All Posts Tagged ‘purpose

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Digging for bedrock

When I was a teenager my Dad worked in the tunnels being constructed to stabilise the mountains around the Clyde dam. It was a strange underground world of darkness, dirt, noise, and water. The work of tunnelling through solid rock was arduous and exhausting.

The reason for all the drilling, digging, and blasting was because the rock is not as solid as it seemed. The mountains in that area are riddled with fault lines, underground water and massive, slowly moving landslides. Placing a gigantic concrete dam smack on top of a fault line meant the mountains had to be stabilised to prevent them cascading down into the newly formed lake.

As humans we like to think our work will last. It is demoralising to work hard on something for it to be demolished by someone who doesn’t care. We order our lives to ensure stability of home and income. Education is an attempt to predict what knowledge is worth gaining that will be of lasting value.

Over recent weeks I’ve been wondering what direction I should take with this blog. Writing blog posts can be a significant investment in time, and running a blog that is not crammed with advertising is a reasonable monetary cost. If I’m to continue writing I’d like it to have purpose and meaning, both for me and the few who read my posts.

I’ve asked God to help me determine what my focus should be, and so far the clearest idea I have is to keep digging into bedrock. The rock is Christ and knowing Him. Encompassing more than just blogging, for the time being I need to single-mindedly pursue Jesus. I’m confident that in doing this, other stuff will slip and slide into their rightful places.

I’m not sure how this will affect my writing, hopefully by making it better. My gut feeling is that I’d like to write about the intersection of life and faith. There are thousands of Christian pastors who write blogs. Yet it is oddly difficult to find blogs written by ordinary Christian men about the challenges of living faithfully for God in the messy details of secular work, marriage, and being a dad. This is where most of us live for most of the time.

Good writing, like any good art, needs to confront the most challenging aspects of life. Whether exploring our pain, anger, or fears, writing won’t ring true if it fails to confront these deeper issues or only offers pat solutions to complex issues. (Ed Cyzewski, How The Examen Empowers Us to Pray and Write)

While I don’t consider myself an artist, confronting the challenging aspects of life is a large part of why I write. I also have a deep dislike for pat answers. Life is messy and complex, trite answers don’t help anyone. This is where blogs can offer something useful with thoughtful posts and discussion in the comments to tease out the knotty intricacies of our real lives.

In the meantime, I have some digging to do. Let me leave you with a reminder that Christ is the rock that even incessant ocean waves cannot erode away.

 


Related posts:

Image 1:Drilling a blast hole with a jackhammer in 1942. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Image 2:Fingal’s Cave, Staffa (Scotland). Courtesy of Gerry Zambonini (flickr)

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Changing seasons

Autumn colors in the Greater Khingan Mountains of China.
It is interesting how our lives go through seasons. During some periods there is hope in the air, new growth, and life moves forward. At other times the stifling heat of worries and cares slow the pace down such that it can feel like I am dragging myself through the days, happy but exhausted. Then there can be times of gloom and hardness, no new growth, grey all around with little sign of any reprieve.

As with seasons in nature, I find it is not until I’m well into a new season and look back that it becomes obvious the season has changed – day by day the changes are imperceptibly small so I don’t really notice them.

As I look back now it is clear that I have recently been through a change of season. Don’t ask what the season I’m now in is – I have no idea, but it is definitely different to where I have been for quite some time.

This transition has inadvertently been reflected on this blog, the lack of posts for the last three weeks is fairly obvious! That was not a planned ‘blogging break’, I just become preoccupied and busy with other concerns which pushed the priority of blogging further down the ‘to do’ list than it had been for a while. But I haven’t abandoned the blog!

However, noticing that the season is changing for me has caused an evaluation of what role this blog should have and I have made some tentative decisions.

From it’s beginning, Words of Eternal Life has intentionally been very focussed on God and living the Christian faith. This helped me overcome the massive barrier to publishing anything I wrote by reassuring myself that if I strictly kept to writing about ‘God stuff’ and stayed within conservative theological boundaries then the product should be edifying to others.

Gradually I grew in courage enough to actually write my own thoughts instead of regurgitating ideas from people whose opinions I looked up to, and even let some of myself show through in my posts. This worked fine and challenged me to be feeding on the Bible and ensuring I had biblically sound ideas to share.

Surprisingly to me, some of what I have written about over the last 3 years has been very personal and disclosed some real struggles. This has been good.

More recently I wanted to be able to post other thoughts about life in general which were not particularly Christian focussed and so started another blog for random musings – a few posts about books I’ve read, some new words I learned and a couple of posts about obscure things I had read. The intention was to simply have somewhere to collect such ideas without feeling any pressure to fully finish the thinking before posting it.

I also have another web project in development which is taking a lot of work and is very geeky (I’m a science geek). This will be an ongoing project, diverting my attention somewhat from here.

So, my intention is to merge the few posts of my random blog into this one and allow the focus of future posts to range more widely than the topics I’ve previously written about. By freeing myself to be less constrained in my writing I hope to maintain a reasonable posting frequency and possibly make things more interesting too.

I realize that widening the scope of topics here may put some folks off reading my musings. There are plenty of more theological blogs out there and many more spiritual blogs also. I am still the same author, you may simply get a more rounded perspective of what I’m really like!

Time will tell whether my writing actually changes or not.

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Pray for your kids – willing to work

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.(Ecclesiastes 9:10 ESV)

I guess most parents struggle when their kids are flatly unwilling to pitch in and do a fair share of work around the home. The exact expectations may vary from family to family and between cultures, but part of our task as parents is to train our children in how to work.

God values work, He set Adam the task of tending the garden even before the fall:

The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. (Genesis 2:15 ESV)

When we work we glorify God by doing what He created us to do. After Adam and Eve sinned work became harder, but it is still part of our purpose and so does not have to be a demeaning burden. By teaching our children that work is an expression of what is good about being human and that it glorifies God, we help them to become willing to work hard.

What do I pray?

Pray your children grow into understanding a Biblical perspective on work which enables them to accept it will not be easy but that there is a purpose in all work. Ask Jesus to help them see that as our Father is working, so too it is good for us to work.


Download the prayer prompts:

Image: iStockphoto

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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) 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

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What message is this medium giving you?

The medium is the message” according to Marshall McLuhan. I haven’t read any of his publications myself, but recently listened to an audiobook of The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion by Tim Challies in which he discusses this concept.

In a nutshell, the idea is that every medium of communication carries with it inherent constraints which determine how the content carried by that medium will be created, transmitted and received. So the way in which we receive a message is partly determined by the medium through which we receive it (i.e., text versus TV, or blog versus Bible).

My musing over this stems from a concern over whether I might be unwisely using my time writing a blog? I tend to justify it to myself with two reasons:

  1. Writing these posts gets me thinking more deeply about ‘God-stuff’ than I would do otherwise.
  2. It serves the Body of Christ to have God-glorifying content on the internet.

However, I cannot say with absolute certainty that God has ‘called’ me to blog. I could write in my own notebook in order to think deeply about God without inflicting my musings upon the world. I am not even certain that what I write is of any benefit to the Body of Christ.

So I have two questions:

  1. Is it possible to truly honour God with the medium of a blog?
  2. What is the best way to use a blog to glorify God?

Question 1 is basically a yes/no question. Question 2 may require some explanation: the format of a blog determines how the message is received. Some of the ways in which the format affects the message is that readers of web pages tend to skim rather than ponder; many blogs are entertainment so this colours how people read all blogs; there are technical constraints on how a web page can be displayed, limiting how it can look; a blog must always be viewed through a gadget (computer, ipad, phone); and so on.

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Why do you work?

For most of us, to ask why we work amounts to a pretty stupid question because the answer is obvious – we work to get paid so we can buy food, clothes, pay for somewhere to live and pay the bills. Very few have so much money that they don’t need to work.

This rather mundane, pragmatic take on work is also biblical; Paul tells us that if anyone is not prepared to work they should not expect to be fed and we are to do honest work to provide for ourselves and our dependents (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12, Ephesians 4:28, and 1 Timothy 5:8). We are also called to put a full effort into the work we do, the admonition of Colossians 3:23-24 indicating that half-hearted work efforts and procrastination have been around for a very long time!

I find this pragmatic view of work in the Bible to be a relief in comparison to the currently popular ideals portrayed by ‘career experts’ pushing ideas such as: “A person’s worth is often measured by the career success or failings“. There is often an assumption that you can find a job which is a perfect (or at least near-perfect) match for your skills, experience and personal motivations. Yet for most of us the whole career experience is more like the verb: move swiftly and in an uncontrolled way in a specified direction (i.e., down the dirt track of our lives in the rickety go-kart of our employability!). Very few people have any real ability to actually plan their career, the rest of us take the best job available at the time we are needing one.

In contrast, the Bible teaches that work is ordained by God (Genesis 2:15) and so is a necessary part of life but it has also been tainted with futility by the fall (Genesis 3:17-19, Romans 8:20), meaning that we will always have bad days on the job when nothing goes as we would wish. Certainly there is a lot of choice available in jobs now, but the ideal job for you (or me) simply does not exist because we are sinful and so will bring sinful attitudes or behaviours to our work, and the work itself is subject to the curse of futility so will frustrate us sooner or later.

Therefore, after a crap day at work when you might wonder if you have missed your life’s calling, relax. If you have put in a day’s work and were paid for it this strongly indicates that you are in fact living up to your calling in Christ so far as work goes.