Category Archives: deep thoughts

the discipline of seasons

Seasons

I think part of me is just rebelling against the multi-tasking, fast paced, materialistic Western culture. We focus on quantity rather than quality. Maybe another part of me is just annoyed at premature pictures of Christmas trees. Maybe my natural inclination towards liturgy is offended by the former. Regardless, it has me thinking…

The conflation of the seasons troubles me (and here I am referring mostly to seasons on the liturgical calendar, followed loosely by most in my circles). And no, it’s not that I’m just a humbug (though sometimes I can be). There’s a certain sacredness to every season that is meant to be savored alone: Lent, Easter, Thanksgiving, Advent, etc. To dive into the Christmas season before Advent seems sacrilegious, because Advent has been specifically set aside to dwell on the coming of Christ in human flesh. It is full of anticipation, beauty, hope, and awe. We sense a longing for the Messiah, at the same time knowing he came to earth as a human infant, and rejoicing in the peace that he brings to earth with the advent of salvation.

I’m not trying to imply that we should never look forward to Jesus’ coming outside of the Advent season, or to only acknowledge Jesus’ resurrection on Easter, but some things tend to lose their significance as we multi-task and multi-observe. It takes discipline to focus only on one thing, and to keep focus on it. There is a sense of wonder, awe, and gratitude that is restored as we reflect on one season, and realize, through focusing singularly on that one season, what we might have missed all the other times we just skimmed over it, or tried to do too many things at once. It’s time for many of us to slow down, and reflect.

p.s. I have nothing against multi-tasking, personally; I just fail to see its usefulness in every area of life. If you thrive on multi-tasking, kudos to you, but I sure hope you find time to slow down a little, and ruminate. It just might make a difference.

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I’m Sorry cards

Working a retail job one Saturday afternoon, I helped a woman move her walker from her car to inside the store.

After I pointed her to the greeting cards, and set the walker down so she could sit in it while perusing the cards, she asked me if there were any “I’m sorry cards.”

“Uhm, I don’t think so, but I’ll look.”  I knew I had never seen any inside this store.

Bible bookstore.  Wouldn’t this place carry I’m Sorry cards?  (You’d think.)

After my search come up dry, the woman began to tell me that she had come looking specifically for an I’m Sorry card, and proceeded to tell me why.  As she opted for the Thank You cards and enlisted my help in finding just the right one, she got further into her story, and began to weep tears of regret (2 Corinthians 7 came to mind, particularly verse 10).  Unsure of what to do or say, I ran (well, not literally, but almost) to a tissue box, took it, returned to the woman and offered her the box.  She took quite a few tissues, as is to be expected.

An older woman, just out of surgery from the VA hospital, in search of an I’m Sorry card. Coming up dry.  Crying her eyes out.  She was really sorry, and didn’t have the right card.  I was beginning to feel sorry, myself.

Pondering this situation much later, I wondered if the lack of I’m Sorry cards  pointed to a much larger problem in Christendom. (At this point, this is where you may want to stop reading if you do not wish to unravel different thoughts and attempt tying them together.  I am quite capable of making my own head hurt, along with yours.) Perhaps we have lost the art of saying “I’m sorry” and truly meaning it.  Maybe we have treated “repentance” too flippantly for the sake of keeping on a serene holy mask that would fool anyone, letting pride sit on our hearts, slowly eating away, just like a lazy worm.

After doing a preliminary search for Apology cards, I discovered that they are quite difficult to locate and obtain, although they do exist.  Then a random piece of trivia came to me, a piece that I had probably read in one of hundreds (thousands?) of books I’ve flipped through (the problem with working with books year after year is that one can arbitrarily come up with little pieces of information, and have little recollection of how that information got into one’s brain).  The piece of information in my brain said something like:  constantly saying “I’m sorry”  reflects a low image of oneself.  Call it “low self-esteem” (self-esteem would be a whole ‘nother blog post, so I’ll avoid becoming side-tracked).

Hm.  If this is how people think, no WONDER Apology cards are hard to find.

Although, that piece of information is quite legitimate in some aspects.  I could see situations in which that would be very applicable, to which I will leave to your imagination.  But flip the coin.  Wouldn’t that also be indicative of pride?  Apologizing more than necessary to avoid punishment?   Saying three little words to sweep it all under the rug and say, All gone now.  Done.  No worries.

“I am sorry.”  Those three words have certainly depreciated.

As people in general, it would be nice if more could truly say, “I’m sorry.”

But take it back to the Bible bookstore.  How many books would you find on, say,  conflict resolution, community life, repentance, reconciliation?  Not many.  How many books would you find on Becoming a Better Version of oneself?  Too many.  As followers of Christ, we have to learn to live with each other, not just one person (myself, yourself).  That means having to say, “I’m sorry” and not just saying it.  None of us is better than the other, and none of us are above screwing up.  We need to show others what “I’m sorry” means.  (Check out 2 Corinthians and Philippians, just to name a couple of resources on living as family in the kingdom.)

P.S. Just so we’re clear, I am far from having this whole thing down.

P.P.S. I think apology cards are only the beginning, but they need to be more easily found.

P.P.P.S I am not surprised that apology cards were nowhere to be found in that store, and difficult to be found anywhere else.  After all, [insert dry tone here] according to Joel Osteen, aren’t you supposed to be Activating Your Faith and Achieving Your Dreams?  Come, now.  Who has time for I’m Sorry cards?  Think positive.

P.P.P.P.S.  Forgiveness deserves a separate blog post, too.

Fin.

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just do it

Friend, if you are waiting for God to tell you what to do with your life, chances are you’ll be waiting for a long time.  If you’re idle and waiting for God to break the silence, well…all I can say is, the book of Proverbs will convict you about that, and you are probably (obviously) missing out on many present opportunities.

I am not saying that God will never tell you what to do.  God is more creative than every single human being’s imagination put together.  He just might.  I am just saying it is not the normal thing.

If you tell me that God “called you” to this profession/occupation, I am going to ask you what you mean by that.  If you say God placed a burden on your heart, okay, fine.  God places a “burden on your heart” for many things.  But many believe in the notion that everyone has a calling, and God will tell them what it is, and how to fulfill it. (By the way, I wrote a little book review dealing with the subject of calling and vocation here, so I will try not to repeat what I wrote already.)

Um, here’s something from my closet of secrets: God hasn’t told me what to do with my life.   Am I a weirdo because I haven’t (supposedly) found my calling?  Is something wrong with me, or, dare I ask, should I even call myself a Christian?

Answers: no, no, and yes.

No doubt, there are many scriptural accounts of people being “called” by God to do great things.  What I mean by that is, God actually spoke to them with a real live voice, be it in a dream, or in a vision, or, just in a conversation.  What I then ask is, what about all the people who were contemporaries of those aforementioned, but not mentioned in the Bible?  They seem to be greater in number than those to whom God gave special revelation/s.  Surely there are many godly people not mentioned, and we will never know if God spoke to them in a dramatic way, or even in a not-so-dramatic way.  The tendency is to zero in on those portrayed in scripture and say, “Oh, look!  God told Abraham where to go.  He totally floored Paul when He spoke to him on the road to Damascus, and also guided him through dreams and visions!  And look at Jeremiah; God told him his occupation [not a very glamorous one, I dare say]!  That means God will speak to me through rainbows and tell me what to do, because it’s normal!”

Newsflash:  that is not the norm.  Chances are very good that you’ll never be an Abraham, Paul, Jeremiah, or [throw in someone to whom God spoke in the Bible].

So, my advice to you if you are trying to decide which way to go and what to do: carefully weigh your options with prayer and wise counsel, read Proverbs, and DO IT if wisdom says “yes.”  God may or may not speak to you, but He is sure to place you where He sees fit, for your good, and for His glory.  Just don’t sit around.


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i didn’t realize how anti-cultural (is that a word? probably not) it would be to go without my car. it’s a whole new world.

it’s too easy to ignore what society considers the lowly by just zipping around,
minding one’s own business,
riding inside a bubble,
feeling oh-so-safe.

i don’t think i’ve been asked for money more in my life than in the past 2 weeks. i don’t think i’ve seen more pain and poverty, whether self-inflicted or other-inflicted, whether living on the street or off the street, whether verbalized or not.

not only do automobiles contribute to laziness, but they also contribute to the freakin’ individualism we westerners are too familiar with.
(wait a second, no, not the automobiles.
it’s the fact that people drive ’em.)

we’re called to help the hurting, but how can we help those whom we can’t even see? pay attention, people. i’m going to try harder.

i wish i could help anyone i wanted.

i wish i could buy meals for anyone who asks.

i wish i could loan money without the worry of repayment.

i wish i could actually act on what i see rather than what society tells me is the reality.

i wish i could believe every person i talked to, but i can’t. i can’t even trust myself.

i feel as though i’ve reached one pinnacle in my cynicism and loathing of consumerism. nope, no christmas gifts for you. at least, not the kind that you think.

it’s a fairly romantic and tragic irony….because i work in “christian retail”, and it is now the busiest season for those businesses. i’m supposed to be selling stuff, not complaining about stuff.

another quote

“We rush in, being very, very pleased, it would seem at times, to find other
men’s mistakes. We build ourselves up by tearing other men down…we love the
smell of blood, the smell of the arena, the smell of the bullfight”

-Schaeffer

Unfortunately, this is true. Pride is nasty beyond description.

real necessity

That moment was so peaceful, I can’t even begin to describe it.

Outside, overlooking the water.

Accompanied by autumn colored trees, blue sky, white clouds and sunshine.

While breathing prayers, a wave of calm washed over me. My anxieties dissipated.

No wonder Jesus sought time in communion with the Father, alone, for hours at a time. You can’t run through life without stopping to even have a time of thought in solitude, let alone prayer, which goes without saying. But even with preaching that last phrase, I would be the biggest hypocrite.

I am sorely lacking, and utterly prideful, to think I could proceed on my own.

“Only the shallow know themselves.”

True?

Oh, bother

Dang it.

It is too easy to let things slip even a little.

Taking my gaze off the goal, and letting it linger off to the side for what seems to be a short time, only to find that when I try to fix my gaze back on the goal, a spoon of discontentment has already been fed to my mind, heart.

That distraction leads to a complete, 100% lackadaisical approach to the here and now, which in turn leads to poor stewardship of the gifts I have been loaned to use where I am, right now.

I feel utterly unmotivated to do anything right now. And it’s all my fault. And it’s sin.