Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Creative Expectancy

I feel different.

It's invigorating.  It's as though some treasure that has laid dormant inside my soul has come back to life—a resurrection of sorts. I have a great expectancy for 2014 in a lot of areas, but specifically in the area of design.

This isn't the product of a new desire, but of the awakening of an old one. And its rebirth was not a sudden epiphany, but a slow cultivation in my heart.

It all started with one major milestone.

Some of our wedding's collateral I designed
This past August, I was overjoyed to marry my best friend and biggest supporter.  We recently received our wedding photos, and I can't stop poring over the memories frozen in time.  In fact it surprises me how I am able to describe so verbosely the candid shots almost as if I were narrating a current happening.

It revives each lost emotion, and I get the privilege to experience the beauty of the day over and over again.  The day itself was full of joy and freedom, but the months leading up to the big day also afforded  me another type of joy.

I am a graphic and web designer by passion and our wedding was the perfect exploit to create a marketing campaign.  And guess what? I may be a tad biased, but the client was pretty spectacular too!  Instead of the usual limitations and massaging that a concept typically involves when working with a client, I was able to design every detail with no one but myself (and my husband!) to please.

It was blast.  And since I work for a large printer there was (almost) no limit to the profusion and creativity of the project.  I am proud of what I did, and it succinctly reflected my and my husband's personalities and passions.

It also reminded me how much I love design, and how much I've needed to return to the desire of my passion.  I've let the busyness of life drown this out, and it robbed me of creative treasures that God has planted for me.

Yes I'm one of the few blessed people whose day job and passion coincide, but I forgot to tend to my own creative needs.  Like a couch potato I am not exercising the creative heart I was given.  But here is where I start.

I now have the exciting task before me to create my freelance company's brand identity. And it is in this exciting place where my faith and talent collide, and it's no simple task.  I want an identity that will set me apart in the creative industry, but also acknowledges the very Person who has brought me to this very opportunity.

I'm looking forward to getting creatively fit!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Much Fruit

I remember my first real taste of freedom.  It was November 22nd, 2005 — the day I turned 17.  Just a couple months before, I had successfully passed my second driving test, bringing me one step closer to my full driver's license. For any Ontarians out there, you know how grueling the process is to get your driver's license, so it definitely felt like an achievement.

It's what they call a graduated system involving three levels of licensing.  After a theory test, a road test, a $500 driver's ed class, and a year of waiting, I had earned what is called a "G2" license – step 2 out of a 3 level system.  Though it looked no different, I held that card in my hands like it was a sacred artifact.  That piece of plastic gave me the freedom to drive solo without an experienced driver, granted I followed some rules, of course.

But that didn't stop me.  For that night, I had made plans to borrow my parents' car.  Thanks to their cooperation, I was able to scheme that I would drive all my friends and I to the movie theatre to celebrate my day of birth!  It was a thrilling experience, and at the same time terrifying.

I wasn't used to driving with four loud obnoxious teens, myself included.  It was near impossible to focus on the road and though probably none of my passengers noticed, I'm sure I maneuvered myself out of some near collisions.  The 25-minute car drive felt like an eternity when the safety of my friends, myself, and my parents' car safety rested in my hands — or rather the skill they held.  A skill in its infancy that now was being tested, and tried in the real world.

Independence didn't seem as appealing anymore.  Independence now meant more responsibility. Responsibility meant more consequences, both positive and not.

It has taken years to grow into my adult shoes, and still everyday I encounter a new lesson to be learned. With each new experience comes great thrill and excitement but I become more aware that my choices cost me - and others - a lot more than before.

But that great risk affords great reward and the depths of our poverty determine the heights of our redemption.

It makes me think of the immoral woman in the Bible who washed Jesus' feet with her tears. She
had a great treasure that only her difficult life could provide - she had sinned much and so she was forgiven much.

Would we ourselves not lose the value of our own personal treasures God has so lovingly given us - the extravagance of his mercy and commitment. As the chasm between the depth of our depravity and the height of the grace God lavishes upon us continues to grow, would we continue to have "great faith" like the centurion and recognize and see Jesus' authority as King and Lord.

God is a good Father who gives good gifts, but I pray I never let them go to waste. I am reminded of Jesus' words that to those who are given much, much is expected (Luke 12:48).

And I'll be the first to say God has given me much. And I will do everything paradoxically in my power and in my surrender to continue working the harvest with the gifts with which He's entrusted me until my Master returns.

Yes like that of a newly acquired driver's license, with authority comes great responsibility, but should we choose to respond to it also gives birth to great reward of eternal consequence.

I yearn to return to God but a fraction of the good He's sown in my life and would we commit to do this by feeding others with the very fruit God grows in our lives and hearts.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

To Fear or Not to Fear?

Has fear ever crippled you?  Has it made you lame?  Has it fueled you—moved you to push harder, reach further, soar higher?  Does it terrify you?  Does it invigorate you? Does it cause you to doubt?  Does it cause you to feel shame?

Fear can be an impressive thing.  It can stir one to rise above the obstacles, conquering what seems to be the impossible; or it can expose the frailty of the human spirit, reducing even the most fiercest of foes to a pitiful victim. Fear can create heroes, and on the other hand it can produce tragic characters.

Whatever the circumstances, chances are that we've encountered fear.  And unfortunately, it seems that our capacity to fear is boundless.  As we become more aware of possible dangers (whether through acquired knowledge or personal experience), we seem more inclined to perceive threats.

And that's exactly what fear is—a response to a perceived threat.  Fear is not an absolute law, but something that seems to transcend mere emotion in that it is fabricated out of our own personal biological processes.  Fear seems only possible in the presence of circumstantial understanding (or lack thereof).  It is a survival mechanism designed to stir a response in us that will ultimately and hopefully protect us from the danger.

But unfortunately many of us fail to see the benefit of such experiences.  Sometimes we dismiss the validity of fear as sometimes it is completely irrational and at times can seem almost impossible to overcome.  And so, similarly to how we at times deal with pain, many of us spend our energy attempting to eliminate the unwanted response instead of learning how to embrace it. We use very sort of defense mechanism to deny, ignore, diminish and/or masquerade it.  We try to kill it—or the root—instead of learning how to harness the intense reaction it creates in order to wield an even more powerful response.

What do I mean? Well the fact is that fear motivates us. Period.  Whether for better or for worse, fear has a direct and often considerable effect on us.  To the average person, deep-rooted fear is not pleasant. It's not desirable, but it's reality, and there is a purpose to this unpleasant sensation.  It is not the experience itself that defines us but it is how we respond, and what we respond to that will change the course of our life.   In effect, do we find ourselves caving into the fear, or do we rise to overcome it?

I myself deal with that very same challenge and some days I feel as if I'm plagued with an abnormal capacity for anxiety.  It's for that very reason that I sometimes feel unfit to label myself a follower of Christ since the fundamental reality of God's indwelling is that I also receive the gift of His peace.  So if His peace transcends all understanding (accurate or not), why do I find myself tempted to fear and worry about the very things God has promised to take care of?

Experiencing fear over bungee jumping and sky diving is a very understandable anxiety—and I think most would agree with the concept (it goes against every human instinct)—but it's all together a completely different matter when we fear for our provision or our salvation.  It's not that these fears aren't normal or human, but it's that the Word of God provides little justification for such fears!  He has taken care of it all, and our fear has no impact on the finality of His words and His actions.

And it is so easy to condemn ourselves when we feel overly anxious or fearful. But as I've pondered on the many Biblical characters that span many ages and circumstances,  I've started to realize that each one had some kind of encounter with fear (and often many!).   When Joshua was taking leadership over the grumbling Israelites, God encouraged him to "Be strong and courageous; do not be discouraged; for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go" (Joshua 1:9).  God doesn't not expect us to be void of fear, but calls us to refuse to let it dismay us, and move and fight in spite of it.

It's when we are governed by fear that God gets jealous.  For when we submit ourselves to its dictatorship, we are in effect placing it as an idol before God.  And to our detriment!  For fear is not a merciful or just god.  It will bind you in chains, and cause you to lose out on the best, and fabricate the worst.  Even if you use it to fuel you on, it can also blind you and cause you to make rash, unwise decisions.

Regardless, fear should not be a common theme of our life.  Paul tells us that God did not give us a spirit of timidity but one of power, love and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7-8).  So if we tap into the power of God, we receive the strength we need to overcome our own weaknesses to become bold witnesses of God's kingdom.

Easier said than done, though.  I know this is one reality will take my entire life on earth to perfect, and it is a process for each and everyone of us.  But we cannot deny that this peace is available to every follower of Christ. Jesus made this very clear when He said: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."(John 14:27).

Jesus spoke these personal words to His disciples — His closest of companions while He walked the earth.  At a time when things were changing in the ministry of Jesus, and His death was imminent, Jesus reassured his friends with this encouragement.  Jesus did not promise a peace void of sorrow,  pain, and fear — all of which I'm sure the disciples felt when experiencing the tragic death of Christ — but His peace that would get through them the day, and through the trials.  A peace that would lead them on victorious and triumphant.

It is a peace that will not necessarily eradticate our fears, but a peace that transcends all understanding to  assuage our fears.   His is a peace that will birth a hero and conqueror in Christ in spite of the circumstances raging against us. A peace we cannot find anywhere else but in Him who loves us most.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

God is in the Details

Two years ago, I would never have imagined myself where I am now.  And that's the beauty and awe of God's master penmanship.  As His children who have chosen to give up our rights to ourselves, handing ourselves over to His grace, He artfully writes out the stories of our lives, and leaves various plots and options open to us to choose which ever direction we see fit.  Sometimes those choices distance us from the heart of God, others draw us nearer and still some seem to have little to no impact in the eternal grand scheme of themes.

When you really think about the implications of the tiny details of our lives in the hands of an Eternal, endless God, it really is awesome!  The Lord really does have amazing plans for us in store.  You know the verse.  Jeremiah 29:11—a scripture typically taken out of context, but the sentiment and reality of the truth is still applicable to our personal lives.  Theologically speaking, you understand the theory and concept that God does have great things in store for us, and yet I'm sure we still find ourselves amazed and sometimes even shocked when He follows through with this very promise.

We often curse Him and fight with Him when the storms come our way, but when the sunny skies bless us we sometimes miss the conspicuousness of the blessing, take it for granted or even find it bewildering!  We have so much control over our lives, our words, and our beliefs that it really does challenge our self-suffiency when God orchestrates circumstances that are completely outside of our influence.

And when He does so, it's immensely humbling.  And that's a good place for us to take rest.  For it is in that humility that we find ourselves exposed, with little option but to relent in our endless pursuit of self-suffiency.  I often see myself as if my hands are on the ship's wheel where God is right behind me with His strong hands on my arms.  In reality, I can exhaust every effort to turn the boat in a different direction—and can succeed—but I am really working against the master Navigator who knows which route is best.

God won't necessarily go against our deliberate will, and will allow us to head the ship if we see fit, but it will cost us something along the way.  Though it will never cost us our relationship with Him, it can cost us our peace, and our joy and not because God is dishing out what we deserve, but because it is the natural consequence of stepping outside of God's direction. But even in the midst of our off course navigating, you will always find His fingerprint. In fact, He sometimes will even do what He can to make the way painful or difficult to draw us back to point, not to punish but discipline us out of love.

It may sound domineering or merciless, but I see it as one of the kindest acts of God's love.  He is the Alpha and the Omega, and sees the beginning of our journey to the infinite end.  The moment we give our lives to Him, we have the unmerited promise that He will never forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).  We can choose to walk the other direction, but His love for us is stronger and penetrates deeper than any act of rebellion on our part.  Nothing, absolutely nothing will severe that line of love that extends to us (Romans 8:39).  It seems illogical, and impossible but it's the very thread that is woven through the fabric of our eternal destiny.

But it's not as though God is a puppet master, defying every choice and action on our part, but rather, like the potter, He cups us with His hands as we spin, forming our shape. We can choose to resist, and harden, but that process will take longer and wound us because of the force of His hands on a tough surface. Ultimately, it is our surrender to His working hands—not our own effort—that will result in a beautifully crafted vessel.  It may be a difficult paradox to grasp, but the reality is that we are not in complete charge of our own painted destiny, but out of His mercy, He invites us to pick up a paintbrush with Him.

But even when we do surrender ourselves to His tide, He may not necessarily choose the path of least resistance for us, but He will choose the path of greatest reward.  Journeying with God is still a paradoxical walk that every Christian spends his/her lifetime mastering.  It's both the simplest, and most difficult endeavour you will ever undertake.  It will both challenge you, and be simplistic.  It will stretch you, and nurture you.  It is not a heavy yoke nor burdensome, and yet it is a great responsibility to bear (1 John 5:3).

Along the way, though, God's grace is absolutely sufficient.  Each day will bring its own troubles, but God's mercies are new every morning.  His mercy is like the manna He provided to the Israelites when they wandered the dessert.  They failed to trust in God's provision so they began to hoard it, and it literally rotted.  Similarly, God asks us to rely on His mercy and grace today—in this moment — and not strive to store what we need for tomorrow.

C.S. Lewis artfully coins it in the Screwtape Letters when Screwtape, a demon, explains to his pupil that the present is the closest experience of God's existence for humans: "For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity. Of the present moment, and of it only, humans have an experience analogous to the experience of the Enemy [God] which our has of reality as a whole; in it alone freedom and actuality are offered to them."

In essence, Screwtape figured if they could keep their target — the Christians — focused on the past, or better yet the future, it would distract them from the presence of God.  For God is eternal, and does not live in or by time, and consequently neither in the future and past. So we shouldn't find ourselves lost in the past, and living in tomorrow for Your God is with you here and now!

We walk out our daily lives with Him in us, around us and by our side every step of the way.  He does not want to dictate every move we make but rather desires relationship.  God is sovereign, and supreme, and definitely can get the job done much more efficiently, more easily and quicker than we humans, and yet he chooses us time and time again to accomplish His purposes. There are countless Biblical examples of God's cooperative effort with His chosen ones.

Think of how the Lord used Moses, Gideon, Solomon, David, Jonah, and Paul, to name a few! They all had their strengths and limitations, and God took them as they were and used them mightily in spite of their downfalls.  In fact, some might argue that many of the names I listed were poor ambassadors for God at some point in their life.

But God is still the same today as yesterday, and He's seeking to walk with us as intimately as He did with Moses over two thousand years ago.  We are no longer servants to a master (John 15:14-15).  We are no longer slaves, forced into compliance and conformity, but have the freedom to disobey or obey as adopted sons and daughters.

The call on our lives is not to a walk of obligation and constraint, but to a life of living that overcomes our need to govern and arrange.  God invites us not to walk before Him or behind Him, but as eternity begins in this moment now, He desires to walk with us side by side, hand-in-hand, with our eyes fixed on Him.

God knows, though, that our eyes will at times wander, but we can have confidence and find hope that even in those moments — and they will come — that He will always be at our side to guide, and to sustain.  Here is a God who loves us and works intimately with us in both our obedient and obstinate ways, using everything to His glory and for our good (Romans 8:28).

Talk about humbling.  I think it's time for a nap.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Here I Am, Send Me!

Today, I have felt beyond blessed and touched. God used me for His Kingdom and for that I am so grateful for He knows that though I may fall short and get distracted that that is truly my deepest desire—to be used completely, wholly and mightily for the Kingdom of God!

After months of practicing, I was blessed to play the lead role in my church's rendition of this popular skit, performed to the music of Everything by Lifehouse.  Butterflies and all, the performance turned out to have such impact, as hoped and prayed for!  So many approached the team afterwards, thanking us for our sacrifice, sharing how deeply moving and stirring it was.  Though I was giving my time and talent to bless others, I don't think those who spoke to me knew how encouraging, and faith-strengthening their words were.

But not only did I have the privilege to perform in the drama, I had a chance to share my testimony. It definitely was a stretching moment for here I was, standing before hundreds of people, pouring out my heart & soul.  God knew I so desperately wanted to make an impact, but I just didn't know if my words could cut it.

But the truth of the matter was that from the very moment I was asked to perform in this place, I felt a stirring in me that I was to do more than just act in this drama... I should have recognized then that God had a purpose in mind, and was going to use me in spite of my fumbling words,  awkwardness and anxiety.

And He did.  A week before the performances, our director asked if one of us would be interested in sharing our testimony in conjunction with the drama.  Inside, my heart leaped with joy. "Here is the perfect opportunitiy!" I thought to myself. So our team prayed together and asked God to reveal to us personally who should speak.  But before we began praying, I knew already it was me.  God has already been calling me—pursuing my heart right from the beginning.

However, I was hesitant to immediately volunteer because my story doesn't have much of a "shock value".  But through this, God has been showing me that the shame, fear, confusion, and desperation for something more is just as rousing and meaningful for those struggles and experiences are at the core of every human experience.  Regardless, though, any word—no matter how uneducated or well spoken—will make an impact if it is breathed from the Spirit of God, and comes from the heart of God.  And He promises to move in us when we take a step out in faith, and proclaim His love.

And that is exactly what I wanted to do.  I wanted to proclaim the power of God's saving grace in my life—to declare His unending love, and passionate pursuit of me.  I wanted to give a testimony to my God as an offering, and also reach others.

So as we began to pray in our group for God's will, I told God that if no one else volunteered in a fair amount of time, that I would offer.  And so after we finished praying, our leader asked if God stirred anyone's heart to which was followed by silence. In the moment, I swore everyone could hear the pounding of my heart, and I could bear the silence no longer so I spoke up.

Granted, maybe I wasn't acting in complete faith by giving God a condition of my acceptance (and I possibly could have lost out!) but God has always been so loving and patient to work with my insecurities.  I know at times we think God will just walk away from us because we're being difficult or challenging His direction but it is quite the opposite.

Just think of Abraham and when God threatened to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, a city rife with debauchery deserving destruction.  But Abraham, moved with compassion, petitioned God to have mercy on the city if he could find, ultimately, but one righteous soul....   In the end, Abraham's search was unsuccessful, but it just shows that when we approach God out of love, earnestness, and a true desire of our heart, He will listen even in our short-sightenedness and over-eargerness.

And this marvelous grace, and love draws me closer and closer to the heart of God.  I can't help but follow the beautiful aroma that is the presence of God.  And as my love deepens, I desire more to speak of His goodness (though I have yet to be less afraid to do so!).

And as this desire burns in me, and as I fail to sate it by speaking little of God's greatness to those around me, the burden grows like a a pregnant woman desiring to give birth.  But oh how this burden is refreshing, and freeing once I finally give birth!  For today I have experienced a new weight...  I am beginning to understand the Bible's exhortations that a teacher must be upright, without reproach.  I feel that having now been bold and stepped out in faith and shared my story, and stirred people's hearts, I feel a greater responsibility to answer the call.  I know I am being called to a higher plan with God in order to bring up people, and draw them nearer to God, as He has done with me.

But when I contemplate that, it feels like such a large hurtle like an ominous mountain lies before me.  But I must remind myself that God equips those He calls...  For even in my fear, even in my anxiety,  even in my inexperience, in God's hands, and following His lead—seeking first His Kingdom—He was sufficient for me with this drama, and He will be sufficient in every future endeavor for each of us.

 In fact, God has a penchant for using the weak, improbable, unpopular and lame to fulfill His purposes—that is when He shines best!  I think of Paul whose life God transformed from a persecutor of God's people to one who was then saving souls for the Kingdom!  I think of Peter and the disciples who were mere unlearned tradesmen and fishermen who spokes words of grandeur, proclaiming fearlessly and effortlessly the Gospel.  I think of Gideon and his army where God specifically requested but 300 men to fight against an army of thousands just so that He could flex His muscles!  How can one not be humbled by such a grand, audacious God??

It is in the unlikely—especially the seemingly impossible—that God's character and mission stands apart, challenging what we believe and think we know.  For it is in our weakness that His power is made perfect (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Beauty of Grace

Have you ever received a blessing that was completely undeserved?  Did you ever treat someone so foully, and they turned around and blessed you in return?  Did you ever do wrong, and in turn benefitted from your evil and received no obvious consequence?

It happens all the time, but how often does it go unnoticed?  We are so quick to point out in the injustice in our lives, but are we ever humbled by the unmerited grace that the Lord seems to pour out on our lives?  More mysteriously but truer to its nature, this grace is not just reserved for the followers of Christ.  Amazingly, God's grace is for everyone, and if you look closely, you can see it every day.

It seems that lately God's work in my life is very apparent. I know where I am is far from where I'd ideally love to be (oh I'd love to be so spiritually mature, never falling, always good and giving every aspect of my life to others and God's Kingdom) but I am still so inexplicably grateful in how God's hand is currently manifesting my life.

Though God has been with me every moment of my life, from the day I chose to accept Him into my life at age 16, He has never slowed down in His outpouring of blessings.  I've done a lot of wrong, and I've struggled a lot, but that has never changed His plan and His dedication to have it come to my fruition my life.  No matter where I was in my walk - sinning and rejecting Him, or pursuing and loving Him -  He's always treated me not based on what I've done or even my current heart condition, but on my identity in Him.

Though a piece of my heart still stays in the US, God has obviously brought me to Pickering for a reason.  Though I still hope that somehow I will be brought back, I cannot be so quick to let my eyes wander, and miss the incredible blessings before me.  

As of yet, I've never been unemployed against my will. In fact, last December, though I was too busy looking for God's plan to show up according to my wants, the Lord still brought a job offer to me.  He knew I was to stay in Pickering, and provided the way for me.  Though I was tempted to dismiss it since my eyes were set on a different plan, I accepted out of obedience.

When I originally accepted the position at Mark's Work Wearhouse, I knew it was not what I desired for a career.  For what it was, it was a great blessing and perfect for the season of my life.  But after several months, I was growing tired of where I was at.  

I had been promoted at Mark's, and it was going well.  In fact, the future was promising for more promotions to come, but in reality it still was not what I wanted nor what I felt God wanted for the long haul.  It was so tempting to take a current promise for security than take a leap of faith for something better.

Btu finally in September of last year, I realized I needed to "prepare for rain" as Matt says in Facing the Giants. I wanted to start sowing so that I would reap a harvest.  I was tired of feeling like a defunct Christian.  I wanted to get out, off my butt, and start making a difference and growing - in whichever way that looked like.

So in November, I got my resume & cover letters ready, and I started to apply for some graphic design jobs I had seen advertised on and other online sources.  To be honest, most of the ones I could apply for were not that attractive.  And many of the ones that seemed better were located far in Mississauga or farther.  Worse, I heard the success rate of actually getting one of these jobs was slim.

Regardless, I was praying a lot for God's will and for His desires to become mine.  One night in our talk, though, I decided to share what I thought could really work.  Granted, He's got the whole world in His hands and knows exactly what's right for me...but I found comfort knowing the God of All was listening to the small, naive desires of my heart.

I told Him from my perspective I thought I'd like a full-time graphic design position with a printer (since I have no experience in that field) somewhere in Markham.  Any further wouldn't be a fun commute, and there didn't seem to be any jobs in the east. But I told Him I'd be happy with whatever He got me.

A couple weeks into the pursuit, I didn't hear anything from anyone, but I was dedicated to keep trying.  My mom was actually a great help in the process.  Anyone and everyone she could talk to about a position, she would.  And one day, my mom unknowingly hit a goldmine.  

My mom was talking to my neighbour about my job seeking and found out that the lady worked at Transcontinental.  My neighbour suggested I send them an e-mail, though she doubted the company would have any such position available since they only do the printing for clients. And so, I sent in my resume to HR, and I got a response back saying my work and resume looked good so they forwarded it off to another department in the company's.

Exactly one week after sending in my resume, I got a call from the head of marketing requesting an interview.  Another week later, I had my interview and it went exceptionally well.  They said lately they've really needed someone with a design passion and skill to carry the work load.  They didn't need someone with a ton of experience, but had the desire and capabilities.  I fit the bill perfectly, and my resume came across their hands at the exact right time. (Isn't God's timing truly perfect?)

A couple days later, they gave me a great job offer and I accepted.  Two weeks later on December 6th, I started work as a graphic designer on the marketing team...for a printing Markham.  God is just too good.

In fact lately, I have been wondering if He is too good to me.  I confess that there have been seasons where I've whined to God about the unfair trials and struggles in my life. But at the other end of the spectrum, I now find myself questioning the seemingly arbitrary blessings he continues to pour out on to my life.  It just doesn't seem fair, does it?  There is sickness and diseases, lost loved ones, wars & famine around the world, and yet here I am being blessed materially and in my career.  How could the God of justice allow this in my life?

When I pose such a question, I hear an echo of Jesus' words in my head: 'To whom much is given/entrusted, much is expected'.  So I intend to live up to that great responsibility...

In spite of that, my tit-for-tat upbringing still tempts me to see my circumstances as deserved or undeserved—fair or unjust—and I often make the same judgements on other people's lives. My fleshly battle is the battle for equality - something that is neither natural or Biblical.

In these moments, I try to find solace in Ecclesiastes 3: there is a time for everything.  Solomon struggled with the futility and unpredictable nature of life.  Life is not a formula, so why do we ever expect it to be?  In fact, Solomon spends much of the book pointing out the futility of everything under the sun, but sums it up by concluding we should therefore put all one's efforts towards that which is above the sun: "The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God, and keep His commandments; for that is the whole duty of everyone" (12:13)

Instead of seeing it as a difficult truth, I should embrace the reality that God's grace is not fair.  Think of all the parables Jesus speaks of when he speaks about the Kingdom of Heaven - the prodigal son, the workers of the vineyard.  In the end, the landowner in Matthew 20 says: "Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?' ...."So the last will be first, and the first will be last."  

But whether I deem it fair or not, just or unjust, that really is irrelevant. The Bible is clear: God is sovereign, and He is good, and He alone is the Righteous Judge.  God has a perfect plan for each and every one of us and this gift is that it's free.

Looking at Jesus' time on earth, he always gave of himself so extravagantly and without reservation that from our human perspective, it's offensive, and wasteful!  His exorbitant love challenges our morals, and slaps our convictions in the face!  How can we truly question the "fairness" and equality of this life when Jesus's own life is an example of exorbitant grace?  The gift of salvation, and life, and restoration costs us so little because it cost Him so much!

And so whenever I catch myself thinking "It's just not fair!" I find myself humming Relient K's lyrics in which they poignantly put it: "And the beauty of grace is that it makes life not fair."

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Stuck on Autopilot

Lately, I've been watching a show called May Day quite frequently. To summarize, it's an hour-long episode, which investigates and reenacts previous airplane emergencies and crashes. While I know the phobia of flying on an airplane is common in my family, I myself on the other hand am strangely intrigued by the subject matter.

Despite some of the horrific accidents and experiences, I find it reassuring to know they put so much money, time and effort into investigating these crashes and making sure they aren't repeated. Not to mention the small black box sitting in front of me helps me feel comfortably detached from reality.

Nevertheless, in many of the emergencies there comes a time where the pilot must make the decision to turn off auto-pilot. It's often at this critical moment where a pilot can save the plan or lead it faster to its demise. Auto-pilot is designed to function more efficiently than its human counterpart under normal, unchanging conditions. But when the plane gets damaged, weather changes, or other unforeseen circumstances arise, the auto-pilot can no longer safely drive the plane. In fact, it will cause more harm than good.

The pilot's and staff's initial reactions always stand out to me. How are they handling the emergency? What is their first reaction? Are they acting on instinct or knowledge? In other words, are they acting based on what they think they know or what they sense? One common element in an accident is that the pilots rarely know what is the true cause of the emergency - appearances are often deceiving. Training sometimes can be misleading.

And so I cannot help myself but imagine where I fit into their chaos. Am I the calming flight attendant? The panicking passenger? The screaming baby? No, I look to the cockpit, and reflect on the captain's role and his responsibility for the trip's success.

Not too recently, God revealed to me that I was living my day-to-day life on auto-pilot. Very efficient, effective, and secure. Who would suggest to do otherwise? But in a world of flash storms, congested runways, and modified itineraries, auto pilot is not always the safest nor the most beneficial route.

I was relying too much on my involuntary responses, and I essentially had checked out. Following after God was a trying task for me, and I had placed such a yoke on myself striving to determine His next step to mirror. Evidently, I lost sight of the real meaning of "following God" so once I realized striving wasn't the answer, with little thought, I flipped the switch and took to the other extreme. I wasn't letting God steer the plane, but I sure wasn't flying it either.

And I was comfortable on auto-pilot. It didn't require much of me at all, and I assumed God was pleased with my decision. With my feet kicked up on the dash, reading some inane Archie's comic, I was enjoying my time. But God sent some mild turbulence my way to get me to look up from beneath my shades, and get my attention. He wasn't going to give up on me that easily. Thankfully, I noticed soon before the turbulence had to get really violent to wake me from my dozing.

At first, I made the decision to take responsibility with much muttering under my breath. But as I reflected on all that God had done for me, it was easy to see how He had done so much to prove His love and reliability when He didn't have to. Slowly, fear turned into trust, and I made what was in my mind a leap of faith, and I hit the switch.

I've learned that ditching auto-pilot isn't necessarily a simple task. Not only is it not an easy decision, but the initial results can be terrifying. In one scenario in May Day, there was a mechanical glitch in the airplane, and the aircraft starting to bank dangerously to the left. The pilot understood he had to risk turning off auto-pilot to redirect the plane, or they would most certainly crash.

As soon as he flipped the switch, the plane flew madly out of control. It's nose dipped down, and the aircraft was locked in a ferociously steep nose dive. It didn't matter which way the aviator pulled at the yoke, he had no control. Just hundreds of feet away from impact, almost miraculously the pilot was able to gain control of the aircraft, and perform a life-saving emergency landing. I can't even begin to fathom how heart-wrenching such an experiencing would be.

And yet, it doesn't sound that different from our lives. Living life God's way is no guarantee that our life will be full of rainbows and butterflies. In fact, becoming a follower of Christ often means struggle and refinement, but all for the purpose of the Lord's plan. Where the pilot analogy falls short is that God is ultimately in control and sovereign in our lives. He really is our pilot, and we are the co-pilot. We can find relief because the success of our journey is not entirely up to us. In fact, we will not get to our true destination outside of God's help.

Though God has asked us to take on the responsibility of our lives, and that of loving and serving others, He is with us every mile of the trek. Make a wrong turn? God will work it out. Damaging storms? The Lord will make the repairs. Foolish decision? Our Father can redeem that.

It is in our weakness that God's power is made manifest and perfect (2 Cor. 12:8-9). He is continually perfecting us and helping us mature and grow for the day when we will rule as kings. It's not an easy task, and neither is this life, but it's definitely a rewarding one when we spend every moment of it pursuing God.

Much of the challenge lies in balancing our responsibility of the aircraft, and God's role in the journey. We know we truly are not the first pilot, but we are the co-pilot and the co-pilot's duties are as essential for the journey's success. It is a fine line between domineering our own lives and becoming our own god, and sitting back and expecting God to do all the work. But it's one I am committed to figuring out both in my screw ups, and successes at God's right hand.

Are you willing to take the dive too?