Tuesday, October 30, 2007

For anyone who knows my boss

This announcement was on our company's frontpage website. We're getting quite a kick out of it!

Is Optimism Bad?

I’m reading a book called God on Mute, where the author talks about that frightening topic of why God sometimes appears to be mute. Silent. Distant. The author devotes a section of the book to explaining why God sometimes doesn’t answer our prayers.

The author offers several explanations for why prayers go unanswered, but one of his theories is that life is meant to be hard. He tells the story of a poor sap who encounters several crushing blows – his daughter is sick, he begins to develop a debilitating disease, he is in danger of losing his job, etc. The author asks the guy how he copes without losing faith in God, and the man says something like, “The moment I accepted that life isn’t easy or fair, and that it’s a tough struggle, then I didn’t experience disappointment when bad things happened.”

This is a difficult concept for me. I refer to myself as an eternal optimist, and some days my hope that things will get better is the only thing that sustains me. To give up on this hope and accept that things won’t get better, or that they may get better just before getting bad again, seems defeating, depressing and gloomy. Being an optimist isn’t easy. At least once a month, my expectations and hope endure a jarring shake. I then need a day to recover, rethink my expectations, and get back to the business of hoping for a better day tomorrow.

So, should we lower our expectations for this life and expect the worse? Should we be more surprised when good things happen rather than when bad happens?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Looking Past the Mirage

There's a scene in X-Men 2 when one mutant tries to convince another mutant he is seeing something that doesn't exist. The mirage is very believable - complete with the right atmosphere, characters, voices and script. The problem is, of course, is that it's fake.

Sometimes I think the enemy uses a similar tactic against followers of Jesus. He attempts to paint a picture of doom and gloom, and he uses real characters, situations or comments to create a false reality. Unfortunately, it's all too easy to fall for his version of life rather than to look to the One who gives true hope and life.

One Bible writer described faith as "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen." If I were to define faith I'd say it was "willfully refusing to look at the things and situations around us and opting to look at and trust God."

Or, as one band said, "when you don't understand, when you can't see His plan, when you can't trace His hand, trust His heart."

Broken Boxer


You know I have carefully crafted my castles and have defended them from attack. I guarded, protected, defended and flailed against all perceived enemies who sought to destroy my plans, dreams or expectations. Sadly, I even fought against you.

I said with my mouth, “Thy will be done,” yet I maintained a tight grip on my creation and destination. I intended to move ahead in the direction I decided, and was willing to push against any mountain that blocked my path.

And then I remembered. You said faith could move a mountain, not my strength. You said God guides our steps, not my determination. You have asked if I will trust you and I have responded with a half-hearted “I guess so.”

But I know I can’t bribe you into relenting, nor can I threaten you with silence or abandonment. I have to submit. I have to relent. I have to quit fighting and pushing against you.

God, help me to take off the gloves and to leave them on the table. Help me to mean it when I say, “I trust you and I’ll follow you no matter what.” Forgive me for yelling at you, cursing you and despising you just because you won’t do what I ask when I ask. My head tells me that your plan is better than mine – help my heart to believe this, too.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Saddness = Not Enough Coffee

I’m addicted to coffee. I’ve heard that admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery, and one lovely lady spent months lecturing me about the dangers of caffeine so I’m sure this will make her happy. She also swore that smoothies make for nice substitutions when the brain begins craving coffee, but that’s nonsense.

The thing is, though, if something as innocent and widely-available like coffee makes me feel good, tastes good and helps others (like coffee-bean growers), then how can it be so bad? And if the benefits outweigh the negative, then shouldn’t I just go with it and ignore the symptoms of an addition: cravings; headaches and irritability when detoxing; daydreams about lovely brown cups holding rich, aromatic liquid joy?

I’m afraid to analyze this question because I’m afraid it’ll lead to deeper introspection about other addictions in my life, like my addiction to speed and adrenaline (hurry, hurry, don’t slow down!); my need for me-time, at the expense of shutting out developing relationships; my craving to control situations around me and the terror I feel at letting go; and my flesh’s insistence that I think about me and my entitlements, plans and desires.

See, this is why I shouldn’t think about my dependence on coffee …

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Unknown purpose

Years ago, I went to India. I was following in my college friends' footsteps, all of whom raved about their time in Kota. So I went. And I hated.

Unbeknownst to me, the group I connected with was a singing group who spent the entire trip traveling around town giving impromptu concerts. I, along with a handful of others, were left to either stay at the orphanage or play the role of groupies. But even the orphanage was difficult to stomach. The children didn't appear to be living in conditions much better than the homeless children, and so many of the children told stories about sleeping with rats that I cringed whenever I visited them in their rooms.

The day after I returned from India I contracted a weird bug and lost my voice for a week. I remember thinging, "Why did I waste the time and money on such a miserable experience?" Ah, yes, fond memories.

But the strangest thing happened last week. I was talking with my Indian neighbors about an upcoming Indian festival, and I mentioned that I had visited Kota. The wife immediately opened up to me and began sharing stories about Indian culture, tips on Indian restaurants, and invitations to drop by for authentic curry. She also invited us to this weekend's festival and promised to introduce us to all her friends.

I've lived here for two years and had yet to have a meaningful conversation with this neighbor. I'd never have thought God would have used my college trip to Kota as a bridge to a (hopefully) fruitful friendship.