember.

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah
Psalms 46:10‭-‬11 ESV