Baseball, Football, and the Countdown to Eternity


Last week the baseball team where I teach made school history. Without previously having won so much as a regular season district championship, they won the district, region, and substate tournaments. Our guys made it all the way to the State Finals before finishing second and rushing home so the five seniors could graduate, wearing their uniforms under their graduation robes. It was a lifetime memory that I will hold dear and I know they will never forget.

In the semi-final game, we were up by several runs, and the visiting team was up to bat in the top of the 7th, the final inning in high school baseball. As our pitcher was throwing his warm up pitches, the PA guy began blaring the 1986 song “Final Countdown” by Europe. Our retro cool students all sang along in the stands and reminded us “old folks” that the song was older than they are.

We excitedly counted down the final three outs that put us in the State Finals.

GREAT memories. GREAT reason to have a countdown.

Yesterday morning I was watching SportsCenter while eating breakfast, and there was a segment discussing the fact that we have hit a key countdown:

20130529-142907.jpg

College football season. GREAT reason to count down.

The game that claims to have overtaken baseball as America’s Pastime is only 100 days away. Only. That’s almost one third of the year. But we SO love football, we start counting down the days to the first game at 100.

I can’t say much. I start the countdown to Spring Training the Monday after the Super Bowl. Baseball and football are in a constant battle for the title of First Love in my sports heart. As a society, we LOVE sports, and we love counting down to the beginning of each season, whichever season it may be.

But as I was running later, a thought occurred to me: What if we counted down to our step out of time and into eternity with as much fervor and excitement as we counted down to the beginning of sports seasons?

“But Bekah,” you say, “No one knows when He will return. Besides, we’ve been waiting two thousand years. No one can live their entire life as if Jesus was coming back tomorrow.”

To this, it would reply, “True, but not really.”

This is one of those Both/And situations, the beautiful tension of Christian faith.

Do we, as the Bride of Christ, anxiously await the return of the Bridegroom?

YES, just as the Church has done for 2,000+ years.

In His grace, He delays His return for His Bride, desiring that none should perish.

But in His mercy, He calls His children Home to be with Him every single day.

Our lives are a vapor, according to James, and while the Church has been in a countdown for over two millennia, we as individuals are not guaranteed our next breath.

So how do we live a life with the realization that each day could be our last without becoming focused on death?

How do we live with our mortality in mind without becoming useless because of the morbidity of the thought?

Paul addresses this very question in 1 Thessalonians 4. He begins this section of his letter talking about the daily walk of the Christian. He urges the Thessalonians to grow in the Word, to be sanctified, pure, holy, and to love one another. Those things will only happen in that order. The more we know, the more we grow, change, desire to be like Christ, and show His love to others.

What’s interesting is that Paul follows up that section reminding the believers of the hope they have in eternity. It’s as if he’s answering the question he knows they’re going to ask: “Why all the hard work? What’s the end goal?”

He gives his readers hope for this life with a reminder of the afterlife. We live a life seeking Christ, living each day as if it is our last, facing struggles and joys, persecutions and victories, so that we are as prepared as possible for our step out of this life and into eternity.

Paul, when facing his own mortality and impending step into eternity declared he had finished the race and kept the faith (2 Tim). He believed he had lived his life every day as if it was his last.

So as we live this life abundantly, as we celebrate victories, count down to favorite sporting seasons, welcome new lives into this world and remember those who have gone before us, let’s spur one another on to love and good deeds (Heb 10), remembering that both as Bride and as child, each day we are in a countdown, each day we are one day closer to the coming of our entrance into eternity.

How will you commit to live your countdown?

Advertisements

Shifting Views: Moral Absolutes or Political Debate?


I don’t normally pull my family into my blog posts, but I’m proud of my dad for how he recently spoke up, in a reasonable and wise manner, in an article for our local paper when many conservative (political and religious) are apparently becoming more and more unwilling to do so.

Dialogue dies when one side quits speaking. Don’t abandon civil discourse on ANY issue. Even if you never win a debate or convert someone to your way of thinking, the art of agreeing to disagree is becoming a lost art, and that’s a shame.

Here’s an excerpt of the article for which my dad was willing to be interviewed:

“Bill Mason, pastor of Morris Hill Baptist Church, said he opposes same-sex marriage, but the issue has become so politically charged it’s difficult to debate rationally.

“It really has become a political issue. It’s not a church issue anymore; it’s been taken out of that realm,” Mason said.

He said opinions are changing because people are approaching same-sex marriage as a civil rights question instead of a religious or moral one.

But, he said, the pendulum of tolerance has swung in the other direction, and reasonable people who are against gay marriage are drowned out by extreme anti-gay views.

“The other problem is, people are afraid to say anything against it. … It’s a complicated issue, and I think the church has been betrayed by these hatemongers. I think it’s still a sin,” Mason said. “The tolerance issue has got to go both ways. And sometimes it doesn’t.

Members of several religious and social groups contacted by the Times Free Press on Friday and Saturday said they were opposed to same-sex marriage but declined to comment for this article.”

For the entire article, go here.

What do you think? Are views on same-sex marriage changing because the debate has shifted realms, from religious to political? How can the issue still be addressed from a moral perspective with both truth AND love?

Dr. Piper, You Are Wrong on this one.


Yesterday, Rachel Held Evans posted a blog on “The Abusive Theology of ‘Deserved’ Tragedy.” Due to some personal tragedies, general life struggles, and the end of another school year, I’ve neglected the blogosphere lately, but a friend alerted me to Rachel’s post yesterday.

I read it with anger and frustration.

Not directed toward Rachel, though.

Directed toward the men about whom she wrote.

Men whose sermons I have soaked in for countless hours. Whose books I have read by the dozens. Who I have met personally, though briefly, at conferences and seminaries over the years. Men who have blessed me and challenged me and grown me and my understanding of the great God we worship.

Men who led me to declare myself a member of the Reformed, Complementarian camp many years ago. Today, I believe my tent is pitched much farther from them than I once believed. Right now, I’m not sure I’m in a camp, and to perceive you are alone is a scary place to be, especially theologically.

Dr. Piper’s first Tweet after the Oklahoma tornadoes was this:

piper-tweet-screen-shot-2013-05-20-at-11-58-46-pm

Public outcry was apparently swift, and by the time I checked his Twitter feed this morning, the tweet had been removed and replaced with an explanatory tweet that was even more inflammatory to me:

I am amazed with how the increasingly militant Reformed camp proclaims covenant theology, that we’re under a New Covenant in Christ, but in tragedy, but how many cite the works of God in the Old Testament, under an Old Covenant full of wrath, to swiftly and absolutely explain tragic events to a watching world.

Last I checked, Jesus endured the cross and despised the shame of it for us (Heb. 12:2). Scripture proclaims the earth is groaning in birth pains for His Second Coming (Romans 8:22); He wept when His people suffered tragedy (John 11) even though He KNEW He was about to perform a work of Sovereign, glory-filled goodness; it’s His KINDNESS, not His wrath, that brings us to repentance (Acts 2).

What’s wrong, in a time of tragedy, of just saying, “Jesus wept“?

Or, if you want to quote Job, instruct people in how to respond to tragedy, not how to evaluate it:
11 When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. 12 When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. 13 Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was (Job 2).

Dr. Piper sounds more like Job’s friends later in the book, when they grow weary of comforting his grief and begin demanding to know the sin that caused the calamity rather than continuing to point him to the God who comforts in calamity.

Let me add that this is not a personal attack on Dr. Piper from me. His teachings have had a PROFOUND impact on my spiritual growth and understanding of the greatness of our God and the intensity with which He loves His children.

But this is a case of reminding all of us of the fallibility of all men and that no one person should be blindly followed or agreed with 100% of the time.

In this case, I wholeheartedly agree with Rachel’s assessment of the timing of these men’s proclamations of judgment concerning natural disasters. Who, after all, can claim to know the mind of God?

If this is Reformed theology, I’m starting a new camp.

Liberal Reformed: The Bible is infallible, God is Sovereign, and He is LOVE. He said so Himself (1 John 4:8).

Anyone care to join me?

FYI: For a view of grace-filled Reformed theology in the face of tragedy, check out this post over at A Cry for Justice: “How Reformed theology brings me freedom, and how I respond to unfair accusations

UPDATE: Desiring God Ministries has published a response to those speaking out against Dr. Piper’s recent Tweets. For the sake of full disclosure and to help readers find full info, here is the link to their statement:

http://dsr.gd/10QCxCm

The Prayer of St. Bonaventure


A student did a presentation in class today on St. Bonaventure, and she included his most well known prayer and it blessed my heart. May it bless you as well.

Prayer of St Bonaventure.

Recommended by the Church for thanksgiving after Communion.

20130510-095339.jpg

Pierce, O most Sweet Lord Jesus, my inmost soul with the most joyous and healthful wound of Thy love, with true, serene, and most holy apostolic charity, that my soul may ever languish and melt with love and longing for Thee, that it may yearn for Thee and faint for Thy courts, and long to be dissolved and to be with Thee.

Grant that my soul may hunger after Thee, the bread of angels, the refreshment of holy souls, our daily and supersubstantial bread, having all sweetness and savor and every delight of taste; let my heart ever hunger after and feed upon Thee, upon whom the angels desire to look, and may my inmost soul be filled with the sweetness of Thy savor; may it ever thirst after Thee, the fountain of life, the fountain of wisdom and knowledge, the fountain of eternal light, the torrent of pleasure, the richness of the house of God.

May it ever compass Thee, seek Thee, find Thee, run to Thee, attain Thee, meditate upon Thee, speak of Thee, and do all things to the praise and glory of Thy name, with humility and discretion, with love and delight, with ease and affection, and with perseverance unto the end.

May Thou alone be ever my hope, my entire assurance, my riches, my delight, my pleasure, my joy, my rest and tranquility, my peace, my sweetness, my fragrance, my sweet savor, my food, my refreshment, my refuge, my help, my wisdom, my portion, my possession and my treasure, in whom may my mind and my heart be fixed and firmly rooted immovably henceforth and for ever. Amen.

On Selfish Prayers and the Silence of God


Many months ago on a Thursday night, my mom handed me her cell phone to read a text she had just received. It said something to the effect of, “I don’t have Bekah’s number so please tell her that God wants her to know that it’s ok to pray selfish prayers.”

My immediate, snarky response was, “God is SUCH a teenage girl. I really wish He would talk TO me and not ABOUT me.”

After a couple of days, though, I began to wonder what such a statement said about me and my prayer life. If she really had heard from God (which I still highly doubted since her “word” was confirming NOTHING that God was already working in my life), what could it possibly mean?

Selfishness is not exactly a fruit of the Spirit, so could it mean I needed to pray more about personal things? I was aware of my own tendency to hide from intimacy with my Heavenly Father by talking TO Him about the needs of others instead of spending time WITH Him conversing about daily life. Maybe He meant that He wanted me to pray the prayers for which I had already assumed His answer was going to be “no.” I don’t do rejection, so why ask something I know He won’t give me?

After more than a month of rolling this idea around in my head, I received some news that allowed a selfish desire of my heart to suddenly have “Yes” as a potential answer. So I stepped out on “faith” and prayed, “Ok, God, if you want me to pray a selfish prayer, here it is.” And I asked Him to please let me have this thing that I had never previously even allowed myself to consider. Simply praying for this thing opened up my heart to vulnerability and risk of rejection; rejection from a person and perceived rejection from God.

“But,” I thought, “surely God wouldn’t tell me to pray a selfish prayer and then say ‘No.'”

But “No” was most definitely the answer, as the secret desire of my heart once again became unattainable as quickly as it had become a possibility.

I tend to be a slow learner, so when a ministry position was presented to me a couple of months later, I jumped at the chance. It was my “dream job,” the one for which I had moved back to Chattanooga before I had even finished seminary.

I’d spent the last three and a half years teaching with the assumption that it was just a “season” until God had me ready to do the work He had really called me to. So I prayed for God’s blessing on my plan, and I jumped in feet first.

I verbally resigned my job. I asked my church family to pray for guidance and wisdom as I began making a fundraising plan for this mission/ministry work to which God had obviously called me back. I taught at one seminar, attended another, and began letting people know that I was again working with women in targeted discipleship ministry focusing on sexual brokenneess. Everyone but my students knew I was leaving, and I planned to tell them the week after the second seminar I attended.

But in that one week, everything fell apart. The confirmation wasn’t there, the transition wasn’t working, the leadership of the ministry was encouraging me to stay where I was and pursue fundraising much more conservatively due to potential changes in the ministry. Working at both places part time was no longer a possibility, and I had to choose. And I chose to stay where I am.

For the second time I thought, “God, why dangle a desire in front of me, just to take away again?”

One more time I tried this selfish prayer thing, this time about a house. I found a house. I LOVED the house. I loved the history of the house. I wanted the house. I could afford the house. I pre-qualified for the house. “Finally, I prayed the right selfish prayer. Time to settle in where I am, do what Iove doing, and quit pursuing ‘bigger’ things. What’s bigger than the impact I have on my kids every day? Time to buy a house and settle down.”

One more time, it all fell through and the house was pulled off the market.

Then it went back on the market. And I tried again. And it didn’t work again. Someone else beat me to it.

This time, I was mad. I was mad at the lady and her “word” from God. I was mad at myself for believing it and acting on it, getting my hopes up, only to see them knocked down three times.

Relationships, careers, homes. The needs and desires of most hearts. Nothing inherently evil about any of them, but the answer was “No” all three times.

Finally, I got a little miffed at God. “What gives?” I asked one night through angry tears. “I haven’t asked for anything outlandish or wrong. What’s wrong with me that I can’t have love, ministry, or stability?”

And once again I heard the still, small voice of God for myself for the first time in many months: “You already have all of those things, in abundance.”

I have love. More love from more people than any one person could deserve or truly appreciate in a lifetime.

I have a ministry. I love my students like they were my own kids. I spend more time with them than I would spend with my own kids if I had my own kids to spend time with.

When people say to me now, “God is going to do great things with you,” I get offended. What’s greater than influencing the spiritual formation of the next generation?

I have stability. I have a God who loves me, who never changes. I have a family who stands by me, even when I try to run them off. I have friends who stick close even when I make it difficult for them to do so.

I’ve learned a lot the last few months about selfish prayers and a silent God.

I’ve learned I still don’t know what’s best for me. By praying for the desires of my heart, I saw just how out of line my heart was from the heart of God. Jeremiah was right: The heart is deceitful above all things, and only God truly understands it. But sometimes He reminds us that our hearts even deceive us.

I’ve learned that while I may make a plan, God really does determine my path. I decided I knew what God wanted for me, and I chased after those things, without confirmation, without really even consulting Him. I didn’t pray selfish prayers; I pursued selfish things. BIG difference.

I’ve learned I have a long way to go in understanding what communion and conversation with God really look like. He’s not a genie in a bottle or an oracle who speaks in mystical codes. He is my Father, who wants what’s best for me. And He’s determined to see that I get it, even at the risk of my heart breaking in the process.

Most importantly, I’ve learned that, when He is silent, He is not giving a “yes” but possibly a ‘wait’ or more likely, a “Be still and know that I am God.”

When there is no “Yes,” assume “Be still and know.” I need to know Him more and more until the single selfish desire of my heart is to know Him even more so. Being selfish should be a desire for what is best for me, and He is it.