Thought to Ponder

“If you hold to my teachings, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set your free.” – John 8:31-32

Most people only know and quote the second half of this very important scripture. And in fact, it is the ignored part of the verse that is the most significant. The teachings of Christ and the reality of his love are what lead to truth and henceforth to freedom of spirit, mind and soul from the bondage of deception. The Angel of Lies has a good gig going with this particular verse because he’s caused most of society to take this verse completely out of context by chopping it in half, which twists it to stand for worldly truth instead of the truth of Christ and his teachings. Seeking worldly truth ultimately leads to destruction. Only through reading the unified verse can we understand the meaning that truth comes from Christ and his teachings.

Guatemala

It’s amazing the effect that nature has on me. It’s not supposed to. I’m the indoor type, content to spend my time inside, staring at a written page or computer screen. But every time I’m forced outside for any space of time, I find myself eventually staring slack-jawed at the majesty of my environment. Even the stark flat white of the salt plain manages to grip my imagination as the hot, dry wind whips the sweat so fast that the body stays completely dry. The horizon blends blue and white, and your mind belies the fact that this was once an ocean because it is so impossible to be anything but dry there.

Everything is always so much more than it seems in pictures. The sensory rush of every aspect of a place is so almost-overwhelming that a photograph can be little more than a gentle seduction that entices you to wonder what exactly it must be like to look two miles down to the bottom of a canyon, or place your hand upon a tree so wide it takes two minutes to walk around it.

You can’t escape your surroundings, no matter how hard you try. The fact that I live among trees or wheat fields has an inevitable effect on how I think. And by living and being human, I can’t escape carving out my niche from the materials I find, changing my everything around me, even while I’m being changed.

But in these northern temperate zones (the realm of civilization), we sterilize ourselves, push the environment far away from us, creating pristine preserves of “nature” the size of nations which we visit on vacation. We isolate the time and place when we may be affected into discrete doses, a dietary supplement of raw environment. We call our wildlife sacred so we do not eradicate it.

Not so in southern, undeveloped countries. They cannot afford the genocide of removing so many people from their historic homes. We pity them when we see them: the poor, the indigenous, inadvertently raping their environment to light the morning fire. They carve away the mountainsides to make a place to live, replacing cliffs with concrete erosion walls, and coating the barren earth with political agendas in the tradition of painted caves.

Every morning, on a mountainside in Guatemala, my counterpart, a nameless farmer, wakes. He tills his nearly vertical plantation, or makes a smoldering fire of unused husks or stalks of maize to refertilize the soil. He pauses for a moment, leaning on his hoe to watch the smoke as it rises to mingle with the clouds. He glances out across the valley, filled with a thousand painted-concrete huts, each billowing with smoke, to the opposite mountain ridge, a thousand feet above his own, lined with a single oil-slicked road. Behind that mountain lies another; and further, in the hazy blue, another, each filled with uncounted concrete villages like his own.

He sighs and lifts his instrument again and thinks how beautiful, how beautiful the earth is.

He is Holy

There are a lot of things I could write about this morning. I haven’t written for several months, and I probably owe everybody at least a little bit of an explanation beyond the fact that the internet was only available at school and it wasn’t very convenient. I just got back from a mission trip that had the most interesting impact on my life. I am currently enduring the most excruciating cold I have ever heard of. I had no idea that something as simple as a runny nose could cause these kinds of physical reactions. But the thing that is burning in my awareness is the sovereignty and power of a living God.

It’s amazing how easy it is to lose sight of how important he is. I mean, you’d think—creator of the universe, only one capable of getting anything done in this world… There’s a war going on, for crying out loud! You’d think I’d remember to pray. But the truth is I’ve spent more time praying about my parents’ finances than about the war, and even then it was more out of fear than anything. (God has not given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of love, a spirit of power, and a sound mind.)

I guess I could make up a list of excuses explaining why my relationship with God wasn’t functioning according to the proper standards that I know, stuff about the environment that I’m in, the situations that I’m facing. But I just got back from a mission trip, and even if everything else hadn’t been as spiritualized as I would have liked, I spent nearly half the nights there staying up late with a group, singing worship songs Something should have clicked. But it didn’t. I came back from the trip and jumped directly into my old secular, worrying habits.

Worry is a form of pride. It says, “If I just gnaw on this thing long enough, I’ll be able to figure out a solution on my own.” It’s what we do instead of praying, instead of reminding God of his promises to intervene for us. Worry usually falls under the general heading of “Sin.”

What brought this situation to a head though, was not my own situation. I’m usually prideful enough to think I can muddle my way through my own problems. It was trying to help my friend that finally got to me.

Every month or two, Valerie gets completely stressed out. It has to do with the way she approaches her schoolwork. School for me is a kind of game, only vaguely connected to the goals of my life. There’s no direct correlation between an English Degree and owning a Christian book store and having a large happy family. If the work begins to bog me down, I remind myself that it’s mostly irrelevant and go do something else for a while. However, there is a great deal of correlation between a Biology degree with a pre-med concentration and becoming a family practitioner. And Valerie has been preparing to be the best doctor ever born since she was five.

Every year, she strains as hard as she can to get the best grades possible, so she can get into the best medical schools possible, so she can become the best doctor possible. Fifteen years down; only six more to go. It’s a very focused lifestyle. When she gets frustrated, she doesn’t have the vent of reminding herself that it really isn’t that important. It is important. Medical schools do care if you had straight A’s from kindergarten.

She’s been particularly frustrated lately by taking a required course best described as “global citizenship,” which requires you to pretend you are representing various governments for the UN. In a predominantly liberal liberal-arts college, it becomes apparent rather quickly that the most acceptable way of getting an A is to be a good liberal. It’s almost more than a registered Republican can stand. Especially during a war as controversial as this one.

So last night Valerie hit a wall. How does one write a 7-10 page paper on the future effect of Austria on the world? Normally what happens next is that I make everything better. We cry. We hold. We talk about the unfairness of it all We talk about how its almost over. And then we go back to work. After a while though, it becomes apparent that my ministrations aren’t taking effect. Doesn’t “almost over” really mean only six more years of this? If you cannot keep up with the footmen, what will you do when the cavalry comes? I can comfort; I can encourage, but I can’t get to the root of the problem: this woman’s tired. Tired in her bones. I am not gifted with the power to massage away weariness from the soul.

It must have been two hours before it occurred to me that there is only One with that ability. And as Valerie was driving me home it finally occurred to me to pray. The first thing that occurred to me after that was that I didn’t have the right to pray, because I hadn’t spent the proper time previously developing a good relationship with God. I hadn’t been getting up every morning for a powerful prayer time, so now when the crisis comes, I don’t have the right to pray. Fortunately, I have enough education to know where that line comes from, and how to stand against it. He’s right. I haven’t prayed. I haven’t been living the victorious Christian life, and I’ve probably been merrily sinning the whole way. Nevertheless, it isn’t by our righteousness, but by His grace that we can come before him. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us. So I started my prayer, silently, by confessing that I’d missed it, and asking for forgiveness. Then aloud, I began to pray for Valerie.

I won’t give you all the details of a private personal prayer, but I will say that the Lord reminded us that there is an enemy of souls and that discouragement comes more from him than any particular discouraging circumstances. Valerie has been encouraged to view the weariness more as a personal attack than as a failing in herself and I went to bed with the conviction that I finally did the right thing.


I woke up this morning with a stuffed up nose, a tickle in the back of my throat, and a general shakiness of limb and leg. When I got up, it was a full two minutes before the pressure drained from my sinuses to the point where I could actually see. But I had a song running in my head:

God of wonders beyond our galaxy
You are Holy, Holy!
The universe declares your majesty
You are Holy, Holy!
Lord of heaven and earth…

I haven’t heard from Valerie to know if she feels any better than last night, but I am so aware of the power of a gracious God that I can’t help but be confident that things are heading up. I’m almost excited this morning: He is so good, and he is everywhere.

Thought to Ponder

Today’s Thought to Ponder is from an email that mom sent to me a couple of days ago that I thought would be good to put up:

One rainy afternoon I was driving along one of the main streets of town, taking those extra precautions necessary when the roads are wet and slick. Suddenly, my son Matthew spoke up from his relaxed position in the front seat. “Mom, I’m thinking of something.”

This announcement usually meant he had been pondering some fact for a while, and was now ready to expound all that his seven-year-old mind had discovered. I was eager to hear.

“What are you thinking?” I asked.

“The rain;” he began, “is like sin, and the windshield wipers are
like God wiping our sins away.”

After the chill bumps raced up my arms I was able to respond.

“That’s really good, Matthew.”

Then my curiosity broke in. How far would this little boy take this revelation?

So I asked… “Do you notice how the rain keeps on coming? What does that tell you?”

Matthew didn’t hesitate one moment with his answer: “We keep on sinning, and God just keeps on forgiving us.”

I will always remember this whenever I turn my wipers on.

Thought to Ponder

I believe that the opening of Proverbs is one of my favorite passages in the Bible:

To know wisdom and instruction, to perceive the words of understanding, to receive the instruction of wisdom, Justice, Judgment, and Equity; to give prudence to the simple, to the young man [or woman] knowledge and discretion – A wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel, to understand a proverb and an enigma, the words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:2-7)

Lord, give us ears to hear the wisdom of your teachings and let us grow in wisdom everyday as we walk closer to your side.

Thought to Ponder

If We Are The Body
Casting Crowns

It’s crowded in worship today As she slips in trying to fade into the faces The girls teasing laughter is carrying farther than they know Farther than they know

CHORUS
But if we are the body Why aren’t His arms reaching? Why aren’t His hands healing? Why aren’t His words teaching? And if we are the body Why aren’t His feet going? Why is His love not showing them there is a way? There is a way

A traveler is far away from home He sheds his coat and quietly sinks into the back row The weight of their judgmental glances Tells him that his chances are better out on the road

CHORUS
Jesus paid much too high a price For us to pick and choose who should come And we are the body of Christ

CHORUS
Jesus is the way

If we are the body, why are we not doing the things he’s called us to do and go where he is leading?

Thought to Ponder

The pastor at the new church KB and I are attending is doing a series on Faith. One of the questions that he asks people when he visits them on the street and in the neighborhood is, “In your personal opinion, what do you understand it takes for a person to go to heaven?”
He hears all kinds of answers to this question and so have I, but in truth “wide is the way to destruction and narrow the way of life.” Lord I pray that we will choose your path to life and not the smooth road to destruction.

Thought to Ponder

One of the reasons that the Jews became so legalistic during the four hundred years between the last prophet of God and the birth of Christ is that they were not hearing from their Lord. God had stopped speaking to them, and even though they still had their written scrolls, they did not feel that there was anything real about the “religion” they were practicing. Since we are called to be prophets as Christians, we have no excuse for not hearing from God. Pray for the Jews who still have not heard from their God and are practicing empty religion and also for the Christians who have let legalism guide their relationship with God.

Thought to Ponder

The word is the bread of life, what better “health food” is there? There are countless stories of people visually changing when they have the word of God spoken to them, over them, or used in prayers for them. As an aspiring primary care physician, when is a better time than right now to start honing my skills as a healer? And what better way is there to heal someone than by showing them toward someone who loves them so deeply and fully that he’s willing to heal their broken hearts, minds, and souls? Lord, thank you for your life giving bread, and I ask that you to fill the lives of your people with rejuvenating love that heals all wounds.