Thursday, October 11, 2012

God knows what He’s about

When God wants to drill a man,
And thrill a man,
And skill a man,
When God wants to mold a man,
To play the noblest part;
When He yearns with all His heart
To create so great and bold a man
That all the world shall be amazed
Watch His methods, watch His ways!
How He ruthlessly perfects
Whom He royally elects!
How He hammers and hurts him,
And with mighty blows converts
Into trial shapes of clay which
Only God understands;
While his tortured heart is crying
And he lifts beseeching hands!
How he bends but never breaks
When his good He undertakes;
How He uses whom He chooses,
And with every purpose fuses him
By every act induces him
To try His splendor out –
God knows what He’s about.

V. Raymond Edman, 1982 President, Wheaton College The Disciplines of Life

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Sticking to it

A brief chat with Pearl suddenly became a rare opportunity for me to really open up. 

It got me thinking. I never thought the day would come when I would have trouble finding people I could open up to, like, really just run my mouth. Rarely do I expose the soft underbelly of my hopes, doubts, fears and aspirations - except perhaps on this blog. That requires a specifically matured blend of like-mindedness, familiarity and trust. Call me introverted.

Pearl and I reminisced on days of old, way back when I was still “in the world”, when this blog had not yet become an unending series of sermons. Those were wild days for me, but luckily for us both, she was grounded. Kept me in check – at least while we were together. (Quite ironically, we seem to have exchanged shoes – Pearl is “in the world” now.)

Sometimes I catch myself wallowing in nostalgia, brooding longingly on bygone misadventures. This blog’s archive is a witness to what the past entailed. Not infrequently have I looked back at my past with desire. The world was (and remains) full of conveniently placed lures. For all its dangers, life on the edge means constantly surfing the crest of a high and fast wave of pure adrenalin. This thrill alone makes it hard to leave that life behind. I often wonder if my current excuse of a renounced lifestyle is inexcusably pale and lifeless in comparison. I have to struggle with myself to hold down perceived boredom; tears smart in my eyes as I ignore the alter ego’s plaintive and pitiful appeals for attention. Wouldn’t it just be easier to feed the beast, sate its ravenous appetite, once and for all? Or, at least, just this once? Sometimes it seems that is the way to go.

But I know that if I turned back, that would be the really foolish part. The journey lies ahead. Even though I may stumble and fall, it’s not over till it’s over. I must rise again and forge onwards. What is past is left behind. Besides:
James 4:17
Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.
Often I’m tempted to “break out of my shell”, stop being a “weirdo.” More than once I’ve come close to cutting out all this scripture-quoting – it’s not as if people appreciate it anyway – and come down to Planet Earth, return to posting a live-stream of adventures and conquests. (Am I repeating myself?) But it’s funny: I ALWAYS find I can’t live like that and ALSO be true to my conscience – these two are mutually exclusive. I can’t lie to myself and believe it too. If I feign ignorance for too long, it happens like it happened to King David:
PSALM 39:2-3
I was dumb with silence, I held my peace, even from good; and my sorrow was stirred. My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned: then spake I with my tongue.
(Paraphrase to fit my case: “…then blogged I with my blog.” hahaha)

The prophet Jeremiah confessed that, due to ridicule he received, he longed to stop his prophetic duties but found that he simply couldn’t.

Then I said, I will not make mention of [the LORD], nor speak any more His name, But His word was in my heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with foreboding, and I could not stay.
Chapter 20 begins with Jeremiah ridiculed, unjustly spending a night in the stocks, for delivering a prophecy from GOD that nobody at all liked. (He predicted in terrible detail the bloody Babylonian siege and conquest of Jerusalem.) In verses 14-18, a discouraged Jeremiah ends up cursing the day he was born. But despite such mistreatment, he stuck to prophecy anyway. My ‘problems’ are comparatively microscopic. I can stick to Bible-quoting.

The struggle with self continues. (Prayer works.)

Sunday, October 7, 2012



I walked in at what I thought was a respectable hour, only to see that Anita had arrived before me and was seated in her routine position, next to a window on the far right. Most seats were still empty, including the one next to her. She was well-dressed in an exquisitely patterned green dress. With her, if anything is worth wearing, it shall not escape accessorizing with a matching color ensemble. Her Bible lay open on her laps, her gaze was fixed in a thoughtful, preoccupied gaze outside, she was frozen in thought, solemnly staring at nothing specific: a beautiful sight. I settled next to her.

A fit of whispering ensued:

“The prodigal returns.” 
“I’d gone to the village. Camp-meeting week.” 
Ama camp-meeting month! I was saving your seat the whole time.” 

Sitting next to Anita in church is always worthwhile. We sing the hymns with gusto. And we don’t let one another drift off the program and sink into oceans of daydreams, because the other will elbow one’s ribcage. From the way she keeps me on my toes, I suspect she was a particularly unpopular high school prefect some time past, or is just a natural-born tyrant with a refined taste for discipline, or maybe she just plays like that. I DON’T KNOW.

I on the other hand am an unabashedly happy-go-lucky sort. However, Anita’s presence, character and influence make me reflect on my goings deeply, twice.

“You don’t know where Thessalonians is?” she says later on, midway through the sermon, as we turn to scripture at the preacher’s behest. 
“Page 1252.” I’ve just checked my table of contents.
“Fine; after which book?”
“Get off my case,” I deflect.
She assumes a severe look, while reciting all the New Testament books in precise order.
“Impressive.” I say, nodding sagely. “Now, pay attention.”

We get along well. But she makes me sense that my standards could be too low - I fear she’s too perfect for me.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

This Fiery Flesh

The higher brain should dominate the lower brain. In other words, the higher faculties (reason, conviction) should restrain the lower faculties (appetites, passions). To further paraphrase, the base instincts (food, sexual cravings) ought always to be in subjection to good old good sense. This was taught to me in church one afternoon. I found that the teaching sat well in my brain. That was the theory bit. But life is not a written exam.

The practical application is difficult! Mostly, this is because the lower faculties (especially the lust component) have instant reaction times and concretely tangible reflexes – hard to ignore. To further complicate matters, we live in times when the lower faculties are nourished endlessly. This means that whosoever would have their higher faculties guide them MUST constantly be rejecting the prevailing immoral milieu. A difficult task, tiring the brain, and apparently unrewarding for the most part. All it would take to fail would be one inopportune moment of letting down the guard.

Or shall we blame our bodies? As a guy, I believe I speak representatively when I say sex occupies a disproportionate percentage of my gender’s brain CPU and memory usage, for all the effort and ingenuity we collectively expend on pursuing it. And the fashion industry isn’t helping either. So, every other minute, along comes another pretty young lady (un)dressed in the latest fashion whose designer was more concerned with revealing than concealing. What’s a man to do? A defeatist would say we are wired that way; so be it.

One misplaced thought is bad enough; how then can we survive the ongoing 24/7 assault on our minds? The cult of instant gratification observes most seductive rituals, addictive traps for souls. If we escape it in the media, our associates pick it up and bring it into our lives via their talk, fashion, entertainment, lifestyles. This strong liquor is everywhere, maddening, inflaming the nerves, rousing the lower brain on to new conquests.

I think the hardest fight everyone has to fight – on the individual level - is the fight of the higher brain against the lower brain. And we are all called to fight that fight. Avoidance is better than cure, so see no evil, hear no evil. Fortunately, just in case these heated combats somehow arise, we also have a fire extinguisher on hand. It’s called PRAYER. It works every time.