“What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step.” – C.S. Lewis

Life can be quite overwhelming. So much so that days blur into one another, memories become hazy, and everything barely makes a connection. I, for one, can fully attest to the fact that I often get caught up in the whirlwind. While studying for finals, I literally forgot what day of the week it was and missed an appointment I had to make. So lost was I in the task at hand that nothing else seemed to matter. If that’s how bad I got with the days of the week, you can then make the conjecture as to how I’d gotten with everything else including my spiritual welfare.

Things consume us and we get sidetracked from the path we must tread to reach Him. We all stray for one reason or another. I know I do. And because I do, I take great comfort in the following verse from Psalm 119: “I have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commands.” It is a short admission–I have strayed like a lost sheep coupled with a prayer–Seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commands. It seems like such a counter-intuitive thing to ask of God. “I have strayed so come find me” as opposed to “I have strayed and shall return.” But God makes it easy for us… as long as we do not forget His commands, when we stray He will seek us out and encircle us in His loving arms. All we have to do is ask and remember. We must remember His commands and inscribe them on our hearts so that way when the world begins to spin at a pace that knocks us off the path, when we cry out “Seek your servant” He will come speedily. We all get sidetracked sometimes, but God is ever-faithful and hears the cries of His children.

 The LORD is my shepherd;
         I shall not want.
 He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
         He leads me beside the still waters.
 He restores my soul;
         He leads me in the paths of righteousness
         For His name’s sake.
 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
         I will fear no evil;
         For You are with me;
         Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
         You anoint my head with oil;
         My cup runs over.
 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
         All the days of my life;
         And I will dwell in the house of the LORD
         Forever.

- Psalm 23

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We are mistaken when we think that the actions or words of men will bring us peace of mind and spirit. The “if he would only…” and the “if she would just answer…” then “I’ll be at peace” are tempting paths to take. Our stormy insides can then be pegged on the actions of another person. That’s the easy way out and a complete dead-end. The harder path, the path to true inner peace, lies in an absolute trust in God… pure faith, nothing less and nothing more. Absolute faith that He will do and does what is best for us. No one else has the very hairs on our heads numbered and not a single one of those hairs falls without His permission. He who cares about the very hairs on on our heads will guard and protect our hearts and provide all good things for us. We must not fear; He is right here standing beside us.

How long, O LORD ? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?

How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and every day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, O LORD my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;

my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.

I will sing to the LORD,
for he has been good to me.

– Psalm 13

While having a miniature quarter-life crisis the other day (not to be confused with an actual real life crisis with real life implications but more of a crisis of thought) I stopped myself for a minute and very bluntly asked myself the question, “What is it that you want exactly?” Although it may seem like a question that would open up a thought-filled can of worms, it actually brought everything and all the racing thoughts to a swift stop.

What do you want? What’s your heart’s deepest desire? Where do you wish to be?

We can learn much about ourselves simply by asking, “What do I want? What is it that I treasure?”

Because to pinpoint what one treasures will lead the individual to find his or her heart. You’ll be surprised where you find your heart abiding.

Do I treasure success? Possessions? My family? My significant other? My friends?

Don’t get me wrong; it’s essential to treasure the people in your life, but if the first answer that comes to mind when asking yourself “What do I treasure?” isn’t “God” then it might be time to take a step back and evaluate things.

To treasure God above all else is the only path to joy and gladness of heart and prosperity in life. And the beautiful thing about placing God in the number one spot so-to-speak is that it rests in our hands. WE can choose to place him there. WE can choose to make Him the one we treasure most.

In other words, we are the ones who can shape our lives by placing Him at the very center of our hearts and surrendering our will up to Him. Once He becomes our treasure, our lives overflow with treasures heavenly and earthly in nature. Figure out what or who you treasure and you will find out exactly what you have been shaping your life to become and most likely you may just be able to see a clear vision of your future.

I will lift up my eyes to the hills—
       From whence comes my help?
My help comes from the LORD,
       Who made heaven and earth.  

He will not allow your foot to be moved;
       He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel
       Shall neither slumber nor sleep.  

The LORD is your keeper;
       The LORD is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
       Nor the moon by night.  

 The LORD shall preserve you from all evil;
       He shall preserve your soul.
 The LORD shall preserve your going out and your coming in
       From this time forth, and even forevermore.

- Psalm 121

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This is my favorite Psalm, so I thought I’d share it. It’s especially perfect for those “Is anybody out there? Can anybody hear me?” sort of days.

When I was younger I often struggled with one particular question endlessly. I asked everyone I could for an answer, parents, friends, Sunday school teachers, priests, bishops, anyone and everyone I could reach. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how one could go about living Christian love, a love that endures and gives and gives even to those who hate us, without getting hurt. All my attempts at living this love ended up with me sorely hurt and terribly afraid to try again (although through His grace, I always did try again.)

“Where do you draw the line?” I would ask over and over again. And every time I would never really get an answer. I grew even more upset and frustrated. All I could think was, so basically, if I live a life of love then I am guaranteed to get hurt endlessly for the rest of my life. Where do you draw the line? It didn’t seem right. Christ didn’t say come to me all you weary and feel even worse. After all, joy and peace are just two of the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

My answer came one day some time ago in a lightening bolt-like moment when I was reading over this part of the Sermon on the Mount:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

The answer plainly looked me in the face. He says nothing at all about drawing any lines, therefore one cannot be drawn if one intends to live His words and commandments. I could not love and give and serve to a certain point and then stop once I hit my line in the sand. No, in fact, He tells us to go two miles when we are asked only to go one, give to those who ask, and never turn away one who wants to borrow.

So if one can’t draw a line, then it’s a lifetime of hurt and tears?

No, not quite… You see, I was having what I have now come to refer to as an application confusion problem. This can be better explained by giving another experience of mine where I asked about the now-false proverbial line between love and pain. During a rough patch in life, I ended up going through what at the time seemed like a gross betrayal of trust (things are always so big in the moment and so much smaller in hindsight.) I went back and forth with my father of confession about it, me declaring that I couldn’t trust this person any longer and falling into the depths of my line-drawing despair, when he promptly stopped me and said, “You don’t have to trust her to treat her with love and respect.”

And so my lightening-bolt moment was really when what he had said to me and the excerpt from the Sermon on the Mount collided to create understanding. Since then, I have learned to put my heart in the hands of few, in the hands of those who reflect the Godliness I want in my life. To live a life of Christian love, one does not need to hand one’s heart away to every person along the path, more often than not people will be callous and careless with it. Instead, I learned that it meant to open up my heart to every person along the path. And the only way the heart can remain open to everyone and yet remain protected is when it is placed in the hands of God. He simultaneously shields it and multiplies its love and strengthens it. So ultimately the heart is made of extraordinary mettle, strong yet gentle like its Creator and Perfecter.

“Small Wire”

My faith
is a great weight
hung on a small wire,
as doth the spider 
hang her baby on a thin web,
as doth the vine,
twiggy and wooden,
hold up grapes
like eyeballs,
as many angels 
dance on the head of a pin.

God does not need
too much wire to keep Him there,
just a thin vein,
with blood pushing back and forth in it,
and some love.
As it has been said:
Love and a cough
cannot be concealed.
Even a small cough.
Even a small love.
So if you have only a thin wire,
God does not mind.
He will enter your hands
as easily as ten cents used to
bring forth a Coke.

- Anne Sexton

*******
And here lies the beauty and awe-inspiring nature of faith—we only need small bit
of it and God takes it and multiplies it to unimaginable proportions. Christ
spoke to His disciples concerning faith: “And Jesus said unto them, Because of
your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed,
ye shall say unto this mountain, Removehence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and
nothing shall be impossibleunto you” (Matthew 17:20). He does not ask much of us.
Only that we let Him in and He will hold us up.

The Lord’s prayer is probably one of the most well-known and most frequently recited prayers world over, which makes it the prayer most likely to fall into the trap of vain and empty repetition. I will be the first to admit that after a long and tiring day when all I want to do is just crawl into bed I cave in to the ache and fatigue and simply rattle it off in order to have done my “prayer duty” for the day. But my laziness and the sham concept of “prayer duty” (prayer is a privilege, not a duty) will have to wait for another day because I am quite taken by something else within the Lord’s prayer at the moment.

“Thy will be done” is probably the most comforting yet terrifying phrase in the Lord’s prayer, perhaps the entire Bible. There is comfort beyond measure when you pause to think of what you are truly saying to the Lord when you pray “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” I imagine in heaven God doesn’t even have to command or ask for something to be done, He just thinks it or says the word and it happens (but then again this is an image limited by my human mind that needs to conceptualize things within the boundaries of thoughts and words.) And so when we pray for His will to be done on earth just as it is done in heaven we really are asking for what we would see as one miraculous happening after the other, things happening with ease, doors opening without any resistance, pure harmony of being and existence.

“Thy will be done” terrifies precisely because it is Thy will and not my will. God gave us free will to do as we please and that free will led to the fall of man. But we still like to be in control. We want things to go our way because we know best. But the truth stands to the contrary. We don’t know best. If we did then Eve would not listened to the serpent in the Garden of Eden. She had a choice and with her free will she made the wrong one. Yet, we are not lost. Where man’s will goes wrong, God’s will is there to make things right. It was His will that we be saved, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

And it is from the Son that we learn to submit our will to His. As Christ prayed on the mountain just before he was arrested and tried and then crucified, He prayed that the cup before Him may be taken away but also prayed and said “Thy will be done.” He knew of the oncoming suffering yet still submitted His will to His Father’s will. God does not ask of us anything remotely close to the most ultimate sacrifice given on the cross, so why be scared to submit? All that will be done will be good just as He is good. If His will entailed sacrificing His own Son for us, there is no limit to the goodness He will bestow on us. All we have to do is mean four simple little words from the very bottom of our hearts.

Entry written on Wednesday, March 26, 2008…

“Vulnerable”

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”

*****
This quote reminds of me of what my father of confession always tells me whenever I feel dejected and broken– in order to build up the new, the old must be broken down.