I don’t feel like writing. I have spent my day writing code and solving problems. Then there is all the social interactions. I love my coworkers but with my personality, all that interaction becomes emotionally and mentally draining. So here I am at Starbucks, forcing myself to write. Writing about how I don’t feel like writing.
Each morning I rise
I bathe and clothe then strive to confine
My spirit and shape it to man-made holes
Placing it in boxes of wood and steel and stone
Through these boxes I produce my labor
Receive the wages on which I survive
Yet each day my spirit wilts that much more
Like the flower in a scorching heat
These boxes separate me
From the grandeur of the world outside
On occasion I escape
To endless fields or towering cliffs and peaks
To hear the roar of mountain streams
Or see the bloom of early spring
Oh my soul does soar
Far from the elemental boxes wrought
From the splendor I now enjoy
Sitting in those boxes
My vision becomes small
Focusing on the works of human hands
Plagiarisms of the magnificent Artist
Standing dwarfed by mountain cliffs
And deafened by raging waters
The airs of pride drift away
While wonder and humility
Rush in to fill its place
In these places of awe and wonder
This man sees his vain glories
For what they are
I ran the Grand Valley half-marathon this morning. As we approached the two mile mark, I could see a line of runners stretched out in front of me. The speed demons out in front left the rest of us to run our slower paces. Others gaits seemed to betray they were fighting off pain with each step to finish. Collectively, we spurred each other on. Those that reached the turn-around cheered on those still to reach halfway. One man that walked the entire incline of the giant hill, encouraged me when I was down on myself for slowing to a walk halfway to the top.
Jeremiah opened his eyes to slits. Daylight was streaming into his room. His phone was trying to get his attention. It had rung a few minutes ago and he let it go to voicemail. Probably wrong number anyway. Now he’d just got a text message. It told him it was 7:13. It was Saturday morning, his day to sleep in.
He unlocked his phone and read the text. “Hey, just found out Yin died this morning. Don’t know much else.” Jeremiah reread the text. He switched screens to see the voicemail was from another friend. Adrian’s voice came on the line. Her voice was trembling. “Jerry, just found out Yin died. Li is at the hospital. I’m going to pick her up and take her home. Can you grab some others and meet us there?”
I had two conversations the other day that put me in a different frame of mind. The first was over breakfast with a friend. I shared the struggles with my spiritual life over the last few months. He admonished me that I need to submit to the Lord hour by hour. I nodded my head because I knew all this intellectually. But it didn’t seem to embolden me, cause repentance or increase my understanding of circumstances.
I got the idea for this yearly review and plan from a recent article by Chris Guillabeau.
Looking back at 2012
What went well?
- I ran my first marathon in Baton Rouge.
- I changed jobs. I found a company where I enjoy the people I work with and the work is keeping me challenged.
- I took a vacation in Maine. I found a cabin on the water and had a great time exploring.
- I wrote another short story, about a lone soldier stationed at Fort Knox in Maine.
- I took risks with some relationships.
- In spite of fear, I had some hard conversations that needed to happen.
- I attended ZendCon in California and learned a great deal.
- I read 67 books last year including: fiction, business, history, and biographies.
- I was recognized by my boss for taking on a project that no one else wanted to touch.
- I started teaching ESL to another family.
I was unsure of what to expect when I started reading “The Circle Maker” by Mark Batterson. He talks about dreaming big, praying hard and thinking long. When he talks about thinking long he is talking about prayers that are long-term, often ones we won’t see the answer to in our lifetime. He contends that if there are things we want, we should pray hard for them.
At first I was uneasy because this felt like “health and wealth.” However, everything he said lines up with Scripture. He states our motives must be in line with God’s word and his will. He continues that just because we pray, God is not under compulsion to answer. So my discomfort was not from this.
I read on but was still uneasy. I continued to pray about what I was reading and it slowly became clear. His way of thinking felt alien because I was doing the opposite of what he was advocating. I was dreaming small, praying little, and thinking short. I began to understand the discomfort. I approach God in prayer like I’d approach a tempermental, busy father. I try to find the opportune moment to share my request with God. A time when he’s most likely to hear my prayer and answer it. I also don’t want to be disappointed so I don’t ask for much. When I do ask, I ask for that which won’t inconvenience Him too much.
As I wrestled through this, I was reminded by a friend of several passages that speak to this:
You do not have because you do not ask and you do not have because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
I often wrestle with the motives of my prayers. There is one side where it is right and can glorify God. On the other, I could be wanting it out of greed or covetness. So because I can’t ferret out my motives, I just don’t pray. However, nowhere in that verse does it say to determine your motives before you ask. It says ask. God will sort out my motives and respond accordingly. If they’re selfish, then God will reveal that as I to continue to pray about it.
Jesus taught his disciples that if flawed humans want to give good gifts to their children, then how much more will God give good gifts to his children. God is not a busy Father that can’t be bothered. He wants to hear our prayers and give us the things that we want which will draw us closer to Him and make us more like his son.
The writer of Hebrews tells us to “boldly approach the throne of grace with confidence.” I have memorized this and other verses but I tend to treat them as a metaphor of a metaphor. These verses explan how we are to approach God in prayer. They are prescriptive. But I strip these words of there power by treating them more like poetry. They are pretty and convey a nice thought but that is as far as it goes.
Batterson says near the end of the book: “if you have the faith to dream big, pray hard and think long, there is nothing God loves more than proving his faithfulness.” This cuts to the heart of the issue. My faith is flagging and as a consequence I don’t dream big or pray hard.
There are a few things I have prayed for recently and felt led to act in a particular way. This leading makes me wonder if I have lost touch with reality and living a delusion.
“Sometimes faith seems like a denial of reality, but that’s because we’re holding on to a reality that is more real than the reality we can perceive with our five senses.” This felt like a confirmation but I still struggle. And this is where faith comes in. Will I continue to pray in faith that God will answer and have faith that if I’m delusional, the Holy Spirit will reveal that as well?
Batterson also comments that many expect the Christian life to get easier the longer they are a believer. It’s actually the complete opposite. I have fallen into this trap often. I treat the spiritual disciplines like physical disciplines. If there is something I’ve practiced and done a thousand times then it is “easy” to perform this task. The difference with spiritual disciplines is your opponent keeps raising the stakes. So you need to pray harder and prepare harder to be ready when the opponent makes you up your game.
“God is for you. If you don’t believe that then you’ll pray small timid prayers, if you do believe it, then you’ll pray big audacious prayers… [Prayers] are the best predictors of your spiritual future. Who you become is determined by how you pray.”
I want faith strong enough, like Jesus described, I could command the mountains to jump into the ocean. The deep prayer of my heart is that my faith would sustain me in joy when I’m in the valley as well as on the mountain. I want to see people come to faith in Christ through my sharing the Gospel and through the testimony of my life. I want to pray for things that only God can do. I want to see God’s power in my life.
Do you struggle with small prayers? How are you moving toward a stronger faith?
I mentioned to a friend recently that I wanted to take a trip somewhere where I felt small. There is something about standing at the base of a mountain or looking out at an expanse of ocean to make you feel small. I like those reminders because they show me I’m not the center of the universe. They also remind me that this world is so much greater than the house I live in and the cubicle I work in.
I got my wish Sunday. I drove out to Henry Cowell State Park. They have a redwood grove with a few old growth trees that escaped logging 100 years ago. I’ve heard stories about them but when you see them up close, you can’t help but tilt your head back and stare in wonder. Some of those trees were sprouting from the ground around the time Jesus was traveling through Galilee teaching and performing miracles.
Sometimes you needed to be reminded of the Creator and your place in creation.
“The 13th Tribe” by Robert Liparulo follows a group of immortals. They were among those that sinned by worshiping the golden calf at Mount Sinai. They are cursed with immortality and separated from God both on earth and in heaven. They believe that by punishing sinners with death they will atone for their sins and lift the curse. Jagger, a man trying to escape hurts and reestablish his faith in God is embroiled in the tribes latest scheme for atonement. Can Jagger stop them before it’s too late?
I enjoyed the story. The idea of being “cursed” with immortality and separated from God’s presence on earth was an intriguing concept. However, I didn’t feel the author developed that enough. I got the feeling that this curse was more like an annoyance or a bearable burden. I didn’t get the sense that living for 3500 years had tormented them and crushed their souls.
Once the big plan was put into motion the story picked up and barreled forward. Where I felt the author lacked in developing the Tribe’s anguish and torment, he made up by delving into the spiritual struggle the protagonist was walking through. He suffered a tragedy prior to the start of the book and was still trying to make sense of it and find peace. When he gets drawn into the hunt for the Tribe, his struggles only seem to mount. I really empathized with Jagger.
If you’re wanting an adventure with a dash of Indiana Jones, Jason Bourne and The Highlander, then you’ll enjoy this story. A bonus is a protagonist who has faith but is wrestling with God and doesn’t have it all figured out.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”