Middling

The fancies and reflections of a loquacious ninja

Category Archives: Quote

Let this day be seized

I’ve been struggling for the past week (longer?) to make the most of my time, to live each day fully. I still have such a long ways to go, in so many respects, but I’ve been encouraged recently by stumbling across these various tidbits. May they inspire and energize you the way they did me.

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Want to make the most of every day?

Then remember that it is a gift. You never owned it, it was graciously given to you. Use it. Even when other small forces thwart you, you can still make the most of your day and enjoy it.

~ from a friend, posted on Facebook

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Life is precious.
So I will not exist.
I will not get by.
I will not muddle my way through.
No.

I will Live.
I will cherish every sunrise.
Every heartbeat.
Every breath.
And I will prepare myself for countless more.
I will thank God for my health.
By embracing what is healthy.
I will nourish my future.
By nurturing my present.
And I will respect the gift that is my life
By inspiring others to do the same with theirs.
I will Live.

~ excerpt from Chick-fil-A’s Live. Love. Lead Anthem

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kB0oPgCexh0

*    *    *

“Thou hast died for me
May I live to Thee
In every moment of my time
In every movement of my mind
In every pulse of my heart.”

~ Valley of Vision

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Friends, we’ve been given such a gift, and I know I’ve squandered enough of it as is. Let us waste nothing in forgotten gratitude or purposeless drifting. May we Live truly, abundantly, unto our King.

Carpe Diem,
~ Timothy

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A word from Remarque/The sting, the indifference, and the triumph

Bombardment, barrage, curtain-fire, mines, gas, tanks, machine guns, hand-grenades – words, words, but they hold the horror of the world.

~ Erich Maria Marque, All Quiet on the Western Front

I finished my first war novel yesterday, All Quiet on the Western Front, for one of my history classes… Had I read it, I might have been tempted to breeze through the story too quickly, or gotten distracted by the number of commas and somewhat run-on sentences (which I suspect partly results from it being a translation from German; then again, that’s how I write sometimes too). But with a good audiobook recording, there is no such option… Mere marks of punctuation become gasps, human pauses and tones rife with expression; the human reality becomes manifest in a way that can’t be escaped by skimming ink on a page.

I’m not advertising for audiobooks or discrediting reading out of a physical book in any way. All I mean to say is I had no way out. The grey world Remarque fashioned enveloped me, engulfed my soul as I listened. The battlefields of the Great War (aka World War I) in all their awfulness, desperation and numbing deadness, became real to me; as real as they could have been, short of my being there in person. I heard nothing but words, words; but I felt the horror of the world in them.

One of the greatest points of emphasis in our class has been how prior to WWI, the West was at the height of optimism. Progress was inevitable, Western superiority unassailable, confidence unshakable. Then came the war.

It was more terrible than anything anyone had ever known. It shattered the tower of optimism the West had been erecting for at least a century. The delusion strained and broke under the weight of millions upon millions of corpses, strewing the battlefields of Europe. The wonderful technological advances of mankind became deadly: artillery that decimated entire regiments, gas that dissolved one’s lungs from the inside, machine guns that could mow down dozens or even hundreds in a single battle. And this was progress?

No longer did the world seem orderly, rational, and always improving. Now, it seemed senseless, violent, chaotic and void of meaning. And so, the castle of modernity crumbled, and the ghostly form of post-modernity began to rise from the ashes. Nihilism and hedonism became respectable – what else was left? When the order of the universe seems to go to pieces at your feet, what else can you do but numbingly conclude that nothing truly matters? That the opiate of pleasure is all that remains?

The cry of Ecclesiastes became widespread: “Meaningless! All is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” Therefore, eat, drink and squeeze what little pleasure out of this rotten life you can, before it all comes to an abysmal end…

Yesterday we were under fire, to-day we act the fool and go foraging through the countryside, to-morrow we go up to the trenches again. We forget nothing really. But so long as we have to stay here in the field, the front-line days, when they are past, sink down like a stone; they are too grievous for us to be able to reflect on them at once. If we did that, we should have been destroyed long ago…

“Just as we turn into animals when we go up to the line, because that is the only thing which brings us though safely, so we turn into wags and loafers when we are resting. We can do nothing else, it is a sheer necessity. We want to live at any price; so we cannot burden ourselves with feelings which, though they might be ornamental enough in peacetime, would be out of place here. Kemmerich is dead, Haie Westhus is dying… Martens has no legs anymore. Meyer is dead, Max is dead, Beyer is dead, Hämmerling is dead, there are a hundred and twenty wounded men lying somewhere or other; it is a damnable business, but what has it to do with us now – we live… We will make ourselves comfortable and sleep, and eat as much as we can stuff into our bellies, and drink and smoke so that the hours are not wasted. Life is short.

Remarque could have merely described the numbing effect of the war on the main character and the other young soldiers in his novel. But he did more than that… he made you live it with them. He made you experience the sheer weight of the agonizing horror, the desperate purposelessness, and (eventually) the stoic indifference that these soldiers felt – that they had to make themselves feel to stay alive enough to function one more day. I felt nihilism creeping into my own soul as I listened; how can one believe in purpose, in meaning, in any sort of goodness in life apart from carnal pleasure, after experiencing what these men experienced on a daily basis for nearly four years? Each man was like a card in a deck, randomly shuffled and left open for the wind to whip about in any direction it pleased;  some straight into the fire, some only to be singed, some to be seared so badly that it would have been better if the whole card had been burnt, damned at once to the flames rather than this agonizing half-existence of torment. All at the whim of the breezes.

Little wonder that they became indifferent. How can life have meaning after a living Hell like this? What purpose or ultimate value is there in an empty, heartless existence of Russian roulette? A game without thrill, without order, without plan or purpose… only death for the randomly selected and emptiness for the survivor. A game so vicious that the only way to survive is to let it all sink down, down like a stone, into the recesses of one’s being… The sting is too much. Indifference becomes the only way to cope. It all must be… must be meaningless.

But that’s just it though… If there was no meaning in it all, if life had no purpose, if all of existence truly was nothing but chasing after the wind, a random game where it doesn’t matter who dies and who survives to emptiness… why would death matter? Why should we fear it so? Indeed, if life had no meaning, death wouldn’t either; it would have no sting. If there were no meaning or purpose in life, there would be no terror in dying, no horror at the atrocities of this world, no agony in war. Remove absolute goodness and you have an amoral world; and no longer can you be touched by the grasp of evil and suffering, because all is meaningless. The young men of Remarque’s novel let their feeling sink down into them, make their hearts stony, because they realize this. If they continue believing in purpose and meaning, they shall be torn to pieces by the horror before them. But if they are indifferent… if all becomes meaningless, then the terror of seeing death and unspeakable pain all around them is numbed. “Fear we do not know much about — terror of death, yes; but that is a different matter, that is physical.” The real suffering, the heart-pain one finds in seeing one’s comrades fall and writhe in agony… that can be muffled away if all is devoid of meaning. They cut themselves off from the feeling of death by cutting themselves off from life.

They are unable to handle the reality of death; not because it doesn’t matter but because it matters too much. And the only way they can bear the piercing, terrifying gaze of death is to make nothing matter. Only keep yourself busy doing nothing; pursuing empty pleasures that have no substance but distract for a time so that you don’t have to remember the emptiness within you. It can’t be filled, but it can be ignored. So let it sink down… it’s the only way to keep living.

Thus far, I have lead a stain-free existence. Even for a fairly well-off, middle-class citizen of a ridiculously privileged nation, my life has been remarkably free from pain. And when compared to the daily, crushing suffering of millions across the globe, it almost makes me sick. Certainly it makes we wonder… why should I be spared? I’m no better, I know that for a fact. And whenever I catch the smallest glimpse of the suffering others have experienced in this world, down through the years and to this day, my words fail me… but still, I must ask: Why so much pain, so much agony? Why the seemingly pointless suffering, the endless groaning, the futile pleas for relief? Why does death reign so strong?

I know nothing of the suffering of those soldiers in that Great War; I might imagine it pretty well on the receiving end of an audiobook through the mastery of a writer like Remarque and an actor like the one I opened my ears to. But even when I do suffer truly one day, I know that I will never know a fraction of the pain that they or other millions of inhabitants of this world and its history knew daily in their bones and hearts. I don’t have all or even most of the answers, and I don’t even have the true experience of pain to back up the little I do know. But what I do know is this:

There is another way. There is a solution, and it is not to turn one’s heart to stone, appealing as that is. It is not indifference, it is not meaninglessness or vainly chasing pleasure to make the pain go away. And it is not embracing the death.

It is life itself swallowing death up.

Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

In our human frailty, we could not dream of speaking such bold words. Death is too mighty, immeasurably too awful for us to taunt… Yet when we serve a Lord who triumphed over the grave, who became the victim of death – and won anyway – only then can the victory be sounded. Only then is the sting of death removed – not by removing life as well, but by Life overcoming all the force that Death can boast. It is only by the triumph of Life over Death.

Today, I celebrate that triumph. I have no victory to boast of in myself; but I boast in my Lord who overcame all, who is Life Himself, who died and now lives forevermore. And because I am in Him, I do not fear the power of death.

One day – perhaps through war, perhaps through another medium of evil – one day, I will suffer, and this time not merely through my vicarious imagination. It will be real to me as it never has been before. Will my neat ideological categories hold then? Will I be able to keep myself from allowing a heart of stone to sink deep into me, to harden with indifference, as my only means of survival? If all my words were merely a theory, I doubt it. Better men than I have cracked under far less.

But because I stand in a reality, because my confidence comes not in an optimism in mankind or a philosophy in myself, I can say with full confidence that, by the grace of God, it will be possible to stand fast, with a heart of flesh that is willing to be broken again and again, and made new each morning by new life. It can be done; it has been before. I know not if I will be adequate for the trail – I probably won’t be – but I serve a God who is faithful. And no matter how weak I am, no matter how powerfully Death rears its head and crushes me beneath its load, the One who is called Life is greater yet.

I learned the sting of death from Remarque in a way I have never known before. I felt a fearful indifference bent on survival rise up in me as never before. But just maybe, I understand my Lord’s triumph over Death in His everlasting Life a little bit better this day because of it.

Wishing you a Resurrection Sunday filled with the true knowledge of His power,

~ Timothy

Where is the sting, tell me where is the bite?

When the grave robber comes like a thief in the night

Where is the victory, where is the prize?

When the grave robber comes, and death finally dies

~ Petra, “Grave Robber”

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

A word from Pascal

P1000952

“Let us act as if we had only eight hours to live.”

“True fear comes from faith; false fear comes from doubt. True fear is joined to hope… because men hope in the God in whom they believe. False fear is joined to despair, because men fear the God in whom they have no belief. The former fear to lose Him; the latter fear to find Him.”

“The heart has its reasons, which reason does not know… Is it by reason that you love yourself?”

“Two kinds of persons know Him: those who have a humble heart… whatever kind of intellect they may have, high or low; and those who have sufficient understanding to see the truth, whatever opposition they may have to it.”

“There is enough light for those who only desire to see, and enough obscurity for those who have a contrary disposition.”

“The Christian religion, then, teaches men these two truths; that there is a God whom men can know, and that there is a corruption in their nature which renders them unworthy of Him. It is equally important to men to know both these points… The knowledge of only one of these points gives rise either to the pride of philosophers, who have known God, and not their own wretchedness, or to the despair of atheists, who know their own wretchedness, but not the Redeemer.”

“In every dialogue and discourse, we must be able to say to those who take offence, ‘Of what do you complain?’”

“It is a horrible thing to feel all that we possess slipping away.”

“Between us and heaven or hell there is only life, which is the frailest thing in the world.”

“Those who do not love the truth take as a pretext that it is disputed, and that a multitude deny it.”

“I love the worshippers unknown to the world and to the very prophets.”

“We run carelessly to the precipice, after we have put something before us to prevent us seeing it.”

“Man is but a reed, the most feeble thing in nature; but he is a thinking reed… A vapour, a drop of water suffices to kill him. But, if the universe were to crush him, man would still be more noble than that which killed him, because he knows that he dies and the advantage which the universe has over him; the universe knows nothing of this. All our dignity consists, then, in thought… Let us endeavour, then, to think well; this is the principle of morality.”

A word from MLK

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring…”

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

The work he helped begin all those years ago is still not entirely finished today. May we strive now as Martin Luther King did in his time; filled with the same joy, laboring with the same fervor, tempered with the same prudence and inspired by the same hope.

Happy MLK Day,

~ Timothy

15 Biblical Ways to Get a Spouse

1) Find an attractive prisoner of war, bring her home, shave her head, trim her nails, and give her new clothes. Then she’s yours. (Deut. 21:11-13)

2) Find a prostitute and marry her. (Hosea 1:1-3)

3) Find a man with seven daughters, and impress him by watering his flock. — Moses (Ex. 2:16-21)

4) Purchase a piece of property, and get a woman as part of the deal. — Boaz (Ruth 4:5-10)

5) Go to a party and hide. When the women come out to dance, grab one and carry her off to be your wife. — Benjaminites (Judges 21:19-25)

6) Have God create a wife for you while you sleep. Note: this will cost you a rib. — Adam (Gen. 2:19-24)

7) Agree to work seven years in exchange for a woman’s hand in marriage. Get tricked into marrying the wrong woman. Then work another seven years for the woman you wanted to marry in the first place. Fourteen years of toil for a wife. — Jacob (Gen. 29:15-30)

8) Cut 200 foreskins off of your future father-in-law’s enemies and get his daughter for a wife. — David (1 Sam. 18:27)

9) Even if no one is out there, just wander around a bit and you’ll definitely find someone. (It’s all relative though.) — Cain (Gen. 4:16-17)

10) Become the emperor of a huge nation and hold a year-long beauty contest. — Xerxes (Esther 2:3-4)

11) When you see someone you like, go home and tell your parents, “I have seen a woman; now get her for me.” If your parents question your decision, simply say, “Get her for me. She’s the one for me.” — Samson (Judges 14:1-3)

12) Get a man drunk, send him off to war and make sure he dies, then take HIS wife. (Prepare to lose four children though.) — David (2 Sam. 11)

13) Wait for your brother to die. Take his widow. (It’s not just a good idea, it’s the law!) — Onan and Boaz (Deut. or Lev.)

14) Don’t be so picky. Make up for quality with quantity. — Solomon (1 Kings 11:1-3)

15) A wife? — Paul (1 Corinthians 7)

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I was hoping to have a more profound “first post from the college life” (and ironically enough, I’m sharing this while home for Labor Day weekend), but my theology professor shared this list with us the other day while discussing the various ways the word “biblical” can be used (appearing in the Bible, commanded or condoned by the Bible, and so on), and it seemed worth sharing. Clearly, this list pertains mostly to men, but as my professor made very clear, íf you accept the logic implicit in this list already then there’s really no reason a woman can’t apply any of these to herself as well.

My class nearly died laughing. But who knows? You may find this list edifying, or perhaps even… applicable.

Just remember: they’re all “biblical.”

With a newfound appreciation for hermeneutics,

~ Timothy

Building Momentum

About a month ago, I and ten others from my church spent five days in Kentucky for an annual Christian Youth Conference called Momentum. Though we’d gone on mission trips before, it was the first time our church had tried going to a conference like this; it probably won’t be the last.

I knew I wanted to share something about the things I’d learned and experienced there, but giving a long, drawn-out, detail-by-detail account didn’t seem like the right way to do it. Instead, I thought I’d just post a slightly expanded version of what I had the opportunity to share with my church family yesterday.

Basically, how it changed me:

I went into this conference with very low expectations. For the most part, I was just expecting a lot of hype; if not from the leaders of the conference, then certainly from the other youth who would be there.

And yet, I came out of that conference a different person — a better person — than who I’d been going in. We learned and experienced so many things in those five, incredibly short yet full days, but if I had to sum up the greatest thing I took away from that conference, it would be the way that it made certain things that had always seemed out of reach for me… tangible. They became not just ideas, but realities.

One day at lunch, while I was waiting in line for pizza, the two guys standing next to me in line started a friendly conversation with me. Their names were Zach and Quinton, and they had both been saved at Momentum two years ago and three years ago respectively. After chatting for a bit, I turned to head back to my table with my pizza, when they asked me if there was anything they could pray for me before I went.

I was mind-blown. And yet, right there in that bustling cafeteria, they each laid a hand on my shoulder and just prayed for me like it was the most natural thing in the world. It didn’t matter that we’d met two minutes ago.

The more I think about it, the more I wonder why I was so caught off-guard. Are we not called to be a people of prayer, who are unafraid to come before the Throne, who lift up those in need without ceasing? All those two guys did was understand and live out that truth. Now, I can honestly say that I have never been less ashamed to ask people for prayer requests, even my friends who are not believers. Thanks to the concrete yet completely followable example of Zach and Quinton.

Perhaps the greatest example of the intangible becoming concrete took place in an area in which I’ve been struggling to grow for some time now: evangelism. One afternoon, our scheduled outreach was to walk around an assigned street and just find someone to “bless.” We each had $5 (so in our groups of three, we had $15 altogether), and that was to be our tool; buy someone lunch, maybe get to know their story, wherever it takes you.

The first person my group talked to cheerfully told us that she’d already had lunch (it was about 1:30pm after all), and that she was just out enjoying a walk. We watched her walk away, somewhat comforted by the thought that if we didn’t really get any other conversations, at least we’d tried. The second guy we talked to was walking towards the intersection we were standing by just as the crosswalk turned red (I remember thinking, “He has to wait for the light, maybe we can get a quick conversation with him”), so we just launched in and (pretty awkwardly) asked if we could buy him lunch or something. He seemed a little surprised and even slightly amused, so he asked us once or twice why we were doing this, and we responded once or twice that we simply wanted to “bless” him that day. Then he asked if we were from a church group or something (I think excessive use of the term “bless” tipped him off; that seems to be the Christian go-to for anything and everything good), which somehow (I don’t remember how) lead to asking him what he believed. After talking a little while longer, we asked him if we could at least get him a coffee or something to continue the conversation over, to which he readily agreed.

“But first you got to tell me what you believe.”

One hour later, there under the Kentucky sun by that intersection, we were still talking to him; about the Gospel, about Christ, what Christians believe, what he believed, and especially about the Bible. He was a really nice guy, and he shot completely straight with us. We in turn did the same. We listened as he explained what he thought about a certain Christian idea, and he would listen as we explained what we thought he should know about said idea. He believed that the Bible was a great book, full of human wisdom, and that eternal life consists of the legacy you leave behind by living well. We encouraged him to check out the prophecies in the Bible to weigh whether they seemed no more than man’s words or not, and told him becoming an ambassador of God means leaving an earthly and an eternal legacy behind you. It was an amazing conversation. It ended pretty naturally; we just thanked him for talking with us for so long, he thanked us for our conversation, and he just walked off in the direction that he’d originally been going.

He never did get that coffee. As we watched him walk away, we said a quick prayer for him; that God would allow the seeds that He had planted through us to take root, and to grow into something fruitful in that man’s life. Quite a few of the things we had said seemed to take traction in his mind; he just said that he couldn’t accept some of the things the Bible teaches. I pray that he sees that the Bible is God’s Word, and that when our opinions and the Scriptures diverge, we are the ones who must change.

(By the way, we also found out later that one of the other groups, seeing us engaged in conversation with this guy, decided to pray for us while we were talking across the street. That was cool.)

All that to say this: a wall has been lifted. Now, talking to complete strangers about the gospel is no longer… unfathomable to me. I’ve seen that it can be done. In fact, now I want to do it again and often.

I know for a fact that that hour-long conversation in the Kentucky sun was all the work of the Holy Spirit. All the right thoughts and Scripture passages and examples just came to mind (and you better believe that I was praying for them throughout the conversation). It was incredible to see how He used my thinking and what I’ve learned in the past to guide that conversation. And maybe for that reason, it felt pretty much normal to be having a conversation like that. If it had been an incredibly dramatic, mountain-top experience, I would be so afraid that I would never be able to have that kind of experience again. But it didn’t; now, it can become a habit.

One thing I liked about the conference overall was the emphasis on not just having moments with God; nice, fuzzy feelings you can look back on. Instead, we are to build momentum. A snowballing of passion for the Lord’s work that just keeps growing as it goes along, that gets more and more unstoppable and impacts more and more lives as it dives deeper into enemy territory.

That is the kind of life I long to have, the kind of “regular activity” I long to do, the kind of person I long to be. I don’t want to just think back to the time I had that really cool conversation with that guy in Kentucky. I want to make conversations like that a pattern in my life. As Aristotle so aptly said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.” It’s a lifestyle, a consistent pattern, not a moment or a one-time experience.

Obviously, there will be many failures, many rejections, many disappointments as I try to live this out. But I serve a God who can turn my weakness to strength, and turn what the enemy means for evil to the good of His people and His own glory.

I went into that conference with low expectations, and came out… different. Honestly, for the first time in my Christian walk, I can say with confidence that I know — both in my head and my heart — that I am a new creation. That I am not ashamed of the gospel; that I am not the same anymore. And I pray that the momentum I have now will not fade as the days pass, but grow all the stronger for the passage of time.

*   *   *   *   *

Dear friends,

I leave for college tomorrow. And though I go to a Christian campus, I want to get into the community there and be a light to the lost and the unseen. I ask that God would enable me, His servant, to speak and live with boldness, and I ask that you pray that I would live as such. Your prayers are ever appreciated.

I fully intend to continue blogging, but I’ll likely be learning to walk again in my new environment for most of first semester, so it’s anyone’s guess how much time will present itself for me to dedicate here. As always, I thank you for reading, and hope to be back soon.

Praying for boldness,

~ Timothy

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.

*   *   *   *   *

“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

A word from Twain

“All you need is ignorance and confidence; then success is sure.”

“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”

“It is better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.”

“When in doubt, tell the truth.”

“Always do right. That will gratify some of the people, and astonish the rest.”

“Of all the animals, man is the only one that is cruel. He is the only one that inflicts pain for the pleasure of doing it.”

“The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.”

“Where prejudice exists it always discolors our thoughts.”

“Whatever you say, say it with conviction.”

“I learned long ago never to say the obvious thing, but leave the obvious thing to commonplace and inexperienced people to say.”

“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”

“Education consists mainly in what we have unlearned.”

“The human race has one really effective weapon, and that is laughter.”

“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

“Let us endeavor so to live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.”

All from the Official Web Site of Mark Twain. Note: I could have included twice as many, all just as witty, insightful, and delightfully Twain-some, but I figured enough is enough.

Concerning words

“Words — so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary;

how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.” 

~Nathaniel Hawthorne

I’ve been thinking lately. About words.

The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak, is probably the main reason why.

Go watch the video in this link, then come back. I’ll wait.

Now we can get serious.

Words… so innocent and benign in their appearance, and yet… so potent.

It was through words that the universe was made.

It is largely with words that our ideas can be known, understood, and communicated. It is with words that the wisdom and folly of the ages is passed down from one generation to the next.

It is with words that the best books, poems, songs, and blog posts are written. (Need I add this is also true of the worst?)

Words are useful and versatile little creatures. They can be used for great good.

And sometimes, it seems, even greater evil…

It is with words that men curse one another and curse the One who gave and gives them breath. It is with words that hurtful rumors, vicious backtalk, and compliments of poison are exchanged. It is often with words that people — sometimes entire nations — are stirred up against one another in violence, hatred, and terror. Thus, it is often through words that thousands, if not millions, lose their lives, and suffer the cruelest injustices the world has ever known (remember the man only known to his people as the Führer ?). It is with words that lies are written and spoken. It is with words that the Father of Lies does his greatest, most glorious, work.

And yet.

It is with words that the unspeakable can be known. It is with words that the greatest and deepest truths in the world are declared and defended. It is often with words that beauty is caught from the heavens and by some miracle, made visible to man for a glance. It is with words the broken and hurting are comforted. It is often with words that the proud are brought low, the haughty silenced, and the wicked exposed. It is with words that we are told how we must be saved, and how the saved must live.

It is with words that our names are writ in the Book of Life.

It is through the Word that salvation came to a broken, hurting, dying, blaspheming world, and it is that same Word that shall set all things aright.

That Living Word was God’s fullest revelation of Himself to mankind. Second only to that Living Word is His written Word, the Scriptures. God chose to reveal Himself through prophecies, through poetry, through proverbs, through historical writings, through various accounts, through letters — through words. Words matter to God.

It is with words that we will be acquitted, or condemned.

But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgement for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.

Words have very real power in this world, a power that will echo beyond these earthly bounds, into eternity.

I have no way of knowing exactly what will take place on the day of judgement. But I do know that I shall stand before the Throne, before unspeakable Beauty and Strength, with the Living Word at His right hand, and I will have to give an account for everything I have ever spoken… And when I am summoned to do so, I may well hear this:

“What did you do with the words I gave you?”

What will be my defense? How can I justify the lies and the half-truths, the vain flatteries and empty self-praises, the judgmental and self-righteous comments, and the thousands of other words that I have spoken and thought and made my dwelling upon in my years of existence? How shall I acquit myself?

What words will I use then?

Quite frankly, it doesn’t matter. I won’t have anything worth saying that could possibly acquit me of my crimes. All I will have is the Word Himself. My Lord and Savior, the One who gave me life. The Christ I pledged my life and allegiance to… with the simple, heartfelt words of a broken spirit.

Those will be the only words I will have, worthy to offer before the Throne of Judgement. My own will be insufficient.

I hope to have that answer ready. But in the meantime… what shall I do with the words I’ve been given? How shall I spend them? How shall I store them up?

I’ve only used 841 words in this post. Imagine how many I’ve spoken, written, or thought today alone. I’ll doubtless use at least as many tomorrow, if and when it comes.

How shall I use the words I’ve been given? How shall I steward them? How shall I give account for them?

How will you?