Sunday, October 12, 2014

Lessons: Tea and crumpets

If you know this book, serious points to you. Also, Ferdinand.

It's amazing how God works behind the scenes, setting up little miracles and revealing them to us after they've played out.

A few minutes ago, I went back and read yesterday's heartfelt post crying out about restlessness, dissatisfaction, doubt and guilt. It makes me glad I started this blog, as now I can look at where my mind was yesterday afternoon and begin to work through the things that happened in the aftermath with a solid starting point.

Shortly after the little story was posted, I received a message from an old friend, simply reaching out to see how I was doing. It was a few steps further from the usual response, which is the liking of a status on Facebook, or adding a sad face in the comments to somehow convey sympathy in a shallow, non-time consuming way.

Instead of exchanging a few words back and fourth, he invited me to call him, and I did. We spoke for the better part of a quarter hour, discussing work, music, people, etc., and it was healing. I went home a little while later feeling refreshed and appreciated, with the thought 'my, how God works in mysterious ways,' passing through my head before leaving the office.

This evening, as I went through the usual lonely routine of Netflix and trying not to head down the street for nasty-for-my-body fast food, the episode of the TV show fell upon the topic of Valentines day. There I went, rabbiting away to some deep, dark and dreary place, thinking over all of my choices — good ones and bad ones alike — and wondering which of them were mistakes.

That's just when I received a message from my mother, as messages containing her wisdom often do when I'm wrestling with something.

A few days ago, she told me about staying close to the shepherd, as wolves find it easier to pick off isolated lambs. It dawned on me that, regardless of my isolation from friends and family, I'm never isolated from God's presence — more on that later.

Tonight's message brought me back to my days in grade school, where I had a few brief brushes with theater as a youngster. If my memory serves me correctly (this was something like 13 years ago), our class was split into groups, with each group set to create a skit about safety of some kind. I was paired with two friends, one of my few consistent companions, and a young boy with Down's Syndrome.

Stevie, as he was affectionately known by the class, probably wasn't the top pick for a theatrical performance. I'll skip over the specifics, but my friend and I ended up giving Stevie a simple speaking part that made him the star of our little drama, and my mom recalls Stevie's mother "bursting with joy over hearing him talk." It was a mark of my personality, she said, that I took the time to make him a part of it all, simply because people matter to me.

"My opinion is that God is into people too," she said. "Talk to Him all the time — I have been having coffee with Him often, and when I get up to do some thing else it seems He doesn't want me to go. Let Him talk too by reading his Words."

Wait, physically spend time with God? Should I pull up an extra chair in my little kitchen and make an extra cup of tea? Maybe God doesn't like tea... then the hammer, and the thing that tied it all together:

I remember my mom taking out the trash when I was young. The sound of the wheels dragging along the driveway still sticks with me as a piece of home, but it turns out that there was more to the routine than I had known about. It was a chance, a five-minutes' peace, to be alone with God.

"He would tell me He had been waiting for me to come out so we could be alone," she remembered.
"You are probably thinking I'm crazy, go ahead. God really does follow us around wanting to be with us especially when we are lonely."

So, all those times where I wallow in my sorrows, God's been simply waiting for me to realize that he's there? Following me with the hope that I'll turn around and jump into his arms and leave my foolish ignorance behind?

The last few months, in which I've allowed myself to spiral at times, are beginning to come together.

Maybe, I was brought out to Scappoose so I could learn and grow in the Lord without any distractions. It's something my mom — surprise, surprise — hit home in the latest message. Right now, I have the luxury of time without immediate responsibilities. No significant other, no wife, no kids — just a cat.

"Your relationship with Him is the foundation for the rest of your life, in which you may not be alone and you will need to work at being alone with God," she told me.

And right now, the only person I need to fight for alone time is myself.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Be still, my restless heart

Sometimes I feel like this. Other times I haven't the energy.

I'm no stranger to restless legs. At times in my life, I get so worked up that I'll pace in circles, disappear and drive to to beach (literally, it's happened several times) or contemplate some crazy change.

I'm not sure where it comes from, or why restlessness rears its head from time to time, but it's back. Maybe it's the stresses surrounding money, the load of responsibility from my job or the relationship I left behind in July, but something has eaten into my mind and heart.

It's frustrating. Taking a step backward, I have quite a few things to be thankful for. The bumps along the way are minor, and I can see God's blessing and crafting in my life, in spite of my many faults and shortcomings.

Still, I'm unsatisfied. I feel as though there is a change around the corner somewhere, or that there should be. There's something missing, some piece of me that I have yet to find.

I want to blame it on isolation from living in Scappoose. I'm not one to go out and meet people, and so in the nine months I've lived here, I don't have friends outside of the sporting world (work), other than the bartender at a favorite place of mine. My friends are in Portland, in Oregon City, in Milwaukie, etc. I see them once a week, with the other six days and all seven nights usually filled with emptiness that a cat — lovely and cuddly though she is — can't overcome.

This is a battle I don't know how to fight. I got Philli because I needed another creature to fill up the quiet apartment and provide a distraction for what is still ailing me more than a year later.

I also carry guilt on this one. Shouldn't God fill me up? Shouldn't God be enough? Why do I thirst for something more? Do I not have enough faith? Is there something keeping us apart? Probably.

All I know for sure is that I'll have to resist driving to Seaside tonight.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Deuteronomy 20:4: To Claim Victory

I serenade my cat rather often.
I've written before about how many of my best thoughts tend to hit me in the shower. It's a strange phenomenon — something about how our mind works when our brains shut off — but that's not the point.

A few days ago, a phrase uttered by my sister Anna (you can see her lovely blog here) struck me as I scrubbed my nose with the little washcloth I keep draped over the cold-water handle.

"I claim victory over that," she'd say, during any discussion about sin and habits.

It goes back to my earlier topic comparing sin and our sinful nature to addiction, something I do intend to finish. Anna and I were talking about how alcoholics often never refer to themselves as being a former alcoholic or having beaten their alcohol addiction. They usually say they are a recovering alcoholic — clean and sober for, say, six years.

Awesome. Congrats. That's a major accomplishment, in my eyes.

But in the discussion between Anna and I, she challenged my way of thinking. Why recovering? What makes it so they haven't beaten the addiction — and in terms of Christ and sin: claim victory over that and be done with it.

There's that phrase again. I've heard it before, usually during a Gospel-talk in which the preacher says Christ claimed victory over sin, or something along those lines.

So what does that mean? Christ claimed a lot of things. He claimed to be the Son of God. He could heal un-cure-able sicknesses. He could bring people back from the dead, and feed 5,000 people at once. I can't do those things, not in and of myself. If I can't get through the day without tripping, I certainly can't walk on water or calm a storm with my voice.

But God can.

And therein lies my thought as I tried not to loudly serenade myself and my cat whilst in the shower — by claiming victory over sin, we're telling the evil one that God has won, we believe God has won, and we know God will carry out victory over sin, death and all the evil desires the world tries to stick on us.

I think of the movie Return of the King, and the scene in which Viggo Mortensen leads his outnumbered army headlong into a multitude of evil orcs. It's folly, really. And on his own, it means certain death.

That's the idea behind claiming victory over a sin, with one huge and rather essential exception: we have God as backup, and we have God's assurance that the fight is fought, and the battle won.

What 'claiming victory' means, then, is that we're saying to the evil one: "You have no hold on me, Satan. The Lord has already lifted your shackles from me, and I have undying faith in him to continue to fight until you are defeated — the battle has already been fought, and you've already come out the loser."

It's a powerful statement, isn't it? Without God in that picture, we'd look ridiculous, but that's the point. Throwing ourselves into the battle with the knowledge that God has already won, and will continue to reveal his victory to us as we grow in him makes fighting an awful lot easier to do.

"For the Lord your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory."

— Deuteronomy 20:4