Friday, April 19, 2013

Got to grow up

Ever seen an eaglet in a tree? I came across one during a morning walk some years ago, but couldn't make out what it was at first. The bird was big and round, perched on a branch motionless like a furry ball. When a passerby pointed out it was a young eagle I was rather surprised by how unimpressive it looked. Nonetheless, it reminded me of this verse in the Bible "but those who hope in the Lord will soar on wings like eagle..." Isaiah 40:31- even though it was hardly an image of the magnificent bird that the verse was supposed to invoke.

The weird thing was, a joyful feeling came over me and made me realize God was talking, saying I am that eaglet--all cooped up not yet able to fly. So, it was not a compliment...but when someone as magnanimous as God himself paid enough attention to know I am a twit and cares to tells me so, THAT gives me way more confidence than a thousand praises from anyone.

But God didn't stop with the eaglet that morning, minutes later while I was driving to work, a full grown bald eagle flew so low that I could see it flying across the sky in front of me. I was elated--this is God's picture for me, when he is done with my makeover I will indeed soar!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Trusting God is like jogging

We do both initially because it's good for us; we want to reap the benefit of the habit. But trusting God, like running, is not natural in the beginning. It is a trait that only develops when circumstances, well... require faith. Challenging circumstances. When we first run, our lungs, muscles and joints all protest with pain; their capacity is being stretched and trained. Committed runners know that if they cave in to the pain they will interfere with the strengthening process and so they tough it out. In the Christian life we are required to do the same, trusting God often means enduring difficult situations while choosing to do good or maintaining faith when options for short cuts are appealing and a disgruntled attitude is justifiable.

Fortunately running and trusting God aren't just all pain. At a certain point, endorphins kick in, altering our perception and supplying us with happy feelings. Likewise, unwavering faith eventually opens up opportunities for divine intervention. Then we realize that God who seemed so abstract and distant before is in fact real and personal; we experience His active work in our lives. THAT personal knowledge of God gives us esteem and happiness that no worldly success ever delivers.

Jogging and living in faith both get easier as they become habitual. It is our part to maintain the habit and God's part to provide the endorphins. We would be fooling ourselves to think that we can attain happiness apart from God.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Decisions, decisions!

A month ago while driving from Vancouver to Chicago, our beloved Toyota Previa's engine overheated and then somewhere along highway 94, in Montana, it started making clanging noises. Our journey was seriously threatened. But we pressed on. And while my husband and I were relieved when we arrived at our destination, two days later, that was not the end of the problem. Our van's engine needed major repair and we faced a sea of options regarding what to do with it. Should we keep the van? Buy an old engine? A used one? Maybe a rebuilt one that comes with warranty? Or find someone to rebuild our own engine? We were almost paralyzed by all the pros and cons, unable to decipher which was the best way to go.  

Christians should look for God's guidance in their decisions, right? But how? Do we just use our best judgement and trust He will make the path we choose a good one? How is this approach different from someone who doesn't know God? What criteria should be our guide? Lowest price? Best warranty? Most convenience?

As my mind was swirling with the theological questions involved in this very practical decision, a thought came to mind: 'Choose the option and service provider that you want to bless the most.' What? Look for whom or what I wanted to affirm, to build, to bless, rather than the one that gave me the best deal? This idea felt so foreign to my natural inclination...it must be from God.  

In the end we found a company to rebuild our engine, one that we wanted to encourage. It was not the cheapest nor the most convenient, and only time will tell about the quality. But we feel so much peace from first hearing, then heeding God's advice on how to proceed. His word is true--"Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, 'this is the way you should go', whether to the right or to the left." Isaiah 30:21

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sometimes the worst brings out the best in us

When the Vancouver Canucks failed to win the Stanley Cup on June 15, all hell broke loose on Georgia street. The City had installed a huge screen there for thousands of people to watch the game; all hoping for a glorious win. But when it became clear we'd lose, a lot of young people decided to riot. They burned up cars, smashed windows and plundered some local stores--without restraint. Images of lawlessness, violence, stupidity and greed were broadcasted on TV for the world to see. A freak show revealing humanity's ugly side. And it shamefully originated in a world-class city with citizens who are wealthy and free. The riot showed that fallen humanity--even in a great place like Vancouver--is ugly.

After the nightmare of June 15th, I woke up to another side of Vancouver. By 7am the next morning, an army of volunteers had already shown up, armed with gloves and bags to help the government workers clean up the mess created by the riot. On the Post-Riot-Vancouver-Clean-Up Facebook page, over 16,000 people signed up to help restore our beloved city over the next three days (which, with so much help only took a morning!) Many beautiful citizens here rolled up their sleeves to make our city spotless. I love Vancouver more today because of them. 

So, June 15th saw the worst of us, but June 16th brought out the best in us. This makes me wonder...in the grand scheme of God's salvation plan, is he patient with the worst in us in order to bring out the best in us?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Pouting doesn't make us winners

The Stanley Cup fever has us Vancouverites talking hockey with everyone and anyone right now. One topic that comes up  a lot  in conversation is how the Canucks have been getting the short end from the referees game after game during this final series with the Boston Bruins. The uneven calls have been so obvious that they've gotten some fans' blood boiling--"How can this be a professional league?!", they ask.

We have the notion that everything must be fair and square all the time. But complete fairness is very rare; life isn't fair. Fighting through partiality is part of the maturing process. The best teams in any sport don't just possess skill and physical prowess--these are only basic competitive requirements. What sets winners apart is their mental tenacity to plough through obstacles of all forms including, at times, overcoming unfairness. 

We don't have to be athletes to feel the stain of unfairness; ordinary life is full of situational injustices. We ask, "why is this so?" Perhaps God is making us into winners, training us to overcome adversity by permitting these unfair circumstances in our lives. The greatest winner in history also suffered the most severe injustice. He was subjected to enormous unfairness. Try thinking about him the next time you think you've been dealt an uneven hand.  As he was hanging in pain for totally ludicrous charges, Jesus overcame, maintaining his spotless character even as he breathed his last breath--this is what a true winner looks like. (Luke 23:34)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Don't be a closet fan

It's hard to imagine it now, but there was a time when wearing a Canuck jersey was not so cool. Years ago, when the team was struggling game after game, they were the butt of a lot of jokes. Back then, you had  to be a die-hard fan to brave the ridicule of nay-sayers and admit you believed in the team by openly sporting their colours. Most tended to be closet Canucks fans back then. Not so today; the Canucks just need one more game to win the Stanley Cup! Now the tide has turned. On game day, you feel out of place if you're in downtown Vancouver without a Canuck's jersey or T-shirt.

A lot of us Christians are like the closet Canuck fans during the team's tentative years. We are very comfortable living in the closet until some star player makes a big splash that makes us look like we're on the winning side. The problem is, Christians aren't called to be fair weather fans; we're not called to be fans at all. We are all players called to win the prize. What is the prize for us? To know God and enjoy him forever. All kinds of distractions and trappings take our eyes off that prize. And like an NHL hockey player we need focus to win something far more precious to us than Lord Stanley's Cup in this game of life. (Philippians 3:13-14)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Lesson from my basil plants

Earlier this spring, I potted a dozen basil plants and put them by the wall of windows in our living room. It's the brightest spot we have and on sunny days, it's warm like a hothouse even when the temperature is low outside. On my part, the plants only require watering once a day--not at all high-maintenance by any stretch. To my delight, the plants are thriving; they have grown tall and strong from just little seeds! Ironically it is well known that basil plants are not that easy to grow, they require a lot of sunlight.

Everyday without fail each and every plant seeks out the direction of the sun, stretching it's leaves and stems towards the window to maximize exposure to sunlight. If I didn't rotate them regularly, they would have grown lopsided because of their natural and constant bend towards the sun for its sustenance.

I wish I was like these plants--smart enough to seek out the Son everyday for my spiritual sustenance. Didn't Jesus say that he was the bread of life? (John 6:35) And didn't he say that "man shall not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4)? Christians wither and droop when we forget Jesus and his words as all this world's offerings fall short of providing sustenance towards our growth and maturity in life.