Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Lent '09 - Day 29: A Community In Adventure

The long greetings at the end of Romans make me envious. Here's this group of people distributed through the Roman empire, all committed to servicing Christ, risking there lives in many cases. They encourage each through through letters, pray for one another, and visit each other when in possible, but they know that in the mean time, they will do the work set before them. They sound like a missional people. I'm sure I'm romanticizing it, but wouldn't you want to be a part of a community like that?

I love the way excess is shared among this group as well. Paul writes, "If the Gentiles have shared in the Jews' spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings" (Romans 15:27). The Jews have spiritual treasures to share, and the Gentiles have material excess to share. A distribution occurs. Wouldn't you want to be part of making this happen?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Lent '09 - Day 28: Removing Stumbling Blocks

Chapter 14 of Romans is very important advice for day-to-day interactions with others on areas of subjectivity (e.g., swearing, music you listen to, what situations you put yourself in, etc.) Here's is the summary:
  • We aren't to look down on other's people's decisions in these areas. They are aren't our servants; their God's.
  • What we do, we do unto God. We will have to give an account of actions. As a result, be sure to act out of conviction.
  • We also don't just unto God, but unto each other. Therefore, our actions should not be stumbling blocks for others.
This may seem like giving up some of authenticity, to "just be ourselves". In some way's it is, but we're asked to give up a lot for love's sake. Our freedom should not be another's undoing, and these areas are no exception.

One area this comes to mind for me is with the TV show The Office. Kara and I find the ridiculous and/or awkward situations it creates hilarious. That said, some episodes present a unrealistic or skewed view of relationships and sexuality. It's not hard for me to see through this and look past it. That said, others know I like the show, including my younger brothers, and I wonder if they're able to bypass these parts as easily as I am. I remember being a teenager, and the difficulty of knowing and living a God-honoring sexuality amongst all the media, friend conversations, and hormones. At this point, I've resolved to talk with them about it and ask how affects them to determine if I'm putting a stumbling block before them.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Lent '09 - Day 27: Keep your spritual fervor

How should we take Paul's command, "Never be lacking in zeal, keep your spritual fervor" (Romans 12:11)? Some churches tend to do worship at one speed: high energy, hand raising, and dancing. It's easy to conclude, that if you don't feel it, there must be something wrong with you. I don't think this is what Paul had in mind. It's a call against apathy, and this request seems legit. God is alive, and as a result of him living in me, I should expect to see life as well. I don't think this has to only be at one speed though. God can be just as much alive in contemplative, reflective, or even somber times. What's important is that love for God and others is beating at the forefront.

I have certainly experienced times where my fervor seems tamed. "God, what happened? Why am I not feeling this? What do I need to do?" Paul connects these commands with "serving the Lord". This advice I give myself and recommend to others as well when we are not feeling alive. Are we serving? My experience has been that obeying God, actually makes experiencing God more tangible, and as a result, me being more alive.

So, are you keeping your spiritual fervor up? If so, how? If not, are you serving?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Lent '08 - Day 27: Mercy or hardness - which are you going to get?

Paul's statement that "God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden" (Romans 9:18) is wake-up statement. It makes God sound so arbitrary. Am I going to be on the mercy or hardness end? When thinking through Scripture, there are time where God does seem arbitrary. Paul even brings some of those up (e.g., Isaac over Esau, Pharaoh). That said, his times of showing mercy far outweigh these incidents. The overwhelming majority is that he does want us to come to him and that he wants to show us his kindness. I think Paul brings up these counter-examples to drive home and remind us that what we have, we have been given. Even our wise decisions or seeking God are a result of the capacities he has given us. As for the counter-examples, I trust that when you can see without being bound by time, they are fair and just.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Lent '09 - Day 26: Accepting Influence

In our slow but steady read through of The Seven Principles For Making Marriage Work, we are on principle #4: Let Your Partner Influence You. This chapter goes for both for both sides, but is targeted more for husbands, as we tend resist influence from our wives more than they do from us. A key point in this chapter for me is that receiving influence is a way of showing respect and honor towards your partner.

While critical to a health marriage, allowing oneself to be influenced is key to any relationship of love, including with God. I think of Jesus' words in Matthew 7: "Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'". Regardless of the adoration he would receive, if the people weren't doing what he asked, if the people weren't letting his words have influence, then there wasn't a real relationship there.

This works both ways too. One of the ways God shows that he loves us is by letting us have influence in the world he made. My decisions affect the lives of other people and the environment. Biblically you even see people's desires affecting God's actions. It would be a lot harder to say that God was loving if he didn't let us exercise our human creativity and muscle. It's hard to feel loved if you're just shrink-wrapped on a shelf.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Lent '09 - Day 25: What's your mind set on?

Paul spends a lot of time talking in Romans about these two forces at war within us: the sinful nature and the Spirit. I can relate with his description of this struggle. It's natural in any struggle to wonder who is winning or who is in control. To this, Paul writes:
Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. (Romans 8:5)
The dominant party is evidenced by our thoughts.

I was recently off-handedly told that it's ok if I work long hours at work as long as I love what I'm doing. I was not in a position to respond to this comment, but I disagree. There are many projects at work that are mental traps for me. They're enticing with challenge but the real possibility of solving them. Similar to what I wrote about yesterday, I will think about these projects any chance I get, and it tends to bear fruit as it's often this background processing where good solutions occur for me.

Now, I'm very thankful for my work, and I don't think there's anything bad about it. But it's also not the most important thing. Therefore, if work is stealing cycles from what the Spirit desires, it is a concern. What I spend my time on is a big contributor to what my mind is set on, and because of this, work should be balanced.

How about you? What's your mind set on? Do you know what it is that the Sprit desires?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Lent '09 - Day 24: Priority Adjustment

I usually have a few technology problems that bug me that I want to solve. The latest is that my iPhoto library is taking up lots of space. This is due to us taking lots of video using our digital camera, which the camera doesn't compress. I've periodically searched for over a year to see if someone else built an application to compress all of iPhoto's video files. As this hasn't been done, I decided to bite the bullet and do it myself. This type task becomes dangerous. I know it's not the most important thing for me to spend my time on. But it does have value. Our computer, an essential tool, is running out of space, and I've already deleted everything else I can. This "iPhoto video compressor" would give us some breathing room.

This past weekend, sufficient time opened up for me to start engaging with this project. But of course, it takes longer than expected. It's not just something I can knock out in an hour. An hour of work exposes all the extra things I'll need to do. At that point, my mind spins on these things in the background. The task becomes a perfect trap for me. It's fun, has some value, and is a challenge. It becomes an itch that I just want to solve. I got more time to work on this project last night, and of course, hit more issue's that I'll need to work around. It wasn't very satisfying, because I wasn't near as far as long as I would have liked despite a couple of hours of work.

Afterwards, Kara and I started reading 28: Stories of AIDS in Africa. My Mom gave us this book for Christmas, and while Kara had started to read it, we agreed that it would be fun to read outloud together. As the title suggests, the books is 28 short vignettes of real people affected by AIDS in Africa. The story last night was of a grandmother in Malawi who was looking after all 13 of her grandchildren because all of her children had been wiped out by AIDS. Here was this 75+ year old woman singlehandedly farming and rasing these kids. She knows they need to get an education, but this costs a very expensive $2.50 per child per term. She is full of worry about having enough to get the kids to school and how much longer she'll live to look after them.

Hearing this story made me feel pretty foolish. We have money sitting in the bank to give away and money in savings that I want to put to good use through a project like Kiva. It's just going to take a little time to sit down and do it. These tasks have been on my todo list for over a month now, but here I had prioritized compressing my iPhoto library ahead of them. I just don't think my prioritization qualifies as "serving in the new way of the Spirit" (Romans 7:6). When I admitted my foolishness to Kara last night, she legitimately laughed. Needless to say, this iPhoto project won't be getting any more time until these more important matters are taken care of.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Lent '09 - Day 23: The Proactivity of Christ

In Romans, Paul points out that though we were still sinners, Christ died for us. For myself, I know I am very forgiving when someone shows repentance. If someone recognizes their wrong and apologizes, then I'm certain thee will be no grudge held on my end. But that's not the way of God. Even in the midst of other people's screw ups, he's taking the steps to repair and bring healing. God's proactive approach, ups the chances that repentance may be shown on our end. As the scriptures saying another place, "God's kindness leads us to repentance." We definitely need to take cue from God and practice this proactivity.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Lent '09 - Day 22: Who am I discipling?

Since stepping our of high school youth group a year and half ago, discipleship has steadily weaned. Now, I don't think there's really anyone. I have occasional contact with some of the high school students who graduated. On a monthly basis I talk with my small group from Seattle, where I both receive and provide influence. This sums up to not a lot. While thinking this morning, the thought crossed my mine, "what am I doing for the Kingdom?". It's easy to get frustrated about this, but I know too that I need to bring this before God. "I'm open for whatever God. Please lead me."

Friday, March 20, 2009

Lent '09 - Day 21: He has made himself plain

In the beginning of Romans, Paul discusses the state the world has come to and that God's judgment amongst the depravity is just. He makes a statement that God has made himself plain even to those who were not his chosen people (the Israelites) through his invisible qualities - divine nature and eternal power. I don't know exactly what Paul means by this, but I assume he's referring to the created world (as I think he does later in Romans).

Part of me agrees with Paul statement. The more I learn about this world, the more I see God. Hearing scientists share about their discoveries is as if if I'm being educated about God's museum. My field of writing software blows my mind. There have been millions if not billions of man hours to get us to the point we're at now. The tiny transistors that our processors are built on rely on some amazing natural properties. And we can't forget the ingenuity that man has had to see this potential, persevere with it, and it to others so that it could grow. Where did these capabilities in our earth and in ourselves come from?

I find the evolution debate irrelevant. If you hold to the big band theory, that's fine. But your bang had to come from somewhere. We know that something doesn't come from nothing. Whether the earth was made in 7 days or 7 billion years, it was till made. If God is eternal, time becomes irrelevant. I don't think either time period makes much difference to him. And if he's all powerful, then creating a world in 7 days wouldn't be out his capabilities, but nor would setting off an incredible chain-reaction that would take reasons to unfold. The Biblical writers were not scientists. They also were not from a science-based culture. That said, they were people still faced with many of the same questions/problems we face today: why am I here? what's my purpose? is there justice? These questions seem to be timeless, and thus even stories from a few a few thousand years ago could be relevant today.

Part of me disagrees with Paul. Surely there are some who don't want to see God. If you see God and learn that he wants to be be involved with your life, it's a lot harder to be the boss of your life in clear conscious. It's better just to create a worldview where he doesn't exist so that one can remain in control. But then there are those who I bet would want to know him he's really as good as the Scriptures make him out to be be. But due to life circumstance (e.g. war, upbringing, cultural influences) one's humanity has been deadened in such a way they don't come alive to God. This for me is where Paul's statement is tough, and I wonder how God will reveal is justice to these people. In the span of a life, I trust that God provides glimmers of himself to all, that he gives everyone a fair change to choose him.

So what to make of these thoughts? One is that I have to remember for myself that God may not always reveal himself the way I'd like him to, but that doesn't let me off the hook. It's like the parable of Lazarus, where the rich man begs Abraham to send Lazarus back to his family to warn them about where their decisions will lead them. And Abraham replies, "if they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead" (Luke 16:31). There's also necessity of taking up Christ's charge to be his witness, so that more glimmers of God would be revealed in this world.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Lent '09 - Day 20: An Enlightening 7 Mile Hike

Imagine witnessing all the events in Jerusalem the week before. Jesus looks to be at the top of his game. People are trying to stump him, but he cuts through their falsehood and points the people to the truth. He is unpredictable with his actions, but everything he seems to do is right. He even has a poignant passover meal with his closest followers.

But then things start going down hill. One of these same disciples betray him. Countless false charges are made against him. Despite both rulers in the land seeing nothing wrong wit him, the order to crucify him still comes down. Women are waling, scoffers are mocking him, and Roman soldiers doing their duty are driving nails into his wrists and feet. The one who was supposed to be triumphant has been unraveled so quickly. And it's a holy week for the nation, and everyone takes a strict day of rest immediately following, leaving plenty on their minds to think about.

Two days after the crucifixion, some of the women who were closest to him, head to his burial site only to find angels. They are so astonished that there words don't make much sense when they report it to others. Peter goes to check out the situation and also witnesses the empty tomb, but no angels. What is going on?

You have been in the midst of all these events, and you need to run an errand to a village 7 miles outside of the city. There are no cars, and 7 miles doesn't warrant the burden or expense of animal transportation. In 2-3 hours, your feet can take you there. There is lots to think about during the walk: "What happened? Why did this happen? What could we have done to prevent this? And what's this message this story about the women seeing angels?"

While pondering these questions, a stranger comes up from behind. He appears to be oblivious to what has just transpired the week before. But he then starts talking about Scripture. He walks the pages from beginning to end, pointing out how all these events needed to occur. He is not troubled by this past week, but is deeply satisfied that the Scriptures have been fulfilled. The more he talks, the more your heart is burning. He understands things that you don't, and he's letting you in on it. He is seeing truth that others have missed, and he is making sense of chaos that others have been stuck in. You are enlightened, and your enlightenment peaks when you come to find out that this fellow traveler is Jesus himself!

You are about to experience more miracles as a result of Jesus. One thing he makes clear though is that you have a mission. You have had your eyes opened for a purpose. He walked with you and opened the Scriptures for you, not for entertainments sake, but so you could fulfill the charge given to you. Your are to be his witness. As he was for you, you are to be others. Do you accept it? Are you being his witness?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Lent '09 - Day 19: "Pray that you will not fall into temptation"

"Pray that you will not fall into temptation" (Luke 22:40, 46). This is Jesus' last command to the disciples before being betrayed. Once temptation has hooked me, it is like I'm falling. It's almost impossible to stop falling until ground is hit. Jesus is wise, and advocates that we avoid the pit to begin with. But it's hard to pray to resist temptation if you don't know what you're tempted by.

I'm tempted by productivity and the lure of being in charge of my own schedule. When I wake up, I almost immediately think about all there is in the day that I get to do. I'm excited by these things. I want to jump right into them, to get them done. Engaging with God can then be an opponent to me getting as much as possible done. I have enough years experience now to know that setting my own agenda for the day doesn't work out well. It's like I have gum on my shoe; every step has annoying resistance.

When confronted with a situation, I'm tempted sometimes to not disclsose all that I know or obscure the facts, especially if this will help shed me in not as negative of a light. This really annoys me. i can be untruthful without thinking. This occurs with minor affairs, but I know how I act in small things sets the course for bigger things. This behavior needs to be resisted.

I expect that those who meaningfully pray the Lord's prayer are talking with God about temptation. If you haven't done this for awhile, maybe now's a good time.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Lent '09 - Day 18: Getting crushed and generosity

Two disjoint things today:
  1. Jesus asks: "what is the meaning of that which is is written: 'The stone the builders rejected has becomes the cornerstore.' Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, but anyone on whom it falls will be crushed" (Luke 20:17-18). It would be important to understand the underlying Greek before reading too much into this passage, but it seems to suggest that all are going to encounter the cornerstone. Those who surrender to it (i.e. fall on it) are broken to pieces. Being dismantled is key if we are to be rebuilt. Christ is a dismantler so that reconstruction can occur. Being broken by the stone is not a pleasant process, but if we reject it, we will find it dropping on top of us, only to be crushed. It seems like rebuilding doesn't occur from a crushed state.
  2. In reading about the widow's in Luke 21:1-4 who gave all that she had to live on, I was reminded of a friend we've made here. She is facing eviction and utility bill troubles, but she almost without fail brings extra food in for me everyday to enjoy at lunch. Part of me feels bad to take from her when I can provide for myself. That said, I see a generosity in her that I just don't want to stifle. As Luke reveals, generosity is critical component in the Kingdom. I won't want to hinder that beauty within her. Instead, I take it as an encouragement to be lead and do likewise.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Lent '09 - Day 17: We are unworthy servants

Luke 17:7-10:

7"Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, 'Come along now and sit down to eat'? 8Would he not rather say, 'Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink'? 9Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? 10So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.' "
Part of what's exciting about pursuing the humility of Christ is the promise of being exalted. The passage though is a cup of cold water on the face. We don't decide when the exalting from God occurs. We need to continually keep the servant posture, and be grateful for the times God graces us with a reprieve or an honor.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Lent '09 - Day 16: Money is a Tool

Luke 16 has so much to say about money. Please read it. Money is a tool and we're to be strategic with it. Strategic in the sense of using it to impact people. In the shrewd manager's case, he gets called to account for poor performance, and he learns a lesson. He acts shrewdly by surrendering his commission to his master's customers. Strategic move.

Jesus goes on to talk about how money is really a test. If we aren't responsible with something small like money, then we aren't fit to steward other things. How we handle money seems to be so key. It makes me think that church's and parents should really invest a lot more into this topic. I don't think encouraging people to give 10% to their church is doing justice to this area. Kids should encouraged to think creatively in this area.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Lent '09 - Day 15: Corporate Charity

Slate magazine recently published an article about Amazon's lack of charity called The New Scrooge. The gist of the article is that despite doing very well in the current economic situation, Amazon does very little in terms of charitable donations, whether in Seattle or beyond. For example, you won't see Amazon's name on the donor wall at Benaroya Hall or as a Habitat for Humanity supporter. Amazon's own Giving at Amazon page is not exactly inspiring. Questions arise about does this matter? Should Amazon be giving shareholder's money away? I think no.

I think no for a few reasons:
  1. It's not one of Amazon's core competencies. Giving, especially large sums of money takes work. You have to understand who you're giving to, what they're going to do with it, and what your return on investment is going to be. There's no doubt that the right people could be hired and training could be undergone to make this so, but that is currently not the case.
  2. I don't know if I'd agree with how they give their profits away. For example, supporting Benaroya Hall and the Seattle Symphony is nice, but I wouldn't call it a noble cause. It's those with at least some means who can go to such events. I would assume that charitable donations just lower the bar to entry, but they're not doing anything drastic like enabling the destitute to have a night listening to pristine classical music.
  3. It's hard to see how this is in the customer's best interest. Corporate giving is definitely in the best interest of the recipients, but these recipients are not necessarily the customers. Amazon prides itself on starting with the customer and working backwards. Would customers rather you give X million dollars of profit away, or use that X million dollars to lower prices?
  4. Giving away X% of company profits is not a stated company value. As a result, investors did not sign up for this to occur. I would assume most are investing in Amazon with the hope/expectation that Amazon will maximize their return. This unspoken agreement between company and investor should be honored. If a party wants to change the agreement (e.g. give more money away), then the other party should be given ample time to adjust (e.g. pull out their money if they don't agree).
While not possible or practical, I wish Amazon had a giving posture. It would be a source of pride, that not only can my employer get you millions of items at amazing prices incredibly quickly, but they see themselves as blessed, have a generous outlook, and care for those in need. It would be awesome to see Amazon rally behind a noble cause like Kiva as many other companies have done.

But these are the problems you face when you're a big company and it's not your company. It's like how I wish our team could use Google Apps for some of our collaborating. As a big company, we can't be storing proprietary information on Google's servers, even if it makes our jobs easier. But if you own your company and you're a small fish, you can do such things. You can state in your charter that at every annual meeting we distribute X% of the profits to our employees so that they can give it away. Doesn't that sound awesome? Wouldn't you want to work for such an organization?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Lent '09 - Day 14: A different kind of dinner party

Jesus says in Luke 14:12-14:
When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.
Does anybody do this? I know I don't. Why don't we? Do we not know any poor, crippled, lame, and/or blind to invite? Are we worried about what may happen to our stuff? Are we worried about reputation? Are we trapped in a cycle of quid pro quo relationships?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Lent '09 - Day 13: Not convuluding death

A coworker for a nearby team died of natural causes in his home this past weekend. He would have been around 30 years old, so his death came as very sudden and unexpected. We tend to ask "why" a lot more when a younger person dies, than one who is 80+.

Jesus was asked about some tragic deaths in his day (Luke 13:1-5). Apparently the same Roman governor, Pilate, who would enable Christ to be crucified, also sacrificed some local Israelites. People began to wonder, "why were these people killed? What sins did they commit to deserve this?" Jesus breaks up this cause and effect thinking by stating that these Galileans were no worse sinners than any others. He also brings up the structural engineering failure of a local tower that collapsed and fell on 18 nearby folks, killing them. They too were no worse.

Death becomes incredibly frustrating when only looked at through the lens of this life. It's impossible to say God is fair when looking at how things are dished out here. Karma's cause-and-effect mentaility convuludes death, and Jesus rebukes the notion. Possibly Jesus knew those Gallileans that Pilate sacrificed. There's no question that there death was tradgic and incredibly sad. But Christ is able to watch this world spin its course (even when bad things happen), because he knows that's not the end of the story. There is more to come, where rewards can be given, debts can be relieved, and punishment can be handed out.

As a result, Jesus' application for those shaken by the death of the Gallileans was about controlling what they can. The examples in the passage or the case of my coworker show that death is largely out of our control. What is within our control is to repent and work on bearing fruit. This is the direction Jesus pushes his audience.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Lent '09 - Day 12: Seek his kingdom

When instructing his disciples not to worry about things, Jesus says, "your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well" (Luke 12:30-31). This command to seek the command strikes me. We don't talk about it a lot directly, and I know I don't wake up thinking about seeking the kingdom. Seeking is a critical part of life with Christ. We talk about seeking occurring when coming to start a relationship with Christ, but relationship with Christ just points us to seeking God's reign. Seeking the Kingdom occurs in many ways, but it's important to ask, "how am I seeking the Kingdom today?" Maybe through praying for friends and family, engaging in conversation with coworkers at work, researching ways to put saved money to use for the world's poor?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Lent '09 - Day 11: Interesting Woe

Jesus' woes to the Pharisees in Luke 11:37-53 are startling. They remind me that I'm not dealing with a pushover in Christ. One thing that stood out when reading them this time, was when Jesus said:
Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? But give what is inside the dish to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.
This giving what's "inside the dish" is what struck me. I need to research this to understand what was meant exactly, but given the context of the Pharisees looking good externally, I assume that "inside the cup" refers to internal things like one's heart or mind. If this is the case, then Jesus isn't pushing them to just give their money to the poor, but also themselves in relationship.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Lent '09 - Day 10: Responsibility System

If there are things to do or responsibilities to take care, I feel the burden to take care of them. I expect the same of others. My thinking is, "Let's work, and when we get the work done, we can relax." Personality differences cause people to approach work and responsibility differently, and while I can't say my way is right, I don't think it's wrong. That said, there's an important exception to make, which Jesus reveals when mediating between Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42.

Martha is definitely responsibility minded, and the todo list for things to take care of with Jesus and his cohorts in town are on her mind. "I'll enjoy and learn from Jesus after all this work gets done!" Mary, Martha's sister, doesn't have the same responsibility sentiment, and instead spends time with Jesus before the work gets done. This peeves Martha, who was probably fuming inside for some time before she finally blurted, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!" I know I would have had the same exasperation. Jesus' response is very important for us responsibility-minded folk:
Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chose what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.
Jesus understands Martha's feelings, but the sense of urgency Martha feels from responsibility is off base. The literal transalation of the Spanish rendering of this response from Jesus is, "Marth has chosen best, and nobody will take it from her". Despite Martha's plea, Jesus himself will not tell Mary to get in the kitchen and help with the tasks at hand.

For those of us who feel responsibility's weight, we must be willing to make exceptions for other people and ourselves. While playing video games should probably not fly as an excuse to get out of work, feasting on Christ and expanding the Kingdom should.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Lent '09 - Day 9: Praying Tired

Does anyone else struggle to pray or read Scripture when tired? I will be mid sentence, and just blank out. In observing Jesus, one sees him go and pray after long/hard days or through the night, and I wonder how he did it. I find it strange because I can do pretty well working when tired. Maybe because it's more active? Designing or thinking hard about a problem though are more difficult when tired, but answering questions or writing code for things I'm very familiar with is not so impaired. In thinking about it more, it's the higher level functions that are affected by being tired (e.g. listening, relating with feelings, studying, etc.). There are definitely times to forgo on sleep and bank on God to provide the energy to get through the day, but when it's within our control to get good sleep, we owe it our relationships (including with God) to do so.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Lent '09 - Day 8: What does this mean?

Do you see how these words from Jesus in Luke 8:16-18 connect?
  • 16No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.
  • 17For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.
  • 18Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him.
They make sense to me on their own, but they're clearly connected with words like "for" and "therefore". If you have any comments or thoughts, please share.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Lent '09 - Day 7: Rejecting your purpose

In the middle of chapter 7, Luke makes a comment about how "the Pharisees and experts in the law rejected God's purpose for themselves" (Luke 7:30). Isn't that startling? A hammer's purpose is to drive in or pull out nail, right? But a hammer cannot prevent itself from being used to pound nails into 2x4's. A hammer cannot reject its purpose. On the other-hand, we as humans can. We can live counter to how we were intended to live, and the religious elite in Jesus' day did exactly that.

Luke 7:30 also states that their purpose rejection was related to not-being baptized by John. John's baptism was one of repentance, making an about-face in one's life. Repentance is a correction to the course of living out God's purpose. We all can get off track from God's purpose, and need to make adjustments (or overhauls). If we are consistently un-willing to make these changes though, our actions demonstrate that we reject God's purpose.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Lent '09 - Day 6: Choosing not to think

Some of the people I've been getting to know most at work are the security guards and janitors. They're wanting to learn English and I'm wanting to learn Spanish, so we are a good match for each other.

Additional people are continuing to be hired down here, which means more technology purchases, which also means more boxes. There was a very large accumulation of boxes within boxes across from my office as a result of IT's latest hardware installment. When walking back to my desk, I saw one of the janitors starting in on the pile. As there were 100+ boxes to break down, I asked if she needed any help. "¡Sî!"

The whole box breaking endeavor took longer than I expected. While working, the thought crossed my mind: "is this the best use of my time?" I definitely don't by any means see myself above menial tasks like box breaking, but there were so many things for my team that need to get done where my more specialized skills are required. Why then was I taking time to do break boxes where anyone could fill in? Questions of priority also arose, like "is this the most important thing for me to be spending my time on?" Scripture crossed my mind too, like "Do to others as you would have them do to you" (Luke 6:31), but those thoughts had a hard time being heard amongst the productivity thoughts.

In my heart, I knew that asking to break the boxes was the right thing to do. My head thought of many reasons why not to do it. When I hit this internal conflict, I have to choose not to think so that I can have a heart override. Once the heart override has occurred, the mind can be engaged again to realize, "I have a lot of flexibility with work. I can just work longer to compensate for the lost time."

Monday, March 2, 2009

Lent '09 - Day 5: "You want me to do what?!"

This is what I imagine Peter thinking when Jesus tells Peter to head to deep water and let the nets down, despite the fact that Peter and his partner's have worked all night and haven't caught a thing (Luke 5:4-5). I can relate with the feeling of working long and hard but not being successful. I'm usually closer to the end of my rope and my patience is short. If some non-fisherman told me, a fisherman, to then go back out, I think I'd snap. I'm not sure what enabled Peter to keep his cool; maybe it was out of respect for the traveling rabbi or the words that he'd just heard Jesus speak. Either way, his response to Jesus is both encouraging and challenging: "because you say so, I will".

I know God has asked things of me that don't make sense on the surface: "pull over and see if that person needs help", "ask how that stranger is doing", "get up and write an email to check in on that person", etc. When I'm at my best, I respond to these requests, despite how illogical or inconvenient they seem. I've been thinking this morning about if there's any nudges recently where I haven't given the "because you say so I will" response. The thing that has come to mind is the empty lot on our walk to the bus stop that is becoming a trash heap. In the grand scheme of things, this doesn't seem like that big of the deal, but maybe it's a pre-requisite for hearing other requests. What about for you? What things do you need to do, simply because He asked? Are you listening for them?