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)

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 – #933):

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.

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)

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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)


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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 – #909):

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.

Related to this topic:

Image: iStock

Twitter praying

Today Ann wrote about wounds, scars, pain and the beauty of Christ redeeming our lives. Whoever and wherever you are, life will knock you around and wound you in many ways.

This week the scab on one of my own scars was ripped open again. Then someone told me of their own massive wounding, facing eternity and a crisis of faith. Another story came to my ears of deep anguish of soul and uncertainty of how to face the world again.

My own little scab shrunk back into it’s context. I still hurts, it will take time to heal over again – especially if I keep knocking the top off it like this.

For myself I (weakly) called out to God in my hurt, then asked a friend on the other side of the world for prayer via Twitter. When daylight came I rallied prayer from home also. God heard, and helped. I have likewise prayed for these people I know who are struggling through very dark places and others are praying for them too.

Some time after reading Ann’s post today, I read another discussing The Rise of Confessional Media and inappropriate sharing of personal stories through social media. This caused me to pause and consider whether it is wise for me to discuss the struggles of living the Christian life online? Why add to the noise? This had long been a worry of mine and probably should be – there is already a lot of rubbish out there, who wants more?!

But when it is 3am and asking for prayer takes less than 140 characters to type into Twitter, social media becomes God’s hand reaching across the oceans. The people at either end of the keyboards are just as real as my wife praying with me at home. If we remember this we can speak the truth in love and grow together in Christ (Ephesians 4:15).

Sharing our pains and struggles needn’t be voyeuristic or narcissistic. We must take care, some stuff is not for the world to read, but the real stories of hurting and healing, wounds and worship – these are our testimony to the work of Christ in us. This is something to share in humility.


Gifts I have noticed recently (#894 – #902):

894) Wonderful, glorious daylight.
895) Technology, even with it’s pitfalls.
896) Not knowing how little time I have left.
897) Patting my smelly old dog.
898) Waking up during the day when I should be asleep – at least I get to see some daylight.
899) Time to think.
900) Finding a refill for my favourite pen.
901) Eleven years of marriage and still deeply in love
902) Craig, the only other man I know of who counts blessings like this.

Image: iStock

God is with you in the crap of life

If you are a Christian there is always reason to give thanks.
True.

But frankly life sucks at times, for Christians too. Even the Crystal Cathedral went bankrupt, the prosperity gospel ran out of cash. All of our lives have seasons where it seems there is little to give genuine thanks for.

When someone like me starts writing about giving thanks in all things while you slog through difficult times an understandable reaction is to want to tell me where to shove it.

For this reason I have been uncomfortable with the notion of listing all the blessings I can count in my life, because it could easily turn into a boasting in what I have, a thinly disguised love of the world. God does promise us many blessings, some of which are to be enjoyed in this world. However, the greatest blessings are those which are intangible and must be grasped by faith.

A particularly slippery blessing is God’s promise to always be with us:

… And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
(Matthew 28:20 ESV)

Jesus himself promised to be with us while ‘this age’ remains. In Hebrews we also have what appears to be a quote of Jesus:

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
(Hebrews 13:5 ESV)

In the gospels there are several incidents in which Jesus rebuked his disciples for their fear. The entire book of Job points to the great value of trusting in God despite overwhelming evidence causing doubt over God’s goodness. Fear is a killer of faith. But this also works in reverse – faith can kill off fear.

When you look realistically at life and cannot help the concerns over whether God really will provide running through your mind, it is not wrong to acknowledge the evidence before your eyes. With that acknowledgement, fear will arise. Faith considers that fear, accepts it as real and then adds faith into the equation.

I may look at our bank statement and see immediately there is not enough money to pay the bills. We have a fixed income so there is no room to squeeze more dollars from anywhere. Juggling bills helps a little but I still fear the prospect of simply running out and being unable to sustain my family. God makes no promise I am aware of that we will not end up in financial sewerage. However, He does promise that He will walk through the poo with me.

To some this will seem small comfort and too subjective to be of any value. I have been in much worse than financial shit and this promise of His Presence is what has kept me going. Often it was pure faith, believing that God is with me in my mess despite appearances. Occasionally I knew He was with me, strengthening my weak knees and lifting me up so I wouldn’t drown.

Intangible, yes.

Real? Definitely.

This is one of the great gifts from God which underlie my more immediate and superficial counting of blessings. The list continues to grow because I continue to need to remind myself of all I have to be thankful for and rejoice in. As a fallen creature this counting puts me in a better headspace to appreciate how awesome His greater gifts are.

I trust you because

To Heather,In writing on this topic (‘I trust you because’) it took me a long time to figure out why I trust you – I just do. There are plenty of reasons, here are three:

Promise

You made a vow to me in the presence of God. I know you well enough to understand this makes a difference – that it was made before God.

We are both well aware that it was God who brought us together, and know His warning about ripping apart what He made one. So this is the unconditional fence guarding our marriage, but there is much more than obligation holding us together.

Vulnerability

I know I can trust you because you have already entrusted so much of yourself to me. You have made yourself exquisitely vulnerable to me, mere words from my mouth could crush you. Having opened your heart to me so deeply as to need me in order to function, I know you are not going to walk away or intentionally injure me.

This goes both ways. My weaknesses are blindingly obvious to you and with this knowledge you could have a powerful weapon. Yet for over a decade you have chosen to unload that gun and lock it away to prevent accidental discharge. Your proven record of trustworthiness.

In some situations vulnerability, even when mutual, can lead to fear. Fortunately we do not have a ‘cold war’ in our marriage.

Friendship

We like each other. Our idea of a good time is to sit together with a cup of tea in our wonky cottage looking out over the harbour and just chat, passing the time of day with no particular point to the conversation aside from being together.

That you care about me is evident, your smile when I come home always lightens my burdens. There is no doubt in my mind that you like me and want to have me around, and I hope my enjoyment of being around you is also obvious.

Perhaps an indication of our friendship is our mutual desire in life to simply grow old together.

What’s this all about:

A blog I follow is running a series of posts called Marriage Letters in which they write a ‘letter’ to their spouse with the idea that by enriching their own marriages they also enrich the marriages of those around them. I’ve been enjoying the series and had good intentions of joining, this is my first attempt. The topic for this week is ‘I trust you because’. Amber hosts a link-up on her blog where you can check out letters from other bloggers.

Pray for your kids – Salvation

Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
(1 Peter 1:8-9 ESV)

This should be my prayer every day for my kids; to know the joy of their salvation – the grace, forgiveness and sanctification of God in Jesus Christ. May they grow in understanding of the riches of the gift they have received in Christ and as their knowledge increases that their joy will deepen.

I like these verses from 1st Peter because the emphasis is on loving God, rejoicing in Him as the One in whom we are saved. With belief like this a child can endure much and remain steadfast in Christ. When our trust is in who Jesus is and our joy is in knowing Him there will always be cause to rejoice even in the worst of times.

Nothing is more important than praying for our children to know Jesus in this way, for them to obtain joy inexpressible and the salvation of their souls.

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