"He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose." ~Jim Elliot

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Monday, September 30, 2013

Pain

Recently I had a friend tell me that basically he was not doing well at all. Reading the Bible has become a burden, prayer has faded away, fellowship is nearly non-existent. It all feels old, and it seems so hard now. The days of peace and praise have vanished. Difficulty has come.

The only purpose this post serves is to say this: I'm there. I know. It is hard. All I could say in response was, "Yeah, life stinks." And it does because it is filled with much pain and heartache, passionless wandering and endless distraction. Days are only good when they turn to evening and they can be slept away like a bad dream.

But there was one more thing I told my friend in response, and I've been preaching it to myself a lot lately: whatever happens, don't give up. You don't have to love life right now or act like everything is fine. But whatever you do, just hang on. One more day. One more hour. One more moment. One more breath. Some way - somehow - God is in this moment. Somehow it will all be okay. Somehow everything will turn around.

And all the pain will be gone. 

You will sing again.

Just hold on.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Live to Please

This year has been anything but normal for me. It has held little rhythm, and at times, it seems, little rhyme or reason. But through all of the changes and uncertainties, surprises and Surprise (AZ), trials and triumphs, God has taught me many lessons. The core of it is simply this:

That life is hard but He is good, that the world is rich but the riches of His kingdom are greater, that my kingdom is vain but His is glorious. And that though I am weak, He is forever strong. And by His grace He has made me strong in His Son.

I get so consumed by the pressures of life that I often forget who God is and who I am in Him. I spend so much time thinking about myself that I lose my ability to see Christ as beautiful. I look so much at my own failure that I fail to see the victory I have in my Lord. I forget.

But all the while, my God stands in His beauty and glory. He reigns high above me and follows me everywhere. He is the defense before me and the power behind me, the shield above me and the strength within me.

If all else fails, I want to know God. Even if I don't get a college degree or the career I want, even if the sky pours down rain, even if my attempts to fulfill my ambitions come short - my soul is placed within the hands of God: recklessly surrendered on earth, safely sealed in Heaven.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

New Poetry

A few days ago, I began work on my latest poetry project which I am calling Strong. I thought it would be appropriate to share a part of this with my readers:


Prayer Under the Sun
09.23.13

You said You’d make me forever strong
Until the day You’d bring me home,
But now those days seem so far gone
As I’m stuck here waiting -
Not resting but wrestling
And biting the invisible hand that sustains me.
God,
If this is a lie
And I was played this whole time,
Kill me now.
Whoever or whatever you are -
Kill me now.
I don’t want to feed on a strength
That isn’t there
Or be brave because I think someone or something makes me so.

But if this is real,
If this is true,
If You are God and Jesus is Lord -
O God,
For Your own name
Intervene on behalf of one too small to be lauded by this world You made,
Too weak to stand on his two feet,
Too lost to come around again,
Too poor to pick himself up.

Give me the power of Your Son
Like no other name under the sun,
And let the calling of You,
The very mention of Your name,
Cast out every demon or fear
That would destroy me.
Show me peace.

Make me humble -
Make me strong


No matter what I believe
Or how I doubt,
Where I walk
Or when I stray,
Where I stand
Or how I fall.

Get me through this -
Get me home.



Sunday, September 22, 2013

Satisfy

Of all times to say this, I did not think I would say it now. But I am bored. Seriously. This week was, for the first part, one of the most stressful and challenging weeks of my life. College plans are falling through and being remade. Work offers me transitional times. And apparently five of my teeth need attention - major attention. But all this is not enough when I come home. There is a restlessness which I cannot shake.

Most of Saturday was spent not in things of little value. Much internet, much texting, much TV. Little meditation, little prayer, little Scripture. Things ought not to be this way. My excuse was that Leviticus is a challenging book to read all the way through. So maybe it is. So what? Well, I took a break and looked at a passage of my choice which I thought would help. So far so good:

Luke 10:38-42
Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”


I am quite sure Martha was a lot prettier than I am, but I make a better Martha than Mary. 

Distracted. Why does that one word get me every time my eyes come to this passage? Because it describes me. Give me anything but sitting silently and listening. But this is what I need.

"We fall down,
We lay our crowns
At the feet of Jesus
The greatness of
Mercy and love
At the feet of Jesus...

No more fears
You've dried our tears
At the feet of Jesus
Grace abounds
To all who've found
The feet of Jesus"

~"We Fall Down"

The reading from Isaiah 55 in the first service this morning only acted as a reminder of this simple truth: all but Christ fails to satisfy. Happiness may be found in but a moment in other things, but it is found for all time in the Lover of my soul.




Saturday, September 21, 2013

Never Quit

Take a listen¹:




Sometimes I feel like this is me. I get so frustrated by my distance from all substantial reality and any sense of normalcy that I want to yell or throw my arms in the air; usually I just end up rubbing my hand down my face. This is one of those times.

The other day these words came out as an attempt to describe the feeling:

"All my brokenness in one room:
The snapping of joints,
The black, the bent back,
Hurt -
I'm gutted...

All my passion in a city:
The lack of sleep,
Yelling, the swelling,
The sores -
I'm shattered."²

These are the days when life hurts the most. Things keep getting harder and harder, and there are even moments when there is no visible hope. But for every moment of being downtrodden, I find one more ounce of energy to press on. So I do. Giving up in life is not an option. Looking inward all the time and pitying self will only cripple me; looking to the hope God gives us in salvation in Jesus' name is the remedy.

Don't give up.

"You gave it all you had
When all was torn from you,
And when it all was lost
Hope restored your view -
Never give up on it
When life is all but gone.
Conquer every death
And wait for the dawn."³

Today is just one day. The season will soon be over. Don't quit right before the relief comes.





Footnotes:
1. Barnes, Michael. So Far Away. Perf. Anthony Armstrong, Randy Armstrong, and Joe Rickard. RED. Rec. Feb. 2013. 2013. CD.
2. Ross, Jonathon M. "All My Anger." (n.d.): n. pag. Rpt. in Waiting for Dawn. By Jonathon M. Ross. N.p.: n.p., n.d. 38-39. Google Drive. Web. 20 Sept. 2013.
3. Ross, Jonathon M. "Wait for the Dawn." (n.d.): n. pag. Rpt. in Waiting for Dawn. N.p.: n.p., n.d. 40-41. Google Drive. Web. 20 Sept. 2013.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Thorns

8/12/13
Hosea 13:12-14; 6:1-3; John 1:14;
Isaiah 53:5-6; 1 Corinthians 15:54-57

Iniquity is full and bound
In those whom it has been stored,
And lo, the LORD has come and found
This sin; and till wrath is poured
No man will escape his own death.
None will overcome the grave.
He will lie down in his last breath,
None to ransom, none to save.

The pains of childbirth have come -
Foolish sons will pay their plight.
None can delay this op’ning womb -
Mercy hidden from God’s sight.
May all wrath come with screams and scorns
And with it full justice bring:
“O death, where now are all your thorns?
Now, O grave, where is your sting?”

Come, let us return to the LORD;
He has wounded, He has torn,
But lo, the day we are restored
Will come and remove the thorn.
Let us press on to know His way;
After two He will revive,
And raise us up on the third day
To Himself show us alive.


Our Lord has taken flesh and died -
All our sins laid on the son -
And now God’s wrath is satisfied;
Through Messiah we have won!
And when removed are all the scorns,
When renewed is everything:
“O death, where now are all your thorns?
Now, O grave, where is your sting?”

Friday, September 6, 2013

Life is purposeless, and the only thing that can give life purpose is the thing that defeats death.

West Poinsettia Drive is about to sleep - even on this Friday night. All that remains is a few late partying people and some nostalgic streetlights. It is 11:04 and the Ross house is in utter silence. Only one young person's sporadic typing on a small laptop accounts for the sound inside. There may be a cricket or two out back next to the pool.

I have just returned home from a neighborhood Kohl's and Wendy's trip - those are great places to have next door, by the way. It is a somber night. Strolling through clearance aisles leads me to wonder why I even want things. Am I enjoying God's gifts through prayer or am I hoarding them through selfishness? Yet another broken cistern.

Today was crappy. I don't say that word much, but it has come to my mind more recently than in the past. After all, dropping five pounds of one of your store's most expensive products (that was a few days ago) isn't exactly a great thing for your inventory. Were I at my job for hours and money only, it wouldn't be much of a problem I suppose. But manager's are entitled to care.

Downtown Phoenix is a beautiful sight; it certainly was on the way to Mesa this afternoon. What an enormous, spread out city. There are so many people and buildings; I love that sight; I love the sounds. Well, kind of. The beauty of it all is minimized when there is a long drive home and miles of traffic backed up on I-10. How many people did I cut off today?

And as long as I'm writing obituary-like blog posts, why was I stretching pizzas for two hours in a store I don't even work at?

Okay, I'll settle down now, for myself at least. What is the perspective I have gained from living through the past two weeks? There is one simple answer, and I am more than happy to share my wisdom with the people who may read this blog: life is stupid. It's pointless. We live, then we die, and we might get a good haircut somewhere in between. People cut you off in traffic, cats pee on the carpet, and occasionally your fifth grade teach points her long bony finger up in the air.

The teenager working the drive-through at Wendy's accidentally rang up the wrong order for me: I ordered a large Frosty shake, but he made a large Frosty. To remedy the situation, he gave me the Frosty free and made me a shake for the price of the Frosty (which is about $1.70 cheaper). Yay! I get more ice cream! That could almost make life worth it. But not quite.

No, indeed, for tomorrow I'll be hungry again. And who knows what I'll try to stuff my stomach with! How many shirts will I have to buy to be happy? Even if work had gone well, would I really be content making my hourly wage? Even if I do - by some miracle - make it through college, what good will a piece of paper do me in life? A bigger job? Great. More money. More ice cream. More constipation. What good will it do me in death?

Life is depressing for the very reason of difficulty then death. Life happens like this: you're born cold and naked, you hit puberty, you're a broke college student, you get hitched and have two too many kids to handle, you retire to Florida (or Phoenix!), and you have kidney stones or prostate cancer or some other old peoples' awkward disease. And to top it all off you die. That, my friends, is why life is a dumpster.

The words of Solomon reincarnated - since there is nothing new under the sun and all is vanity and everything is in vain - are ended.

Now we have destroyed all meaning and purpose. We have blown all of life to bits. So what is it that rises from the ashes when everything else is dead? What is left when all other things are gone? What is true when everything else has been found a lie? What is real when everything else is fake? What is filling when everything leaves me empty?

What lives beyond this shattered, horrible life? What will kill death?

Solus Christus.

"Amor vincit omnia et nos cedamus amori."

By grace we have something. We have something more. So let us too be conquered by the conqueror. And when He has slain us all to shattered bits let us rise on the third day with Him and outlive everything that comes in our way, all that tries to harm us; for we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us.


("Crown Him the Lord of Life  
Who triumphed o'er the grave 
And rose victorious in the strife 
For those He came to save. 
His glories now we sing 
Who died and rose on high, 
Who died eternal life to bring 
And lives that death may die.")


And He who loves us is the meaning of life because, and only because, His love is better than life.

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