Work, a curse or a blessing?

Is needing to work a result of the Fall? I don't think so. I have thought for years now that when God made humankind in his image (Gen 1:26), in the context it means we should be creative and make things. God has been making all kinds of things all through the chapter. When he says he will make us in his image, isn't being creative a huge part of it? Adam was placed in the garden to cultivate it. When the Fall came, the work of cultivating the ground became much more difficult, but the role of cultivating was there before the Fall.

The problem is like a lot of people, I really act like work is a curse. I really like being entertained. I spent a good while last night listening to old song parodies from the 60's. Now I can say that I was celebrating the creativity God gave to Allan Sherman, but really I was being passive. I suppose I should remember Romans 7:24. Who will deliver me from all the rotten things about being me? Jesus Christ.


I saw God once. I saw the Father looking at me, his eyes full of compassion. He didn't need to say anything, I knew he was with me. I knew the gift of his presence, coming down from on high, undiluted, undiminished, far beyond "just enough." The lavishness startled me, I thought it was more than I needed that day. And perhaps it was, but the memory has sustained me for several years. So God had more in mind than just that moment, but moments yet to come.

How did I see? By the eyes of faith, by remembering the promise that all good gifts come from above. I took my best memory of compassion from a fellow pilgrim, and recast it. That was good, but merely an echo of God's compassion. Not one moment that can never be repeated, but an ongoing reality of God inviting me to lay my heart before him, God already knowing the labyrinth of my feelings and not rejecting me for the mess but loving me in the mess.

Last week I saw and I celebrated with friends who held to the promises, who prayed and sang to God with us, the great Emmanuel, in their time of loss. I celebrated the new Covenant, that God gave us more than insight and rules how we should live, he came down and lived among us, so that he can circulate his life to us.

Hard promises

Ann Voskamp writes about hard thanksgivings, giving thanks for all things, even sufferings. As Jesus did, giving thanks for the bread as he broke it and passed it to his disciples, knowing his body would soon be broken for them.

It came to me today there are hard promises in Scripture as well. For instance, "Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted." Lord, I don't want to mourn, I'd much rather be happy, happy, happy, all the day long. But if I really believed the promise that God will comfort, I won't be afraid to mourn.

What about my dreams III

 A friend on Facebook replied to my post about dreams with the words "Never hold back on dreaming dreams before the Lord." This reminded me of something I had thought about saying but hadn't. Since prayer  is a place where we can be emotionally honest before God, we should offer our dreams to God. Even the dreams that are obviously wrong.

I have dreams and desires that are obviously wrong. All too often, I show that what I want most out of life is to be entertained and distracted, to simultaneously be the center of attention without really having to do anything. What about that dream? There is actually a very large grain of truth in it. In God's story, I am chosen and significant, not because of anything I have done but because God chose me. (And not just me, he chose anyone who will come). But yet God also wants to share his character with me, and that involves doing hard and difficult things, sometimes without recognition or outward signs of blessing.

I had a literal dream in my childhood, actually a nightmare. A deep powerful voice said to me, "This is God. Do the right things, or I will send ten thousand meteors to destroy the earth." I woke up terrified. But when I look back on that dream years later, it's clear that wasn't really God speaking to me. The role of the man whose righteousness saves the world from destruction had been assigned already, two thousand years before I was born. (Well, nineteen hundred and some odd years before, to be precise). That's one dream I am glad to abandon.

Earlier dream posts:
What about my dreams II
What about my dream

What about my dreams II

My friend and colleague posted on Facebook yesterday a comment about God and dreams."Your dreams don't trump Gods agenda. What is necessary to be joyful in the face of this reality?" he asks, then concludes that we can be assured that God loves us and wants to bless us beyond our dreams by giving himself to us.

Good thoughts. In faith, we hold our dreams loosely, because God may have something better than our dreams. I've also just finished reading the Joseph story (Gen 37, 39-50). Joseph dreamed of his brothers and his father bowing down to him. A very selfish dream, but God chose to fulfill it (after Joseph endured a great deal of suffering), because it also fulfilled God's greater plan.

So I think we can offer our dreams to God, knowing he looks kindly on us and will do great things above all that we might dream, imagine or ask for.

My first post about dreams

No magic key to faith

In my Christian life I've had two problems with the idea of miracles. First, like anyone growing up in our secularized culture, I thought miracles were not possible, the stories of them were made up. But that issue was substantially resolved within the first year of coming to faith. I realized that the belief that miracles never happen was a presupposition of naturalistic thinking, and was not necessarily proven.
Then came the second problem. When I accepted that God exists and the miraculous is possible, because God can choose to intervene in his creation, why aren't there more of them? Why aren't all my selfless prayers answered? I pray for people, God rarely intervenes to draw them to himself. I pray for evil governments to be overthrown, or for dictators to repent; and that doesn't happen. (Once it did, the USSR gave up on its empire in Eastern Europe, then disbanded as a Communist country, and now there is greater freedom throughout those lands). I pray for friends with life threatening illnesses, and most of them have gone on to be with God. (That too is a form of healing, a better healing really than a healing in this life, but still a disappointment.)
I began to think that there was some secret key to making Christianity really work the way it should, where it becomes substantially problem free and miracles become routine. I hung out with charismatics at one time, and thought maybe the key was their baptism in the Holy Spirit. But while I still appreciate the energy and excitement they bring to worship, that didn't make “it all work.”
This quest for the magic key was in my mind as I started writing Covenant of Hope. When I began, I was thinking perhaps Jeremiah’s promise of the New Covenant was the magic key. Maybe we were supposed to pray for God to write his law on our hearts, and then the magic would happen. I was going to make that happen in the story, and wondered how I could do that when it didn't really work like that in real life. Perhaps my story would end up as a subtle critique of Christianity – “if Christianity really worked, church life would be like this. But we all know church life is not like this, therefore Christianity must not work.”
But I came to the conclusion that there is no magic key, or perhaps I should say the magic key is to trust God and his promises, accepting that the promises often clash with our circumstances. We shouldn't conclude that the clash means the promises are not true, but cry out to God and ask for his help to address the clash between his promises and our circumstances.

1000 thanks

Back in January, I read Ann Voskamp's book, 1000 Gifts. She talks about the importance of giving thanks, as the book grew out of her resolve to start a journal of things she was thankful for, and found the practice renewed her heart.

I've begun practicing what she talked about, keeping a journal of things I'm grateful for. I'm only at 106 but the practice has made a difference in my heart. I do feel more cheerful, more at peace. In some ways the practice feels artificial, I could in one blow arrive at billions upon billions (all the subatomic particles in the universe God created). So I list things, ignoring the question "why this thing and not these others," and feel blessed in the listing.

You don't expect a book on thankfulness to plunge you right into the depths of human tragedy, but in the first chapter she describes grieving when her young sister was accidently run over in their driveway, and also a brother-in-law losing two young sons to a rare disease. But those tragedies are what drove her to wonder about life with God, what to do when it isn't at all a "I met Jesus and now life's wonderful" story.

I'm reminded of a favorite quote from years ago. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in The Gulag Archipelago talks about his coming to faith in God in Soviet prisons, and concludes the chapter with "Bless you prison, for being in my life." He came to be thankful for the hardest thing in his life, because God brought blessing in it.

Faith when things still haven't changed

My latest blogger discovery, Addie Zierman, penned a brilliant image this week. She's writing about the long winter in Minnesota this year (some places have even gotten snow in May).

The first warm day comes only four days after that Third Snowstorm. In the span of half a week, we move from boots to sandals, from winter coats to pale toddler tummies bare in the backyard.

The trees are still stripped bare and there are no buds anywhere that I can see. The grass is patchy and snow-burned and sharp.

I’m amazed that it can look so much like winter and so much like spring at the same time. And at the same time, there’s something that feels profoundly true about that to me.
 So much like winter, and yet like spring, if you look. Aslan is on the move, the thaw has begun. But there is still a lot of snow, Aslan hasn't come yet.

That was Abraham's story. God promised many descendants, yet Isaac came very late in life. David was promised an eternal kingdom, which later split in two. The promises are great and precious, yet there is so much "not yet." May we keep hoping and trusting.