Mysterious Eminence

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Location: Huaraz, Ancash, Peru

Having mastered the University of Montana's IYFD program, I journeyed to Peru with the US Peace Corps. Currently, I'm discovering Peru while living in the gorgeous Andes mountains in beautiful Ancash. Come visit!

Monday, May 23, 2005

His Greatness is Ours

"When Queen Victoria was a child, she didn't realize that she was in line for the throne of England. Her instructors, trying to prepare her for the future, were frustrated because they couldn't motivate her. She just didn't take her studies seriously. Finally, her teachers decided to tell her that one day she would become the queen of England. Upon hearing this, Victoria quietly said, 'Then I will be good.' The realization that she had inherited this high calling gave her a sense of responsibility that profoundly affected her conduct from that day forward. "

I love the movie The Incredibles, and I don't know how many people notice, but that movie shows the way we celebrate mediocrity. When I think back to my years as a teacher, I think of how frustrating it was to see students not strive for good grades and knowledge because they thought they'll make it big in music or sports. All of that is fine, but what about being the best at everything you do. So often we look at the Christian life as if it's a struggle to survive. We pick and choose what we will be good at. I'm going to go to church every Sunday, but I don't have time to spend daily reading the Bible with the Holy Spirit. Or I love musical worship, but I don't know how to pray. Why do we celebrate mediocrity even in the midst of the spiritual life?

Here's a little secret for us all: God completes us. He makes us the best we can be, if and only if, we are willing to allow him to use us for his good. We don't have to pick and choose from the Christian-walk-buffet. We can trust God in all that we are and live in the greatness of his sacrifice, his son, Jesus. Let's strive to spend time in all ways, at all hours, seeking his greatness for our lives.

Monday, May 16, 2005

When the Praise Runs Out

"Praise the Lord, all you nations!
Extol him, all you peoples!
For great is his steadfast love toward us,
and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.
Praise the Lord!"

Psalm 117

I had a rough week last week. For some reason, Thursday was the worst day I've experienced in months. And it certainly started pretty early, by the time I had walked to work from the bus station I was almost in tears. But you know what I learned? When I'm feeling down, praise is a good place to start. I sadly forgot this theme for the first part of my Thursday, but I haven't forgotten it since. My life still isn't looking so pretty, but whenever I get down, I turn to the Psalms and you know what I find, writers who know exactly what I'm talking about.

"I love the Lord, because he has heard
my voice and my supplications...

Gracious is the Lord, and righteous;
our God is merciful.
The Lord protects the simple;
when I was brought low, he saved me.
Return, O my soul, to your rest,
for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.

For you have delivered my soul from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling.
I walk before the Lord
in the land of the living.
I kept my faith, even when I said,
'I am greatly afflicted';
I said in consternation,
'Everyone is a liar.'

What shall I return to the Lord
for all his bounty to me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of the Lord,
I will pay my vows to the Lord
in the presence of all his people."

Psalm 116:1 & 5-14

Friday, May 13, 2005

God's Calling

Here's something to think about from Jon Ball InterVarsity staff in Greater Los Angeles.

"Is calling a biblical concept? Moses and David were not called by God to be shepherds, Jesus received no call to be a carpenter, nor Peter to be a fisherman, nor Paul to be a tentmaker. The Bible primarily uses 'calling' to refer to God calling us to himself, as Jesus did when he said, 'Follow me.' Mark continues, ' And immediately he called them; and they...followed him' (Mark 1:16-20)."

And to think all these years I thought discerning God's calling on my life meant where my career should take me. It's interesting to discover that "calling" really only has to do with God's call on our ministry-active lives.

I had an interesting discussion with my father the other day. He said he needed to get back into golfing because he didn't know what else he would do when he retired. I sweetly and demurely said, "ministry." I didn't get the response I expected. My dad looked like he swallowed a bitter spoon of peanut butter. Because he's my father, 6'2 and intimidating (former football linebacker), I didn't push the subject, but it left me a little unsure. I think my father thought that I meant he should go to seminary and become a Pastor, which of course, was not what I meant in the least. By ministry I mean that thing which God calls all of us to in different ways during different seasons. In truth, my father should have some form of ministry now. As should we all. Everyone has a ministry. It can change (and probably will), but ministry never ceases. Whether it's "big" (foreign mission field, Pastoral, etc.) or "small" (Sunday School teaching, prayer phone tree liaison, etc.) it's valuable to the body of believers. And God wants us to be a part of it.

Ball continues, "occasionally a calling is an assignment: Abraham was called not to a job, but to a place; or more specifically, to the task of leaving his home and going to a place God would show him (Genesis 12:1). Paul was chosen to preach to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15-16). A few of us may receive a specific "calling," like Paul, but that often has little bearing on choosing a job, a spouse, or a church. However, we're all called to be disciples of Jesus, which means learning from him and obeying him wherever we find ourselves in life."

Often we think calling has to do with how we are going to make our money. What are we going to do with the rest of our lives, and so on. Why do we box God in like that? He wants us for himself, not that we don't do evangelism and ministry type of work in our day-to-day business and money making jobs, but there are so many opportunities to directly serve him at the church, parachurch, and missions levels. It's not that I think God doesn't care about where we work, on the contrary, we are to be salt and light wherever God has placed us (Matthew 5:13-16) and that is an act of "following him." Yet, we are also called into service for him. We are called to serve the church (think all followers of Christ as the church in this context). If we don't take care of each other, what do others care about being a part of God's family.

So as we continue to listen to God (read: I continue to listen to God) maybe we shouldn't be looking for some kind of cosmic career head hunter, but more for someone who wants to draw us closer to himself and to serve him in all the capacities he desires of us. That's a pretty cool calling.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Inside My Morning Quiet Time

Sometimes I just have to laugh at myself and my ability to completely lose my sanity. I was reading my Becoming a Vessel God Can Use book this morning and the author, Donna Partow, had some questions to ask. Now these are very important questions, but I was really struggling with my answers. Here's how it looked.

Donna's question: If you were to die tomorrow, what do you want people to remember? Write whatever comes to mind.

Ari's response: I don't really want to die tomorrow, but I want to be remembered as someone who loved the Lord...I hope these questions get a little more specific because this isn't really helping.

Donna's next question: What do you feel passionately about? If the subject comes up you perk up and can't stop talking?

Ari's response: Um, what don't I feel passionately about? And when has anyone ever gotten me to shut up. More importantly, what if I feel passionate about something, but say, have no motivation to do anything about it. Then I've got bigger problems than expected.

Donna's third question: When you go to a bookstore or library, what section do you drift toward?

Ari's response: Well let me see, in the last six months I have read Max Lucado, Rick Warren, a book about a woman who murdered her kids, a romance novel about a woman having an affair with Che Guverra, an allegory about the holocaust told in the form of the Fairy Tale, Sleeping Beauty, and I'm currently reading a business book called Built to Last. Oh, and my sister got me addicted to this literature rich, science fiction series about a Detective who can jump into classic novels to solve mysteries. Um...that narrows it down.

Donna's question: What do people compliment you about? What activities do you excel in?

Ari's response: I've been told I'll make a good wife and mother someday (nothing on the horizon). I used to be able to play basketball with some kind of skill, but I don't know that I could anymore. I can't remember a whole lot of compliments lately, except for the ususal you have nice hair or a nice outfit...oh and I'm a fast typer.

Donna's question: What did you dream of doing when you were ten years old? Think back. You may just discover that that little girl knew a lot more about who God created you to be than you realize.

Ari's response: I can barely remember ten - there have been so many things I've wanted to do all my life, but I'm pretty sure I wanted my own TV show. Yet, I'm not sure how that translates into ministry.

Donna's sixth question: If you could do one activity, all day, every day, for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Ari's response: If I had to do one thing every day, all day for the rest of my life, I'm pretty sure I would want to kill myself. How boring. How mundane. Sorry Donna - I'm afraid I'm somewhat of a disappointment in this little quiz.

Donna's final question: Has God laid a special burden on your heart - for a group of people, a country, a ministry? Maybe you made a special vow to him at a youth camp long ago. It's likely that God has tried, many times in many ways, to communicate your life mission. Reflect.

Ari's response: Okay, now we're to the heart of the matter. I do believe that God has tried many, many, many times in many, many, many ways to communicate my life mission to me, but what if I'm scared of the response? What if God really does just want me to do one thing, all day, every day of my life. That's scary. Or what if the task is less than meaningful to me? It's not unheard of in the Christian faith. I guess the truth is, I'm not ready for the truth. So it's back to my knees.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Alleviates Bad Moods

"Gladden the soul of your servant. For to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul." Psalm 86:4

I can tell you this verse has been a life saver to me lately. Whenever I get down I just repeat this phrase over and over again either out loud or to myself. And whenever I do, I feel better. That's the power of meditation.

I don't even know what the verse means, but I've been meditating on it for two weeks. I'm pretty sure I'm just reading a little to deeply into it, but I can't help but think there is so much more beneath the surface, if I could just unlock it. What does it mean to have your soul gladdened? The NIV translation says "Bring joy," but for some reason I like the idea of gladdening. Why do we need to have God gladden it, if we're going to lift it up to him anyway?

Encarta defines gladden as, "to feel or cause somebody to feel cheerful and hopeful." So maybe what this passage is saying is: "Give hope to your servant, for you, Lord are in control." Teach me to trust in you, Lord. Teach me to meditate on your word.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

God Still Speaks

Have you ever been frustrated by God's lack of communication? Have you ever thought to yourself, 'if God would just tell me what he wants from me...?' The thing is God does talk to us...we just don't listen. Numbers 22:21-41 recounts the story of Balaam and his donkey.

Balaam got up in the morning. He put a saddle on his donkey. Then he went with the princes of Moab.
But God was very angry when Balaam went. So the angel of the Lord stood in the road to oppose him. Balaam was riding on his donkey. His two servants were with him. The donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road. The angel was holding a sword. He was ready for battle. So the donkey left the road and went into a field. Balaam hit the donkey. He wanted to get it back on the road.
Then the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path. The path went between two vineyards. There were walls on both sides. The donkey saw the angel of the Lord. So it moved close to the wall. It crushed Balaam's foot against the wall. He hit the donkey again.
Then the angel of the Lord moved on ahead. He stood in a narrow place. There was no room to turn, either right or left. The donkey saw the angel of the Lord. So it lay down under Balaam. That made him angry. He hit the donkey with his walking stick.
Then the Lord opened the donkey's mouth. It said to Balaam, "What have I done to you? Why did you hit me those three times?"
Balaam answered the donkey. He said, "You have made me look foolish! I wish I had a sword in my hand. If I did, I'd kill you right now."
The donkey said to Balaam, "I'm your own donkey. I'm the one you have always ridden. Haven't you been riding me to this very day? Have I ever made you look foolish before?"
"No," he said.
Then the Lord opened Balaam's eyes. He saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road. He saw that the angel was holding a sword. The angel was ready for battle. So Balaam bowed down. He fell with his face to the ground.
The angel of the Lord spoke to him. He asked him, "Why have you hit your donkey three times? I have come here to oppose you. What you are doing is foolish. The donkey saw me. It turned away from me three times. Suppose it had not turned away. Then I would certainly have killed you by now. But I would have spared the donkey."
Balaam spoke to the angel of the Lord. He said, "I have sinned. I didn't realize you were standing in the road to oppose me. Tell me whether you are pleased with me. If you aren't, I'll go back."
The angel of the Lord spoke to Balaam. He said, "Go with the men. But say only what I tell you to say." So Balaam went with the princes of Balak.

God spoke to Balaam through a donkey! A donkey! How much ignoring of God do you have to do in order for God to use a donkey to speak to you. I'm learning a lot about silence and meditation and how important those two practices are to hearing God. If I could just set aside 30 minutes a day, I would learn to hear God in every and any situation, because in truth our God is not silent...we just ignore him.