February 2006

If I had three wishes from God, I think they’d be:

1. Give me love and compassion for others.
2. Make me a hard worker.
3. Give me wisdom.


This will be a long post. So much has happened in the past few days and only now have I had time to catch up.

On Saturday I drove 50 miles to meet my mom for a showing of Good Night, and Good Luck. Just before arriving at the cinema, my car broke down completely on the road. I called my dad and he started looking for a place nearby to tow the car. I called AAA and was on hold for 15 minutes. My mom called from the cinema, so I answered while putting AAA’s hold music on hold. In 20 seconds, I told mom where I was so she could pick me up. Switched back to AAA and the line was dead; in those twenty seconds they’d picked up, waited, and hung up. So I called AAA again and didn’t answer any of the 5 calls I received while on hold.

Towed my car away to a church parking lot and mom and I had 30 minutes to burn until the next showing of Good Night, and Good Luck. I wanted a leather jacket so we went to Burlington and everything, by chance, was on clearance. In 15 minutes I tried on 20 leather jackets and found one that looked cool, fit my absurdly long arms, had a removable liner so I could wear it in cool and cold weather, and was only $80! Best. Shopping. Ever.

The movie was decent and then we raced home and I took the Buick because now I was running late for poker at my friend’s house back south again. 50 miles down the road a tire blew out completely. A cop helped me change the tire because I didn’t have a jack in it because I never drive the Buick.

The good news is that I wasn’t that bothered by all these stressors. And I realized that God is teaching me responsibility. For example, I knew my car was leaking oil very slowly. Perhaps the leaking increased on Saturday and that’s what made my car break down. I could have checked the oil before embarking on a long trip. Same goes for the blown tire. I could have moved my jack, etc. from my broken down car to the Buick. I am also selfish and irresponsible with how I socially interact, something God made clear to me during poker (and another party the night before).

After poker, I chatted with a friend whom I’d not seen for many months. He expressed concern over my shocking and crude speaking content. I know I love to shock people, and I’d been ignoring Paul’s admonishment to avoid crude language and coarse talk because I figured that would be “legalism.” But it’s also a selfish way to speak; it makes me happy at others’ expense because they are made uncomfortable.

Our chat was wonderful and we encouraged each other. The sermon on Sunday at Lakeside Christian Church was fantastic (download it here, Feb. 19th), about obstacles to supernatural healing. Tim, the speaker, was funny, passionate, personal, and very helpful. I laughed, I cried…

That afternoon I plugged myself into 3 leadership/helping roles for another church’s Alpha program, starting mid-March. I’ll be helping with technology, inviting unchurched people, and small groups.

The night I had dinner with two friends and a new friend who is very receptive to the spirit realm. He’s seen and used many incredible visions from God, but is also subject to nearly constant spiritual attack in many forms. His life story was incredible, inspiring, and tragic. I am praying for him. I hope he will write a book someday to help the rest of us understand the spirit realm. I am glad to hear he has kept a diary.

I’m going to try to attend a sexual purity conference on March 4th. I’m going to be more responsible in little things. I’m going to seek for ways to respect and love other people as my #1 priority in social engagements.

More on all this later, probably. God is moving.

Saw Brokeback Mountain today, a good movie (unlike the other major Best Picture contender, Crash). Among other things, it taught me a tiny bit of compassion. I keep having to be reminded that people aren’t “the way they are” by accident. A stronger lesson came on the way home, when I asked my passenger, “How do you like your mom?” After some brush-offs, he finally addmitted that, “I don’t know… as long as I’ve known her she’s been a terrible mother. But it’s better than living with my dad.” As someone who grew up in a close-knit, loving family, this reality always surprises me, though it shouldn’t. It explains a lot, as might a lifetime of derision for being fat, frustration over not living up to parents’ dreams, low self-esteem over being unintelligent, identity confusion from witnessing dozens of unhealthy romantic relationships, sexual or physical abuse, humiliation in school over having unusual tastes, disappointment that life doesn’t work as it does in the movies, shame for a body that doesn’t live up to the ideal seen on television, a chemically altered brain due to drug addiction, contempt for inauthentic religious upbringing, poor parental models of rage or fear or whatever, a loss of passion from constant failure, and a billion other possibilities. People are mean or withdrawn or ineffective or depressed or overstressed or self-hating or uncompassionate or insecure or ignorant or arrogant because of these things, not because they knowingly choose to be. Nobody loved them enough to convince them they could feel and be different. Why? Because they have many of these problems, too! Indeed, it’s a marvel every person on the planet isn’t hopelessly lost. In fact, it’s a miracle: the grace of God.

So how can we possibly begin to heal such a hurting, damaged world? The answers will not surprise you: love and truth. The practical application of those in every day life is much more complicated, and beyond the scope of this post. But I must remember them. And, I have to remember that they are the keys to heal my hurting, damaged self, too.

The Brita pitcher in the breakroom fridge at work now has a note on it that reads, “If the pitcher is less than half full, please fill it.” Excellent advice.

Exodus 7:7: “Moses was 80 years old and Aaron 83 when they spoke to Pharaoh [the first time].” Woah! Moses confronted Pharoah, endured the plagues, led the Israelites across the red sea and through the desert, all after he was 80 years old! That’s not quite how Prince of Egypt depicted things. And this was very post-Flood, so man’s days were (roughly) “numbered at 120” as they are now. The old and young should not underestimate the ability of the… well, elderly when they are submitted to God’s will.

In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul discusses marriage. He says it is best not to marry, to be fully devoted to God. But marriage is no sin: “It is better to marry than to burn with passion.” I think the devaluation of marriage in our culture is not because there is a problem with the institution of marriage, but because there is a problem with the married. If done as the Bible recommends, marriage would be a lifegiving, empowering, fulfilling relationship (though never to the degree that a relationship with Chrst can be). Here are Scripture’s keys to successful marriage:

“The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband.” (1 Cor. 7:3) Seek to out-serve each other. And not as you want be served, but as the other desires.
“Do not deprive each other except by mutual concent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer.” (1 Cor. 7:5) Sex is vital, but God must be at the center and above of the relationship.
“Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is hte head of hte wife as Christ is the head of the church.” (Eph. 5:22) Leadership is the marital role given to men by God. Don’t worry ladies; this works great if:
“Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” (5:25) The husband’s love for his wife must sacrifice himself and place her needs before his own.
“Each one of you [men] must love his wife… and the wife must respect her husband.” (5:33) I think this plays to how most men and women are wired internally. A woman’s life question is usually, “Am I beautiful? Am I worth loving?” And a man’s: “Am I a man? Am I worth admiring?” A husband and wife must enthusiastically answer “Yes!” to each other’s central life question.

Lots of useful stuff here, including “Why did God allow polygamy in the Bible?”

I’m struck by 1 Corinthians 5:1-5, a passage titled “Expel the Immoral Brother!” in my Bible. It speaks of how, if a brother (or sister) in Christ is found in persistent sin, we are to “hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved…” My study Bible notes, “Abandon this sinful man to the devil that he may afflict the man as he pleases… by expelling this man from the church… severed from any connection with God’s people, [which] will cause the man such anguish that he will repent and forsake his wicked way.” I’m not sure whether or not this is the way we should still do things. Does this work? In the Middle Ages (for example), excommunication was a terrifying sentence that cut off a believer from his friends, his moral support, many of his business contacts, and (they believed) his salvation. But today, being expelled from the church means very little. Even if your church friends abandon you (which is unlikely), you likely have (or will make) friends who will encourage the sin that got you expelled. None of your business will be affected. And the “heaven for free, no matter what, so long as you believe” perspective so common today means you will still be saved if you continue in sin (or so you may think). So, handing a sinful person over to Satan, expelling him from the church, is unlikely to so devestate someone that they reverse course. Indeed, it may be more likely inspire further contempt for the people of God. I have no numbers as evidence for this suspicion, only limited personal experience and logical guesses. God give us wisdom; I’m not sure if this is the best way to do things today.