Middling

The fancies and reflections of a loquacious ninja

Category Archives: Prayer

A restless Sabbath

I realized last night that I needed a day of rest.

From what I understand from Scripture (and there are people I highly respect who would disagree with me), I don’t believe that I’m morally obligated to keep a Sabbath. But I think God knew what He was doing when He set down the pattern of six days of work, one day of rest. Plus, given the holiday tomorrow, I knew I would (hopefully) be given enough time to pay my assignments their due.

And so, I decided today would be a day of no schoolwork.

The day flew by, even more rapidly than I’d expected. At first, it didn’t feel that different; perhaps it just took a bit for me to log out of the schoolwork mentality. But about halfway through the day, I was struck by a seemingly out-of-the-blue thought/conviction that caught me slightly off-guard:

I don’t want to just rest from academics; I want to rest in God. But what does that mean? What does it mean to find true repose in Him, and in Him alone? I sensed a longing, a restlessness in my spirit that I didn’t quite have an answer for…

A few minutes later, I attended a dance lesson today that left me totally and curiously drained (I’ve danced longer and more intensely many times before; I guess in those cases my adrenaline was enough to keep me from realizing how tired I was until much later). An hour and a half of involuntary, physical repose afterward had never been so sweet…

Perhaps too often, I go through my day running on a kind of spiritual adrenaline, unaware of my dependence and need for my Creator. And as I learn to remember the restlessness inside of me, I will find the sweet repose that only He can supply.

Lord… teach me to be restless for You.

“…our hearts are restless until they find rest in Thee.”

~ Augustine

Interruption

We interrupt your regularly scheduled life to bring you these recent events and lessons:

As probably most of you are already aware, Friday night brought a sizable storm that traveled across quite a few communities, downing many trees and leaving many homes and establishments without power. My house was one of these places.

One feature of my house worth noting (during a power outage at least) is that the well pump needs electricity to operate, meaning no running water, not to mention no electric lighting or climate control. Staying in our powerless home didn’t strike me as unbearable, but my family decided to accept the gracious invitations of our friends who were still blessed with electricity, so we visited a few homes. We shared a meal or two, slept over once of twice, and just spent some quality time together with them. We were also repeatedly told that we could stay for as long as we needed to (and longer).

Our church was also out of power, so Sunday morning found us out under the sunlight-lit trees and birdsong of a graciously offered backyard. Our acoustic accompanied worship mingled with the birds’ that morning as we both sang to one Creator. We listened from our lawn chairs to a sermon on a hillside, from a well-known passage of the Sermon on the Mount. “Salt’s value is in its saltiness,” said our guest preacher, with one hand holding open his Bible to the book of Matthew and the other hand holding his notes down from the wind’s pull. “And light’s value is in its being seen.” During the communion that followed, one of our elders talked briefly about how God sometimes likes to allow interruptions to our plans, our schedules, our lives, so that we may dwell all the more on Him, and appreciate Him more.

Later, we had a short congregational meeting followed by a picnic, with many good-natured conversations and much laughter (“So, where do you belong today in the great crowd of have’s and have-not’s?”). Then came clean-up, hauling some chairs, tables, and communion plates back to the church, and a number of us headed out to some of the homes of a few families whose houses had been completely waylaid by fallen branches (and even tree trunks) to help clean-up.

*tangent*

A few days before the storm took away the blessings of Internet and computer, I noticed an issue on my desktop. Whenever I tried to view a video of any kind online — be it a dance video, Skit Guys sketch or random Youtube creation — my computer wouldn’t allow me to watch it, probably due to lack of some new Flash Player thingummy that needed to be installed. Undaunted, I still went to website after website for entertainment that I knew would never happen; and without fail, I would be disappointed.

And yet, I never went to my dad and asked him to help me fix it. Because I knew that videos are the number one reason I waste away my life while on the computer, especially while on the web. Are all videos evil, and a gross waste of time? No. But where these miniature black holes were concerned, I had largely forgotten the virtue of temperance and moderation. And even though my flesh continually and futilely drove me back to those websites, it was ultimately a relief to not have that drive gratified.

Oftentimes, during major trials and even minor inconveniences, we tell ourselves and one another, “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away” (or for the more solemn types, “doth taketh away”). Without fail (at least when I’ve heard that quote), the giving refers to blessing and the taking away refers to the taking away of blessings (even though God assuredly can and does take away things like disease, injury, heartache, etc.). And yet I’ve found that God can also most certainly bless us by taking away the very things that we perceive to be, and may well actually be, blessings. Electricity, running water, air-conditioning, Internet and online videos may be blessings in their own way (generally speaking). But taking a break, however involuntary, from these conveniences for the sake of other things, such as the opportunity to spend time with good friends, is also assuredly a blessing to be thankful for.

Another blessing that I often find slipped in is a heightened appreciation of the blessing that was taken away. We never did use any salt to preserve the food in our refrigerator (as they did in the old days, when salt was considered much more valuable than it is now), but we did use quite a few portable lights to compensate for not having our usual lighting when it got dark. You’d be surprised at how much you appreciate having even just a tiny light to guide your way when the space before you is cloaked in blackness. Running water and air-conditioning are definitely also things that you appreciate much more when you don’t have them than when you do.

We saw some crews working on the power lines outside our neighborhood earlier today, and by evening we had electricity and all of its conveniences once more. I’m grateful for the return of these small blessings (especially running water); but at the same time, I feel many times more richly blessed to have gone without these little things for a short, short while, to better enjoy the company of friends.

Wishing you and your family every blessing (be it convenience or interruption),

~ Timothy

P.S. Many, many people are still hard at work because of all the downed trees and power lines. And from what I last heard, 13 people lost their lives during that storm. Their families are in need of prayer, so regardless of how your family is faring right now, please do not forget them.

P.P.S. In case you were wondering: no, this post was not in my neat little planned progression of posts; but some interruptions are worth making.

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“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered.
An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered.”

~ G.K. Chesterton

“A blessing is often only an interruption rightly considered.
An interruption is a blessing wrongly considered.”

~ Me

I thank You

It had been an evening of great joy; of much laughter with good friends, healthy excitement and bustling, and the abundant fruition of work well done. I knelt that night with a full (overflowing really) heart before God, and thanked Him for the many blessings He’d poured into my life, especially the ones he’d made especially evident that night.

Lord, I thank You for friendship and fellowship. Thank You for the many people You’ve blessed my life with, and all the bonds that have been forged between us, both the causal friendships and the deeper relationships. I thank You for the time that you’ve given us to enjoy together, the many little joys and jokes we share, the small but far-reaching words and acts of encouragement even in the rougher spots of life, the smiles that shoot joy straight to the heart.

I thank you for the many talents and gifts that You’ve so freely poured out, and the bountiful opportunities that You’ve provided to develop those talents, especially in an environment of godly encouragement where all thanks and praise is rightfully returned to You. I thank You for the wonderful uniqueness that these gifts give to each person.

For the gift of music, I praise and thank You. God, thank You for creating a medium capable of expressing both the deepest felt emotions in the human spectrum of experience, and the most light-hearted ones as well. Thank You for the immeasurable beauty and light that comes with well-written and performed music.

Lord, for the gift of laughter and humor, I can’t thank You enough. Thank You for making such a medicine for the heart and soul, and for the health it gives to hearts and minds, even bodies that are feeling down. Thank You that there is still clean fun and occasions for laughter that please You today, and the honest joy it brings.

God, thank You for the gift of honest work; that You reward the dutiful laborer in his time, and that honest toil and bountiful harvests come together as often as they do. Thank You especially for the gift of teamwork, where many can come together as one, and put forth an effort bigger than what any individual could ever achieve.

And Lord, thank You for…

Here I paused. These were the many sweet and beautiful things that God had showered on my life thus far, and I knew it was fitting that I praise Him for them. But all these things – good, true, and beautiful as they were – were not, in the strictest sense, necessities.

In other words, the ability to take part in them could easily be taken away from me one day.

I could lose my sight or my hearing, and never be able to fully appreciate a picture, song, or performance again. I could be struck with paralysis tomorrow, and be unable to dance for the rest of my life. As much as I love singing and speaking, I could easily permanently lose my voice (I know someone who had this happen to him; he lost both his sight and his ability to sing, almost to talk, in a single accident).

Something could happen to the friends I hold so dear to me. Or, something could take me away from them, to a place where I can’t hear their voices, feel their hugs, enjoy their laughter and smiles… Even my sense of humor, which I suppose would never fully leave me, could become so heavily oppressed by the aches and burdens of living, that it would lie dormant, and I would cease to enjoy the jokes and stories that bring me such pleasure now, or even to make others laugh.

There are so many people in this world, once alive with unsurpassed radiance and cheerful brightness, who now lie crushed under the strain and anguish of life, with their dearest joys torn from them. Am I exempt?

If any and every one of these small joys was to be taken away from me, what would I have to fall back upon? What will I have to be thankful for then?

Silence reigned for some time. Then, these words:

Lord, I thank You for Your goodness. I thank You for Your unfailing, unyielding love, a love so strong that no lapse of time, no vile deed, no heart-crushing circumstance, can ever break its power. I thank You for the grace You’ve given beyond all reason, for even someone like me, a self-righteous sinner, and the personal relationship (dare I say friendship?) You pursue with me, even though my days are few and my strength nothing to speak of, even while my heart stands divided and my love feebly wavers. I thank You for the unspeakable power You have to make me whole; to purify and empower my broken life, even to the point where I can be of some use in the Kingdom. I thank You for the mercies You renew each morning; most of which I remain completely unaware of.

I thank You for the life You have given me on this planet, each day and hour, each breath and heartbeat, which I know only come from Your good pleasure. I thank You that not a hair leaves my head without Your knowledge, and without Your consent. I thank You that I am fearfully, wonderfully, awesomely created in Your image, and that nothing will ever, or can ever, change that reality. I thank You that my all days have been impeccably foreordained, that You knew all of them before one came to be. I thank You that no matter where this path I tread travels, that You are the master of my fate, and no other. I thank You that You have the whole picture all worked out, even (especially) when I haven’t a clue, and that You manage the universe perfectly well without me. I thank You that I’m in good hands.

I thank You for the pre-knowledge (dare I say… warning?) that I am sure to suffer one day; sure to suffer, as I have never suffered before. I thank You that I will not be alone in this, that many have gone on before me through the shadowed valley, and that likely many will be alongside me through it. Above all, I thank You that You are the God of all Comfort, the Prince of Peace, Wonderful Counselor. And I thank You for all the things You have done, so that if and when I come to a place where I can’t sense Your presence, when no matter where I look Your face is hidden, I may look back on Your deeds, and praise You just the same. Thank You that You have promised a Hope that does not disappoint, that endures until it ends – no, fulfills – in the reality of all things hoped for.

God, I thank You that these things will never change, that You are the same today, tomorrow, a thousand years before or ahead, eternity past or future, for all time and beyond time. And Lord, for all the blessings, great and small, that I have forgotten, that I take so for granted, that I may never realize flow from You until I stand before You and gaze into Your face…

I thank You.

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Note about this post:

The event I referred to at the beginning of this post actually happened a few weeks ago, but I thought that the message was especially appropriate for the season. One last thing I’ll leave you with:

This video isn’t even officially out yet, but it’s certainly worth sharing. A beautiful reminder of how thanksgiving should permeate all of our lives (really, it applies all year round).

With that, I wish you all a blessed Thanksgiving.

Gratitude and blessings,

~ Timothy

Let us pray

As a new school year rolls around and classes begin anew, I’m willing to bet that we all have friends, maybe even family, that are going away for the first time to college. I know I do.

Some are going far away, some right around the corner. Some to extremely prestigious universities, some to extremely obscure schools. Some to communities filled with godly Christ-seeking people, some to places of absolute depravity and spiritual emptiness.

All of them need our prayer.

Let us pray that they will have smooth transitions and adjust quickly into whatever their new situations may be. Let us pray that God will bring the right company to them, that they can pour themselves out into and likewise be poured back into in fellowship. Let us pray that God will use their new circumstances to challenge them, both spiritually and intellectually, but in a way that builds them up and makes them stronger, not in a way that only serves to discourage and dishearten them. Let us pray that wherever they are, God will shine His light through them and use them for His glory, that they would be bold and go looking for opportunities to spread His name further.

Let us pray for them.

I am praying

This is a piece of my prayer life from these past few weeks:

I am praying for a dear family who I’ve met only once or twice, in which the mother is suffering from a deer tick infection.

I am praying for a friend who I don’t know very well, but to my knowledge is not a believer. She recently lost her dad to a sudden, two month struggle with cancer.

I am praying for my choir director and her family, after the passing of her father-in-law.

I am praying for a fellow homeschooling family, in which one of the sons has been battling severe health conditions that none of the doctors can figure out for a long time now. He told his family that he’s let go of his faith, and no longer believes.

I am praying for my aunt and her daughter, my cousin (neither of them are believers). They recently received word that my aunt’s ex-husband (my cousin’s dad), who’d been missing for some time, was found dead.

I am praying for another family I know through homeschooling. I’m familiar with both the parents, as well as the youngest son (who’s going off to college this fall). The mother was recently diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer.

I am praying for a dear family from my church, after the death of their months old niece in a near drowning accident (she died on my birthday).

And I am praying for a friend/mentor who recently moved away to across the country for his job. Not too long after the move, his fiancee passed away, after a long, long fight with cancer…

There are many details that I haven’t shared here (and I’m sure there are lots more that I don’t even know about) that makes each of these stories even more in need of prayer. They’ve been weighing down on my heart for the past few weeks.

Some of these families and people I barely know, and I don’t pretend to have suffered anything like what any of them are going through right now. But I know that one day I will. I know that one day, my parents will pass away. That one day I or someone I hold dear will fall ill with a terrible disease, and possibly die because of it. That one day my so-far-no-storms life will be flooded with rain. I also know that despite these hardships, God still loves each and every one of these people.

And so I pray for them.

I’ve been praying many things for these families and individuals. I’ve been praying for God to give them His peace, comfort, and strength. I’ve been praying that they who are His people would learn to cling all the tighter to their Lord and Savior, and find their blessings through Him in these storms, and that those who do not know Him would learn to seek Him, and realize that this world is not all that there is. I’ve been praying for God to draw these people nearer to Him. That He would use these valleys to show them His character, His goodness. Most of all, I pray that the God who is able to turn weakness into strength, evil into good, darkness into light, would take these terrible situations and turn them around. That He would make His glory shine all the brighter through these dark times.

If you find yourself relating to any of the requests I shared above, I pray these things for you as well. Regardless of where you are right now with God, I pray that this time will draw you closer to Him, as your only shelter in the storm. I pray that you will find strength in Him as He carries you through whatever valley you find yourself in right now. And I pray that one day, when I must pass through my own storms, I will not forget these things, that I may do the same.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.

2 Corinthians 1:3-5

~ Timothy