Monday, November 28, 2016

My God Is Not Safe

Earlier this month, I finished a book that, in a large sense, redefined how I think about God. I'm in the process of writing a book review, but it might be a few more weeks before I finish. In the meantime, go read Your God Is Too Safe by Mark Buchanan! 
Also, I wrote a poem (in the loosest sense of the word), which I have here transcribed from my journal. It's a bit of a synopsis of my thoughts upon finishing the book.

* * *

My God is not safe.
He is the God of the wind and waves,
of tornadoes and hurricanes.
He is the God who calls people out
from their lands and comfort zones.
He leads us beside raging waters
and gives us free will 
where we should not have it.
He calls us to preach to everyone,
despite persecution, death, suffering, hate.
He might take away that which we hold
precious, or that which we want.
God is just, merciful, always present.
He will never forsake us through the hurricane
or away from our comfort or beside the raging waters.
He is our ever-present help.
Our weakness is His strength. 
He has gone before us, boldly, like a lion,
preaching and being persecuted and killed.
He will take away, but He gives more generously
than we can comprehend.
My God is not safe, but my God is good. 

Monday, September 19, 2016

Goal: Posting More!

In an effort to post more often, I am starting to realize that perfection should not be my goal! Thus, I'm going to attempt to post more, less-perfectly... 

To start, I was recently thinking about prayer. I've actually been thinking about prayer a lot lately, but in particular, I had a question: why do we close our eyes when we pray?

When we close our eyes, we are filled with darkness. Prayer, however, is a time of communication with God, who is Light. Of course, there are good reasons to close our eyes during prayer, such as limiting distractions. I do, however, think this is a question worth pondering.

"The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it" (John 1:5).

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Thousands of Miracles

Sometimes God works miracles in non-miraculous ways. I think sometimes I expect him to have thunder and lightning to give answers, so that I just can’t miss them. Sometimes he does. Then again, sometimes, he doesn’t. Or maybe they’re faint signs, riddled with our own concerns and doubts.

Last month, as my family and I were driving to Vancouver, BC, on the way to a cruise, my grandma had a nose bleed. Normally, nose bleeds aren’t serious, but this one didn’t stop for hours. We were on a pretty tight schedule: not the best time to have an issue! We thought the nosebleed would clear up, but after about an hour of thinking that, it was still going. We were driving through a town by then, so we stopped in at a medical clinic. We were all quite concerned by then, and also concerned about how long a stop would take, especially if we had to go to an emergency room. After about an hour at the clinic, the doctor was able to stop the bleeding and we were able to continue on.

There was so much stress during this whole time. Gram was crying, and I was worried, and we all wondered if we were going to have to miss the ship. I don’t know if anyone else in my family was praying, but I was — hard. And in times like those, you pray for miracles. You pray for answers. You pray that darnit, God, why don’t you answer? I know you’re listening, but why aren’t you answering?

But I think he does answer us all the time. I think he gives us miracles all the time. I think even when we think he’s given us a hardship, maybe he’s given us a blessing, too. Gram could have had a heart attack, not a nosebleed. The medical clinic could have sent us to the hospital due to the seriousness of the injury, but they were able to quickly treat it and send us on our way. The cruise ship people could have been grumpy when we arrived late, or not even let us on the ship, but they were unbelievably nice. 

Times like these make you realize that life is full of answers, of inexplicable experiences: of miracles, even when we don’t notice or care. How many things could have gone wrong, and how only a few did. And now, I’m able to ponder the day, sitting on the ship, looking out at Vancouver, and thanking God for the bazillions of little miracles he did for us today. 

Maybe I’m overthinking this; maybe I’m putting “miracles into God’s hands,” as it were. But I think not really. When I’m talking about the God who has the power to stop time, to freeze it for one and speed it for another, to control time and generation, to create down to the minutest detail — I think I can’t put it past him to be so intimately involved in his creation — to love us so much — that he could create thousands of miracles for us in a week and hundreds in a day.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Patience and Perseverance, Part I

Think of a time when you successfully learned something difficult. We can probably all relate to learning to ride a bike. If you were like me, you couldn’t wait to get those training wheels off, even though you knew it would be harder and scarier to ride without them. The first couple times you pedaled off, you probably fell. If you fell hard enough to hurt yourself, you cried, and maybe said you didn’t want to try anymore. As you kept at it, you learned balance, and by the end of the day you were pedaling happily around the driveway, proudly showing off your new skill. Just think if you had given up at the first, second, or third sign of struggle: you might never have learned how to ride a bike! However, because you patiently persevered through the learning process, you were eventually rewarded with a new skill. As we get older and the skills and activities we want to learn are usually harder than riding a bike, we often doubt that we’ll ever learn, and we tend to give up too easily. A large part of our success in anything we do is the patience to try over and again, and the perseverance to keep being patient. 
These two qualities are so important, yet rather rare. For example, the person who taught me to knit showed me the basics, and I didn’t see her again for months because of where we lived in relation to each other. So, I took what I had been taught and kept moving forward, and when I had a problem, I read books and experimented to figure it out. Even after I learned a lot more, and had to start getting help from a local knit shop, I would always try to exhaust my knowledge to fix my problem instead of running straight to get help. I may have been totally confused at the pattern, but I would read it over and over until I either saw something new, or had no idea how to continue. Perseverance is going on long after you aren’t sure if you can or should. 

However, you can’t persevere through a problem for very long unless you are patient enough to keep a clear head through it all. Continuing the previous example, when I come to a problem in knitting, I have to be patient enough to go over the problem for a third or fourth or fifteenth time, even when I think I’ve already exhausted my resources. Patience is perseverance personified.

Five years ago, I went to the animal shelter at the encouragement of my friend, who said she had found me a new dog. When I brought my new dog home, I realized that she was terrified of men (which was problematic, since I have a dad and a brother). Over the next two or three years, I read training books, websites, forums, called dog experts, and tried any advice that sounded remotely sensible. For me, my dog was the personification of patience and perseverance. We almost got rid of her too many times to count, because it was hard to train and train, and still have marginal results. My dad and brother got tired of having a dog that only my mom and I could interact with. After three years of sweat and prayers and small steps forward, she has become the sweet family dog we originally wanted. Patience and perseverance from both me and my family made it all possible.

More recently, I learned some patience in the Frankfurt airport. Being eighteen, international travel isn’t always the most peaceful experience. After I disembarked the plane, I went with the flow of people, down the stairs, out the door, and onto the bus. The bus took us to the main terminal, and everyone headed straight for the big electronic flight board. Most of the people from my flight found their connecting flight and headed off; I looked for about ten minutes and still didn’t see my flight. I waffled between staring at the stupid board for a while longer, or continuing on to find someone to help me. I took a deep breath, and decided to keep looking. I decided (why didn’t I think of this sooner?!) to figure out how the board is organized. It took me just moments to see the organization, and my flight. If I had just walked away, I wouldn’t have seen my flight. However, I patiently persevered through the problem, trusting that God and I would find a solution.

Not an hour later, I emerged from the maze of stairs, trams, and security checkpoints into the A gates. I didn’t have a boarding pass, I was sweating from carrying my backpack, I was hungry and thirsty, and I had no clue what my gate number was. Finding another board, I saw my flight listed, but without a gate number. I prayed quickly, in order to quell my rising panic, and looked for somewhere to sit. Behind the board was an empty gate, so I plopped there and checked email. After looking for a map of the airport, I tried to relax, knowing (hoping) that I will find a way. I prayed again, specifically asking God that He’ll show me where to get a boarding pass, and then I head for the bathroom. Lo and behold, on the way to the bathroom, I saw an automatic boarding pass station that I had walked by at least twice previously. If I hadn’t taken the time to resist my panic and clear my head and pray, I would have been nervously wandering around in the A gates for a long time.

When I was thinking about patience and perseverance, only these three stories came immediately to mind. I have surely had many, many opportunities to show patience and perseverance, but have most certainly failed on many occasions. In fact, the times when I persevere the least are probably in the things I love most, like reading, crafting, and writing.* The good part is that we always have more opportunities to practice! Take a moment and think about your own experiences with patience and perseverance. How much more would you be learning if you had patience and perseverance?

* More on that in Part 2!