Improving your eyesight

I am eagerly awaiting some new glasses to help me read easier. The bill for them will not be so welcome, but it has stimulated my thinking about eyesight and how precious it is.

Without vision I could not navigate through my days, I’d be reduced to fumbling around home until I could get someone to guide me where I wanted to go. Even then I’d be more of a liability than an asset at work, unable to view the computer screen, restricted to verbal communication tools and oblivious to most of what is happening. My primary means of taking in information would be taken from me – reading. Without being able to read I feel as though I would shrivel up!

Protecting our eyes

We all have reflexes which help to protect our eyes: blinking, tears, turning the face away, not looking directly at the sun. Then we take this a step further in some situations to wear protective safety glasses at work and sunglasses in bright sunlight. If our eyesight is impaired we go to an optometrist to get corrective lenses. Most of us value vision very highly, we like to be able to see clearly. Blind people know that there is a dimension of life which they are not able to experience due to being unable to see.

Eyes of the heart

According to the Bible there is a realm of existence which we are unable to detect with our physical sense. The spiritual world is invisible to us, no matter how good your natural vision is. Without God’s work in us we are blind to God’s grace, sometimes having a hint of it’s existence but remaining unable to experience it.

having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,
(Ephesians 1:18 ESV)

Even once we are renewed by God we need some work on the eyes of our heart so that we can see better. (I almost wrote ‘properly’ but I doubt we ever actually see properly in this life). We are all sinners and so must rely upon the corrective lenses of Scripture to fix our myopia. We also need help from others who know the path and can help us know where the pitfalls and stumbling blocks are which cannot be seen in our blind spots.

And don’t forget that there is one who throws sand in our faces to blind us to the gospel:

In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
(2 Corinthians 4:4 ESV)

So keep returning to the Bible, to wise counsellors, and to God in prayer that He will open the eyes of your heart. Also remember that much wise counsel and eye-opening assistance comes from the words written by other reliable Christians:

 I will keep coming back to anyone who helps me see and be astonished at what is in front of my face — anyone who can help heal me from the disease of “seeing they do not see.” (John Piper, Why Chesterton’s Anti-Calvinism Doesn’t Put Me Off)

Gifts I have noticed recently:

934) New coffee mug with a message I needed on it.
935) Some quiet time to ponder and read the Bible.
936) A potential new opportunity.
937) Renewed hope.
938) Disappointment leading to re-evaluation.
939) Morning bustle of the people I love most around me.
940) Slowing my mind and doing one thing at a time.
941) Watching home movies from 5 years ago.
942) The marvel of an e-reader, an entire library in my pocket!

Image: iStock

Small opportunities

Joining 5 minute Friday when we write for five minutes, link up over at The Gypsy Mama and have fun reading each other’s posts.

This week the topic is opportunity, Go:

This is the word I have chosen as my focus for 2012: opportunity. So many years have drifted past in which there were plenty of opportunities that I’ve not used, so this year I want to catch at least some of those that come my way. To harness my life to the opportunities before me and make something worthwhile of what I’m given.

Yet in the nitty gritty tiredness of life grasping hold of of big opportunities seems too hard some days. Still, there are smaller opportunities which I can take.

Such as reading that Bible story to the kids before bed.

Making a cup of tea for my lovely wife who is every bit as tired as I am.

The moments it takes to pray for my children before they go to sleep.

And then, finally, the opportunity to relax!

A cure is not what I need

They say time is money, but that’s not true. Time is life.God gives us time. And who has time for God
(Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts p64) 

My soul is like teflon to this message. I strive and scheme, filling my heart and mind with plans and ponderings about how to make things better. Yet the better I seek may in fact be the present I already have in Christ.

As I seek ways to be happier, more content, less at the mercy of serotonin and synapses, I have filled my ‘to-do’ list with ever more stuff that only has potential to be helpful. In pursuing my list of possible cures I’ve forsaken some of what has proven to be essential in the past. I try to go faster, to make more happen, only to crash and burn. Weakness forces me to stop, to simply be for a while.

God did not call me to cure my life but to live it. To live it in Him, giving thanks for grace.

Gifts I have noticed recently:

910) The quiet joy of writing with pen on paper.
911) Church bells ringing.
912) A good, long night’s sleep.
913) It was an old pair of jeans I ripped when I slipped over and hurt my knee.
914) Permanent reminder to seek joy by thanking God.
915) Tradesmen to fix the hash I made of our bathroom.
916) New bath installed, finally!
917) Honest discussions about the darkness that haunts me.
918) An understanding boss.
919) Slowing down to think thankfully.
920) Tiredness beckoning me to sleep.
921) The doctor was right and my cynicism was wrong.
922) Chatting to Mum and Dad on the phone.
923) My brother getting the job he wanted.
924) The end of my work week.
925) A friend being told, “it isn’t cancer”
926) Children all tucked warm in their beds on a cold stormy night.
927) Warm water on my skin on a cold morning.
928) A new TV.
929) A rabbit hopping along George street!!
930) City lights sparkling like the frost on the footpath.
931) Pink sunrise reflected in frozen puddles.
932) Only slipping once on the ice.
933) Hockey stick, violin and a shoebox house careless on a bedroom floor – instruments of an active child’s living.

Christians get depressed too

I have recently finished reading Christians Get Depressed Too by David Murray (the Kindle version). The overall thrust of the book is to correct the common idea amongst Christians that depression is caused by sin or a broken relationship with God and that taking antidepressants is to exhibit a lack of faith. Murray outlines the various factors which appear to contribute to depression and presses the point that for many people their depression has an organic, physiological  cause.

David Murray also points out that the biblical counselling movement falls short in it’s common assumption that pharmaceutical treatments for depression are simply masking the real problem. While from a neurochemical perspective there is grounds for thinking that current drug treatments do not necessarily target the true physiological cause of depression, they certainly do have more than just a placebo effect.

Something I do appreciate is the author’s reassurance that for most Christians who are depressed being ‘unspiritual’ is not the main issue and that going overboard on reading the Bible and praying is unnecessary. In fact it may compound the problem by causing the person to get even more introspective when they would do better to get out and simply be around other people.

It is a fairly light read but an OK introduction to the topic. For all that, it is a good summary and I think pastors in particular would do well to read it.

About (May 2012)

Hi, my name is Mike McArthur. I’m just me, an ordinary, pretty average sort of guy with plenty of faults. I work at a regular job to pay the bills and provide for my wonderful wife, two daughters and son. We live in a little, crooked, 100-year-old cottage overlooking the harbour in Dunedin, New Zealand and attend a small Baptist church where I preach about once every eight weeks.

My training and work for 20 years was in science, specifically biochemistry with a smattering of pharmacology and microbiology thrown in, as a lab technician at the University of Otago. After that my job was as the administrator of a large undergraduate biology course with 1,800 students in the class – possibly the largest course of its type in the world! Then I did a stint for a couple of years as a technical writer for a scientific software company. My current job is at the National Poisons Centre where I am a Poisons Information Officer, a challenging and enjoyable role (click here for a 2011 local newspaper article on our work). The Poisons Centre is a free emergency service giving advice on poison related exposures to the public and health professionals. We are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, so my hours of work can be quite strange – something my family finds a bit difficult at times.

[Page last updated 12 May 2012]

Who am I

It is 5 minute Friday in which I write feverishly for five short minutes, find a picture to fit my story and then post without reworking and rewording the entire thing before being brave enough to publish!

This week the topic is identity, Go:

There was a time when I identified myself as a rock climber, not any more.

I was young, not any more.

I used to identify myself by the job I did, after over ten jobs that has worn thin.

I even had the audacity to identify myself as being intelligent… until I went to university!

Now I have many roles: husband, father, Poisons Officer, son, but my identity does not rest in any of these.

Who am I really?

Am I my thoughts, actions, emotions?

Am I what others think or see? Or what I present to the world?

In the end none of these are substantial. They will all crumble. Like earlier this evening when I was putting up gib in our bathroom and felt some identification with my father and brother who are both builders. Then I drilled through a new pipe placed by the plumber only last week and immediately identified myself as a complete idiot!

I want my identity to be in Christ, that I may know Him and be found in Him.

As Paul said, who had so much going for him by some standards yet threw all that away in order to gain Christ:

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
(Philippians 3:7–11 ESV)

Image: iStock

Pray for your kids – servant heart

… whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:26–28 ESV)

Obviously none of us wants our children to actually be a slave to another person. So how is a child to understand what having a ‘servant heart’ is? Perhaps the easiest way is for them to see an example.

Many children need only look to their own mother for an example of a person with a servant heart. Certainly my wife is a much better example to our kids than I am!

However, all of us stumble is this very difficult character trait. The best example is Jesus – the very creator of the universe who came to serve rather than be served.

What do I pray?

I pray that my kids will love Jesus enough to want to be like Him, to truly be a child of His Father and so in being like Jesus to desire to serve others rather than to lord it over them.

Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.
(John 13:16 ESV)

Download the prayer prompts:

Nothing to say

Due to my odd work hours, some renovation work being done at home, and life generally getting in the way, I have not been able to come up with anything worthwhile to write. Therefore I leave you with one of my favourite song verses:

You start a conversation you can’t even finish it.
You’re talking a lot, but you’re not saying anything.
When I have nothing to say, my lips are sealed.
Say something once, why say it again?
(Psycho Killer by Talking Heads)

I prayed a prayer God has already answered

Hand of Christ reaching down from heaven to grab the hand of man
This morning I prayed a prayer that God has already answered. This sounds a bit daft so let me explain, here is the prayer:

Produce in me self-despair that will
make Jesus precious to me,
delightful in all his offices,
pleasurable in all his ways,
and may I love his commands
as well as his promises
(The Valley of Vision, p333)

This is part of a longer prayer which I was reading when the words “produce in me self-despair” arrested me – I know self-despair well, why would anyone ask God for it?

The rest of the line explains: to make Jesus precious to me.

I have been praying the same in reverse – I have self-despair, please give me hope in Christ.

Reading what some Puritan wrote hundreds of years ago opened my eyes to meaning within my depression. I have given up hope in myself, in the most desperate times all that remains is a plea to God. Jesus says, ask and I will give you eternal life (see John 4:10 & 14).

While I hate depression and do what I can to avoid the despair, this prayer gives me a glimpse of what may be God’s perspective on it. Despairing of hope from within, I seek Christ to be all for me.

Gifts I have noticed recently:

903) The love of my children.
904) Fear and uncertainty holding me back from stupid choices.
905) My family who loves and needs me as I am.
906) The desire to write, even if I don’t know what.
907) Happy memories to cling to.
908) Encouragement from friends.
909) A few days off.

Image: iStock