Easier now?

If only that is so. “When the world and I were young, just yesterday, life was such a simple game, a child could play. It was easy then to tell truth from lies…” These words from a song are more than just sentiments. I used to like true or false tests cause they were easy. Not anymore.

Today, even the innocence of children are preyed upon. There is this insidious incessant voice planting doubts, confusion and dissatisfaction with yourself, your identity, your color, size, gender. The only choice left seems to be “be yourself.” But which “self”?

Then there is another problem. Self-deception is human nature, and it usually wins. To be yourself is actually self-defeating. Just think of the many ways we try to self-define. There is the blurring of feeling and reality, past and present, style and substance, comfort and corruption, means and ends, fact and opinion, reason and desire, human and machine, freedom and depravity, compassion and bribery, safety and irresponsibility, science and indoctrination, tissue and fetus,… Oh, I hope I didn’t lose you with that long list. But I felt a knot in my stomach just running that list in my mind. You see that blurring confuses and clogs the brain.

To unclog, we need wisdom. It is the ability to discern that brings clarity. And how we need that since truth is not neutral. That is why aim for clarity first, not for agreement. Fluidity which erases the lines is not freedom but brings chaos. Fortunately, God draws all the lines to maintain clarity and order. And to erase the lines does the opposite.

For example, He divided the light from darkness since the beginning. Did you know the sun was created to mark the day and the moon to mark the night? Animals are distinguished from plants and animals differ in kind from each other. That is how we can tell if we are eating chicken or beef. Of course, they are distinct. Adam knew Eve was distinctly different, more similar to him than the animals. Note that God set the time of a week since creation. Imagine if we are free to count 8 days a week or call Monday a Sunday because we feel like it, because we have a right to our own time or because the differences are just man-made? The farmers who rely on this 52-week calendar knows it is not to be tampered with.

Hmmm… Let’s take a practical road test. How do we navigate the road when the basic markers are erased, when the individual decides to stop or go based on feelings or ideology? The scariest thing is what this will amount to – power without boundaries. Isn’t that a definition of evil? I’m sure I did not make that up either. God said, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil …”(Isaiah 5:20).

Without true markers, woe to us. We lose the ability to think clearly which makes us easier to prey on. We also waste time and effort reconstructing the basics. True markers are taught in the Bible and have been self-evident throughout civilization. What can we expect from chaos if not weakness and unhappiness? Without true markers, especially moral markers, evil reigns. Woe because we are lost.

“Set them apart in the truth; your word is truth.” Jn 17:17

Small step: As you go forward, do you have to clear some clutter, I mean in your brain, heart and relationships, not just your closet? To have a more fruitful life, restore order and clarity, start making a list of markers you need to respect. And if you happen to uncover some lies you have, awesome. Remember, you are welcomed to share your list and bless others as well.

It Can Be Done

Disappointments occur, at times daily. Maybe an unkind word meant to be a joke but it still hurts. Disagreements, shaming, unequal treatment, troubled past or feeling miserable that one cannot change the outcome of a bad decision.

The fact is one’s response to the hurt would make it worse than the hurt itself. We may not be responsible for what happens to us, but we are still responsible for how we respond to it. In reality, the past is for redemptive reflection, not for blaming or collecting. Why should we go about collecting “garbage” when there is no obligation to do so? Why must we expect perfection when there is simply no such thing? Why let pride dictate my response when pride always leads to a fall? Some responses like resentment, bitterness, envy, scoring, self-pity and self-doubt can eat us up, adding to the hurt. We could eventually find ourselves lonelier, weaker and feeling trapped.

What to do now? Should I quit or move? Maybe it is not “where” but “what and how.” It could simply be realizing that we become what we respond to and how we respond to it. What if we choose to respond to what is true “and” eternal instead? Won’t we become truer and wiser? What if we ask what can this teach me and think of how to overcome? Won’t we become the architect instead of the victim?

Maybe it is easier said than done? Actually, using this approach is so rewarding you would not even mind the effort. Remember Joseph who was sold to slavery by his brothers? He named his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim. The names meant “God has made me forget” and “God has made me fertile in the land of my affliction” respectively. These names reminded him over and over about what’s true, what he chose to respond to. What a creative way to respond to his misfortunes, and so rewarding.

What do you enjoy doing?

As much as receiving something is fun, creating something is much more fun and satisfying actually. Doing is creating. You might not realize this is part of being made in God’s image. Like Him, we can create, produce and make.

Didn’t Jesus once said, it is “more” blessed to give than to receive? A life that creates what’s good, true and beautiful will be made more “blessed.” God wants to bless the producers and givers, not the sloth, selfish takers. Since He wants us to walk as Jesus walked, we are not fashioned after some prehistoric creature, but after the Creator of the universe. Like Him, our lives are to be about creating happiness, love and peace.

I will follow…
We become who we follow…

Technically speaking, “to create” means “to make something out of nothing.” Now, we can make many and almost anything big and small for our enjoyment and benefit because God has already provided the materials. It is humbling but true that almost everything we see and use is made by someone. That includes you and me. Through procreation, our parents made us so now we are here. To “create” a person into existence! This is the closest we can get to the original creative act of God in Genesis 1:1. That isn’t just fun, it is awesome, incredulous, mind-blowing, etc.

If you realize that, life can never be boring or meaningless again. We can even recycle trash to make them useful again. What a metaphor of broken lives and dreams recreated in the hands of the Creator-Savior! Due to our foolishness we might have made things that destroy us: lies, naivete, vile and simplistic solutions. But we can start anew now.

The psalmist wrote God’s steadfast love and mercies are new every morning. Every day can become a new beginning. “Make love not war.” I like that slogan from the 60’s. What about you? What is it you want to “create”? Make someone laugh? Try me. I mean it. Put it in the comment section below. What else? Make money? Why not? Once there was a person who asked God for money. God gave him life with a “new heart” so he could work and make “money” for himself, and enough to share with others. How about making the world a safe place? More on that in my next blog. 

Simple step: When you wake up in the morning, warm your stomach (coffee?) and your heart with these thoughts. Then in “Christ-like” fashion, think what you want to “create” today. And what would you want God to create in you? How about new life in Christ? Don’t overthink. I’d love to hear how it eventually works out for you.

(For more on God’s image, you are welcome to follow this up by reading the first chapter of Counseling the Heart by Shirley Y Wong.)

The strength in you

Why hide under a smile when your heart hurts? The world looks and feels different. The pain wants to shout to tear its way out. Instead, you feel trapped unexpectedly like a spider in its web. It might seem too late, but nothing is farther from the truth than this.

In this world you have trouble and suffering, but take heart – I have overcome the world . John 16:33

In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

When the web of life you’ve built around you is also crumbling, at least you’ve realized your limit. This is actually good – the moment of truth. It is the truth you’ve forgotten or once defied. Multitasking, technological speed, compromising, skipping quiet time with God are just a few common ingredients in the mix. But they cannot make you bionic.

What do we see when we look at the mirror now? A person with flesh and blood, not a fantasy heroine or hero. But someone with limitations.

According to our Maker, a person does not and cannot live by bread alone, but by every Word from God. And Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God. He is the Word of God. God speaks to us through Him. He is the Vine and apart from Him, we the branches cannot bear fruit. His Spirit is the living water that will never cease. So His Spirit living in us is the strength we need in us.

Small steps: Feeling tired? Lost? Down? Why not thank God for letting you see your limits. Take the time to rest in His word, and in prayer surrender your burdens to HIm. He gives strength to those who call Him. Do not rush. For they that wait upon Him shall renew their strength (Isaiah 40:31).

Invitation to read “Counseling the Heart”

Counsel in a person’s heart is like deep water, but an understanding person draws it out.” Proverbs 20:5

Since my childhood years, one question has impacted me more than anything. How does a man change? This book discusses the three key elements of the human heart spoken in the Bible. These elements are involved in everything that we think, say and do. Prov. 4:23 tells us to guard our heart above all things for from it are all the issues of life. How accurately it describes the human experience. But the verse is not just describing. It is prescribing the way to direct our lives and the corollary “ways to help a person change” his heart, and eventually the course of his life.

If changing hearts is also your interest, I invite you to read this blog. I would like to hear your experience in changing hearts as well. The human heart is complex, but it is not impossible to know and tame. And the more we reflect and share, the more it speaks to us. The more it speaks to us, the more we are acquainted with our hearts to be able to sort it out and plan.