"Daily frame me more and more into the likeness of Thy Son, Jesus Christ." - George Washington

Friday, April 29, 2011

[Bliss Is...]

.: That elusive perfect cup of coffee.
.: French onion soup on a cold rainy day.
.: Setting the alarm for 5am, then sleeping til noon.
.: Hugs and kisses from the boys I nanny.
.: Truth revealed from the Lord.
.: The opportunity to wear that new dress.
.: Putting Viva La Vida on repeat in my car.
.: A back rub for the knots in my shoulders.
.: Someone to play with my hair.
.: Sweat-pants on a lazy day.
.: Heavy covers tucked up under my chin.
.: A back handspring.
.: My favorite songs from Les Miserables.
.: A clear starry sky, and full moon.
.: Falling asleep to the sound of thunder, or Sigur Ros
.: The richness of Nat King Cole's voice, singing my favorite love songs.
.: Swing dancing the night away.
.: A genuine hug from a friend.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Who Am I? Jean Valjean

   I. Am. Obsessed. With Les Misérables. It is the best Broadway show in existense, not merely because of relatable characters, epic music or realistic costuming and set pieces. It is the best Broadway show of all time because of the story it was written from. The scruples, and inner turmoil of the characters is paramount! There is so much to be learned from such a thought-provoking show.

   My favorite song is Jean Valjean's debate with himself. He was a former convict who broke his parole and became a beloved mayor through honest and honorable means. He thought his past was behind him, until 20 years later, an innocent man was caught and convicted of Valjean's crimes. This song portrays his diffucult decision between letting this man take his punishment, or being merciful and revealing his identity.
He thinks that man is me, he knew him at a glance.
This stranger he has found, this man could be my chance.
Why should I save his hide? Why should I right this wrong?
When I have come so far, and struggled for so long?
If I speak, I am condemned.
If I stay silent, I am damned

I am the master of hundreds of workers, they all look to me.
Can I abandon them, how will they live if I am not free?
If I speak, I am condemned.
If I stay silent, I am damned.

Who am I?
Can I condemn this man to slavery,
Pretend I do not see his agony?
This innocent who bears my face,
Who goes to judgement in my place.

Who am I?
Can I conceal myself forevermore,
Pretend I'm not the man I was before?
And must my name until I die,
Be no more than an alibi?

Must I lie?
How can I ever face my fellow men?
How can I ever face myself again?
My soul belongs to God, I know.
I made that bargain long ago.
He gave me hope when hope was gone.
He gave me strength to journey on.

Who am I? Who am I?
I'm Jean Valjean!
And so Javert, you see it's true;
This man bears no more guilt than you.
Who am I?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Pointless Suffering... With a Purpose? Part Two

   "And now ladies and gentlemen, we present to you the second installment of... *in echoing voice* Pointless Suffering... With a Purpose." *suspenseful music plays...*

   So it's 7:30 AM, I was up early for work and wound up not being needed. I'm a bit tired, but ready to tackle this post. I meant to put it in three parts, but I suppose two would do nicely. We shall see.

   The other day, I ended my post about 'pointless' suffering as an object lesson for others by saying that God always has a purpose, even though you may never see it in your lifetime. Well the next passage of Scripture I'd like to share is about a family that thought their brother's lifetime was over. God's plan for His life had been completed and they were mourning his loss... they supposed.

   I'm talking about Mary, Martha and their brother Lazarus. They saw their brother pass away and agonized that Jesus could have done something, but didn't come in time. Now in hindsight, knowing how this story ends, it's easy to blame them and think "Silly girls, don't they know that Jesus can do anything? They were so foolish to blame His delayed timing for their brother's death." But if you were Mary or Martha, don't you suppose you would be doing the same thing? My guess is that we both blame the Lord and become angry with Him when things don't pan out the way we want them to.

   These verses here really caught my eye, I love the surprising twist-
John 11:3-7   ::   Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, "Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick." When Jesus heard that, He said, "This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it." Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. Then after this He said to the disciples, "Let us go to Judea again."
   Did you catch that? Read it again... He loved them, so He stayed where He was! God allows suffering because He loves us. God's love is so wrapped up with His infinite wisdom that He does things that we think make no sense. Jesus allowed Lazarus to die, because He loved him! He let Mary and Martha grieve the loss of their dear brother because He loved them. He did something painful, to show us something greater. Perhaps if He had healed Lazarus from sickness, that would be just another miracle everyone would check off the list. After all, Jesus and many of His disciples healed the sick. But there were very few people raised from the dead. Jesus gave Lazarus something greater.

   In fact, the earlier part of the verse tells us precisely why Jesus chose to stay behind, and it is also my ultimate argument for the suffering God 'allows'. (I'm still not sure if 'allows' is the word I want. 'Directs' might be more along the lines of Biblical context.)

   God's purpose for suffering is ultimately... His glory. He creates object lessons from suffering, to bring glory to Himself. He loves us and directs suffering, to bring glory to Himself. He used the wicked prophet Jonah for His glory, He used the obedient prophet Hosea for His glory. He dashed the dreams of Ezekiel for His glory, He led Joseph's brothers to sell him as a slave, for His glory. He let Lazarus die from illness for His glory... You name it, God gets the glory from it.

   Does that seem like a sick sense of pleasure to you? Perhaps, I'm not surprised... But God is sovereign and does what He wants. He is the only Potentate, the King of Kings, the Master Designer, Creator... He perfectly owns every right to do what He wants and get all the glory.

  Here are my last two examples of suffering, that weren't specifically labeled for any sort of punishment or edification, but truly to demonstrate what God can do.
Job 2:3   ::   Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil? And still he holds fast to his integrity, although you incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause."
Isaiah 48:9-11   ::   For My name’s sake I will defer My anger, And for My praise I will restrain it from you, So that I do not cut you off. Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For My own sake, for My own sake, I will do it; For how should My name be profaned? And I will not give My glory to another.
   Of course you can't write anything about suffering without bringing up the story of Job. He is the textbook example of someone who suffered much without cause, and the perfect example of someone who suffered for God's glory. Thus I don't feel compelled to expound much more on Job, but I would compel you to read the last few chapters of his story; Job 38-42.  The glory and sovereignty of God is unfathomable. These verses really couldn't be plainer.

   But perhaps you haven't read (or maybe read, but not pondered) this passage from Isaiah. Tricky little piece of Scripture, I didn't know what to make of it when my mom first showed it to me a few years ago. It clearly speaks of chastisement and refinement, not for the subject's sake, but God's! Imagine that... God here, doesn't seem like the bestest chum and doting daddy that a lot of Christians make Him out to be. For sure, those are facets of his character, and this one is likewise. I'm not saying He is solely cruel and loves to see His children in pain. After all, the simplest verse in the Bible - and perhaps the most touching - says "Jesus wept" (for Mary, Martha and Lazarus). But we mustn't go too far to either end of the spectrum. If we focus so much on God's lovingkindness that we forget His wrath, we have a warped view of a God that is truly balanced with love and justice.

   I'm afraid I'm beginning to ramble, so I'll wind up and ask you to study all these passages of Scripture for yourself. Don't condemn me, nor take my word for it. Pray for truth and seek the Lord's will. He will not disappoint you.

To God be the glory! For EVERYTHING.
Romans 8:28   ::   And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Pointless Suffering... With a Purpose? Part One

   Hey y'all. =) I haven't been gone, still typing away. But this post has been several days in the making- a little here, a little there. Thus it seems a bit delayed.

   I have a question- Is it possible for there to be a good reason for bad things that happen? Are bad things in life simply consequences of sin? Pointless and painful, like mosquitos and poison ivy? I usually wind up debating this topic with one of my good friends, and we always agree to disagree lol. So if you're reading this, I'm not rubbing it in your face, I'm just writing what has been on my mind, and what I believe the Bible says. I still respect your opinion.

   I DO believe that God has a purpose for everything that happens, and He does direct bad circumstances for our benefit. Here are a few pieces of Scripture that have come across my path over the last few weeks, and keep leading me back to this subject.

Jonah 4:1-4
   But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry. So he prayed to the LORD, and said, “Ah, LORD, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm. Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!”
   Then the LORD said, “Is it right for you to be angry?

Hosea 1:2
    When the LORD began to speak by Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea:
   "Go, take yourself a wife of harlotry and children of harlotry, for the land has committed great harlotry by departing from the LORD."
   My first point with these passages is that God raises bad circumstances... As an Object Lesson for others. Depressing thought, huh? To think that you have a life in the pits so that someone else will learn from your problems.

   Jonah and Hosea were both prophets. They were very different prophets. Hosea was commanded to do something miserable, and he obeyed the Lord. Jonah was commanded to do something typical, and he threw in the towel and ran the other direction.

   Jonah is such a mystery... the more I study his story, the more of a wuss he seems to be. He was entirely selfish, he did not have faith or contentment in what the Lord was doing. He did not even want to serve the Lord, but God gave him no choice. From this verse, he appears to have a very modern, warped view of God's will. He said God was abundant in lovingkindness -- surely He didn't really mean to overthrow Ninevah? And even if He did, Ninevah sure deserved it. Jonah wasn't going to help them, it simply wasn't fair.

   Why in the world did God use such a selfish, ignorant, shallow man for a prophet? The very message that Jonah preached was lame and less than half-hearted, and yet God converted the entire city of Ninevah. God didn't need Jonah. Jonah didn't think he needed God. So why was God so invasive? He could have had His pick of any other obedient prophet. He could have even made Jonah's heart more willing.

   Clearly the only other option is that God used Jonah's miserable existence and misbehavior to teach those who have read his story. Jonah certainly didn't learn one bit of good. That leaves it up to us. And there's a whole boat-load (pun intended) of things to learn from what Jonah did wrong, which I will leave for you to study yourself.

   Conversely, we have the obedience of poor Hosea. He paid an ultimate price when the Lord used his life as an object lesson. Can you imagine that, giving up your very happiness for the Lord? After all, you only have one life. You dream of doing great things for the Lord, and of raising a beautiful family, then God slams you with a nightmare.

   Hosea suffered unspeakable pain, and disdain from all. But that was only part of the grand story God wove. It didn't end with the fact that Hosea married an unfaithful harlot, God resolved the story joyously. And the story of Gomer, his wife, is the most vivid and convicting portrayal of our relationship with God. Hosea's pointless suffering wasn't because of his sin, it was a teaching tool God used on a much grander scale than Hosea could have imagined.

   Neither of these men have seen how their stories are being read and taught, even thousands of years later. They died knowing only what God had revealed to them. Perhaps God has given you a trial with no apparent benefit to yourself, and you pray in agony because there is no hope or end in sight. Dear friend, I believe that God really and truly has a purpose. Countless are the stories of someone's life being impacted by the testimony of another. You may never know the number of all the lives your experience will touch. You may be strengthening others with courage and hope and faith. Don't give up the good fight, for God will be strengthening you step by step.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Spring Cleaning

   I just decided my blog needed a spring cleaning and de-clutter. Way too many pointless buttons, and links to blogs that aren't even kept up, nor read by me. That's me, evolving and moving along. I always say simpler is better. So does it look any different to you? Should I change the background? Or the header? Or the music perhaps? (Sorry, the music is gonna stay. Mua haha.)

   By the way, I started a new blog last night called Efteråret: Inspired.
   It's basically quotes, poems, song lyrics, hymns, devotionals and whatnot. Anything that I have found to be edifying in my spiritual walk over the years. And then some. You will probably find Nat King Cole peppered liberally throughout. I love having everything pertaining to a topic, in one place, versus in a billion notebooks stashed around my room. So if this blog slows down for a bit, it's only because I'm working on the other momentarily.

   I love y'all! I don't yet know how having readers affects my diligence, or purpose in blogging, but I really do appreciate all of you! Every one. Who doesn't love fans after all? (Just kidding. Ha.) Praise and glory to God for anything good that you happen to read here.

  Have a fantasmagorical Tuesday!