Archive for the ‘What’s on My Mind’ Category

What is Rest? Harder than you’d think!

Sunday, April 6th, 2014

Rest.  I’m thinking about it today.  Rest is one of the 10 commandments, and is given in the Bible more than once:

“Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest.” Exodus 34:21

“Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work… For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20)

What is rest?  Have you ever tried resting?  I’m trying today.  It’s hard work, really.

Yes, today I have self-decreed a day off.  Lately I’ve been feeling exhausted.  Not just tired exhausted, but weary exhausted.  So today I didn’t even go to church, opting to rest instead.  I find church un-restful.  Church makes me tired.  In fact, sometimes it makes me so tired I go to sleep during the sermon.  Not to mention, driving to church is against the Jewish rabbinical prohibition of not travelling further than 1/2 a mile on the Sabbath.  Nevermind Sunday isn’t technically the Sabbath, and nevermind the rabbinical rules aren’t in the Bible so I don’t go by them.

When I lived in Israel I was exposed to the Jewish version of the Sabbath.  It starts sunset on Friday and lasts until sunset on Saturday.  The country of Israel grinds to a halt during this time, even today in the 21st century.  Public transportation stops and many stores close.  While the country is mostly secularized, there is still a certain amount of oddities like elevators which automatically open at each floor without the need for pushing the buttons (which would be work).

I remember there was something nostalgic in the greeting exchanged during this time of week.  “Shabbat Shalom,” Israelis would all say to each other, which means “Sabbath Peace.”  Just now looking it up I discovered the word Sabbath itself comes from the Hebrew verb shabat that means, “to cease.”  The idea is we are supposed to “cease” for one day a week.  It has been pointed out that God didn’t set the precedent of “resting” so much as he did of “ceasing,” because of course God doesn’t need to rest.  But… we need to rest.

Like most things in life that appear easy until one tries to do it themselves, resting is one of them.  If I’m restricting myself from work for a day, the big question becomes, “What is work?”  The Jews have struggled with this question since Moses gave the 10 Commandments, and have made up many a rule to define it.  They went overboard, and Jesus on more than one occasion called out their hypocrisy on the matter.  “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?” Jesus asked rhetorically.  I killed a bunch of ants today, if that counts for anything.  I even sprayed ant poison around my bathroom, which was a double wammy as it was both work and destroying lives (ant lives).

I believe the heart of the matter was revealed when Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27)  If the Sabbath was made for man then it wasn’t made for God or anyone else.  The sabbath wasn’t meant to be a burden, it was a gift.  It is given as obligatory common sense for humans.  God is our creator and he wired us up to work better with a day off each week.  Apparently he thought a little downtime was beneficial.

In America we have the weekend of two days off.  Having lived in several cultures where the weekend is only one day off (ahem, here in Haiti) it makes me appreciate the two day weekend.  Yesterday was Saturday, but it was a work day for me.  I was in the bakery at 6:30am, worked on and off throughout the day, and was wrapping things up in the bakery after 8pm. 

So today on my day off, I did do some laundry, which was work, but not too taxing because I just put it in the washing machine… and then hung it up on the line…  Then I’ve written two blog posts which might be work, but hard to say because I find that therapeutic.  I made some chocolate pudding, which was a little work, but at least I got to eat the pudding.  I made supper which involved slicing an onion and opening a can of spam with my knife.  I also watched a movie on my laptop: The Man From Snowy River which wasn’t work, but wasn’t very spiritual either. 

I think the idea of the Sabbath is to sit still and relax.  Decompress.  Think about life.  My problem is I could get used to taking a Sabbath every day.  I have to remember the other half of the commandment, “On six days you shall work.” 

Life is too short to rush through pell mell.  I am trying to live by the Bible, and the Bible clearly tells me to be lazy for one day a week.  Ok, time to publish this post so I can take another nap… zzz…. :-)

This is Eternal Life

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

“This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”

Do you know God? Do I know God? Does knowing Him change us?

Do we listen for his voice? Do we hear it? Does it lead us into righteousness?

‘Cus let me tell you, sometimes we really need to hear from the Lord and it’s nice to be close to him already when we do.

Before this verse, Jesus said, “When [The Holy Spirit] comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment.”

Men think sin is good. It isn’t. I’m sitting in the airport and just looked through a bookstand and a #1 New York Times Bestseller caught my eye: I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell. It’s an autobiography. The author has this to say about himself on the back, “My name is Tucker Max, and I am an *hole. I get excessively drunk at inappropriate times, disregard social norms, indulge every whim, ignore the consequences of my actions… sleep with more women than is safe or reasonable, and just generally act like a raging d*head. But I do contribute to humanity in one very important way: I share my adventures with the world.”

I opened up to a random page and after reading a few paragraphs wanted to barf.  This is New York Times #1 Bestseller material?

For the record, I hate worldliness. I hate sin. I hate compromise. Am I often worldly? Have I often sinned? Have I compromised? Yes. Yes. Yes. But, for the record, I hate it.

At the end of my life I don’t want to be remembered as someone who hugged the line of indulgence, but rather someone who pressed into the Lord. Like Jim Elliot, George Mueller, or King David.

Unfortunately, it’s so hard to spot worldliness, sin, and compromise in myself…

I’m in Curacao writing this on my phone after reading my Bible a bit (hence the thoughts above). There is a man sitting closeby (Haitian?) talking to a stranger about God. He has also been playing hymns on his harmonica for us in this crowded waiting room. The last song he played was To God Be The Glory.

People may think this man is dumb, silly, or obnoxious, but who knows? He may be closer to truth and God than anyone else here, I’m wondering.

Being “odd” for odds sake is no good, but I do think genuine Christ followers are going to look odd too.

Boston

Saturday, April 20th, 2013

I just read the latest marathon-bombing news this morning.  At least some of it.  Was surprised at the level of some of the response.

Two kids shut down Boston?  And got the attention of the entire nation?  And were killed/apprehended almost live on nationwide TV? 

After the latest suspect was arrested, residents of Watertown, “took to the street en-masse… cheering on emergency workers and chanting ‘USA! USA! USA!’” (source)

It’s like the end to a movie, except real people were killed.  With this much attention, I wouldn’t be surprised if there are copy-cat crimes, though I sincerely hope not.

The LA Times wrote an article, Boston bombings: Social media spirals out of control, with the subtitle, “Web sleuths cast suspicion on innocent people and spread bad tips and paranoia.

From my limited perspective, there was a fair share more paranoia than necessary, considering the threat.  Shutting down the entire city of Boston, population 4+ million, was perhaps out of proportion to having one man running around with a gun (or, as the facts would show, a wounded 19 year old hiding under a boat).

In the greater Boston metropolitan area, all businesses were closed and everyone told to stay inside.  This article described the city as a ghost town, adding, “John Fox, the official historian of the FBI, said that the shutdown of such a major city was virtually unprecedented in recent U.S. history.”

From photos of empty Boston streets, “Cant believe Mass Ave is so dead today On a Friday This is unreal” with the Instagram picture below:

Mass Avenue

I was glad to read one jogger had the nerve to leave his home and face the danger dire to go running along the Charles river on Memorial Drive, in outright rebellion of the standing orders.  Perhaps he was a descendant of an original Boston minuteman.

My friend here, Beth McHoul, reposted the following quote on Facebook: “If you’re trying to defeat the human spirit, marathoners are the wrong group to target” -unknown

Beth is a native of Boston, and has run in that marathon more than once herself. She is an amazing woman. Last Monday, her sister was running and only a mile from the finish when the bombs went off. I’m not trying to downplay the awfulness of the attack.

But in light of how things went down the last couple days, I just have to wonder, “Are Americans at large prone to overreaction?” 

For contrast, here’s a local anecdote:

One day last week our Haitian worker Pierre arrived late to work.  He said he ran into a police/gang shootout on the street.  He turned his motorcycle around and waited it out at a nearby gas station.  When the shots died down he drove through the mayhem, continuing on his way to work, dodging several bodies laying on the road.  Pierre noted that business was as usual at the next intersection (Jerald Batay), as if nothing had happened right down the street. 

In light of a story like that, when I read about the drastic measures taken in Boston, I have this distinct impression us American’s are becoming soft

Logistically, it’s even surprising to me Boston could be shut down with so little notice.  Apparently, residents were awoken to reverse-911 telephone calls instructing them to stay indoors.  I didn’t even know they could do that.  Reminds me of Orwell’s 1984.

Something else that reminds me of Orwell’s 1984 (and while I’m on my soapbox) is how smartphones are changing the world. Whether in regards to how an investigation is done of a terrorist attack like the Boston Marathon, or whether it’s the Pope’s inauguration:

Ridiculousness

I’m thinking there is no going back.  The times we live in just ain’t like the olde days. 

Beginner Mistakes

Friday, April 5th, 2013

Everyone makes mistakes.  But beginners make a certain type of mistake:  They make beginner mistakes.

Here in Haiti, one beginner mistake is to start handing out free stuff.  That’s a quick recipe for generating a flash mob.  I remember clearly the day I learned this lesson.  Was visiting an orphanage and started handing out free Frisbees. I was nearly bowled over and attacked.  Being in the center of a desperate mob was no fun.  Never again.  What’s worse is that the one kid I meant to give a Frisbee to didn’t get one, and I think he started crying.

In life, there are many beginner mistakes.  Not asking questions is one of them.  Not listening is another.  Show me someone good at asking questions and listening… and I’ll show you a relational expert (with the caveat that discretion dictates the line between caring and prying).

In regards to being a Christian, perhaps the most common beginner mistake is legalism.  In particular, thinking one is better or holier than another because of an activity or behavior one is doing or, more commonly, not doing. God’s grace for others is much bigger than we originally think.  The real shock after walking with the Lord awhile is how His grace could ever be large enough to cover our own sin.  My sin.

An acquaintance of mine recently told another acquaintance (who happened to be Catholic) she was going to hell because she prayed to Mary.  Praying to Mary isn’t Biblical, but telling someone they’re going to hell because they do so is, in my opinion, a beginner mistake.  Because God is bigger than that, less limited by misinformation than we suspect.  I’m thinking the light of God easily reaches into the lives of people we may otherwise write off.  This very evening I spoke with a Catholic girl who gave valid testimony of God working in her life.  Is her theology correct?  I doubt it.  Is my theology correct on every point either?  I doubt that too.  Is God working in both our lives? I think so.

The more I know, the less I know. My favorite saying is that, “Life is messy.”  Beginners see life in black and white. Beginners go around trying to rationalize (or wishing) the messes away.  But after awhile, it’s better to just embrace them.  It happens slowly, but one day we wake up to catch ourselves thinking, “I bet that Christian guy over there with all the tattoos knows more about God than I do.”

Speaking of knowledge, sometimes I catch myself feeling smug upon realizing I know my Bible better than another Believer.  This too is a beginner mistake. 

It’s not how much we know God’s Word that’s the question, but how much we know God Himself:

"Let not the wise boast of their wisdom… but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth…" (Jeremiah 9:23-24)

Taken a step further, perhaps it’s not even about how much we know God that’s important, but about how much God knows us.  Think of Job.  God knew who Job was:

The Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”  (Job 1:8)

As Satan comes before the throne of God with accusations in April of 2013, I wonder if God will respond with, “Have you considered my servant [your name here]?  That servant who is blameless and upright?  Who fears me and shuns evil?”

A sobering question.  I wonder, “Am I even serving God in the first place?  Are my activities for me, or God? Am I where God wants me?  Am I submitting to Him daily?  Is my life committed to Him fully?  Do I fear his displeasure?  Do I shun evil?  Am I committed to not forsaking Him, even if it means going through what Job did?”

This verse encourages me:

"The eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him…" (2 Chronicles 16:9)

Guess we all have to make beginner mistakes. But, I for one am ready to move on to intermediate-level mistakes.

When Life Meets Job

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

Rarely before have I been in a situation where the line between My Life and My Work has been so blurry.

Used to be I sat bored stiff in an office for a determined amount of hours, after which I cheerily left all behind to commence real life, i.e. visiting family and friends, church functions, Bible studies, eating $5/Footlongs from Subway, etc. 

Far cry from life now.

This week we’re hosting a team of 30.  If I counted the number of hours I’m putting into my job it would be pretty much the same number of hours I’m awake.  On the other hand, it could be said I’m not working at all, just living.

I do enjoy working diverse jobs instead of being pigeon-holed.  Which means I should be in 7th heaven right now, because in the last few days alone I’ve had my fingers in like fifty different pies.  From troubleshooting water problems, electrical problems, and auto-mechanic problems, to managing others working, to driving groups of people around Port-au Prince, to woodworking, to acting as resident tour guide, to assisting in the design of a solar-panel setup, to fixing the back of the canter after it backed into a tree (softly), to discussing the finer points of aid-work with guests, to answering the phone, to answering the door, to comforting a lady who was crying, to chasing a rat around my bedroom with a stick, to you name it, I’m probably doing it.  That’s all within the last 72 hours.

Sometimes I feel frustrated for not having a more relational focus though.  I want to be learning more of the language and interacting more with Haitians.  Discipleship, teaching the Word, working with street kids, aren’t these why I’m here?  But… everything in good time.  Right now I’m getting a crash course in the "logistical” side of living in the 3rd world :-)

I was telling my co-worker Josh there is no doubt value in us knowing how to drive in Port-au Prince.  That way, when the End of the World hits and America is under marshal law and the masses are rioting, we’ll be prepared to drive up on sidewalks and zip around road blocks.  He just laughed and said pretty much everything we’re learning here in Haiti will be useful when the End of the World hits. 

On the flip side, Haiti is also good at teaching us how much we’re not really in control of life at all.  There’s a lot of religion in Haiti and I can see why, this place has a raw quality that can drive a person to their knees, looking to God.

In fact, just that has been happening to me.  The last several days an old hymn has been running through my head and in the mornings before getting out of bed I’ve been singing it:

I need thee every hour, in joy or pain;
come quickly and abide, or life is vain.

I need thee, O I need thee;
every hour I need thee;
O bless me now, my Savior, I come to thee.