Posts Tagged ‘Hope’

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“LOW VALUE PROBLEM SOLVING” – Feb. 3

February 3, 2017

“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things.  Blessed be his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory!”  Psalm 72:18-19

The following is a devotion I was allowed to share with students at a recent NCFCA National Open tournament in Spokane, WA.  I hope you find it encouraging.


Iintel have been reading a book by Andy Grove, former CEO of Intel, called “High Output Management”.  It is not a Christian book and I don’t know if Andy Grove was a Christian.  This is, as the title suggests, a book on management.

I read a statement in his book regarding the manufacturing process that I found profound enough to post it on Instagram (@blom.jd), which is the true measurement of a quote.  I believe this singular sentence encapsulates a truth that goes beyond the production of widgets or the motivation of employees.  He stated:

 A common rule we should always try to heed is to detect and fix any problem in a production process at the lowest-value stage possible.

Obviously, the context of his statement is manufacturing.  Simply, it is better to remedy a problem as close to the raw materials of a manufacturing process as possible.  It really is a common-sense statement.  It is always better to discover a problem before you make continued investments of time, money, intellect, and a myriad of resources.

However, there is a universality of this simple principle that goes beyond business.  Simply change the words, production process, and you may see a much wider application.

A common rule we should always try to heed is to detect and fix a problem in our relationships, friendships, school studies, debate case, speeches, at the lowest-value stage possible.  Doesn’t that make sense?

When is the best time to dump a problematic debate case or a cluttered speech?

At the last tournament, after you have invested much time and effort or
before the season even begins?

Obviously, it will be far better to address the problem before the season starts,
at the lowest-value stage.

It makes sense.

This morning I look out and see a crowd of individuals who are at a very low-value stage.  Now, don’t be offended; “he called me low-value”.  I did not.  I am observing that most of you are at the beginning of your potential.  You are at the starting line of a myriad of different paths.  Soon, you will be making massive investments in the subsequent steps on your individual paths that we call life.

Therefore, is it not sensible to try to detect and
fix any problems at this early stage in your life?

I can tell you as a middle-aged man who has had to address problems later in life, at “higher value” stages of life, that it gets much more difficult and messy the longer you wait to address a problem.  Therefore, my first advice to you this morning is to live by the simple principle:

It is far better to detect and fix problems when they are small and manageable,
before they become difficult and messy problems.

The Jonathan Edwards Collection 20 Classic Works Kindle EditionMy next advice is associated with how to detect and fix these small problems in our lives, which leads me to another book I am reading, the Complete works of Jonathan Edwards.  The other day I posted this quote from my readings to Instagram.

Let us endeavor to obtain, and increase in, a sensibleness of our great dependence on God, to have our eye to him alone, to mortify a self-dependent and self-righteous disposition.

I look out upon you all this morning, and I see the sovereign hand of God.  I see a generation being raised in the power of the Holy Spirit for the challenges of a time yet to come.  I see excellence elicited, skills sharpened, intellect ignited for what, I do not know but I do know that it is for a purpose.

This is all for a purpose.

Therefore, I implore you this morning hear Jonathan Edwards’ advice because I know of few problems that have a greater potential to seep into your life and ruin all of this wonderful potential then problems from the seeds of self-dependence and self-righteousness.  If you do not detect them early then they will manifest themselves later in your life, at higher-value stages, when it will be much more painful and destructive.

  • Take on an attitude of imperfection; continually, daily, seeking out problems before they are difficult and messy problems.
  • Endeavor to obtain and increase in the sensibleness of your complete dependence on God; it truly is sensible – learn what that means and increase in that understanding.
  • Start a practice of setting your eyes on Him alone. Learn how to control your mind.
  • Start a practice of mercilessly putting to death an attitude of self-dependence.  You are who you are by the grace of God alone.
  • Prune every bud of self-righteousness, before you and others are forced to taste its bitter fruit.

I earnestly encourage you, today, to live a life that endeavors to set your mind on the things of the Spirit.  Allow the Spirit today, through the grace of God, to increase your dependence on the one who has rescued your soul and be obedient to your calling.

PRAYER: Lord, I pray that you will reveal the roots of self-dependence, the buds of self-righteousness that we are harboring unaware.  Show us how sensible it is to depend upon you.  Empower us in our endeavor to live a life that is killing self-dependence and self-righteousness and glorifies you in all that we do.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

 

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“PURE WORDS” – April 13

April 13, 2016

“The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times.”  Psalm 12:6

ncfcaThis past week I had the occasion to attend another NCFCA speech and debate tournament with my family.  I was afforded the opportunity to be a parent judge on multiple speech and debate rounds.  As a result, I had the privilege of judging the finals of the Biblical Presentation speeches.

This was the first time I had witnessed Biblical Presentation as it is a new event this year in the NCFCA.  “Biblical presentation is a speech that creatively develops and presents one or two selections of scriptures in an effort to foster understanding of God’s word, deepen the speaker’s Christian faith, and encourage the listener”.  NCFCA Speech

I now have a new favorite speech category.  I could not get enough of these speeches.  Each speech presented warmed my soul because at their core, each speech was the pure Word of God.  I got to listen to approximately 80 minutes of teenagers presenting 8-10 minutes each of memorized biblical passages, word for word,  in extremely engaging and creative ways.

There was one in particular that is still blessing me.  The speaker was not the most creative.  She did not have the most powerful or engaging voice.  She did not have the most dynamic interpretation.  However, she made the most significant impact on me in her 10 minutes.  She presented two of her favorite passages from Isaiah in such a genuine and heart-felt manner that tears welled up in my eyes from the unadulterated beauty of God’s word.

It was almost startling to hear sacred words simply spoken.   I was not preoccupied by her presentation.  Her interpretation was not a distraction.  On the contrary, I was drawn into the words.  I was captured by the Spirit.  I was renewed in the wonderful truths that filled the room with each utterance.

In recollecting that speech, I have been struck by the reality of how rare it is for us to simply hear the Word of God earnestly spoken in its entirety as the author intended.  So often, we sit silently reading our Bibles or we hear a few verses read before a Pastor spends an hour telling us what they mean.

Both are needed and good so I am not being critical.

However, the presentation of Isaiah reminded me of the power of the Word of God and the benefit from simply listening to the pure words of the Lord.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for the opportunity to hear anew the purity of your Word.  Thank you for showing me the beauty of inspired scripture.  I pray for all of those who are memorizing and sharing your Words through the NCFCA.  I pray that you will bless each one of these competitors and write your word on their hearts.   I pray that the purity of your words will abound and refine all those who hear for their enrichment and your glory.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

 

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“BIRDS OF A FEATHER…” – Feb. 29

February 29, 2016

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”  John 10:27

Cowboy_popup-webMy wife and I recently were in a local appliance store.  As we perused our freezer options, a cowboy sauntered in from the back of the store.   I say sauntered because that is exactly how he walked.  His boots making the familiar clack-tap with each step on the hardwood floor.  It seemed like a slow, relaxed echo from a saloon of the old-west.

As I turned, I saw exactly what I expected to see.  The epitome of a cowboy -worn cowboy boots with a little manure clinging to the heel, Wrangler jeans, large belt buckle of rodeo origin, leather vest over a western shirt, a handle-bar mustache, and a dirty black cowboy hat.

I watched him make his transaction and he sounded exactly as I expected.  He talked with the cashier in a slow, western drawl, about the weather, hunting, work to be done, and the superiority of cash to credit cards as he pulled two hundred dollars of twenties from his leather wallet.

“Now, there is a unique individual”, I thought but then I immediately wondered “is he?”  Could he really be my personified ideal of an individual if I knew exactly what he would look and sound like?  He was the epitome of cowboy; that is not unique.

In a society that idealizes the concept of individualism, I see few examples of truly unique individuals.

Consider the labels:   Cowboy Nerd Hipster Poet Biker Goth Academic Artsy Devote Musician

The images associated with these labels that flash through our brains are probably very similar.  There are stereotypes for even those who many consider the most unique of our society.

It seems that there are few truly distinct individuals and I wonder the extent to which any human lives uniquely.  Even the most unique among us still end up in some stereotypical flock.  We often confuse individualism with genius or exceptionalism or independence.  For me, the truly unique individual is the one who lives outside the imposed influence of society in general and his own neighborhood in specific.

Yet, is that even possible?  More importantly, is that a state that should be desired?

I was recently watching some videos on birds flocking.

The mesmerizing movement of these flocks make it seem like an orchestrated control over the mass.  Yet, we know that the actions are the agglomeration of each animal’s individual decisions based upon a local perception of their surrounding.

Science does not know how birds flock without sheer chaos and crashes.  Wayne Potts studied birds flocking in 1984.  He found that the turning of flock can spread from bird to bird three times faster than any individual bird’s reaction time.  This suggests that there is not much thinking occurring within each individual bird as they fly along.  They are most likely responding unconsciously to the actions around them.

The most interesting explanation of this phenomenon has come through the attempts to simulate flocking in computer animation.   Craig Reynolds developed three rules that are still the basis of flocking simulations:

  1. Avoid collisions with nearby flockmates
  2. Attempt to match the speed of nearby flockmates; collisions are unlikely if the velocity of the individuals are similar.
  3. Attempt to stay close to the nearby flockmates; there is a stronger influence of nearby neighbors than distant members of the flock.

I wonder, if we could achieve a broader perspective, whether the activities of man would appear more like the random motion of a flock’s unconscious decisions rather than a choreographed pattern of deliberated reason.

How many times have you wondered, “how did I get here”?

Just as a bird may be baffled by how it came to alight in a field miles from its origin, I often feel swept away from principles and priorities to find myself in a cultural landscape far from my origin.  We are all influenced by friends and family.  We are inundated by beliefs and values through education and entertainment.  It seems as if norms are cast aside without much thought or consideration.

I’m baffled by where we often find ourselves.

I wonder if we humans are more influenced by the Reynolds’ rules of flocking than we care to admit.  Soren Kierkegaard referred to it as being lost to the finite, which is mindlessly following social conventions.  It is accepting the current paradigm of expectations without consideration.  Consider the bird in a flock; that bird probably thinks that it is acting as an individual but it is really at the mercy of those around it.  That bird has lost its individuality to the finite influences of the flock.

The scary part is that the bird doesn’t even realize what it has lost
– its individuality.

Let’s use Reynolds’ rules of flocking to evaluate the individuality of our personal decision making:

  1. Are you conflict adverse? Will you go along with ideas or activities that you don’t agree with simply because you don’t want to offend or be excluded?  If your first tendency is to subjugate your actions to those of others, then you might be flocking.
  2. Do you simply accept the ideas of experts? Do you match the actions of those you respect because surely they have thought it through?  If your tendency is to receive thoughts rather than think them, then you might be flocking.
  3. Is your identity associated with affiliations? Do you follow along with the group for fear of being left behind?  If you tend to move with your community even when it is turning away from core beliefs, then you might be flocking.

Every person who has bucked these rules have found themselves outside the flock.  I think that the reason we see so few true individuals is due to the fact that living outside the flock is hard.  In fact, I don’t think that we were ever meant to live outside the flock.

The problem is that we often choose the wrong flock.

I believe that we created flock.  We were created to flock to God.  We were meant to instinctively know and follow God.  The problem arises when we substitute the voice of God with the voice of man.

The truly unique individual is the one following the voice of the Shepherd because only He truly knows each person in the unique personhood.  True self is only found in relationship with God.

Let’s use Reynolds’ rules of flocking to consider what flocking to God might look like:

  1. You avoid collisions with God. You know that sin causes conflict with the Shepherd.  Therefore, you strive toward obedience to the will of God in your life.  If your first tendency is to subjugate your actions to God, then you’re probably flocking to your Shepherd.
  2. You match everything to the Word of God. You don’t simply accept the ideas of others but you examine those ideas to the scriptures to see if they are true.  When you match your beliefs with the Bible, collision with God are unlikely and you’re probably flocking to your Shepherd.
  3. You strive to stay close to the leadings of the Spirit. The Shepherd takes each of us through life with many meandering turns.  If your tendency is to follow even when you don’t understand, then you’re probably flocking to your Shepherd.

The Church should be a conglomeration of truly unique individuals.  It should be a beautiful flow of individuals, each participating from their unique personhood revealed through their relation to the Good Shepherd.

There should be a stereotypes for those who are in Christ – the image of Christ and the Fruit of the Spirit.  Unfortunately, that is often not the stereotype that Christians are known for.  The problem rises from the fact that too many who profess Christ are still lost in the finite and flocking to the mentality of man.

We, as unique individuals in Christ, have the continuous task of keeping our flocking instinct focused on the correct initiator.  The hardest of all tasks is to recognize when we are quietly losing our self to the influences of the world rather than influencing it.

quote-Henry-Ward-Beecher

Living as a unique individual in relation to God is rare because it is hard.

Obedience to God will result in conflict with people.
You may be hated for your refusal to follow the flow of man.
“…but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world,
therefore the world hates you.”  John 15:19b
But take heart, God has overcome the world!
We will always be secure.

Following the Bible as the inspired Word of God will result in being excluded.
You may be ridiculed for clinging to traditions or supposed doctrines of bygone days.
“Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes?  
There is more hope for a fool than for him.”  Proverbs 26:12
But take heart, we have a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul,
the hope of those who through faith and patience
will inherit the promise – eternal life.

Following the path God has laid before you will result in periods of isolation.
You may find yourself abandoned and alone as others drift after the ideas of man.
“I know your works.  Behold, I have set before you an open door,
which no one is able to shut.  I know that you have but little power,
and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.”  Rev. 3:8
But take heart, we are never abandoned or forsaken.  
We are loved!

Living as a truly unique individual, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, will be hard but the promise of the joy set before us will be so worth all that we may have to patiently endure.  Keep your eye on Jesus!  He will never fail you.

PRAYER: Lord, help me to truly follow you and you alone.  Help me to hear you voice.  Show me where I am being influenced by the ideas and opinions of people.  Enable me to resist my inclinations to go along with the flock.  Give me strength to stand alone.  Give me endurance to stay on course to the open door that you have laid before me.  Help me to keep your word.  Father, I want to imitate you.  I want to be a reflection of your loving kindness. I want to embody the hope that you have given me.  Lord, may all I do bring glory to your name.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

“The greatest hazard of all, losing one’s self, can occur very quietly in the world, as if it were nothing at all. No other loss can occur so quietly; any other loss – an arm, a leg, five dollars, a wife, etc. – is sure to be noticed.”
― Søren Kierkegaard

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“LOSE IT” – Feb. 22

February 22, 2016

“Every athlete exercises self-control in all things.  They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.  1 Corinthians 9:25

“How could I have let this happen?”

This was my thought as I stepped off of the scales about a month ago.  In April of 2015, I wrote FAT DENIED  which chronicled my struggle with weight.  After writing that post, I continued to lose weight and got down to 182 lb.lose-weight-now-300x200

I felt great. 

My Strava account  testifies to the fact that I broke more PRs (personal records) from April through September, 2015 than at any other time.  I had demonstrated that the unnecessary layer of fat around my torso was the great hindrance to my athletic performance.  I was committed to keeping the weight off.

And then, the off-season happened;
My calendar cleared of all races;
Daylight savings robbed me of training after work;
And I ate my way through the holidays.

I was staring in disgust at a number on my scale that I had allowed to happen in just 4 months.  I had never wanted to see 190 lbs. again and here I was staring at 200 lbs.

“How could I have let this happen?”

Actually, I know exactly how it happened.  It is not a mystery.

I lacked self-control.

I ate more food than my activity level could burn off.  A snack here and there.  I ate a little extra of this and that.  I had maybe seconds and sometimes thirds, which was all  it took to make the numbers on the scale start to climb.   I am frustrated and disappointed with myself because this is completely on me.

I lacked self-control.

So, I have started again.  I have begun to lose that same 20 lbs. but I am not following a diet.  I am not subscribing to some method.  My weight loss strategy is simply self-control.  I have already learned what I should be eating.  I know how to exercise.

My issue is self-control.

Therefore, I am utilizing a self-control tool.  I am using the LOSE IT! app to help me maintain self-control.  I am not dieting.  I am seeking to live a balanced life.   After I reach my weight goal, I want my calories in to be roughly equal to my calories out.  I want to lose weight at this time.  So, I want my calories in to be less than my calories out.  I need data to help my self-control.

The LOSE IT app allows me to set a weight goal level and the date that I want to achieve it.  Based on those parameters, I have a daily calorie account.  I log what I eat and the app tallies it up.  I log my exercise and the app subtracts the calories burned from my total.  The goal is to keep each day below my daily calorie total.

I have found it to be an incredibly helpful self-control tool.

Several times I have climbed on by bicycle trainer, when I didn’t feel like it, simply to burn some calories because I had eaten too much.
I have foregone seconds and certainly thirds because I know how many calories that I have left for the day.
I am better at keeping my hand out of the nut jar because I know how many calories are in a handful.

I realize that some will think that I am being legalistic about my use of the LOSE IT app.  However, they don’t value my goals.  What they term legalistic, I define as self-control.  I wish that I did not need to use the LOSE IT app.  I know a buffet is not beneficial for me.  I wish that I could be free to eat whatever I wanted without any detrimental effects to my goals.   I can’t.

I lack self-control.

I could not help but think of the spiritual application of my recent weight gain experience.  Paul encourages us to live a life of self-control.

But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.  1 Corinthians 9:27

What does a self-control life look like to you? 
I think many may be too quick to confuse self-control with legalism.

The problem with legalism is that it is self-control with the wrong goal.  Legalism seeks righteousness through works but lack love for God.  Self-control seeks to love God by eliminating the stumbling blocks to our weaknesses.  I know that all things are free to me but all things are not beneficial.

I have to live in the world but I don’t want to be of the world.  Therefore, I can only consume a certain amount of the world; I have to exercise the spiritual disciplines to stay strong.   This is how I maintain a balanced spiritual life.

Some may criticize me for being legalistic.
Others may call me licentious.

However, I know what my spiritual goals are.  I know the race that I am in.  I am not running aimlessly.  I am not boxing as one beating the air.  I have learned the areas in which I have freedom and those in which I need self-control.  I know how to practice the spiritual disciplines.OpenBible

Based on those parameters, I strive to live as one who is running to obtain the prize.

How about you?

Do you have a spiritual goal?
Do you know your weaknesses?
Do you practice any spiritual disciplines?

Are you running to obtain the prize?

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for giving me a hope that surpasses this world.  Thank you for completing the work  you have started in me.  Thank you for giving me weakness.  Thank you for teaching me discipline.  Father, help me to live a balanced life that strives to glorify you.   Help me to be in the world but not of it.  Enable me to run as one running to obtain the prize.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

Please feel free to follow me on Strava or Lose It!

Francis Chan

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“DID ANYONE NOTICE” – Jan. 28

January 28, 2016

“And he said to me, “Son of Man, do you see what they are doing, the great abominations that the house of Israel are committing here, to drive me far from my sanctuary?…” Ezekiel 8:6

This is a post inspired by this article from Pew Research Center: Global Christianity – A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World’s Christian Population


 

If your life never spanned beyond a day, would you know the sun sets?
If a shadow never moved, would you recognize the dimming of radiance?
If Fall never yielded to Winter, could you comprehend a sweltering sun?

How can you miss what you’ve never known?

Did any Priests see it go?  Did any holy man know?
Did the sacrifices seem different?  Did the smoke feel distant?
Did worshipers sense an absence?  Did any prayers miss His presence?

Did anyone notice God’s glory go?  Did anyone see a covenant’s closing show?

“Then the glory of the Lord went out from the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubim.”  Ezekiel 10:18

What did the next generation think?  What did they accept as normal, natural or spiritually chic?  They would never know a temple filled with the Holy One’s blinding brightness; an inner chamber clouded with a living God’s danger.  How could they know it had become a show?

They were confined to their own time. Their experience in traditions ways. Yet, God’s plan spans every generations day.

How can you miss what you’ve never known?

Has Western Civilization’s time come?  Are we too living in age where “spiritual” is more of the theatrical?  Has anyone noticed God’s glory go?

lede_globalchristianityI don’t know how the Spirit flows.  I don’t know from whence He comes or where He goes.  I don’t know if this time is a Spiritual high or low.

Was the early Church the pinnacle?
How am I supposed to know?

Was the Great Awakening better?
If it is true, should I be bitter?

Are today’s abominations more than times long ago?
There is no one left who really knows.

What happened to the faithful in Ezekiel’s day?  Those who sighed over admonition’s sway?  When God’s glory left, did they still obey?

“And the Lord said to him, “Pass through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it.”  Ezekiel 9:4

What if the glory of God has lifted once again?  Am I of a time filled with mere traditional feign?  Has He gone forth from the north; preferring the austere of the other hemisphere?

Am I hanging onto an echo from another day?
How can I know what is beyond show?

I’m confined to my own time.  My experience bound in traditions ways.  Yet, God’s plan spans even my generation’s day.

I’m prone to compare the temperature of my soul; gauging my fire on a consensus poll.  I have my traditional ways but from what era?  It is hard to say.

It may not matter.  Who am I to say to the Potter, “I should be the primary vessel of the day”.

What I do know, is that the Spirit comes and goes.

He resides within me; marking me for eternity.  I am called to follow but not to know.  I don’t know if this time is a Spiritual high or low.
All I know is I want more.

So, I will continue to sign and groan over abominations secret and known.
I will continue to pray as a social dissenter from a place no longer at the epicenter.

I will continue to give my life, heart, and soul, to the One whose glory overflows.

“And the glory of the Lord went up from the cherub to the threshold of the house, and the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was filled with the brightness of the glory of the Lord.”  Ezekiel 10:4

PRAYER: Lord, I read the news about all the abominations celebrated and normalized.  I watch friends and family accept ways contrary to your world with an indifference to what you have called sin.  Father, I sigh and groan as someone who is not home.  Keep me uncomfortable with this world. Conform me to your will.  Transform me into a slave of righteousness.  Help me to understand my time.  Lord, do not harden this generation.  Do not leave my society in its works of flesh.  Father, send your Spirit to move mightily in this time; revive us Lord.  Draw this rebellious generation to salvation.    I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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“DON’T JUDGE ME – I’M A FAN” – Jan. 3

January 3, 2016

“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things.  Blessed be his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory!”  Psalm 72:18-19

I have struggled for motivation to climb upon my bicycle while it is clamped into the trainer.   However, I have to do something because the digits on my scale are continuing to increase inversely to the outdoors temperatures.  I’ve sought may aids to curb the monotony of a cycling trainer; music, cycling training videos, Tour de France videos, sermons, audiobooks, and even stand-up comics.  None has been able to keep me contentedly pedaling beyond 30 minutes.

However, I finally found my tonic for trainer tedium – Dark Matter.

Dark_Matter_Intertitle

My tonic is not the invisible matter constituting the majority of the universe.  Mine comes from the Syfy channel.  I got hooked on this story of a spaceship crew who awakens from stasis with no memory of who they are, what they have done, or why they are on board a mercenary spaceship.

I love a good story and if it is set in space, then it’s even better.

I saved watching Dark Matter as the carrot before my motionless bike.  I easily pedaled through each episode as subsequent adventures revealed mysteries of forgotten pasts.  I was actually starting to look forward to my time on that accursed contraption when it all came to an end.

The final episode of Season 1 successfully left me spinning on the edge of my saddle, wanting to know what will happen next.  I went to click on Season 2, to spin through another episode, but made a stark discovery.

There is no Season 2.

I was done.  I climbed off my bike and felt that familiar disdain for my next date with the trainer.  I searched the internet to discover whether there was another season with a growing concern.  I learned more about Dark Matter than I had intended.  I learned about the actors and the production.  I read reviews, both positive and negative.  I was delighted to find that there will be another season but annoyed to know that it is only in production.

I even discovered the WordPress blog of Joseph Mallozzi – Josephmallozzi’s Weblog.  He is the co-writer and creator of Dark Matter.  He has a lot of behind the scene photos of the current filming of Dark Matter on his blog.  I flipped through each post in my developing sense of fandom.

I learned that Dark Matter was originally a comic book that Joseph Mallozzi co-wrote.  So, I did what any newly minted fan would do.  I got on Amazon to see if I could buy one.  I’m a little embarrassed to admit that the compilation book of all four comics should arrive in two days.  I haven’t bought myself a comic book in three decades.

Don’t judge me, I’m a fan.

I find it interesting that I wasn’t really a fan of Dark Matter while Netflix held a trove of unwatched episodes.

It wasn’t until the streaming dried up that I even thought about the writer.
It wasn’t until the entertainment stopped that I began searching.
It wasn’t until I was forced to wait that I became a fan.

My reaction to Dark Matter reminded me of this quote from A.W. Pink.

Pink

I can testify to these dry seasons of the soul.

Most Christians will experience these periods of drought
if they follow Christ any length of time.

It is part of sanctification.

Have you ever wondered why we experience these periods where the river of God’s presence feels like it has dried up?

Some may say that these seasons are periods of preparation or testing or due to sin.  I agree in part.

However, I wonder if dry periods are simply a process to make us into fans.

When I enter a dry period, I tend to think more about God.  I confess that my thoughts often sound like complaints, “why is God doing this to me”, but my eyes definitely get focused back on Him.

When I feel spiritually lethargic, I tend to search more earnestly in His word.  I start digging into the mysteries of God and realize that I am usually not even asking the right questions.

When I am waiting on God, I inevitably begin to ask myself, who I am waiting for, which brings me back to the Gospel, the wonderful treasure of the good news of Jesus Christ and I become more of a fan.

A dry period  will inevitably
bring me to the glory of God.

It will make me a fan.

When I am a fully glorifying fan:

I am prepared to follow Christ in whatever He has called me to do.

I am ready to persevere through the suffering and trials that are before me.

I am willing to turn my back on the temptations of this world for the surpassing worth of my loving Savior.

The lukewarm Christian is a lukewarm fan.

Christians should be more enthusiastic than any of the fans in a sports stadium.

Our demeanor should clothe us as followers of Christ more than any avid comic con attendees.

Our homes should proudly display our fandom of the One.

We were created to be fans; we were created to worship.
A true fan should be easy to spot.

God wants us to be easy to spot.
God wants us to be true fans.
He is willing to take us through those dry periods to teach us that our fandom rests only in Him.

PRAYER: Lord, I pray that you will make me into a fan.  Help me to want to join my voice with that of the Psalmist and declare your wondrous deeds in unabashed fandom.  Help me to accept the dry seasons.  Help to see that you are taking me to greater happiness.  Father, do your work in me even when I am not fully cooperating.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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“FALLING INTO OPTIMAL” – Dec. 15

December 15, 2015

“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”  Romans 5:3-5

I finally resolved to get on the trainer and spin.

For thirty minutes, I sat in the comfort of my couch, glancing into the adjoining room at the taunting image of my bike on the trainer.  The passage of time persuaded me that if a workout was going to happen, I had to get started.  So, I grumbled my way upstairs to change into some workout clothes thinking, “I just need to get this over with”.

Work clothes were quickly exchanged for cycling garb, a glass filled with water, and my new Surface Pro tablet tucked under my arm (I have taken to watching Netflix whileI spin; it helps to pass the time).  I began my descent into my personnel pain cave, quickly shuffling down the stairs with my stocking feet.

About two-thirds down the carpeted stairs, my feet suddenly slipped from one stair run, skipped off the next, and in an instant my balance was emptied while my hands remained full.  That would not last long.  Water splashed in my face as my tablet was flung down the remaining steps.  I crashed down on the steps, feet and arms in the air, without any time breaking my fall.  A stair rung bearing deeply into my ribs under the brunt of my falling mass.

I must have rocked the foundation of the house because my wife and kids were at the bottom of the stairs by the time I slid to the landing, wondering what had happened.

I would not be going for a spin on that night.

My fall happened nine days ago.  The carpet burns have healed nicely.  However, my ribs are another matter.  I had hoped that they were just bruised but as the days have passed, I have begun to accept that there might be more damage.  A couple ribs may have been broken; not really broken but just cracked a little bit; probably just bruised deeply.

There are some things that no cyclist can resist, particularly those who live in areas that have real winters – a moderate day in December.  We had just such a day, six days after my fall.  It was perfect weather, no falling moisture, temperatures around forty degrees, winds moderate.  Bruised ribs or not, I could not let this day slip by.

I left work early and soon had my tri-bike out on the rural roads near my home.  I quickly discovered that my ribs were happy only in one position.  Everything was pleasant, as long as I stayed down on my aero-bars.  It was not nearly as pleasant entering and exiting the aero-position.  As a result, I had one of my best rides since I stayed in the most aero-dynamic position for duration of the ride.

Sometimes not being able to assume our preferred position
forces us in the optimal position.

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(That is me on a tri-bike, wet roads, taking a selfie with broken ribs.
I didn’t say it was a good idea, just an irresistible one.)

My ribs got me to thinking about suffering.  I know how I fell down my stairs, but don’t know why.  I don’t know why most bad things happen.   However, the Bible consistently teaches that suffering is not necessarily a bad thing.  In fact, we are told that we should rejoice in our suffering.  I am not very good at rejoicing in my suffering.

Yet, I wonder if suffering is similar to my cycling experience.  Suffering forces us out of our preferences.  Suffering forces out of our strengths.  Suffering forces us out of our self-reliance.

Suffering forces us out of our preferred position and into the optimal position.

“Heartache forces us to embrace God out of desperate, urgent need.
God is never closer than when your heart is aching.”
~Joni Eareckson Tada

Anyone who has suffered, knows that it will force you down on your knees in reliance upon God and keep you there.  What could be more optimal than that?

That optimal position will produce endurance, character, and hope.  Those are all exceptional results – we just have to stay down to receive them.

“Suffering provides the gym equipment on which my faith can be exercised.”
~Joni Eareckson Tada

PRAYER: Lord, I pray that you will heal my ribs quickly.  Help me to understand suffering.  Help me to accept suffering in my own life and the lives of others.  Father, do your work in us.  Don’t leave us as we are.  Create in us the hope that will not disappoint by the means that you choose.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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