"God draws us into fellowship with Himself by different routes; it is a mistake to expect one man’s journey into faith to be a carbon copy of another’s. The demand that conversion experiences correspond only stirs up misplaced and distracting anxieties. We are all different people with different starting points, and God deals with us as we are where He finds us. Richard Baxter said, ‘God breaketh not all men’s hearts alike.’ But at one point all the roads to Christ converge: at the point of realizing that one is out of step and out of fellowship with God, and has no hope but in the reconciliation that Christ Himself brings. Different people express this in different terms, not all biblically adequate, but what is expressed- the sense of need for a new relationship with God, the exclusive trust in Christ to bring it about, the resting of all hope henceforth on Him, the risen Lord- is the same thing everywhere. Real Christianity- the life of knowing God, as distinct from the life of being prepared for knowing God- starts here, in what Paul calls the receiving of reconciliation; here, and nowhere else."

J. I. Packer in “18 Words” speaking on the importance of the concept of reconciliation in the Gospel message

a formula to live by

a formula to live by

we all get hurt in this life. one could easily argue this to be the defining proof of life itself; only that which is living can be hurt. but not all pain is equal. even the toughest, manliest dude out there must admit that emotional pain hurts far more than physical. there’s something about the scars of the heart that seems to never decrease in its intensity , while mere “flesh wounds” seem to almost fade from existence in due time. i have known my fair share of both kinds of pain. despite my diminutive build, i am pretty durable. the thing though, is that i am largely immune to physical pain, but overly sensitive at time to emotional pain. i joking recount the time i got my wisdom teeth pulled with no pain killer because i literally thought  it would take longer to have to wait for the numbing to take effect, so i just endured. but then there was the one time in college my mom said something, i don’t even know what it was anymore, and i almost killed myself. my wife and i got into it a little this morning. she was talking about some friends of ours being in town and wanting to get together, but i reminded her that it would be a little difficult for me. he and i had agreed that whichever of us managed to get a residency first would help the other. you know, some real life Genesis 40 stuff. well it’s been a few years, and i get the feeling that he is too happy where he is to risk self or spend time trying to help me. it hurts. my wife says i need to not be mad about it; that i need to forgive and move on. but i have. forgiveness does not mean you feel any less betrayed. forgiveness does not mean that it isn’t still awkward when you think about the other person and what place they hold in your heart. like the cousin i can’t see because of his betrayal to the family, this friend too is someone i have long ago forgiven, long since moved on from my hurt and pain, but the scars still rub against my shirt when i get dressed in the morning, the skin is still tight when the weather grows cold.

i alluded to a formula in the title, so here it is:

                       

see, an enemy can cause you pain; but man the amount a friend can inflict is so very much more. let’s look at it in its entirety and try and see what i mean. the closer you are to someone, the more vulnerable you become. sure, you can shoot me from a distance and kill me, but you have to be right up on me to stab me in the back. and especially for someone like me, who maintains layer upon layer of walls between myself and those i interact with, you must be a real friend for me to open myself completely. a close friend lives in your heart, so there’s no effort needed for them to harm it. a close friend is always welcome in your home, so it is not a surprise they can also burn it down. but, and this is important, this is diminished by the openness of your heart. the more open you are, the closer people tend to be, the less painful betrayal of a friend. i imagine that the reason i am so closed off and guarded with my relationships is because i am so weak; then again, it could also be that i am so emotionally fragile because i am not exposed. the point is still the same. those who are open and loving are harder to hurt with betrayal, so the fact that you are close to them is less impactful than in someone who is guarded and stand-offish. last is time. this element is of great importance, and that is why it multiplies the potential for harm. the longer you know someone, the closer you become, but also the more vulnerabilities they have access to. they watched as you grew and changed in various scenarios. they saw old weakness go, and new ones come. this proximity could even give them the ability to predict future vulnerabilities you do not yet have. even the toughest of hearts can be laid low by a long-time friend; time is “of the essence” they say, but in truth, time is really the essence. time grants power.

my friend i talked about has all the makings of a real source of pain. i knew him about 6 years before the pain started. in that time i watched him grow, and he watched me too. he watched me go from a bachelor, to a husband, to a father, to a doctor, to a man of conviction, to a man of sorrows, to a man looking for hope. i have had friends longer than him, but the nature of our relationship was one were for most of the major events of my adult life, he was in a unique position of confidant. i truly loved him, and i still love him and his family. so when his head was raised up to a position of power, and i was left in the dungeon, i had no doubt in my mind that he would do the same as i would, he would advocate for me, he would vouch for me, he would stand up for his friend and fight to the death even. but he did not. it has been years, and still, he has not. “how do you know, kamarr?” because we are friends; i know him, and he knows me, and if he had given it his all, i would know it.

this equation isn’t one you should live by, it’s one you already do. and truth be told, i would do it all again, and so would you. the pain of a friend does not render pointless the joy of friendship. if anything, it just makes you want friends all the more. friends are worth the pain. friends are worth the vulnerability, the danger. in fact, sometimes it is the pain that lets you know a friend is a friend. i recall a time not long ago when a man said some really mean things to me. it hurt bad; real bad. now, not only do we talk, but i had to realize this morning that he may in fact be one of my closer friends. we don’t talk much, and we don’t see eye to eye on many things, but it’s been a long time since someone hurt me like he did, a long time since someone was able to. i realized that i actually valued his friendship greatly, the call he randomly gave me last week to encourage me and lift me up, his smiling face even when he takes you on. reminds me of another friend of mine i haven’t seen or spoken to in years, a friend who could show up right now and take every penny i have if he needed it. because a good friend causes the most pain, and when you find yourself writhing in pain from a poisoned dagger to the heart, you have to realize only a friend could do that; only a friend.  

"eternity is not as long as it sounds. i know, that may seem like i’m making things up or something, but i’m not. see, from your point of view, it seems like an interminable period of time, stretching from beyond one horizon to beyond the next; but this is wrong. eternity is not a measurement of time, at least no more than light a measure of darkness, or water a measure of dryness. see, it is time that is the aberration here, for time is in fact the absence of that which makes an object truly permanent and thereby concrete; time is a measurement of the side effects of the absence of permanence. life was not always this way, though. there used to be no time. sure, days came and went, beginnings were encountered and endings naturally considered to lie in store for some, but time was not then as it is now. then time was a mere formality for addressing the created, because time was still thoroughly acquainted with the eternal. but soon, (i think that’s the right term for when something has yet to happen though it can be seen; soon) you will all be translated into your native form, a form both with beginning and without end. like me. one of the more beautiful things about this, as i am sure you will come to appreciate as well, is how one can step outside of the when to better appreciate the now, but also step into the now to more fully appreciate the always. i would never feign to know the mind of God, but i can’t help but feel part of His beautiful plan was indeed to allow His servants this pleasure in serving Him. while singing praises forever is beyond compare, the ability to at times appreciate what it is we praise Him for is still a treat and a joy. i’m going to let you in on a little secret: this is why Lucifer is so ornery, so miserable, and so very confused; he’s trapped in the now. sure, he can still stop by Paradise for a moment or two, but the music is so tough for him to stomach, he never stays too long. and when he leaves, there’s no choice of when to go, or where even for that matter. he must go back where he came from and when he came from. imagine being a full grown adult who was renowned as the most eloquent speaker, forced to speak in monosyllabic tones and broken phrases the rest of your life. you know what you’re missing, and you would never venture to say that true speech was something amazing and what drivel you spoke now the nature of normalcy. no, and the same with time. the devil feels time now, and every second that passes is in fact merely the sensation of lacking in eternality. like a ghost limb that aches long after amputation, so dose creation now groan for an eternal state as it ages. well, i will see you soon, once you’ve been translated, that is. for now, i must get back to reality. take care!"

a speech from a yet unnamed character in my novel I have been working

priorities askew

i know that the Bible warns us the world will do things in a crazy way, but i am still routinely surprised when i sit and watch just how the powers that be decide to respond to the various travesties around the globe. everyone is quick to criticize God for “allowing evil,” but no one seems to care about how human governments with potential and power chose to ignore the plight of some while engaging on a fool’s errand for others. the whole disaster with the lost airplane is sad; lives have been lost, others have been ruined or destroyed, and relationships and families lie devastated. i am sorry. the issue in Korea is no better. we see people who should be trustworthy abandoning their responsibilities, small children with lives abruptly cut off, entire governments being questioned in the wake. i am sorry. but what about the girls in Nigeria? w have a hashtag. we have a group of fathers in mourning. we have a few who escaped feeling guilty that they are free while their friends are not. and that’s it. no government response. no international workers on the way. nothing. why don’t we send in Seal Team 6? i mean, those guys are a Muslim terrorist group, surely they merit a response from our “international war on terror.” i mean, come on; a hashtag? that’s all we can muster? we do more for dead bodies than we do for tortured little girls, and as  a father with two daughters, this disgusts me. crowds gather on beaches in Canada to watch a whale carcass decay, but no one is willing to take a risk to save the lives of these young ladies? we send dollars all around the world when buildings collapse or towns are flooded, quick to help because of the loss of life, but save a life? no, why do that? we’re spending millions to recover bodies from the ocean, bodies of people we know are dead. we’re spending thousands to recover bodies from a shipwreck, bodies that we know no longer are alive. but these girls are alive; they are being tortured and abused right now, and we aren’t spending a dime, or sending a single soul to retrieve their bodies. if we’ll spend millions to recover dead bodies, then we should spend billions to recover the bodies of the living. if we’ll send planes and submarines to look for the dead, we should send legions and armies to rescue the living. if we’ll devote weeks to staring at the screen searching for one lost plane, we should spend every ounce of our lives searching for lost little girls. that’s it. i’m done.

Meet the New Miss Israel

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Yityish “Titi” Aynaw, the Ethiopian-born 6-foot tall beauty, captured not only the attention of the judges but also the world when she was recently crowned Miss Israel.

"Faith is not true unless it works by love."

Thomas Watson

"God doesn’t just love you unconditionally. His love is counter-conditional. It is against conditions."

Timothy Keller (via jspark3000)