Saturday Soup

  • "Saturday Soup" is quite obviously a post that comes if I don't get around to writing a "Free Friday" that consists of random thoughts of mine. 
  • My Wednesday post about attending a wonderful orchestra concert crashed my computer and was unrecoverable (thus Wednesday's missing post).  I'm really sad about this, especially because I wanted to give a shoutout to my friend Katherine.
  • It's funny how easy it is to accumulate stress without even knowing it.  We (meaning I) pick up worry like velcro in a dusty attic.  Then "all of a sudden" we realize just how many burdens we have been carrying, just how much we haven't trusted God.  But at the end of the day, there's grace.
  • I decided to start a new experiment.  I'll let you know what it is after I decide whether it's successful or not.  If it's successful, I'll know in a month; if not, I'll know sooner.  The only problem is that if it goes wrong, it will go really wrong.  We'll see; I'm putting a lot of prayer into this.
  • I like wearing fun shades of nail polish.  The flavor of the week is It's a really bold, defiant color that captures the way I want to feel going into finals week.
  • I really enjoyed this post on Grace-driven Effort.  I'll probably write some on some derivative of this at a later time.

Parenting and making assumptions

HT: Thought response to, "Children, like arrows, should obediently go in the direction that they are fired in." (The Resurgence)  This is the common problem with assuming that children need sermonizing, not the parents.

Photographer: chutiporn of stock.xchng.  Use of this photo does not imply endorsement from the photographer or the individual depicted in the photo.

The Art of the White Flag (repost)

I just wrote a long-ish post about wanting to write a book titled "The Art of the White Flag," but it got lost in the ether of cyber-ness :(  Anyway, I was thinking about the goodness of God in my life and wanted to document my journey and the lessons He's taught me in book form because I think things become more "real" when they're written down.  I'm not planning to publish it, but I just want to write down my testimony- the story of God's presence and work in my life because I am truly amazed by the way things worked out for my good and His glory.  Things didn't have to turn out this way, but they did.

The tentative title I chose for the book stems from the fact that we often surrender to many things- to anger, hate, resentment, loneliness,  hopelessness, and even things like ambition, success, and the approval of others.  We let these things dictate the way we live our lives for different reasons, but at the end of the day, we surrender because there are circumstances outside of our control.  We try to make sense of the world.  Even when things are outside of our control, we still try to control them.  We look at God, and He's right there, and we choose to fight or to suffer on our own.  We surrender to many things, but not to God.  That's what the art of the white flag is.  It's the primary lesson I've learned on my journey.  It's about learning to give up, not to our circumstances, but to the God who leads us through them.

Housekeeping: the new commenting system should be up now!

For he who has ears

Click image for full-sized picture.


Text: C. S. Lewis, “A Slip of the Tongue,” in The Weight of Glory
HT: Christ is Deeper Still

Ministry Pt. 3: Loving your neighbor even if you're not "qualified"

Christian ministry is tough.  in theory, it sounds great and amazing.  The "one anothers!"  I'm totally on board.  Love and serve.  Be loved and be served.  Beautiful.

But it's difficult to reach out to people who are hurting because we hurt in different ways.  We experience life differently.  If I have not experienced life like you have, how can I minister to you?  Maybe I should wait for someone more qualified.  She'll help you instead.  That's the danger.

From here, there are two opposite but (equally?) damaging responses many Christians fall prey to.  The first is that some love their neighbors without understanding them.  This is where trite Christian platitudes and good intentions come from.  Generally Philippians 4:13 and other verses get haphazardly thrown into the fray.  This is not ministry.  At best, this provides little help.  At worst, this is person A trying to say something to person B to make person A feel better.  Sure, the Holy Spirit can work through this sort of interaction, but more often than not, this sort of "encouragement" ends up backfiring, sometimes even fostering bitterness, resentment, and loneliness.

The second pitfall comes from fear of the first.  Some fear saying the wrong thing because they don't understand the situation.  They shy away from ministry for fear of messing up.  But here is the thing about sin and suffering (and everyone's both a sinner and a sufferer)- they isolate.  They convince the individual that he/ she is alone, no one understands, and no one can help.  People who do not minister because they cannot relate to the other person well will perpetuate this misconception.

Christian ministry is tough.  Sometimes there actually may be someone more "qualified" (and you can direct someone to that individual), but I'm convinced that God also calls us to become "qualified" to minister to the people he has placed in our lives.  Part of loving, serving, and ministering to one another is not being picky about who the "another" turns out to be.

I once heard a pastor say that he read all sorts of books on all areas of human suffering so that he could better minister to people.  I think that's a great attitude for a pastor to have, but that attitude should not just be limited to pastors and counselors.  Are we not all servants and ministers regardless of whether we are Servant Ministers (deacons), shepherds, or elders?

I think the first step is understanding the needs of those around you.  This entire discussion presupposes that you know there is someine in your life that needs ministering to (hint: there is.  I am assuming by the fact that you have Internet access that you don't live by yourself in a cave somewhere.  And even if you do, people on the Internet need ministering to, too.).  If you don't know how to minister to a person's particular situation, then read up on the topic.  Like I pointed out before, you have Internet access.  God gave us Wikipedia through common grace for a reason.  Read the articles and related links.  Read books.  (And never give/ recommend books that you haven't read!)  Research (and use discernment!) And ask the person questions.  Ask to understand, but sometimes too many questions can be overwhelming.  Again, use discernment.  You don't have to fix them (you can't/ shouldn't try), but you can walk with them.  Prove that they aren't alone.

Christ first loved us.  He became one of us and walked in our shoes.  He felt our pain, and He spoke with and comforted us.  This is how He understands our weaknesses.  We will never omnisciently know how a brother or sister is suffering.  And we probably won't experience the same things.  But we can follow Christ's model of ministry and learn to relate to others the best way we can, and in the meantime, the Spirit will give us the power, guidance, and discernment we need.  Love your neighbor.  Love the one in need.

Ministry Pt. 2: Commitment

Ministry Pt. 1: Need

Housekeeping notes:  Sorry for the sporadic posting lately.  Between my health and recent changes to my schedule, it's been tough to keep the posting routine.  Technically this post should be yesterday's post, and I have posts lined up for tomorrow and Friday, though.  So hopefully we can get back on track :)

Also, I signed up for a few book review programs where publishers will give me books for free as long as I post reviews on the blog.  I'm waiting for them to come in the mail, but after they do, you guys can look forward to some "Free Friday" book review posts!

Fear Pt 3: Tourette Syndrome and Christ

You know how in those let's-be-honest-and-get-to-know-each-other games, somehow the question of, "What's your biggest fear" comes up?  The thing is, I don't think people are entirely honest about things like that.  Or maybe I'm projecting.  It's easy to say things like spiders or even being crushed by a 2-ton spring-loaded garage door because your parents never bothered upgrading to the metal type that can't kill people (not that I have personal experience with that particular fear or anything), but it's harder to say things that we really fear like "dying alone" or "never 'finding' love."

A few years ago, my unspoken fear was somehow getting a neurological disorder or receiving head trauma that would leave me retarded.  I never said it, but I thought about it.  I was never particularly pretty or athletic or popular, but at the time, I was at the top of my class.  I wouldn't go so far as to say as it "identified" me, but it definitely was the "thing" that I brought to the table.  I didn't want to lose that.

Four years later, I wouldn't exactly say that my fears came true, but my circumstances definitely came close.  Developing a motor tic my first year of college, the diagnosis eventually became Tourette Syndrome (TS) and though it hasn't affected my intellect itself, I definitely look retarded at times (in the most literal way.  I don't know what the PC kids call it now-a-days).  Even after my TS was diagnosed, I feared that it would get worse.  And it did.  And even now, it still continues to get worse.

But I've stopped worrying.  I feel that I've been through enough to make me fearless.  There's no need to worry because worrying never healed anyone, and you might as well make the most of what you have.  Also, I've become convinced that God uses our fears to show His Sovereignty.  What I mean to say is that our fears reveal the areas of our life with which we don't trust God and His Goodness.  We fear because we don't believe God will be enough.  I think God wants to break us of our fears, and the most efficient way for us to learn not to fear is to face them.

We have to walk through the valley of the shadow of death.  At first, we dread the cliffs and the darkness and the unknown, but at the end, we realize that our Shepherd was telling the truth all along.  When He said that He would take care of us, He meant it, and He had the power to follow through.  But we don't know that until we experience it for ourselves.

Fear Pt 2: Testing God

Oops, I had this ready to go, but I didn't get around to posting until Wednesday.

Fear Pt 1: Perfect love casts out fear

Text: Thanks, Jacob, for the idea :)