Sunday, January 31, 2010

What To Do?

There are so many nonsensical things that flit about the hollow spaces between my brain and my mind that I am afraid sometimes that they may spill out into the daylight, leaving their muddy thought-prints all over my newly cleaned persona. I dare not even spill their guts here, for they will surely flee one after the other clutching like Jacob upon their elder. This would be impossible for me to hinder or direct, for their actions dart about behind my eyes like the undulating whine of a midnight mosquito. It is simply not safe. In fact even this bare acknowledgment will stir their muted voices as I lay me down to sleep. I pray O mind to keep. Lord abide before my paths lest the nefarious pranksters spring from their concealment to turn me aside. Before they deceitfully detain me with the promise of rational resolutions, and insightful, if not edifying, discourse.
Perhaps I may also set myself to restful sleep before these meanderings take their greatest hold.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Another Day

One thing I have been learning from my time here at Christian Zheng Sheng College is a healthy view of how my life flows. It has been quite a change from back in Canada where I had a regular work week and weekends off. Here we work different shifts every month and there is no regularity from one roster to the next. I also get only six days off in a month instead of eight like back in K-town. My shifts here are N (for a 9:30 to overnight shift) D (for a 9:30 to 4 shift, usually the day after an N shift), and O (for day off). A normal two week roster will look something like this - N N D N D N D O N D N D O O, starting on a Monday and going to a Sunday. Not exactly normal for me coming from a construction background, and somewhat difficult to balance with a family waiting at home for me.
The old way of looking at my week is slowly fading and God is showing me how to let go of my preconceived notions of personal rights. I will still fight for a schedule that works for my family, but as for me personally I am finding that this is working quite nicely. I think part of the reason is that back home my workday was more about results than it is here, and this tended to form my ideas about work. Relationships were important to the workplace as they are here between the staff, but they were not the focus. Here the results are all about relationships, and this has been shifting my priorities quite drastically. The priorities are primarily interior ones that have to do with motivations and self awareness, but they are foundational to who I am as a person. I am slowly learning how to let things slide and enjoy the present with my Father who says He has tomorrow under control, which I will see when I get there, because it will be just like He was with me today, and yesterday.
Having my life freed from being ruled by a man-made routine and structure is teaching me how to mine each day for God's goodness and to see that my true rest lies with Him alone. The weekend is simply a foreshadowing of the eternal rest I will enjoy with my Father and His family when all this dust blows away. This allows me to see things differently, because if my eternal weekend is about relationships and dwelling with God, then everyday can be weekend if I want it to be. Like Paul said, though, I am so not there yet, but this is a road map. The best thing is that I love the views this trip offers, and the Guide is an absolute blast to be with, so the hazards of the journey will be manageable.
All that being said I am at the end of a D going on to an O, so I think I will go and get ready to catch the sampan home. Cheers!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Stung Again

I am so glad that we have the scriptures to guide us as we trundle through this life of faith! Paul said that we have all these lives lived out on the big screen of the bible for us to learn from their mistakes and victories. It would be so difficult if we didn't have these documented for us. Where would we be without them?
I have been reading Joshua lately and discovering him all over again. He really is quite an amazing figure in Israel's history and yet his foibles are out there for all to see. The last few chapters I have been reading have shown how he was stung by the same mistake more than once. He had a tendency to turn to his own counsel or the wisdom of other leaders before he would seek God. After doing this he was both times (in my current reading) humiliated, firstly when God gave him a tongue lashing after the first attack on Ai, and secondly when the congregation chided him for covenanting with the Gibeonites. Both instances had huge ramifications for the people he was leading, as well as historical implications that he could never have foreseen. If he had, I wonder if he would have acted differently?
It is easy from the sidelines of my study chair to flip a page or two and see these things rather clearly, but for him it was the life he was leading minute by minute. It is also easy for me to identify with Joshua as I too have been stung multiple times by the same old character flaws. Stung hard, too, even with the insights offered by these historical events. Stung in the same places. Stung, and yet giving thanks that the stings are farther apart than they used to be.
I wasn't stung huge today, but this passage has still given me pause to reflect.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Did The Song Remain The Same?

There is such a curious link with the past that causes endless ripples and surges to come unbidden to the shores of the present. They typically come to wash away the sand castles I have built and remind me of the truth of where I stand, but every so often some piece of a forgotten dream washes up along with the riptide of deep ocean currents. Some long abandoned view, last remembered the last time I remembered. The last time I remembered it was the last time that I paused from the sandcastle competition long enough to let my spirit drift out over the places my consciousness has relegated to the evenings spent behind closed eyes. Places that stand out like the chocolate truffle that fell from someone else's cart in the whole wheat aisle. I pause, frozen on the beach. Was this tossed aside from some other life? Is it something they want me to buy off a table that stands sucking the marrow from the last pulse of adrenaline in the stadium hall? Do they want me to fuel their cruise, or is it a waterlogged invitation to stride out past the waves?
The merchandise hangs dead from booths, like trophies from the hunt the throngs have never tasted. The dreams of living dreamers hang thick in the air like bloody chum only the hunters smell. The primping pimps and princesses who shoot caged game have nothing to tell as they sell their empty dreams on glossy magazines, but the woods sodden stalker tears his prey to keep the hunger at bay. They spill the blood on the stage and across the page, it's crimson lure seeping past the theater seat and spilling freely into the street. Many, like dogs, will lap insatiably at the gore while few will rise to spill their own. Few will know the truth of the tale they have been told. Few will know the maddening tempter lying just off the shallows, just where the sound of the shore melds with the deep rhythm of unbounded places.
Tonight I am turning over some driftwood in my hands. Tonight I stand at the lapping edge of the abyss' ever moving borders, and I ponder.

Dedicated to a small tribe of driftwood carvers in Saskatoon. Peace to you.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Re-Reading History

God has a way of bringing change through my life and thoughts like the leaves of Autumn on the mountainsides of the valley I once called home. The leaves on those trees are in the final throes of death, yet this passing fills the landscape with such extravagant beauty that the smoky, backyard funeral pyres, and damp open burials on the forest floor never enter my mind. All I see is a mystical panorama drawing my senses out of anything ordinary. So too are my thoughts in the throes of death as the Father sweeps over my days like an inexorable passing of one season into the next. He walks me through green pastures, along quiet brooks, and smoky, desperate valleys, all the while showing me the constancy of His way through all of it.
This may all sound somewhat melodramatic, but it has been true that as I move along with the Father I find that the view is never static, and it seems that every situation that I come across, or truth that He teaches me is like removing another piece of my rubble that has blocked me from seeing who He really is. When these moments happen the emotions inside of me mirror the wonder I feel while drinking in the sweeping colors of my most beloved season.
Currently my Father is doing this to me on so many levels. Not the challenges that I spoke of in the last post, but rather tantalizing little revelations that draw me along to search for more.
Today it came as I was reading a very familiar passage of scripture; the kind you can just skim by because you think you know it so well. Joshua 1 has been on our radar ever since someone gave it to us as a prophetic word regarding who we are, and where God wants to take us. I have heard so many preachers teaching from this passage that I was becoming dull to what it was saying. I was not allowing any more layers to be peeled back. This morning I noticed something I hadn't before. It has changed how I see the phrase "Be strong and very courageous".
I had always taken this to be either some kind of a general piece of solid advice, or a specific command regarding the battles that were to come. Joshua surely needed to be strong and courageous to face the foes and divine strategies that were ahead of him, but there is something else here that I missed before.

Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel. 3Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you, just as I spoke to Moses. 4"From the wilderness and this Lebanon, even as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and as far as the Great Sea toward the setting of the sun will be your territory. 5"No man will be able to stand before you all the days of your life Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. 6"Be strong and courageous, for you shall give this people possession of the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. 7"Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. 8"This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success. 9"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."
In the first command God assures Joshua that he will accomplish what God is sending him out to do, because He says that (vs6) "you shall give". This doesn't leave any room for doubt when one considers Who is saying it. The key I found was in what God says in verse 7. He reiterates the command to be strong and courageous with the modifier 'very', and opens it with the word 'Only'. The only is there as a qualifier to the previous statement. It means that the previous statement is absolutely resolved on the condition that the second part is carried out. The second part is not about how to fell the mighty men of the lands of Canaan, but rather it is a statement of how to stay in relationship with God. It really piqued me today when I read that. God told Joshua to be strong and courageous about being in relationship with Him!
For some reason I think that part of me is being resuscitated from too many Valium™ Jesus portrayals, and smiling blond Jesus' in fields with kids on His arms. I am awaking to the fact that as C.S. Lewis so aptly put it,"He is not a tame lion.". To enter into a relationship with the living God is a fearful thing. The Israelites knew this because they saw the smoke, and fire. They heard the fearsome thunderings. Joshua knew it because he was there for all of this, and was spared any of our watered down portrayals of the Lord of Hosts. God was calling him closer and He knew that Joshua would need strength and courage to face this, and He also knew that apart from relationship with Him none of the above listed promises would ever become reality.
Let's not forget that the apostle John laid his head on Jesus' breast at the last supper, and yet he completely collapsed at the site of the resurrected Lord of all glory. Jesus told him the same thing He told Joshua,"Fear not". We are welcome in His presence, but if we can easily traipse in without a thought of who we are standing before then perhaps we are truly only visiting an imaginary friend. Hearing the words "Fear not" should be our awe, wonder and joy as we commune with the Eternal I AM.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Day by Day

I could almost have titled this one "Letting the Pieces Fall", but that may have come off a little melodramatic. It honestly feels that way though. It feels like there is precious little I can do to stop it without removing my foot from the path, and the only peace I have is when I surrender to it. As I write this it comes to me that this is the only way that I can travel and still follow my Lord. It is, in fact, the road that my feet having been walking for many years now, but some seasons seem to test the footwear more than others.
My diary shows that this time has been, and continues to be, the most challenging one since a certain sojourn in a certain prairie city. Now as then, there is no place in my life that offers any ease. Work is challenging on so many levels, family life is no cake walk as we transition to an entirely new life, marriage is good, but we have to consciously work at it. There are no real male friendships for me to draw from, and time for personal space would have an IPO higher than bottled youth. To be pressed on every front like this leaves me only one place to go for peace and solace, and that is the way and the heart of my Father. To say I do this perfectly would be a joke at best. To say I do it well would even feel like a stretch. To say that I do it at all is just pointless masochism, because if I didn't I would have already bailed. Truth is, the only thing that keeps me moving forward is the hope of my Father. As I wrote to a friend the other day, hope is a deadly weapon against our foe, but expectations are poison to the spirit. So I find myself somewhere in the middle of doing, and just surviving.
God is good, though, and gives encouragement and strength in its time. Never when I think I need it most, but when He knows I do. The heat of the day never disappears, but the cool winds do come, as do the pools of refreshing. I am thankful for this because if it were not so I would not be able to stand. It is hard to imagine how ugly that would look. I didn't like the view that giving up afforded from that prairie city and I certainly don't like it from here. The one thing I do know is that if I had packed it in in the prairies we would never have set foot in Hong Kong. The other thing I know is that persevering then brought me to a new depth of relationship with the Father, so this gives me even more hope here and now.
I certainly do not feel like any kind of spiritual superman. My Father once told me that my worries about that were groundless, because it is all found in Christ anyways. It is good that I too am found to be in Christ. This will be my rest.