Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Don't Hurry: Breathe Deeply

There is a world of difference between being busy and being hurried. Being busy is an outward condition and isn't lethal. Being hurried is a soul condition and is being so preoccupied with myself and my life that I'm unable to be present with God. Busyness can migrate to hurry when we let it squeeze God out of our lives. 
-John Ortberg

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Giving Your All

So many thoughts on my mind these days... and yet there's little I can openly talk about at this point.

Curt and I are enjoying our days. We continue working, learning more and more about ourselves, and more and more about what God wants us to be. Change continues to happen in our lives. It is for our good, and we are grateful.

The little girl who came into our world in February of 1994 is about to make a decision which will affect the rest of her life. She is deciding which graduate school offer to accept. She has been offered some amazing options, and deciding isn't easy. She and I will make one more big visit, and then the decision will have to be made.

As a parent of a young adult, my biggest job is to pray for wisdom for her and try to answer any questions she asks. At times Curt and I observe and give her things to consider in her prayerful pondering, but we know we cannot make the decision for her. God must help her, and we trust Him to do so.

I know what they mean when they say, "having a child is like having your heart walk around outside your body." We want for our children whatever is best for them in God's eternal kingdom. We trust He will give them direction and we rest in that trust.

As LaRae prays, ponders, visits, and soon makes a decision, her little sister continues to bless us with amazing writing and wit and diligent study in her areas of interest. She has become a unique and special person--as are all children--and she does not dwell in the shadow of her sister. We are thankful for her commitment to be all that God wants her to be and for her contentment and ability to rejoice over her sister's accomplishments without feeling threatened.

God is good. As we study His Word and embrace His perspective to the best of our understanding, life remains meaningful and truly beautiful.

I cannot encourage young parents enough to put all the energy you have in those early years of training your children. Study every book and video program (about your own spiritual development, parenting, and homeschooling--if you've chosen that route) that you can get your hands on, and give your all. Ask others for perspective, for wisdom, for insight. We gained so much help from others as well as from books and videos.

Of course, we have to make sure our motives are right. What we do in every area of life has to be for the eternal good of ourselves and for those in whom we invest. And no matter how right our motives are, if we aren't diligently seeking wisdom, we will likely not find ourselves or our children where we hope to be once those parenting years are completed.

May God give you wisdom, may you find people in your life to help you see the blind spots you have--we all have them--and may you find deep joy as you give your all in your pursuit of God and all that is good.

Friday, March 20, 2015

How Do We Stay Close to God?

If you feel your walk with God is lifeless, if you are depressed, repeatedly finding yourself going back to the same old destructive habits, I recommend YouTube videos of Dallas Willard. So far, everything I've heard from him has included nugget after nugget of incredibly life-transforming truth.

This little video clip -- only 6 minutes long -- is power-packed with perspective that is healthful and helpful. He shares a bit of his daily habits with regard to communion with God.

As always, you have to listen carefully -- sometimes re-listening several times -- to take in what he means by the words he says. He is a brilliant man, and his statements are packed and deeply thought through.

If you are hungry to know that God is for you and with you, take the time to watch this one as well. I put an apron on as I go about my housework, put my phone in the pocket, my headphones on, and feast on these videos--just listening of course. They are so helpful.

Wishing all the world Jesus and what He reveals about our Creator!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

It is what it is?

A Slice of Infinity worth your time reading...

All Is Not Well

Through winding, trash-strewn roads and poverty-lined streets we made our way to another world. Clotheslines hung from every imaginable protrusion, a symbol of the teeming life that fought to survive there, and a contrast to the empty, darkened world of night. The only light in otherwise pitch-black alleys came from the glow of cigarettes and drug pipes, which for split seconds illumined faces that lived here. It was late and I was sick, discovering after a long flight that I had not escaped the office stomach flu after all. Our van was full of tourists, their resort brochures a troubling, colorful contrast to the streets that would bring them there. Strangers who only moments before wore the expressions of anticipation of vacation now rode in expressionless silence. One man broke that silence, just as the taxi turned the corner seemingly into an entirely new realm and resort. With pain and poverty now literally behind him, he said quietly, “Well… It is what it is.”

These words rung in my ears all weekend, most of which was spent crumpled on the bathroom floor, unable to participate in the destination wedding we had come to “paradise” to enjoy. In the end, it seemed a metaphor for thoughts I wanted to remember physically and not in mere abstractions. You see, typically, when the drowsy, comfortable world I have come to expect is jarred awake by visions of the way the majority of the world actually lives, the upset that is caused is largely conceptual, immaterial, abstract. Sure, I am momentarily both deeply saddened and humbled by the wealth of resources and rights many of us take for granted in the West. I am aware again of the need to stay involved and vocal about emergency relief efforts and perpetual global injustices that take place daily right under our noses. But for the most part, my angst, my theology, my reactions are all abstract, observed mentally, not physically. That is, they remain deeply-felt issues, but not concrete matters of life.

Of course, I am not suggesting that abstract, philosophical ideas are the problem—clearly my vocation is dedicated to the notion that ideas carry consequences, that reflection on questions of truth, beauty, hope, and love are indeed matters vital to the development of fulfilled and finite human beings. What I am suggesting is that the abstract is both hopeless and of no use without the concrete (inasmuch as the concrete is a desert without the infinite).

This is made especially clear in the Christian story. Many of the most stirring theological pronouncements Jesus made were in fact not statements at all—but a life, a death, a meal shared, a daily, physical reality changed, a new possibility realized.

And this is precisely why those simple words “It is what it is” are a coping mechanism that should sicken us every bit as thoroughly as the scenes that make us want to utter them in the first place. Far from a mere collection of abstractions about another world, the Christian life is an active declaration that all is not as it appears. While other worldviews and religions offer an explanation for why and how this world “is what it is,” Christianity offers something different. With the prophets, with the Incarnate Christ, the God-Man among us, every story and parable and interaction declares: “This is not the way it’s supposed to be!

Professor of theology William Cavanaugh notes that this vital difference in perspective takes form from the very beginning, starting with the way the book of Genesis tells the origins of the world. Instead of telling a creation story like the Babylonians, for instance, where the circumstances of creation are awry from the start, the Hebrews tell a story where all is inherently good from the beginning, but then something goes terribly wrong. What this tells every hearer of the story thereafter is that things are not the way they are supposed to be. As Cavanaugh notes, “There is a revolutionary principle right there in the Scriptures which allows us to unthink the inevitability of sin, to unthink the inevitability of violence, and so on.”(1) The very first story God tells provides a framework for walking through a world enslaved by poverty and violence, sin and deception—a framework that provides both profound meaning (this is not the way it’s supposed to be!) and a concrete call to live daily into other, redemptive possibilities—possibilities Christ himself embodied.

For anyone plagued by the signs of inevitably despairing world, the story Jesus embodies affords us a language far beyond impotent coping mechanisms or na├»ve delusions that we can save the world. Rather, we unite ourselves with one who has already set in motion the work of new creation. Here, it is an inherently Christian task to actively work at unthinking the inevitability of the way things are and to labor accordingly at changing them. Any reflection of truth and beauty, however abstract, if truly lived out by those who believe them, will ultimately address the concrete matters of life as well. For the Christian, this is a world where nothing merely unfortunately is what it is. Imagining other possibilities, working to unthink the divisions, deceptions, and frameworks that keep us bound to creation’s fall and not its redemption, we join the work of Father and Spirit. We join the Son who takes the abstractions of truth and beauty and declares concretely, “Behold, I make all things new.”

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) William Cavanaugh with Ken Myers, Mars Hill Audio Journal, Volume 95, Jan/Feb 2009.