Monthly Archives: March 2012

Remembering and Forgetting

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Psalm 77:11-12 says, “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds.”

When the Israelites were wandering in the desert, Psalm 78:18-19 says, “they willfully put God to the test by demanding the food they craved. They spoke against God, saying, ‘Can God spread a table in the desert?'” They wouldn’t have asked that simple question if they had remembered that the same God they were challenging can do more than satisfy their appetites. He is the same God who brought the plagues in Egypt so by His might hand, He can lead them out of the land that held them captive for 430 years (Exodus 7-12:42; Psalm 78:12), the same God who divided the sea and led them through it (Exodus 14:21-22; Psalm 78:13), the same God who provided a pillar of cloud and fire to guide their way day and night (Exodus 13:21-22; Psalm 78:14), the same God who heard their grumbling and made the bitter water sweet and led them to camp in the springs (Exodus 15:25), the same God who brought streams out of a rocky crag and made water flow down like river (Exodus 17:6; Psalm 78:15-16).  They forgot what He had done, the wonders he had shown them. (Psalm 78:11)

Everytime we grumble over simple things in life like food, money, weather, relationships, etc…we show how forgetful we are of what bigger things God has done in our lives. If He has done those in the past, recent as they may be sometimes, and we have known God beyond what He has given but for who He is as the Giver, the faithful deliverer, the restorer, the generous guy, the protector, the promise-keeper…and all these attributes that He has revealed about Himself***, there would be no need for such questions.

Yet God is merciful because He knows the frailties of our human heart: the forgetfulness, the short-sighted vision of looking at the need in front of us and missing out on the promise ahead.  Several times in the book of Exodus, God answered with instructions and more promises after He had just performed a miracle, and several times the Israelites turned from their ways and came back to the Lord. God always addresses their complaints as a reaction to fear of a challenge with deliverance to victory. Yet when faced with another unknown, the viscous cycle starts again…yet “time after time, He is merciful…” (Psalm 78:38) Why? Because “He remembered that they were but flesh, a passing breeze that does not return (Psalm 78:39). And how about the people? “Again and again they put God to the test…” (Psalm 78:41). Why? Because verse 42 says, “they did not remember his power…” The cycle starts again when people forget. God shows His mercy when He remembers and we turn away when we forget.

May God grant us a good memory to remember history for all its worth and for what it is teaching us about who God is.

Everytime we are in doubt, it’s as though we grieve God in the wasteland. (Psalm 78:40)

***The plagues in Egypt which prompted Pharaoh to release the Israelites show how God works in ways we cannot imagine but in the end, He vindicates in His right time, and He makes all things good for His people. The pillar of cloud and fire that led them through the Red Sea manifests that He will never leave us nor forsake and will be ahead of us to show the way. The drawing of the sweetness out of the bitter water reveals His gentleness and care amidst turbid times. The parting of the Red Sea proves that He is the protector of the promised and that He knows the better way even if it seems longer and quite an unusual choice than normal.

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Far Away

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I do not want to be distant. After having tasted the good company of a friend, I have a tendency to be sticky, to be attached, to the point of being needy of more and more of that sweet companionship. This seems to be the paradox of my love relationship with God. Why has he allowed me to taste his goodness, gentleness, care, concern, faithfulness, and love and now seemingly leaves me wandering and wanting for more.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux expressed my heart’s content right now:

<Jesus, Thou Joy of Loving Hearts>

Jesus, thou joy of loving hearts, Thou fount of life, thou Light of men, From the poor bliss that earth imparts, We turn unfilled to thee again.

Thy truth unchanged hath ever stood; Thou savest those who on thee call; To them that seek thee, thou art good, To them that find thee, all in all.

We taste thee, O thou living Bread, And long to feast upon thee still; We drink of thee the Fountain-head, And thirst our souls from thee to fill.

Our restless spirits yearn for thee, Where’er our changeful lot is cast; Glad, when thy gracious smile we see, Blest, when our faith can hold thee fast.

O Jesus, ever with us stay; Make all our moments calm and bright, Chase the dark night of sin away; Shed o’er the world thy holy light.

I am unfilled once again. My restless spirit troubles me. Why have you gone away? But in my mind I know you will not and have not. So maybe there is something in me once again that keeps me from being energized by your presence. It has always been me and not you. I want to follow hard after you, but why is it that you play hide and seek with me? Should I come to the bush and see it burning? God, come thou fount of blessing! Teach me some melodius sonnet, sung by flaming tongues above. 18th century pastor Robert Robinson might have felt what I am feeling for him to pen such words. God, once more, here’s my heart, take and seal it, seal it for your courts above. Come and captivate my soul once again!

Maybe I am out of season now. But you are a God of all seasons. My mom would always order four-seasons fruit shake everytime we go out for dinner at a fancy restaurant. God, can I order a tall glass of four-seasons you? Hear my cry as a seeker that we may both rejoice when I shout with gladness as a finder. I crave for a further revelation of you to my soul.

God, you said you reveal yourself to the simple, to those who are like children in their faith. I’m crying now as though a baby wanting for her mother’s milk but cannot put into words such request. I need you, desperately to feed me with you and not with any spiritual blessing that come along anyway. I don’t need a “God-and” I need God because I know that all the treasures are not just in you, but is you.

Why is it that when I sought and find you, you satisfy then make me thirsty and hunger still. When will this longing be completely satisfied. This insatiable desire for you is so frustrating because I have tried but no amount of audio sermon, Bible reading, prayer, counselling, fasting, whatever religious practice can ever quench this ineffable feeling of emptiness of not having you yourself to dwell consciously in me. Saturate me with you, allow me to soak in you.

Turning 30

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“Writes 30”. In journalism, 30 means “end”. It is often used when someone in the media industry dies, in reference to the traditional marking “-30-” that writers put on the last page of an article to signify that there won’t be another one behind.

I may not be writing 30, yet…who would know but the master writer of my story? I am but the blank page to be written on and I realize, today, I’m turning 30.

No Birthday Cake

The day is about to end and this might be the first time in my 30 years of breathing life that I do not have a birthday cake.  No chocolate mousse, no cheesecake, nothing…oh but I ate a slice of leftover last night from the fellowship last Saturday. That won’t count because the clean-up crew just stashed the cake in my bag because everyone else was rushing to go home. Where’s the thought in that?

The thought of not having a cake saddens me. Some close friends have forgotten to greet me, too. And I can count in my fingers those who remembered. The usual BBQ and misua that mommy always prepares on birthdays (which is almost every month for our family of 7) are being enjoyed by the six other family members in the Philippines. While me, the birthday celebrant, some hundreds of miles away here in Taiwan, is alone and not eating anything.

I just sounded pathetic and pitiful there, but to be honest, I wouldn’t have wanted to celebrate my 30th year otherwise. I decided to fast today because at this season of being alone and lonely, someone whispered to my ear this morning and said, “Your flesh and your heart may fail but do you know who is the strength of your heart and your portion forever?

I may not have a birthday cake, but I know I have my portion.

No Birthday Wish

I don’t have a birthday wish, either. This year, I chose not to make a genie out of God and did away with it. Of course, I have a year-long list of prayer request, but that doesn’t count!

Reading Ephesians 1, I realized I have all that I need…I’m lavished with every spiritual blessing, every treasure is made available, a glorious inheritance is awaiting, and most of all, the fullness of Jesus will fill me in everything in every way. Today, when I felt so complete and satisfied, I felt the paradox of ineffable contentment yet deep longing for something that cannot be articulated within three birthday wishes, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.”

謝謝袮30年陪伴著我走這條恩典之路,袮真是我的sweet consolation, constant companion, great comfortor, and eternal encourager.