To Boldly Go

This weekend I got to see the KWS (Kitchener Waterloo Symphony) perform Michael Giacchino’s fantabulous 2009 score to Star Trek… LIVE to projection.

Needless to say as a band geek and a fan (I love Star Trek, but I’m nowhere near the Trekkie levels of fandom to name myself among them), it was the most fun I’ve had in a while.

Having the music component performed live to a screening of the film brings about a whole new dimension to the experience, an immersion that I think surpasses IMAX 3D. The soundtrack is the audience’s entry point to the soul and emotions of the film, telling the stories that can’t be seen or spoken.

Those gorgeous horns heralded the main theme as the logos went up and I knew I was in for an experience. You could feel the rush of wind whenever the Romulans made an appearance because the low end brass and percussion “punched it.” The strings made my heart strings weep during all those emotional moments (Labor of Love, Head to Heart Conversation…) Don’t forget about that harp either.

Everything about the movie just seemed heightened. There’s a common misconception that the soundtrack is subservient to the film, but it really isn’t. Audio and video complemented each other, the score and film working together as one to form the narrative, neither ever overpowering the other. Of course, during the credits when there’s not much to see other than names, the score is free to shine and the symphony took us where no one has gone before. More on this in a bit.

As was tweeted about the show, “goosebumps and tears are not optional.”

Ever since the development of the film and cinematic industry, theatre has always prided itself in the live aspect of that medium since it is the one thing film can never capture. The ephemerality, the proximity and the humanity of a live performance is completely unique and can never be replaced or digitalized in the same way that other mediums have undergone. Watching a film live on set would not heighten the art of film, in fact it might take away some of the magic. Live music on the other hand… I wish I could see every movie like I saw this one. You get the stunning visual effects of film that can never be seen on stage, but you also get the intense presence of a live performance that makes theatre unique. A big world on screen deserves a big sound that recordings and surround sound fall just short of, now that I know what I’ve been missing out on. It is a wonderful, dare I say perfect, marriage of filmed and live media; the best of both worlds.

This post was originally just going to be raving about the performance as an attempt to live in those memories just a bit longer, cement them while they’re still fresh, and wade in the tides of nostalgia before moving on with life. But of course, as I started writing, a “nugget” materialized and this beautiful relationship between score and film struck me as an uncanny analogy for complementarian marriage.

Not egalitarian. When it comes to marriage, I am no feminist. A bold thing to say in this age of sexual revolutions.

Let me say this before I go any further: neither man nor woman has the right to abuse the other in any way, in any kind of relationship. Ever.

But should the woman serve her husband? As the score serves the film. If the film overpowered the score, we would miss out on that musical narrative. If the score overpowered the film, we would be incredibly distracted and missing the point. It’s a strange paradox to explain… both score and film are needed to effectively tell the narrative, but the priority of focus should always be on the film, the main vehicle for the narrative. They are not equal, but the score is not the film’s handmaiden either. The film and score work together as one work of art, and they enhance each other in different ways, bringing the other to its full potential.

Personally, between listening to a score before and after seeing the film, I have always appreciated the score even more afterwards. Recalling the emotional images paired with the moving music simply makes for a better listening experience. And of course, watching a film without the score, sound effects, or sound at all, is simply pointless.

In the same way, the man should be over the woman like the film is over the score. Once in that covenantal relationship, they need each other as desperately as film and score need each other. They can no longer be separate, they are one masterpiece, one flesh. As soon as one overpowers the other, it’s game over. After all, the score was designed and created to help the film.

Am I saying then that women were designed and created to help the man? It’s scandalous and easy to get twisted, but yes that’s exactly what I’m saying. But again, this is no excuse to allow any abuse. The score doesn’t take orders from the film, but rather from the one orchestrating this marriage of mediums. Both visual and aural answer ultimately to the director, who ensures both arts blend harmoniously to tell a single story. Both man and woman answer to the One who brought them together to reflect a single love story: Christ and the church, His bride, for whom He died.

I will take the analogy further. When the film is over and gives way to the credits, it’s giving way for the score to shine and get the last word. God calls the wife to respect her husband enough to serve him for the rest of their lives, but He also calls the man to love her enough to die for her as Christ died for the church.

It’s three-fold: film and score, man and woman, Christ and church. An analogy for an analogy for the greatest story that has been, is and will forever be echoing across time. Indeed, the greatest story ever told. May we boldly go and proclaim it.

1100

Advertisements

There but for the Grace of God Go I

After a whole bunch of posts for my media class digital portfolio, it feels good to do a normal check-in on my “real” blog.

This past week and this coming week are the two busiest weeks of the semester, maybe even of all the time I’ve been in Guelph. The work to be done, the meetings to go to, the people to speak with, the time to be spent… going into this period, I was anxious and worried. I was worried about being worried.

My to-do list is too long. I’m not going to have time to do everything, or at least everything well. When am I going to do this task? How am I going to do that task? How am I going to time manage all this??

But God is faithful. Here I am, half way through and more than hopeful.

In fact, last Sunday’s sermon was about God’s faithfulness. He comes through on his promises. He comes through on His word toward those who aren’t his people like Ishmael, and He will certainly come through for those who are His. And how amazing is it to be called His if we are in Christ.

What’s cool is that from the get go of this busy time of year, God worked to encourage me and take away my fear and my anxiety. He is faithful to provide. And He’s been looking out for this for a while — forever to be precise, really — because He had to orchestrate the sermon schedule, among other things.

My point here is not that the world revolves around us and that God is here to make our problems go away. Just the opposite. I don’t think I could have been as productive as I was and I don’t think I would have made it through this storm as unscathed as I did without the grace He’s shown, without the strength He’s given, without the community He’s blessed me with. This is about Him, and praise and honour and glory be to the one who restores us to Himself.

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:31

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.

Matthew 11:28

These are such go-to verses, almost cliche to the point where it seems they’ve lost their lustre. They’ve been said so many times online, on mugs, on T-shirts, on posters… But this week has reaffirmed their truth for me in way I haven’t experienced before. God gives us what we need to get through stuff, and at just the right time.

I received peace and rest through a sermon before I could even get very anxious. Before that, I learned those verses before I knew what it was to be this busy. Way before that, God breathed and the authors of those words penned them to encourage the thousands of generations to come.

I even got VCB’s new album that Sunday and I’ve been listening to If I Have You throughout the week. Such a timely encouragement and a blessing:

I don’t need the riches of this world / I can’t even take them where I’m going. / I don’t need a thousand empty words / I just need the ones that You have spoken.

If I have You and nothing else, I have everything.

I don’t need to see tomorrow’s plans / I just need to trust that You are working. / I don’t even need to understand / I just need to keep You as the first thing.

You are more, You are more than enough.

I forget which sermon I heard it in, but God knows every cause and effect event down to an atomic level and smaller. He knows how many moles of oxygen are in your lungs, and he knows which molecules bump into what when we exhale. He knows what the chain reaction of consequences will be for every action taken. He planned the cross before He made man. He knows what He’s doing, He’s in control, He is sovereign over our circumstances. Now, these two weeks seem as small and insignificant as they are, and not because I’m woman enough to handle it.

He is my strength, He is my everything. With one week down, one to go, there but for the grace of God go I.

1100

He is Jealous for Me

Last re-post! We’ve finally caught up! Some of you might remember this one.


I’ve often wondered why the Bible describes God as a jealous God all over the place; Exodus, Deuteronomy, Joshua… and yet commands us, “you shall not covet.”

At first glance, seems a little hypocritical, contradictory, right?

Jealousy. Envy. Covetousness. Our culture has amalgamated these three words and made them synonymous, when the reality is that though there are subtle differences, that’s all it takes to completely change the meaning of the text.

Exodus 20:17 says, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.

Of course, one of the 10 commandments. I’ve heard this sometimes translated as “you shall not envy.”

ENVY: A feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck.

Or,

ENVY: Desire to have a quality, possession, or other desirable attribute belonging to something or someone else.

Pretty straightforward, usually what most people think envy means.

Now COVET on its own, means to yearn, to crave for a possession – a person, a quality, an object, anything. That possession may not be already owned.

But of course in this case, “you shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbour,” is very much in the realm of envy. The reason though, that I think they used covet rather than envy, is because it is driven by a desire, a craving, rather than resentment. I’m sure someone, a scholar who has read this text in its original language could answer this much better than I.

Well okay, I’ve told you more or else what you already know.

JEALOUSY: Fiercely protective or vigilant of one’s rights or possessions.

I’d first heard of the difference between envy and jealousy last week in my first acting class. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but when I was reminded that our God is a jealous God… it was very much a do-you-know-what-this-means?!? kind of moment.

Fiercely protective.

See, envy is about possessing that which isn’t yet yours… but jealousy is almost the opposite. Jealousy is about preventing the loss of what you already possess.

Some people will say that God’s most important quality is His love.

Some of you are reading that and thinking, ‘you say that like it isn’t.’

It is important, yes, but overwhelmingly, I think it’s God’s holiness. The fact that He is perfect, whole, complete, set apart. His love for us is an overflow of the love between the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

I’ve said this before, I’ll say it again, God doesn’t need us. He doesn’t need our love to be complete, He is complete, He is a community, it’s not like He’s lonely without us.

And yet… He is fiercely protective. Fiercely.

If you look at the contexts of the old testament passages that describe God as a jealous God, it is in relation to idolatry…

If you’re like me, whenever you catch yourself putting anything above God, or putting God under other things, you pray and repent, and learn and grow from that “season.” And growing is good. But then you fall for it again. And again. And again. And you feel guilt, and shame. What’s wrong with me? Why do I keep stumbling, why does this keep happening? Did I not do it right? Did I not truly repent?

And behind those questions is a growing doubt, a seedling of a lie that says that even in Christ you are worthless, beyond saving, and a complete failure.

But God is sovereign. He is true. He is holy. It’s not about us in the slightest.

Once you are God’s, nothing in all creation can separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.

He is fiercely protective. Of us. Our idols, whatever they may be, are under His control, nothing in our walk or our journey or our relationship with God happens without crossing His desk first, so to speak.

Obviously, don’t actively go and sin, but when you do stumble, and we all will, see if you can figure out what God is trying to get at. What I mean is, our stumbling in sin is not a punishment, or ‘haha look how worthless you are.’ It is a tool meant for us to learn. Maybe the first time it’s to learn humility. Then the next time to learn surrender. Then the next time to learn gratitude. Then trust. Not only that, every time we learn a new lesson from the same “exercise,” we often apply what we already learned.

As a result, every time, whether we know it or not, we come out of a “stumbling” learning something, and every time, our Father is using that lesson to protect us in the future. Making us holy. Teaching us, guiding us, to becoming more and more like Christ. Transforming us, rather than condemning us, grace rather than judgement.

He is jealous for me
Loves like a hurricane
I am a tree, bending beneath
The weight of His wind and mercy
 
When all of a sudden
I am unaware of these
Afflictions eclipsed by glory
And I realize just how beautiful You are
And how great your affections are for me
1100

I’ll Remember You Forever

Re-post. I may have to update this list after I graduate. I’ve had the privilege to learn from exceptional teachers who also happen to be professors.


This article caught my attention:

This kid says she’ll remember this teacher when she’s 75.

Take a look, I’ll wait.

I get the feeling that having a teacher that inspires you is a rare thing these days. I could be wrong. I hope I am. There are the fun ones, the brilliant ones, the lazy ones, the strict ones, and any combination of these labels.

But the ones that you remember forever are the ones that cared – not just about what you did in class, but what you’ll do after your time with them is up. The ones that cared about YOU, mostly academically and often times otherwise. They made that their job.

They’re the ones that even though they had a student label – crazy, harsh, chill, etc. nobody really cared what it was.

I hope that as you were watching the video and as you’re reading this post (if anyone is reading this post) that at least one name comes to mind – one teacher that you’ll remember forever. In a life season where everything is spinning on its head at unfathomable speeds – that is, adolescence of course – I think it’s important, nay essential, to have someone with a true gift for teaching there to keep you focused, to nurture your learning. Not just to discover what you’re good at, but who you are.

They may not realise they’re contributing to your discovery of your identity at the time (or maybe they will). You probably won’t either. I certainly didn’t.

I have no idea what the average number of inspiring teachers people have in high school is these days, but I can tell you that I had the honour, blessing and privilege of 4 of them. And here’s what I learned from each (in no particular order).

MR. BAYAT – Gr. 11 and 12 physics and chemistry.

He was my tutor, and I was jealous of his students at the high school he taught at.
Up until grade 11 physics, school was a blast and a breeze and my biggest fear was getting an 85.

For the first time in my life, I was failing. (On the bright side, pride was no longer much of an issue afterwards.)

My confidence evaporated at an astronomical rate in moles per second and my heart plummeted to my stomach with a force and acceleration greater than that of gravity everytime any sort of evaluation came up.

Like a racing altimeter on a crashing plane, every mark update was painful.

I had never failed a test before. I never had to ask for after school help before. Why was this happening? I failed once and it shook my world. It also seeded my dislike for learning physics and to a lesser degree, chemistry.

My identity was in my marks. Failing once meant that I was a failure. “It’s just one set back” never got processed in my brain. It was inexplicable and illogical and silly, and yet that’s how blindsided I was by it.

Bayat helped me get the grade – I impressed a handful of people with my improvement. He also achieved the impossible by making my least favourite subjects (because they were my weakest) fascinating, if not enjoyable.

But let’s not talk about the academics since, despite my success I remember nothing and am very far away from the academic fields of chemistry and physics. Obviously what I took away from learning under him, was not academic.

Lesson 1: DON’T GIVE UP. Teachers ought to care simply that you learn. Whether it’s from their lectures or your mistakes is irrelevant.

Lesson 2: TALENT can be measured in potential – how far you can go with what you have. Not how you or others judge your performance. You are more than a percentage.

Lesson 3: BE CONFIDENT in what you’ve learned. Defend yourself, respectfully challenge your teachers and your peers, be grateful when corrected. The point is learning.

In many respects, I learned these 3 lessons over and over again from all four of these teachers, every year I had them. Same lessons, different numbers — situations.

MS. GOLDMAN – Gr. 11 English.

She was an LTO, a long-term on-call while my much stricter English teacher was on mat leave.

I was doing alright in 3UENG but not as well as I hoped, in terms of numbers. It’s important to note however that at my high school, an 80 meant you were considered a genius. If not in English language and literature, then in pinpointing exactly what your teacher wants to read amidst an infinite range of subjective interpretation. I’m not sure which type I was. I didn’t feel like either.

Ms. Goldman was a refreshing change after that first half of the semester, and some marks started to climb.

Now, I won’t comment or compare with how the two teachers marked us. Again, what I took away from being Ms. Goldman’s student was not academic.

Like the other three names in this post, the first thing I noticed when she started teaching us is that she genuinely cared about the work we submitted, and how that reflected us as individuals, as a class and as a school.

She was actively participating in this unspoken dialogue, interacting with us on such a level that her students could believe her when she gave positive feedback and trust her when she gave constructive criticism. And we loved her for it.

This is perhaps the strongest theme or trait these four names have in common:

She cared, and that made us care about the subject, our work, ourselves and each other, whether we liked or were good at English or not.

But for me personally, I’ll remember her forever because she embraced creativity and taught and encouraged me to do the same, whether she realised it or not.

Many projects in that class had very little guidelines. It could be as insightfully crazy as you wanted or as crazily insightful or just standard clear and concise.

No matter how you learned, the point was that you learned.

For me, that was writing an 11 page (~12K words) “sequel” to Shelley’s Frankenstein.

I’d been writing stories for most of my life. But this project. The comments she left and the mark I got left me more than chuffed. I was stunned that she actually read it all. But that selfish pride soon faded away. After all, she was just one person.

And yet, one person is enough. It wasn’t the comments or the mark that did it. Anyone can slap a number on something. But when she handed it back to me, her eyes seemed to smile, “I’m proud of you.”

Then my mom read it and said so audibly. She was genuinely impressed as well, unlike some other times, but she’s my mom… So bias is a factor.

Anyway, after that, and only after that, did I actually begin to think that maybe writing was something to consider.

But it was a thought too dream-like to indulge and I didn’t want to admit it to myself. As a result, it took a couple years for me to go actually dive in and go for it. In the meantime, those two years were spent experimenting… literally and figuratively. It was painful. And necessary.

MRS. HEISLER – Gr.10 Math

I realize I’m going in backwards order here. I should correct what I said with Ms. Goldman. She only reaffirmed what I learned with Mrs. Heisler a year earlier.

Much in the same way, those grade 10 “anything projects” allowed me to let my creativity loose.

1. Create a comic STRIP explaining how to solve a binomial expansion.

…I created a 27 page Stargate-based comic booklet.

(She’s a fan, don’t worry.)

2. Create a presentation on how to use the quadratic formula.

…I spent a couple weeks creating an espionage choose your own adventure on Keynote for the class to play, with me as the game master.

I’ll never forget what she told me on the last day of class:

“I would love to open up your head and explore your brain one day.”

It was, and perhaps still is, my favourite compliment I’ve ever received.

learned in that class, and not at all in the conventional way. I learned because I was allowed to be creative without fear. I was allowed, because she was creative without fear. (I still remember some of the many QF songs we heard).

MR. COLLEY – Gr. 9 – 12 Music.

Yep, so this is definitely in backwards order. As my first high school teacher I ever met, this whole narrative might have begun with him.

From the moment I met him, I could tell he was one of the crazy ones. But also one of the kind ones. Then I was a student in his class, and I saw the way he worked. His passion for music, but more importantly his passion for students and their growth, academic primarily, but otherwise as well. (Well maybe not physically. Although he did poke fun at us shorties.)

It was the first time I’d seen anyone fulfilling their calling and it blew my mind. I wasn’t the first and certainly won’t be the last. Secretly, I think it’s why people stay in the music program for all 4 years.

Yeah the marks are easy, the trips are fun, but the rehearsal hours can be brutal – and yet Colley is always, always ready to go. (With his never ending coffee supply of course.)

I can’t speak for the hundreds of students he’s had and whose names he somehow never forgets, but even if I wasn’t a band geek already, I might have stayed just to see what he would do next, how he would do it and why.

There was something different about him. Other teachers care, but he’s next level. He’s genuine, he’s tough, and he’s hilarious. Perhaps the three key things a teacher needs to help students learn and grow in a healthy way.

(Let me be the first to admit that I am no pedagogical expert – these are simply my observations based on my personal experiences)

When I learned that he was also a brother in Christ… Suddenly things made so much more sense, and things clicked very quickly.

Don’t get me wrong, you don’t have to be Christian to be a great teacher. Many of them aren’t, and conversely, very few who are, are akin to Colley.

What I do mean is that the “why?”s could be answered.

Why get to school before 7 am and stay til 5 to help students? Why listen diligently to all 300+ students play up to 48 scales each? Why push and spur on a student when it would be understandable if he gave up on them?

This is what he was made to do. Encouraging students is his passion, music is his skill. He did not openly preach the gospel, that wasn’t his job.

Instead he taught us to work diligently, to find our passion, to encourage and be encouraged, to build community, and to care and listen to one another unconditionally. What’s more is that he taught us – or me anyway – all this with his actions first, across the 4 years, and his words last, during our last day together as a band.

It was during my one on one sessions with him that he taught me to put my identity in Christ. Not marks nor praise. In Christ alone.

He loved us first, so we too must love others with the same unconditional love that is manifest in how we use our gifts and talents.

Now… I can’t help but feel a bit vain going on about my greatest high school academic successes throughout this post.

So I’ll sum up what the connection between all of this and my life now to show that in many ways, I am indeed who I am today because of these people and their success at what I call real, true, teaching.

Without Mr. Bayat, I would not have the confidence or patience to persevere after a failed script or query.

Without Ms. Goldman, I would not have thought to be remotely capable of writing anything entertaining or worth reading.

Without Mrs. Heisler, I would never have the guts to share my work with other creatives, let alone the more sane people.

Without Mr. Colley, I would not have seen what being the light and the salt of the earth or a calling fulfilled, looks like in real life.

These people and so many others like them need medals for both leading by example and then passing that example on in their students. Who and where would we be without them?

1100

Come Stay and Come Fail

What is school for? Wisdom or information?

As much as it ought to be wisdom, we get the ironically less useful information. It’s right or it’s wrong. You know it or you don’t. You remember it or you don’t. It’s acceptable or it’s not.

But at the end of the day, or the course, what did you learn other than memorized facts?

Now, facts are good. and essential in some careers. However, there are others where facts are important, but not essential. In either case, wisdom and life’s lessons, are far more useful and applicable.

With information, success is getting the right answer, with wisdom, success is learning from failure.

Learning from failure means we are free to fail. Free to struggle. Encouraged to try, and keep trying, to keep learning the same lessons in different ways over and over again. What an education that would be if every course could be like that. We’d be free of pressure, we’d be free to innovate, we’d be free to express, we’d be free to discover.

It’s a paradox that I wish more teachers, mentors, etc. understood and applied. Tell students to succeed and they will find themselves failing. Tell students to fail, and they will find themselves succeeding.

It’s not about setting a low standard so that more students “succeed.” It’s about extracting wisdom from whatever situation. If you “failed” and got the wrong answer, what lesson did you learn? If you “succeeded” and got the right answer, what lesson did you learn? In that way, the grade or metric or evaluation almost comes before the lesson.

After class today, my music shuffled to Scars by Colton Dixon and the chorus was quite fitting:

Today’s another day, to learn from our mistakes, knowing that we’re not forsaken. They give life to where we’ve been, when we fall and start again, scars remind us who we are.

After discussing wisdom vs information in class, and then hearing the song, and then remembering what the song is really talking about — that is, the the gospel — a connection was made.

In my experience, the best teachers don’t care about what you got on a test or an exam, they only care that you learned the lesson they were trying to teach you. Imagine you were guaranteed a 100% at the beginning of a course – you didn’t earn it, it was given. Striving for perfection isn’t the point. Learning and a willingness to learn is the point. If you got it right away, fantastic. If it took you a few tries at first before you got it, great.

In this class, the first three important things we were given was a good grade guaranteed, an invitation to stay and a mission to learn something more valuable than facts: how to think and how to change the world.

Those who left, turned down the opportunity to wisdom and steps toward self-actualization. Those who stayed, don’t necessarily make the best looking collages or videos, but what is that compared to knowing and embracing our identity a little better?

Not only that, but the small handful of us in the course get closer to each other with every pressure-free attempt we make. We naturally want to encourage each other because we all know none of us are good at this since a lot of it is brand new to us. We don’t celebrate the product of our projects, but the thinking behind it.

Now from the outside looking in, you would think a guaranteed good grade should be incentive to not bother going to class, and yet we all keep coming back week after week, night after night, not because we have to but because we want to. We’re hungry for this “wisdom” that is so different from the unsatisfying and draining amounts of “information” we’re forced to digest everywhere else.

So where do the parallels align?

God demands perfection, but we can’t overcome our imperfection. What Christ’s death on the cross in our place is, is the free 100%, given not earned — His perfection for our imperfection. He invites us in and says if you take it and stay, you’ll get so much more than the 100%.

Those who choose to leave get nothing, those who choose to stay and learn, practice how to think about people differently, how to see through Heaven’s eyes, how to change the world because of the change within us. Of course, practice means failing and learning from our mistakes, and it’s this learning and growth toward godliness that is the real treasure.

So when we fail and sin, we’re caught in a grace that says don’t worry about your grade or your standing, that’s been covered. Just get back up and try again. Also, if you see a brother or sister in Christ, someone else in your community, fail, it becomes natural to encourage them with the same words.

And finally, why not get up and walk away? Because walking away means going back to the emptiness of what the rest of the world has to offer. Once you taste wisdom and truth like this, there’s a hunger that keeps bringing you back.

So the invitation to the cross (and THST 2450) is here: come stay and come fail. It’s worth it.

The Will of God

Re-post. Tricky stuff.


What is God’s will? More importantly, what is God’s will for me?

Seems to be a question on many minds, a question that haunts us whenever big decisions have to be made.

It always feels like the answer is so hard to discern we become as impatient as Sarah and try to help God out. My servant will have a child for me. I will handle this. God let me choose a sign. If this happens, this is your will, if that happens, that is your will. Let me handle this.

Suddenly “Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven” isn’t so easy.

Just words, empty words. Almost an incantation.

Surely the Bible has something about God’s will for us! …right?

Except we want answers now. And specifics. The bible doesn’t have the specifics to your particular life trajectory. Don’t flatter yourself.

So what are the “go to” verses? Trust in the Lord. Fear not. Take heart. Love the Lord your God. Be strong and courageous. Glorify His name.

Encouraging in their contexts, and very much a light in our time of darkness.

But difficult all the same.

And still kind of vague about God’s actual will. These are more by products of us being and doing His will.

If we were doing God’s will, of course we would trust Him, of course we would not fear, of course we would love him and be strong and glorify him.

But how do we know if we’re there or not?

And then that anxiety starts up again and we’re three steps behind square one.

Believe it or not, the Bible states is very plainly. So much so we often miss it. Just like that.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing and give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

1) REJOICE ALWAYS.

Difficult to do, especially on those nasty mornings.

2) PRAY ALWAYS.

Also difficult to do. Most first reactions are along the lines of:

Whaa…?
Excuse me?
Come again?
That’s not even possible… Is it?

Come on God, we’ve got things to do, places to be… People to save?

3) GIVE THANKS ALWAYS.

This is the punchline we almost always miss.

Needless to say, difficult to do.

But the first two, especially the second, have already blown our minds, we’re already dismissing and not registering perhaps the most important of the three.

If we gave thanks to God, we would always be rejoicing.

If we gave thanks to God, we would always be praying and communicating with him.

If we gave thanks to God, we wouldn’t have the entitlement mentality of this generation to have our cake and eat it too. We wouldn’t need specific answers. We wouldn’t want God’s will to really be our will. We’d be giving thanks for everything He has already given us and done for us.

In essence, we wouldn’t be “seeking God’s will” because we’d already be in it.

He doesn’t need you to do anything for Him. All he wants you to do is give thanks with a grateful heart.

Look at the contrast between King Melchizedek and the King of Sodom in Genesis 14.

After being rescued from captivity, Sodom’s first words are “Give me.”
Melchizedek says “Blessed be God Most High, possessor of Heaven and Earth.”

#blessed.

So when you’re anxious about that job? When you’re worrying about your future? When you’re afraid that you’ll be wrong about what to do next? When you’re tempted to take matters into your own hands to get the results you want to see? When you’re seeking God’s will?

Give thanks. Look back on the beautiful work He just finished up in your life. It’ll make you wonder how magnificent are the days to come.

And then look further… To the endless days of His kingdom. How excited are you? How grateful are you? How mind blown are you by His grace and unconditional love that He gave up everything, including his life, so you could see and experience that?

God’s will? Simple, yet challenging. Give thanks.

1100

Oceans

Re-post. Still learning to apply this one.


Long post today.

I read this article today on the shape of the industry I’m thinking of entering, and all the social dynamics, etc. Of course they’re things that I already knew, and that people have been telling me, and what I’ve been studying in class… But hearing it yet again made it that much more real, especially from a scholarly article (not to dismiss all the other people who told me the same thing.)

To diverge a little, you know when every once in a while, this one song resonates so strongly with you that you listen to it over and over and over again? It may not necessarily be your favourite song, it just speaks to you and puts into words what you’ve been feeling, or what you need to feel. Right now, for me, that song is Oceans by Hillsong.

You call me out upon the water
The great unknown,
Where feet may fail.

Those are the first few lines of the song and they grabbed me instantly. The rest of the lyrics are just as resonant for me, but I won’t type it all out here. However, the bridge is what I really want to talk about:

Spirit lead me where by trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever you would call me.
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my saviour.

The more I listen to it, the more I think about it, and the more I sing it. And as always, be careful what you sing, and be careful what you sing as a prayer… Because it’s when you don’t fully realize what you’re asking God that he shows you what those words mean. In other words, He answers that prayer. Which is good… it also means that you’re in for some exciting turbulence, good and “bad.”

So let’s see. Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders? Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander? Well I definitely feel like I’m in the deep end.

I was revisiting the Doctor Who series 5 two part finale as a little treat for myself after finishing the day’s studying, and the Doctor said something interesting. (Well, I know… When does he not?)

Doctor: I need you to trust me.
Amy: But you don’t always tell the truth.
Doctor: If I always told you the truth, I wouldn’t have to ask you to trust me.

Makes sense. Most characters believe everything the Doctor says because he’s clever and will gladly tell you “I told you so” in some way if you don’t. But as has been repeated on several occasions, Rule number 1: The Doctor lies.

So if the Doctor told the truth all the time, and he said everything is going to be all right, no one would have to ask, “is that a lie?” And he wouldn’t have to answer, “quite possibly.” They’d trust him. All that being said, most of the time, the characters trust him anyway. Wouldn’t make for a satisfying story if they didn’t.

If I always told you the truth, I wouldn’t have to ask you to trust me.

If that statement makes sense… Then why does this happen:

1. I believe that God always tells the truth.
2. He asks us to trust him.
3. It should be a quick yes because of #1 (in theory).
4. But we don’t.

Or at least I don’t, not in this situation. I wish I did, and I tell myself I do, but I know I don’t because deep down I’m still worrying.

What if this isn’t the right way?
What if you’re not calling me to this industry?
What if all these sacrifices are made and it turns out that they were for nothing and based on hollow dreams?
What if I don’t have the patience and persistence I think I have and I lose my resolve and quit?
What if I do end up regretting this path and the warnings people are giving me will haunt me til I see you?
What if I don’t make enough to survive in a world where the cost of living is going up every year?

Hmm. The cost of living. I wonder how Jesus would define that. But that’s for another post.

Even as I type those questions, they seem so silly and materialistic, and I know that asking them is asking the wrong questions. And yet there they are.

Well, first thing. How do I know that this is where I think I’m being called. Honestly, I’m not sure that I do. I do know, that nothing makes me feel more alive… Like I’m a machine that’s figured out what it can do. A few other times, I felt the same way and I thought I was being led in one direction, but then it passed. This could be a phase… But whether it is or not, all the other other times taught me something, and deepened my understanding of something in some way, and opened the door to the next “phase.”

I could just be justifying all this to make myself feel better, but through all the “phases,” they still had the same goal, but a different form. (Hehe, not unlike the last of the Timelords himself… Different shapes, different personalities, same person.) Each phase was born out of the last. So is this a phase? Maybe, but in other ways, not really.

Second thing. I’ve said it before, but… Does it matter? Does what I do or end up doing and how I do it matter? Well… Yes and no.

No not really, because God has a goal in mind, and can use anything to achieve it. If we were all tools in a shed, He could MacGyver paperclips into a bicycle. The question is, why?

If a screwdriver says I want to hammer nails… It’s possible to do it if you’re creative enough, but it wouldn’t be as good as the hammer’s job and… Why on earth would you let the screwdriver hammer nails? So it does matter what you do in terms of what you were made to do, but it’s God thats doing the work through you.

Also, it’s a humbling and relieving reminder that whatever God is building… He could do it with his bare hands. He doesn’t need us. But how are the tools in the shed going to know what they can do and what they were made to do if they aren’t used?

To sum up all that… This is today’s verse if the day:

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.

Isaiah 40:28

I don’t know what you’re doing God, I don’t know how this is all going to get figured out, but I know that you’ll pull through and that you mean it when you say that you will provide and you will deliver because you love me.

Well… I know with my head, but do I believe with my heart?

The first verse of Oceans alludes a little to this passage, when Jesus walks on the water and calls Peter to do the same:

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds.

Matthew 14:22-33 ESV

“Immediately.” Interesting word choice. The instant the crowds started to form, Jesus sent the disciples ahead of him. He sent them out, separating them from the crowds. And while they did that, He did his own work. We’re the disciples aware of what he was doing? Maybe, maybe not. But when God sends us out, He sets us apart and protects us from the swarms of people. I think it’s because we’re delicate and easily influenced. As sensitive to noise as a soufflé. (I’m on a roll with these DW references…)

Anyway, when we are sent ahead, we’re also kind of distanced from Him. But we know He’s never far, and we know He’s busy doing something that will help is out later. We may not know what, but we know He is.

And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray.

I wonder if the disciples were praying. Jesus prayed after dismissing the crowds… Did people exhaust him spiritually, or did he just enjoy the presence of the Father that much? Both? When and why do we pray then?

When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them.

Evening?! Whoa, he prayed for hours. I feel guilt tripped.

Anyway, the boat was a long way from land. Here we go, take me deeper than my feet could ever wander. They are in the deep end. Not only are they in the deep end, the waves were beating the boat, the wind was blowing against them. We’ve got to remember, that these are fishermen. Did they see signs of the storm? Probably. Surely, their instincts and red flags were going nuts. This is terrible weather! They shouldn’t be out here, it’s not safe, and who would blame them for regretting coming out here in the first place.

But then again… Did they have much choice in the matter? Jesus sent them ahead. Plus, at the time, between boat and noisy crowds… Boat won.

And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea.

Fourth watch?! How late and how long were they on the rough seas? I guess like them, we don’t know when Jesus will come back from whatever He does without us, we just know that He will. It could be short, could be a while. But when He does, it’ll look awesome. Come on, “he came to them, walking on the sea.” Think about that.

1) Sea
2) Walking

The sea is raging and the storm is howling, and He’s on it, fully exposed. More than that, He’s WALKING. Not running, not trying to protect himself, not sinking for that matter, He’s completely calm when everything is not… when the disciples have no idea what’s going on.

But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear.

I don’t know if the disciples were terrified because they saw him walking on the sea, or if amidst all the chaos and danger, seeing someone walking on water just freaked them out. Not unreasonably I guess… it’s not like they’ve seen someone do that before.

Ghost! Fear! Again… Did they really believe in ghosts, given what they believed about where souls go, or did they just have death on their minds as they got tossed around in the storm like salad?

But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

There’s that word again, immediately. The disciples were far enough away to mistake Jesus for a ghost, and a raging storm isn’t quiet. So Jesus has super hearing. Or telepathy. Or knew what they were going to say and when, in order to reply immediately. But if you believe He’s God then… Of course he does. He knows our thoughts. What I wanna know, is how did the disciples hear Him?

Also, “take heart (have courage), it is I. Do not be afraid.” As much as I don’t blame the disciples for freaking out… Jesus is right (duh).

The disciples just saw Jesus do miracles and speak with authority with the crowds. You’ve heard his voice before, so don’t you recognize it? Not a ghost. Jesus is there, and is WALKING. ON. WATER. If He can do that, is it really that much of a leap to believe that He’ll calm the storm, or at least keep you safe from it?

Oh man. Anyone else drawing parallels from that last paragraph? We’ve seen God in action before. We’ve heard his voice before, so why don’t we listen to Him, or believe it when he says, “Have courage, do not be afraid.” We don’t know exactly what He’s doing, or how He’s doing it, but it’s strange and mysterious and magnificent. If we can see Him do that and hear Him say that… Is it that much of a leap to trust Him with the storms that are shaking up our lives?

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.

Okay. So Peter heard and recognized Jesus. But he’s still unsure ’cause he asked for proof. Or is it?

“Command me to come to you on the water.” Is that Peter’s pride or faith talking, thinking that he can reach Jesus? Or does he just really want to walk on water? I would.

Often times when we’re unsure about a decision, or at least for me, I find myself praying for signs, or for open doors, to know that, yes, this is where I’m supposed to go and what I’m supposed to do. But shouldn’t his word be enough?

And then He humours us anyway, well with Peter in this case. He commands with one word: come. He doesn’t say go, or do, He says come. Come towards him, and He will make a way for you to do it, to get closer to him. It’s not us that’s allows us to walk on water, it’s all Him. Drawing us near. Peter obeyed, and Peter walked on water, just like Jesus. When we obey… What will He allow us to do despite the winds and the rain and the waves trying to knock us down? He cant be knocked down, and He won’t let us either. Not permanently.

But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.”

Um. Okay. I thought wind was invisible. And they’re on water, it’s not like there were flapping trees and bending trunks. Was it snow? Was it big waves being snatched up into the air by the wind? That’s a strong wind. A fearsome wind. So yeah, that would be scary.

But Jesus is RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU PETER.

Yes. Isn’t he just. He’s always right in front of us, telling us to come, to have courage, to not have a spirit of fear.

Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Immediately. As soon as Peter began to sink, Jesus was on him, reaching out to him, and holding him, keeping him from drowning or being harmed or touched by the storm.

“O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Excellent question.

We know it’s Jesus because we’ve seen him do extraordinary things before. We know its Him because we recognize His “voice.” We even ask for “signs” or “proof,” and a lot of times we get it. We get a little closer to Him, close enough to hear him properly, which is close enough to see his face… and yet we STILL DOUBT.

And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Jesus gets into our boat. He knows what it’s like to be in the storm, to feel the waves beating the boat. He also brings back friends changed or grown.

But still, we only worship when the winds cease.

So I will call upon your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise, my soul will rest in your embrace.
For I am yours
And You are mine.

Spirit lead me. Take me deeper. Strengthen my faith. Deepen my trust in You.

1100

Hollywood and the Trinity

Re-post from last year. This is me trying to make sense of the Trinity. For now, I still stand by this analogy, I think it works. But here’s another one that I heard soon after posting this:
The Trinity is like the Sun.
The Father is the star itself.
The Son is the light that we see and that exposes us and that shows us where we’re going.
The Spirit is the warmth of the sun, what we feel when we feel God’s presence, and what keeps us alive.

This past Sunday, Will touched a bit on the Trinity. To me that’s always been a weird thing to explain to people, even to Christians. Sometimes I’d use the egg analogy, but it never quite sounded like the satisfying answer I thought it should have been.
For those of you who don’t know, the egg analogy goes something like this: If you see an eggshell, you can describe it as EGG. If you see a hard boiled egg white, you can describe it as EGG. If you see an egg yoke, you could describe it as EGG. But you can never look at one, and describe it as the other two.
In the same way, the three persons of the Trinity are God, and fully God, but are not each other.
But the parts of an egg, are 3 that make a whole, where God is whole in each of his 3 persons. He’s 300% God, and awesome because of it.
Will put it this way, God is in three persons, and each of them have distinct roles, but are fully God. But what does that mean? Back to that in a bit.
Oscar season just came and went, and people are celebrating over the winners, carping over who should have won, and poking fun in general. Well, maybe just with Leo.
Anyway, we’re going through the different roles and doing a sort of “who’s who” in my Theatre Studies class and someone mentioned this: The writer is god and the director is king.
Well this is interesting. What do these people do that make people say that?
(bear with me, blogging and studying for the exam kills two birds with one stone. NOTE: no birds were harmed in the writing of this post.)
The writer. The creator, the one who uses words and stories to figure out a particular problem in life and culture. What they write and say is the blue print for the set, the wellspring of ideas, its potential infinite in terms of creative interpretation. It’s where the themes are, it’s where the plot comes from, it’s where the characters’ psyches are mapped out. It is, the source. What is on the page, goes.
The director. They’re the ones that bring it all together, that make sure all the different production components are speaking the same message, are scoring the same themes, are telling the same story. From the actors, to the set design, they piece together this billion piece puzzle into something extraordinary. Their goal is to reconcile the world of the stage or the screen, with reality. To elicit a particular response from the audience, because that is what all art is. Ed Roy, who came to talk about what he does (and is a fantastic speaker) said (something like) this and I love it: “all art is a reaction to the artist’s cultural and living conditions and times.” Directors have to understand the context of the real world in order to make the hypothetical world relevant and engaging to the audience.
The actor. They bring the character to life, they put a face to this personality, they inhabit and exhibit the story through dialogue, monologue, soliloquy and action, or lack thereof. They become the face, or faces, of the piece. They become the personification of what the writer wanted to get across. They engage directly, or at least most closely, with the audience and the real world. They also disappear in the role. They are still themselves, it’s still their body, their voice, but on stage or on screen, they are equally their character, as defined by the writer. Even after their performance, if they’ve played iconic roles, they continue to represent that character. Sometimes they are recognized as that character rather than themselves. They are, both.
Those of you who can conceptualize the Trinity can probably see where I’m going. And those who don’t, probably can too to some degree… I trust that most people are just as clever if not more so than I.
So what happens when these three jobs or roles, the writer, the director and the actor… Are all done by the same person?
Take Joseph Gordon-Levitt (JGL) for example. He starred in, directed and wrote one of his latest films, Don Jon. What it’s about doesn’t really matter in this post, and I haven’t seen it yet, although from what I understand, it would be a good one to talk about for idolatry. Noting to self.
Anyway, so back to what Will said on Sunday: Each of the three persons of the trinity have distinct roles.
As the writer, JGL had a very specific role, as the director, he had another, and as the actor he had another. He’s got to think about what he wants this movie to say through a story, which is about image. Then he’s got to decide how he’s going make that story relevant and relatable so that the message gets across. Then he’s got to figure out how to paint that picture with people, how to make that message more tangible. At every step, he’s in a different mindset, but with the same goal.
The writer is not the director, the director is not the actor, and the actor is not the writer. BUT.
The writer is JGL. The director is JGL. The actor is JGL. They are the same person.
In the same way, the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Spirit, and the Spirit is not the Father.
The Father is God. The Son is God. The Spirit is God.
Distinct rolessame person, and the one person can be up to all three roles at the same timeBut let’s superimpose those parallels.
The writer. The Father. God. The one who creates the story that solves a particular problem. That story is the gospel, and that problem is sin. What He says goes. What He says is law.
The director. The Spirit. God. The one that is in charge of eliciting a response from the audience. You don’t often see the director, but they are the mastermind behind everything, working everything together, putting the puzzle pieces in place. One of the ways they do that, is pointing to the actor, to the set, to the score, to the world, telling the audience, don’t mind me, watch what they do, watch what the actor does and you’ll see what I did, through the actor, during all those hours of rehearsal. The Spirit bears witness to Christ. (Acts 1:8) He’s the one that moves in us, that pulls our heartstrings and gets us to respond to the story, to the Gospel.
The actor. The Son. God. The face of the story, the one acting it out and seeing it through. He engages directly with the audience, speaking at them if not to them. Christ saw the Gospel through, Christ did as he was told by the Father, Christ followed where the Spirit led Him, Christ engaged directly with the world, the audience. He is as the world knows and sees Him, a man, but equally He is as He knows Himself to be, God. Fully God, fully man.
It sounds a little egotistical of God that He’s pointing to Himself all the time, but it’s more than that. He’s not pointing at who Jesus is, as much as He’s pointing at what Jesus did… And who He did it for. He isn’t bragging, He’s telling the story.
Finally, at the risk of repeating myself, let’s put it all together.
The writer writes a story to challenge to world and solve a problem. The director tells that story to the audience through various elements, while putting focus on the actor, who sees the story through and makes it something tangible for the world to understand and engage in.
God wrote the Gospel, to challenge the world and solve this problem of sin. The Spirit, moves in so many of us to tell this story in the wonderfully unique ways we each live our lives, using our lives to point to Christ and what HE DID, not what any of us did. And what is this story, what did He do? Jesus Christ, who was sinless, died for our sin on the cross, paying our debt according to the Father’s law, so that whosoever believes in Him, can be counted as righteous and blameless, and be redeemed and eligible for eternal life.
Also, a writer, director and actor are the three main elements one needs to make a performance. Take one away, and there’s no show, no story.
Not only is the Holy Trinity one person, He is the same God being all three persons at the same time, and He is complete. He is a community in Himself. He doesn’t need us to tell that story for Him. It’s already been told, and told well, by Him.
We just recommend the show and let Him speak for Himself to others.
1100