Archive for December, 2008

My Money?

Posted: December 18, 2008 in Uncategorized
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Earlier this week, my dad told me that I was “stingy” with my money because I was uptight about little trips back and forth to pick Joel up from school. That got my attention. My uncles sometimes joke about my dad’s frugal reputation, remembering times years ago when he would make us stand in lines for free things. Once, we waited at the Mars Music Store grand opening for an hour to get free t-shirts. My dad would recall trips to Sam’s Club when he and his dad would have lunch on the various free samples. It’s become a learned practice for our family to share drinks at fast-food restaurants to save a few bucks, despite perceived stares of condescension from germophobic onlookers (he has since begun to offer us our own cups).

So when my dad told me I was being stingy, and in no way jokingly, I had to seriously evaluate my behavior. If I object to the gas expenses when my family borrows “my” car, even though “my” car has been generously given to me, selfishness is blatantly present. When I have a spacious house to live in, my own room, access to a car, my own job, health and medical privileges, what accommodations are made for complaints? In this capacious American house I live in, is there any room left for protest? Can it contain the mass of greedy accusations of deprivation without bursting? Probably not.

The premise of my complaints is that I, in some way, deserve better than what I’m receiving. I deserve to be able to use my money however I want, whenever I want, and without anyone interfering with those rights. How sickly distorted and baseless an idea! Considering the parable of the master and the talents, I’m only the recipient of my Master’s belongings. Only because He’s chosen to bestow bounty have I anything on this earth.

An idea came to me recently. It’s a sort of test, a lab experiment to prompt me to consider financial situations differently. Here it is: Every time I refer to things in my possession, I will try to refer to it as the item I steward.

For example, “Dad took the car I steward out to the store.” Or, “Sure, I can spot you for dinner with the money I steward” It sounds a bit clunky and awkward, but I think it will help me to keep in mind that everything I have really belongs to God, to be allocated to various places for his purposes, not mine.

Father, impress upon me the truth that I deserve nothing but your wrath. Every possession I have is one more than I ought to have apart from your gracious will. May I be more inclined to generosity than hoarding, and may everything I have be held with a flat palm, not gripped possessively. Please make me so filled with gratitude that the irreconcilability of living with greed and living as a Christian would be obvious to me.

A quick afterword: If I’ve made my dad sound like a penny-pinching worrywart, I’ve not portrayed him accurately. He is cautious, restrained, and wise with money. I don’t often hear him complain of expenses except to explain why a certain purchase is not feasible. He regularly treats our family to nice restaurants and tells us not to worry about the money. He regularly tithes and supports a child through Compassion International. In short, he’s not stingy, but reserved and discerning in his finances. He manages his “talents” with wisdom.

Semester Summary

Posted: December 12, 2008 in Uncategorized

I used to view college students’ six weeks off of school incredulously, bemoaning the disparity in vacation time from high school to college. Now, I’m beginning to see my ignorance, as I have now experienced the demands firsthand. I assumed it would be like high school, just one step up. Not tremendously different from moving up a grade in elementary years, I thought. I was wrong. Academically, I would say it wasn’t too intensely difficult. Spiritually, however…it may have been the toughest few months yet.

No amount of preparation could adequately ready me for the riptide of temptations waiting for me. I thank God wholeheartedly for my years of homeschooling and my two years in the CDS. A lifelong accumulation of strong mentoring, shaping, nurturing, and teaching from a host of godly men and women is a gift I want to express gratitude for as much and as often as possible. I had pastors instructing me at least every week in the ways of God and how to follow Him unceasingly. Even with all these years of training, I wasn’t ready. Perhaps one never can be. Using the metaphor of war, the situation seems similar to that of a new recruit. I went through boot camp, worked consistently on conditioning, learned all the weaponry. Yet none of these, as helpful and crucial as they are, can put you in a trench on hostile, foreign ground with rounds grazing your helmet at every step. I learned, more importantly, however, that as my enemy (my flesh) barrages me with its ammunition–weariness, despair, complacency, hopelessness, desperation, loneliness, stress, fear, anxiety–God is faithful to shield me to empower me to persist in following Him.

Secular philosophies permeated just about every course I took. With the required load of work, I often neglected time in God’s word and in prayer. Humanistic psychology soon challenged Scriptures teaching of human depravity, while in English class I was told the word “evil” was too strong a word to describe verbal and physical abuse. This onslaught of secular ideals battered my thoughts around, often causing me to doubt Biblical truths I had held dear and sacred for years. Among these were precious ones such as God’s unconditional love and unconditional favor (well, not conditioned on my merit but on Christ’s atonement, anyway).

I was incredibly foolish to think that somehow I could possibly thrive in God throughout college without pleading for grace and mercy every single day. A word to the wise: don’t rely on past experiences to float through college, or any season for that matter. This is probably the enemy’s favorite and longest-cherished trick, because without new grace and renewed humility every day, there’s simply no way to stay committed. We are inconsistent beings, in need of an unchanging and faithful God.

Next semester, I hope to incorporate my weak understanding of my dependence on God. By God’s grace, I hope not to ignore prayer and the Bible no matter how heavy the educational load becomes, because regular communion with God is vital to following him.

Thank you Jesus that you’ve rendered your sinless position to me so that I can stand before God innocently. Despite my obvious shortcomings this past semester, I am viewed with the same affection and love as the day I first believed. What a relief, and what an encouragement to praise You with my life to the best of my grace-enabled ability!

Winter Reading List

Posted: December 6, 2008 in Uncategorized

After next week, I have six weeks free of school, free from a major portion of my current responsibilities. Not wanting to waste this time, I’m looking to build a winter reading list of 6 books (roughly one per week, don’t want to rush through them), but I’d appreciate some help/input:

1. A book on stress. I’m hoping to find a God-centered book on stress: how to manage it and trust God’s sovereign goodness, etc. Any recommendations?

2. Going along with stress, I’m hoping to find a book on effective time-management, preferably from a Christian who will prioritize spending time on spiritual disciplines and things of that nature, but not necessarily so. Help?

3. I’ve been meaning to read To Kill A Mockingbird for a long time. Somehow I managed to slip through high school without reading it, so, not wanting to be a literary ignoramus, I need to get this one under my belt (Side note: I had to look up the expression “under my belt” to see where it came from. Here’s what I found: “This metaphoric expression likens food that has been consumed to an experience that has been digested.”)

4 and 5: Open to recommendation

6: It’s been awhile since I spent some time with my good ol’ Puritan pal John Owen, so I’ll probably see if I can get a hold of another one of his books. Perhaps Doctrine of Justification or Glory of Christ. I put this one last because it will probably take more than a week to read something by him, so if it stretches into school, that’s fine with me.

Looking forward to the suggestions!

Double Pneumonia

Posted: December 5, 2008 in Uncategorized
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Last night, I was chatting online with a friend when she told me she had double pneumonia. I brilliantly asked if that was a made-up term for really bad pneumonia. Could you add “double” to any disease/sickness and add the same effect (e.g. “Billy, I hate to tell you this, but…you’re double morbidly obese”)? Believe it or not, I didn’t ask this to be clever; I really had no clue that double pneumonia meant pneumonia in both lungs (who knew? I mean, besides just about everyone except me). I really do have more than enough blond moments for one person.

Today, I started thinking about that conversation again. It was a light-hearted, fun, humerous, enjoyable conversation with an unbelieving friend. While thinking about it, God gave me a revelation. It came in the form of a somewhat abstract connection using a play on the words “double pneumonia.” Pneumonia contains the root word Pneuma, which is a Greek transliteration used in the Bible for “air in motion, breath, wind” However, it also takes on the meaning of spirit, and is often used in the New Testament when referring to the Holy Spirit.

So when I thought of this, her saying she had “double pneumonia” took on an interesting meaning, as in a sense, this double pneumonia could be thought of as both a physical inflammation of the lungs and in the spiritual sense, a missing (sick) relationship with the God who is the Breath of eternal life.

For me, this was a wake up call to value my time in conversation with unbelievers. I want to be more courageous about sharing my faith with my non-Christian friends, not using the excuse of “I don’t want to shove it down their throats” as an excuse to neglect my calling to share the gospel altogether. I hate to see any friends develop pneumonia or any other physical sickness, but it pains me so much more deeply to think of them living without a relationship with Jesus Christ through the power of the Pneuma, the Holy Spirit.

“Give me your eyes for just one second
Give me your eyes so I can see
Everything that I keep missing
Give me your love for humanity
Give me your arms for the broken-hearted
The ones that are far beyond my reach
Give me your heart for the ones forgotten
Give me your eyes so I can see”
-Brandon Heath, “Give Me Your Eyes”