overwhelmed

shock

It’s taken me a week to calm down enough to actually blog about my birthday weekend last weekend. It was special. Probably the best time of my life so far! In my mind, there’s no way that experience could be topped because it went so far above and beyond what I could have ever asked for or imagined!

First of all was the very fact of turning 30! In reviewing my life, I see nothing that could commend me to God’s favor. On the contrary, if I were God, I don’t know if I would have preserved my life all these thirty years, given what a miserable wretch I am. But God is so kind, and so merciful. Thirty years of life! I’m so humbled by the gift! These thoughts had me crying with gratitude as I went to bed Friday night.

Then my friend Kimmy came down from the UP to spend the weekend with me. It all worked out because she had work meetings and had to preach downstate on the Sabbath. But it was such a blessing having her in my home and made me reflect on how generous God is to give me wonderful friends like her. All this before I even knew what she, and the others had been planning…

The Ramoses had us over for lunch and bought me a cake and the boys gave me cards they made themselves. One could not begin to express the blessing of being welcomed into another’s home and family like that. I mean, it was so special.

Kimmy had already asked me to keep the Sunday after my birthday open because she wanted to plan something, so I figured we could go ice skating Saturday night (get it…? figured…ice skating… 😛 ). After I’d planned the event, some of my closest friends said they couldn’t make it due to a prior engagement. I debated whether to cancel and just go hang out with them instead…but decided to do the ice skating since other people said they’d be there.

Turned out that aside from Judy and Kimmy, only two other people showed up to the rink in time to skate. As an event, it was a bit of a flop. No, it would qualify as a legit flop! I’d hoped calling it my birthday celebration would have sufficed to entice people to come but alas…I was disappointed as an event organizer, but I had a lot of fun personally.

Some folk showed up towards the end and I felt bad that they didn’t even get to skate so I invited them over to my place for some cake left-over from lunch. They show up at my apartment with another birthday cake, specially baked by my friend Cassie, and a beautiful card signed by so many friends who couldn’t be there, plus a gift of a convertible car rental – which I’ve been wanting for a loooong time!

Going to bed Saturday night, tears streamed down again in gratitude for the kindness shown me by my friends! Since not that many people ended up showing up for the ice skating, I regretted not having cancelled it so I could spend the evening with my friends at the Bridge event. And yet in spite of that failed judgment call, I couldn’t believe how gracious everyone had been towards me!

Before going out to brunch Sunday morning, I responded to all my facebook birthday messages. I don’t write on everyone’s wall for their birthday and when I do, even if all it is is a “happy birthday!” it expresses a sincere sentiment. So I assumed that most of the messages on my wall were representative of genuinely kind thoughts towards me and I felt overwhelmed by the love they expressed. At this point, by all my calculations, I had had a very excellent 30th birthday!

But wait…There’s more!

Then came the scavenger hunt belated birthday surprise after brunch.

Kimmy had asked me, way back, what I wanted/needed and I figured she was trying to decide on what to get me as a birthday present. One of the things I mentioned was that I’d always wanted to drive a convertible…maybe I’d rent one for the day to celebrate my 30th year… So, when I received the “check” for a convertible car rental on Saturday night, I thought, there it was! She actually pulled it off! Didn’t think she’d attempt that gift, but she did. haha. I was so happy!

So when we started the scavenger hunt and at every stop I was picking up a gift that was on my list of things I wanted or was related to things I loved doing, I was just floored! What made it even crazier, was that all these gifts were contributed by friends from near and far! Almost every gift made me teary eyed – but I couldn’t cry because she was live streaming the entire thing!

Our final destination on the scavenger hunt was the Kim’s and I guessed there’d be a few friends waiting to surprise me there. I was right. I opened the door and they yelled “surprise!” There were some of the people who couldn’t make it to the ice skating party last night and some faces from a bit farther out. I got all teary eyed.

But then, out from behind that initial group, popped all these other faces…”SURPRISE!” they yelled. It was too much! All these out-of-towners! Here for my birthday bash! My tearful eyes turned to stifled sobs. From Berrien Springs and Detroit and even as far as Virginia! They were all here to celebrate with me. I couldn’t believe it. Just thinking of it now fogs up my view of the laptop screen. That was the moment in which I understood the meaning of the word, “overwhelmed.”

crying

The gifts were merely representative of what meant the most to me – that people took the time to think of me and their thoughts were kind towards me. The facebook wall posts, text messages, voice mail…all of it was summed up in that moment. Here they were, people who came, just for me! Just for me?

I’ve wanted to say thank you to every one of those people who contributed to showing me love last weekend. But for the first time, this week I’ve come to understand how peter felt in Luke 5:8. There’s Peter, clinging onto Jesus because he wanted to remain ever in His presence. And yet at the same time he could hardly look upon Christ for feelings of unworthiness! I was so thankful and I felt so loved, even to the point of shame!

And yet that is just a sliver of a glimpse into God’s love towards us! He’s always thinking about us. Always sending us tokens of His love for us. Always planning great things to make us happy. God is so good! He is too good to me! I can’t think how I could ever repay the kindness shown to me for my birthday last weekend. Nor could I ever adequately thank God for His goodness to me. No, never. But I want to live in a way that demonstrates that gratitude. God help me. I want to show, by my life, that I understand and appreciate it all, so help me God.

friends

when…

When you’re looking for a change in your life, there is the temptation to fixate on an approaching moment in the future and ascribe to that moment all the qualities you wish you had now.

When I was seven, I wanted so badly to be a Pathfinder! Both my eleven-year old brother and nine-year old sister were Pathfinders (they let her in early)…I wanted in too! I thought that if I were a Pathfinder, then my two older siblings would include me more in their conversations and stuff.

When I was in secondary school, I could hardly wait to turn 16 so I could get my ID, passport and, driver’s license. These things represented freedom to me. I’d be old enough to have a boyfriend, get a car and leave the country…not that any of these things would necessarily happen – but just that I’d have the freedom to do so if I so chose.

When I was in college, I could hardly wait to turn 25. Twenty-five seemed so perfect! No more surcharges on your car insurance! That meant people trusted you more, right. I mean, I thought of myself as a pretty responsible 20-something year old, but apparently you had to hit 25 before the rest of the world thought of you as such.

When I finished college, I fixated on 30. Thirty would be the year when it would all make sense. By 30, I’d have my life all figured out – where I’d live, what I’d do, who I’d marry. As a 30-something year old, I’d finally be respected as a legit adult. I’d have sorted through my mess and have emerged as a confident, competent contributor to society.

When I woke up this morning and realized 30 was here, it dawned on me that I’m bringing the same me into my thirties as I was at 29 just yesterday! haha. Durrrh hey. But it was such a revelation to me! Nothing magical happens in that moment you’ve fixated on…it’s just a linear progression into the next moment. I have definitely changed between 20 and 30, but it was gradual change over time…

When I look at my shortcomings and imperfections, I look forward to that day when Christ bursts through the clouds to claim His redeemed. It’ll all be perfect then. I mean, doesn’t the Bible say that we’ll be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye?! True. We’ll get new bodies. But you know, the character we’ve been forming here, the relationship we’ve been developing with God now, will just continue then. It’s really a question of “who” not “when.”

When, instead of fixating on a moment in the distant future when everything will be copacetic, I think about how to make this moment count, I gradually become the person I want to be. So even though 40’s my next big landmark and I think 40 will totally rock, I’m praying for grace to live my thirties to the max! So excited! Can’t believe it’s finally here 😀

30th birthday adventure weeked - 30

the nature of offerings

David needed to make peace offerings to God on the threshing floor of Ornan/Araunah since God had decided, at Ornan’s threshing floor,  to discontinue the plague that had been sweeping the land as a punishment. Ornan, being a good man, was happy to permit such a solemn occasion to take place on his land. He offered his own oxen, wood and anything else David might need to do the deed.

Ornan's threshing floor may have looked something like this

Ornan’s threshing floor may have looked something like this

But David couldn’t accept Ornan’s offer. Rather, he insisted on buying the threshing floor and the oxen for the sacrifice, after which agreement, the sacrifice was made and the plague was stayed.

It was the same oxen, the same threshing floor used to make the offering. Couldn’t David have just taken Ornan’s stuff and made the offering equally? At the end of the day what matters is that the peace offering is made, right?

Well, right…but the key to why David had to buy Ornan’s threshing floor is in the very word for what he had set out to do: Offering. You cannot offer someone something that is not yours. So if David hadn’t bought that stuff, essentially, it would have been Ornan’s offering, not David’s. There’s no way to make an offering to God without personal sacrifice.

In David’s words, “…neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the Lord my God of that which doth cost me nothing.” 2 Samuel 24:24

The moment we’re trying to give God something that costs us nothing, we’ve already failed to give God anything. And this is not because God is exacting and wants us to suffer – but it’s just the nature of offerings.

In a society that’s constantly looking for the most convenient option, the idea of personal sacrifice seems harsh…our very innards recoil against the notion, threatening to make our Christianity shallow. But for the sake of the plague that must be stayed through our personal effort, we must fight our natural inclination. We must give something of ourselves as an offering to God for the sake of the cause. There was no easy way out for Christ on the cross…there’s no easy way out for a Christian’s sacrifice.

risky business: following your heart

In my opinion, the worst thing about temptation is that in that moment, you don’t think about the myriad long-term effects of your sin. It’s all about the moment…the pleasure of the now…

No doubt, that’s what it was like for David as he stood on that balcony, looking down at Bathsheba. Never mind she is the grand-daughter of his most trusted adviser, Ahithophel. Moreover, she’s another man’s wife…worse still married to one of the best of his warriors – listed among the top 30 in his army! What is more, David’s position as king is a trust from God Himself.

Yet in that moment, it seems none of these thoughts present themselves to his mind. And if they do, some easy rationalization quickly responds. The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. That’s why Hollywood’s advice to follow your heart is the worst advice you could ever follow as a Christian! David “followed his heart” and wound up murdering an innocent man to cover-up his sex scandal…

Feeling guilty about the whole Bathsheba drama, it seems David falls into a sort of depression. He’s confessed and repented and God’s forgiven him, but he falls into this slump and can’t seem to get out of it.

When Amnon rapes his half-sister Tamar, it breaks David’s heart to hear of it, but he doesn’t say a thing. The law demanded Amnon’s death for such a crime, but I can imagine David thinking, “how could I execute judgment on Amnon when I myself am an adulterer?” No words of censure are recorded in the Bible…no action on David’s part, to right the wrong done his daughter…he just sits there, on his throne, paralyzed by his own guilt…

After two years, Absalom takes matters into his own hands and avenges his sister’s dishonor. I imagine Absalom musing on his father’s spineless inaction, “how could he let Amnon get away with something so horrible?” But now Absalom is a murderer and goes into exile for three years.

In those three years does David do anything? No. Time heals the pain of Amnon’s death and he wishes Absalom would come home but he does absolutely nothing about it. It’s painful to watch David in this period of his life. He went from this resolute young man who couldn’t sit by and let a giant torment God’s people, to this spineless blob in a state of depressive inaction.

Through Joab’s intervention, Absalom is invited back to the palace. But then David refuses to see him. They’re living in the same palace for two years with no face time! Finally Absalom’s like, “this is ridiculous…” He demands to see the king and they are finally reunited. But by this point Absalom’s lost all respect for his Dad and begins plotting to seize the throne.

It takes the threat of Absalom’s besieging the palace and the potential bloodshed of a civil war to stir David out of his depression. In Ellen White’s words:

“David was suddenly aroused, to see rebellion breaking out close beside his throne. His own son – the son whom he had loved and trusted – had been planning to seize his crown and doubtless to take his life. In his great peril David shook off the depression that had so long rested upon him, and with the spirit of his earlier years he prepared to meet this terrible emergency…” PP731

Seven years had passed from the Amnon incident to the time when Absalom saw the king’s face again. I don’t know how many years from the Bathsheba incident until the Amnon incident, but since they lost one baby and had another one, that’s at least 2yrs. And Absalom begun his plotting after the 7yr period but I don’t know how long it took him to steal the hearts of the men of Israel…maybe a year? maybe less?

So let’s say it was at least 10yrs from the Bathsheba incident to Absalom’s rebellion. Ten years in the slump for David. And his slump so affected his governance that even those who worked under him fell into a sort of lethargy. I mean, that was one of Absalom’s talking points on his campaign trail, “Admin is slow in executing judgment…”

Before it’s all over, Uriah’s murdered, David and Bathsheba’s first born is dead as a judgment from God, Amnon is killed for raping his sister, Ahithophel’s committed suicide, Absalom is killed in battle…and David finally pulls out of the slump.

Was it worth it, David? That immediate pleasure your heart promised you…was it worth it? Was it worth all the lives lost as a direct consequence? Was it worth the loss of your authoritative voice as a father? Was that moment of pleasure worth the years of pain you and your family and everyone within your sphere of influence suffered?

Hollywood won’t tell you about the risk involved in following your deceitful heart. And most times, we don’t get to see the breadth of the domino effect that our guilty pleasures result in. But here’s a Bible example so we don’t have to learn from our own mistakes if we could be wise and learn from those of others.

So I know it’s the last thing you want to do when you’re in the moment of temptation, but, STOP and THINK for a minute. A good piece of advice is to take the time to engage in a different activity before you do that thing you’re tempted to do. That’ll buy you time to think more rationally. And you’ll find that when you’ve had some time to cool off, you may make a better decision

Dominos