b*daily :: enough for today

This is a brief follow-up on my last post, because the topic is still heavy on my mind. It seems that when the Lord wants to hammer home a point, he HAMMERS HOME A POINT with such emphasis that one can hardly deny its truth. For me, lately, it’s been this whole idea of living fully in the present. That is, living for today and not yesterday or tomorrow.

A few days ago, I was reading in Exodus. I’ve been spending a lot of time in the Old Testament lately, and it’s been remarkable. I’m a lover of stories, and immersing myself in these epic biblical narratives has brought a new dimension to my understanding of God’s faithfulness and grace. On this particular day, I was reading the story of how the Lord brought manna to the Israelites while they were grumbling in the dessert. He literally rained bread from heaven, and then instructed them to “Gather of it, each one of you, as much as he can eat.” There was one caveat, however. According to Moses, they should only take what they could eat, no more.

Think about this for a second. You’re in the dessert, starving, literally. And then God rains bread from heaven, until it covers the landscape. You eat until you are full, and still, there is sweet, flaky, honey-wafers littering the camp. Now, if you’re anything like me, your first thought would be, “Better stockpile this stuff!!!”. After all, who knows if or when these scattered showers of bread will come again. Who knows if you can really trust the word of the Lord to provide more, or if you’ll be starving again in a day or two. Hunger pangs suck! And planning for tomorrow seems like the RIGHT and RESPONSIBLE thing. Surely it wouldn’t be that bad to take a little extra…

Listen to what happens when those boy-scout types (ever prepared!) do just that: “But they did not listen to Moses. Some left part of it till the morning, and it bred worms and stank.” So much for that plan.

Okay. So, what’s the lesson in this?

For me, it was a very clear picture of learning to TRUST the provision of the Father for each day. He sent the manna and said, “Only enough for today, don’t worry about tomorrow!”. It is a clear call to live in the present, trusting the faithfulness of the Lord for tomorrow’s concerns.

Separately and on a bit unrelated note, a reader shared a link to this clip, and I was blown away. This is about living in the present, too, but it has a very convicting, relevant-to-our-culture ring to it. YES, is all I have to say.

All for now. More soon!

 

b*ponders :: living in the present

For Christmas, my dear friend gifted me with this watch. I love it, first, simply because I love watches, and second, because I am entirely preoccupied with living in the future, and this is a very tangible reminder to take up residence in the present. I was convicted of my future-orientation while reading The Screwtape Letters. In one chapter in particular, C. S. Lewis paints a very vivid picture of why we are called to dwell in the NOW.  Here is an except from a letter of the senior demon in the story, Screwtape, addressed to his apprentice, Wormword, on the topic of tempting humans with the future. It’s long, but so worth the read.

The humans live in time but out Enemy destines them to eternity. He therefore, I believe, wants them to attend chiefly to two things, to eternity itself, and to that point of time which they call the Present. For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity. Of the present moment, and of it only, humans have an experience analogous to the experience which our Enemy has of reality as a whole; in it alone freedom and actuality are offered them. He would therefore have them continually concerned either with eternity (which means being concerned with Him) or with the Present–either meditating on their eternal union with, or separation from, Himself, or else obeying the present voice of conscience, bearing the present cross, receiving the present grace, giving thanks for the present pleasure. 

Our business is to get them away from the eternal, and from the Present. With this in view, we sometimes temps a human (say a widow or a scholar) to live in the Past. But this is of limited value, for they have some real knowledge of the past and it has a determinate nature and, to that extent, resembles eternity. It is far better to make them live in the Future. Biological necessity makes all their passions point in that direction already, so that thought about the Future inflames hope and fear. Also, it is unknown to them, so that in making them think about it we make them think of unrealities. In a word, the Future is, of all things, the thing least like eternity. It is the most completely temporal part of time–for the Past is frozen and no longer flows, and the Present is all lit up with eternal rays. [...] Hence nearly all vices are rooted in the future. Gratitude looks to the past and love to the present; fear avarice, lust, and ambition look ahead. Do no think lust an exception. When the present pleasure arrives, the sin (which alone interests us) is already over. The pleasure is just the part of the process which we regret and would exclude if we could do so without losing the sin; it is the part contributed by the Enemy, and therefore experienced in a Present. The sin, which is our contribution, looked forward. 

To be sure, the Enemy wants men to think of the Future too–just so much as is necessary for now planning the acts of justice or charity which will probably be their duty tomorrow. The duty of planning the morrow’s work is today’s duty; though its material is borrowed from the future, the duty, like all duties, is in the Present. This is now straw splitting. He does not want ment to give the Future their hearts, to place their treasures in it. We do. His ideal is a man who, having worked all day for the good of posterity (if that is his vocation), washes his mind of the whole subject, commits the issus to Heaven, and returns at once to the patience or gratitude demanded by the moment that is passing over him. But we want a man hag-ridden by the Future–haunted by visions of an imminent heaven or hell upon earth–ready to break the Enemy’s commands in the present if by doing so we make him think he can attain the one or avert the other–dependent for his faith on the success or failure of schemes whose end he will not live to see. We want a whole race perpetually in pursuit of the rainbow’s end, never honest, never kind, nor happy now, but always using as mere fuel wherewith to heap the altar of the future every real gift which is offered them in the Present. 

It follows then, in general, and other things being equal, that it is better for your patient to be filled with anxiety or hope (it doesn’t matter which) about this war than for him to be living in the present. But the phrase ‘living in the present’ is ambiguous. It may describe a process which is really just as much concerned with the Future as anxiety itself. You man may be untroubled about the Future, not because he is concerned with the Present, but because he has persuaded himself that the Future is going to be agreeable. As long as that is the real cause of his tranquility, his tranquility will do us good, because it is only piling up more disappointment, and therefore more impatience, for him when his false hopes are dashed. If, on the other hand, he is aware that horrors may be in store for him and is praying for the virtues, wherewith to meet them, and meanwhile concerning himself with the Present because there, and there alone, all duty, all grace, all knowledge, and all pleasure dwell, his state is very undesirable and should be attacked at once. 

What I love here is that Screwtape reveals the absolute insanity of future-orientation–that we have hope and anxiety over the conflicting realities we paint for ourselves and allow to rule us. We are awash with worry and fear, and then alight with joy over the possibility of events or circumstances that are only just that…possibilities. The present is almost seen as a nuisance. I tend to want to sweep it aside, like crumbs in the way of a clean floor. The present feels toilsome, mandane and irritating, while the future is sparkling with promise or looming like a dark cloud, depending on my mood. Do you see how trapped we are by living for the ‘morrow?? I’m only just starting to grasp it.

TODAY is the day that the Lord made. Rejoice and be glad in it. Take in this moment, and rest in his grace, praise him for the blessing, or ask him for patience to endure. Your life is now, so have no worries about tomorrow or what lies ahead. Live in the present.

b*ponders :: the way up is down

Hello, January. Hello, new year. You feel like a fresh slate. And yet, you are just another day. Just another moment in the present, arriving at sixty minutes an hour. This newness mixed with this not-at-all-new feels a bit like a dichotomy to me. I’m caught up in the hope that this year will bring change in my circumstances, change in my perspective, change in me. Yet, I’m sober in the reality that the change I’m longing for is mostly selfish, self-empowered, and self-focused.

Every year, for just about as long as I can remember, I’ve made New Year’s resolutions. I’ve even blogged about them here from time to time. These high and lofty goals have been the driving force behind many an accomplishment–from running a marathon, to “making it” as a business owner, and from taking a month off each summer, to being more intentional in my daily devotional time. Nothing wrong with goals, and meeting them certainly brings some fulfillment and pleasure. Yet, if your motivation is not in the right place, there is something sinister in being a goal-oriented and goal-driven person.

This realization became crystal clear to me earlier this year. I was pursuing graduate classes at the University of Minnesota, and had gone so far as to register for a course in typography. In August, a dear friend died, my project calendar for the fall exploded, and I came to my senses. The class would have been too much. So I dropped it. A month or so later, I was talking with a friend, and I mentioned how much I wanted to go to grad school. She asked me why. I told her all the right answers… I love school. I love learning. I love academia. I want to challenge myself as a designer. I want to keep pushing myself to become better. She wasn’t satisfied. She dug deeper, trying to get at the root of WHY I wanted these things. To make a long conversation short, let’s just say that her probing made realize a few very deadly motivations behind my goal-orientedness.

Here it is in a nutshell. I like to set goals because when I reach them by sheer force of will, wit, determination, and discipline, I can sit on the top of my little mountain, knowing that I got there ON MY OWN. I did it! I accomplished it! And the pleasure I take in that victory fuels my desire to be independent. It makes me think, “See, I don’t need anyone else. I can do whatever I set my mind to.” Pushing a little further, and I quickly came to see that what I really am saying in my heart is, “See, I don’t need to be dependent on you, God. I can make it in this life. I don’t need you to rescue me. I’m strong and fit and capable. I accomplished this goal. And I can do anything.” And that, my friends, is the very, very dark and sinful root of my particular brand of goal-chasing.

See, we are all running from God in some way. Some are doing it in outright rebellious ways. Others are doing it by following all the rules, letting their pride and self-righteousness fester. I do it when I refuse to recognize my desperate need for a savior. I think, “I know I’m a sinner. I know I need rescuing. But I also know I can clean up my life pretty good on my own. Let me just set a few goals here, and I’ll be all set…” If all that God wanted was us to clean up our lives, then why did he bother sending his son to die a horrible death in our place?

Okay. So all of this to say… this year, for the first time in a really long time, I didn’t make any resolutions or set any goals. I decided I wouldn’t a couple months ago. I thought only that I want to be smaller. Because, after all, to become great, we must become small. To be first, we must be last. The way up is down. He must increase, I must decrease. That is my prayer. Let it be yours, too.

Here is a blog post my pastor wrote yesterday. It carries a similar theme. Well worth the read. I hope to write more here soon. But somehow, lately, when I sit to write, I wonder if there is a point. So much of what I say and think is vain and empty. So much of what I’ve written here over the years is fluff. I want to go deeper, beyond the frivolous pursuits of this earth, to what really matters for eternity. More on this soon, I think.

b*daily :: off the top of my head

Oh dear blog readers, it’s a wonder you are still with me. Alas, in the busyness of the season (and the busyness of life in general), it’s hard to find the spare moments to write like I want to. So many thoughts I want to share with you all on a regular basis. I wonder at the fact that I once had time to update four or five times a week! But the now is good, and I don’t long for a less busy life. Full days are good days.

Here’s what’s been on my mind and in my heart of late. Some shallow, some deep, these are the thoughts off the top of my head.

WINTER :: It’s here. For better or worse, the snow doesn’t seem to be going anywhere fast. The cold temps ensure it’s here to stay. This is how I feel about this season… it’s beautiful to look at, from the comfort of my couch. It’s fun to play in, but only when I’m dressed for it and in the mood. Two things that rarely coincide. Tromping around in slush or on ice in anything less than big, ugly winter boots is a nightmare. But I don’t like big, ugly winter boots. So I usually wear shoes I like, and get wet or cold or fall on the ground. I hate being cold, and I dislike that my car is always dirty, but if I were to wash it, the doors would freeze shut. I really just love summer. I like running out the door in flip-flops and not having to don a heavy, bulky coat. Don’t get me wrong, I like skiing and snow tubing and all that stuff. But at the end of the day, those are only attempts to make this season a little more tolerable. Sorry, winter-lovers, I am a summer girl, to the core. And I’m happy for a white Christmas, but I’ll be happier for the snow the start melting!

CHRISTMAS :: I’ve been savoring this season, wrapping gifts and watching all the holiday movies, and humming annoying Christmas tunes days and night. I love our Christmas tree, the warmth of evenings on the couch by the fire, with the glow of the lights. I love the stack of wrapped gifts underneath the tree and the thought of giving them to all my dear friends and family. It’s crazy that Christmas is a week away. I was driving home last night and I heard this song on the radio. I’ve heard it before, but I can’t describe how much it moved me last night. I keep listening to it over and over again, and every time, it brings me to tears. Please listen to it.

HOPE :: I’ve been thinking a lot about hope. Where is my hope? Where do I place my affections, and where do I look for comfort, for security, for life? As much as I know that the answer is Christ, I don’t always look to him as my only hope. I often look elsewhere. I often chase after attention and affection and possessions and comfort and renown. I leave the God I love in favor of lesser gods. And yet… he draws near to me, pursues me, and when I find emptiness and dispair in all the things that promised me life, he gathers me to himself and shows me that he is my one true hope. My only hope. My only source of life. He is it. And more than ever before, I desire to follow his will for my life. My own pursuits for success pale in comparison to the joy of knowing him. I am most at rest when I am seeking his will. I am most fulfilled when I am pursuing his purposes for me. The goals and dreams I had even a couple years ago seem dim and empty. Not because they were bad goals to have, but because I was looking to them for meaning, and I was seeking to determine my own destiny. What the Lord has for me, I do not know. Tomorrow is a mystery. Living in the right now frees me from worry. I find myself looking for strength, not to get through some intangible fear that lies far off, but for the tasks ahead of me today, for the things that he has called me to right now. Struggle and trials rarely come in the form of cataclysmic events. For me, struggle and trial is very daily. Very mundane. Yet, I see how the Lord has called me to this battleground, to fight this particular fight, and I know that in and through it, he’s accomplishing his good purposes. He’s using the tiresome work of today to change me, shape me and make me more like him. And for all of this, I’m so grateful.

READING :: I’ve been reading (and loving) Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis. I’ve read it before, but it’s been years. My second time through has been so enjoyable and enlightening. As per the norm, I have a big stack of books I’m working on. I tend to be in the middle of many things at once. I’m not sure why this is, why I’m unable to pick up one book and plow through, but in general, I like to dabble in a bunch of various books and types of books. How do you read?

EATING :: As I’ve mentioned before, my philosophy on food is to eat well. For me that means, healthy as much as possible, and really, really good food (forgetting all health considerations) on occasion. I recently went to Butcher and the Boar for the third time. By far my favorite place to dine in the cities. The food. Oh the food!! It’s beyond divine. Get the cornbread. Get the beef long rib. And don’t forget to take in the beauty of your surroundings. This place calls to me on so many levels, from the food, to the design of the menu, to the light fixtures above my head. I love it. Also I recently tried Union, which was quite good. Very soon I will venture to the new Cossetta in St. Paul. They’ve remade the entire place and added a sit down restaurant on the third floor. Looking forward to checking it out! Where have you been eating?

More, more, more to say, but as per usual, I have a long to-do list and little time. I hope you are all enjoying this season, savoring it as much as you can in the midst of the rush! Take a moment to listen to the song I linked to. Remember why we are celebrating.

b*travels :: north, for a first and last

I mentioned awhile back my trip north to say goodbye to my parents place. I’m here today with a few pictures from that adventure…

When I traveled north , I brought my friend Zoe. It wasn’t her first time to northern Minnesota, but she had never seen the North Shore of Lake Superior. Minnesota’s “shore” may not be the Jersey shore (Zoe is from NJ), but I insisted that she hadn’t experienced the REAL Minnesota if she hadn’t seen our shore. So we took a whole day to explore it, venturing from Duluth to Grand Marais with my mom, stopping off to take in panoramic vistas, waterfalls, pebble beaches, hikes, smoked fish, harbor views, quaint shops, and a magnificent sunset. It was an unforgettable day, especially because she it was her first time seeing these places that I grew up visiting (and taking for granted) regularly. Isn’t life so much sweeter with a friend to share in the simple joys?

After our day on the shore, we headed to Ely. My parent’s log cabin in the woods wasn’t too packed up yet, so it still felt like an arrival home. I spent the next day walking their 40 acres, showing Zoe my favorite spots, driving around town, and reminiscing about my childhood there. It was a little melancholy, but I found myself feeling more and more okay about letting go. There is something so hopeful about change. It’s not always easy, but I love the anticipation of a new adventure.

I have a bunch more photos, but they are really only meaningful to me. Snapshots of various nooks and crannies of the house and garden and such. I love this shot of the house, though. My bedroom was in the window off to the left, and you can just barely see the pile of rocks that is the top of a waterfall in the summer. That’s the back deck we spent many summer night hanging out on. The place looks so small among the trees. Tomorrow is the day my parents take up residence at their new place, so it’s fitting that today is my official “goodbye post” to house.

Farewell, old house! Hello, new chapter.

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