My friend and I have challenged ourselves to a “365photo” endeavor – we take one random photograph a day for an entire year. I’ve never done this before and I suspect I’ll fail spectacularly. But it’s worth a shot!
I know the goal is to shoot exactly one image a day but I’ve allowed myself some wiggle room: I can take photos and upload them one or two days later if things are slow or I’ve been busy with work or an emergency or something.
Another thing: I’ll be working almost exclusively with my iTouch.
I’ll post all my images on this blog but if you’re interested you can also follow my Flickr stream.
So there, a positive resolution for a positive new year. What are you gonna be up to this 2013?
The last time I got hit roundly in the crotch was 5 years ago. I remember it vividly; my son was reaching for something on the shelf and my privates just happened to be in the way. It felt like a Nazi bayonet being shoved up my abdomen and I went down like a peasant paying tribute to a king. I remember vowing through gnashed teeth never to let something like this happen again.
Tough luck. I woke up this morning to the vibration of a different alarm clock, one in the form of a toddler’s heel crushing my bagpipes. My three-year-old daughter, sleeping beside me and perhaps dreaming of football, shifted in her sleep and accidentally hit me in the babymaker. I woke up the way they do in the movies when an actor has a terrible nightmare and bolts upright to the sound of clapping thunder. Except the lightning was in my bladder, my shriek as dull as the gray morning.
“My balls…!!!” I managed, clutching the family jewels to make sure there were still there.
The pain was like a killer tsunami. It began as a wave of unbearable hurt, much like watching an Adam Sandler movie. I assumed the fetal position and made some distant connection with my feminine side as the anguish gained momentum, looming large and bitter, making me wince and wish I’d written my last will and testament. I was engulfed in such a paroxysm of pain, it’s all that kept me from consulting the dictionary to check what “paroxysm” means.
My wife tried to help me by giving me a forlorn look and some words of consolation. Not that I could hear her; I was too busy trying not to drown in my own drool.
The pain eventually subsided and the sun came out. I gave up concentrating on dancing sheep and my glowing inner core. I turned to look at my still-sleeping daughter, wondering whether I should wake her and tell her how close daddy had come to enlightenment.
Any annoyance or remaining pain simply flushed away at the sight of my snoozing child. It’s hard to be angry when faced with a purring baby, especially one that smells like milk and morning sweat. I’ll miss her when she’s old enough to have her own room and Dora-themed bed sheets.
Parenting. I guess the occasional whack in the groin is worth it.
This is an old post. I don’t know why it’s not on this blog; perhaps I forgot to migrate it when I updated my website a few years back. No matter – the timing is great. Not only is my wife egging me to join her on the treadmill but I’m also in need of a blog update after being inactive for so long. It’s cheating, I know. But this is a golden oldie. Indulge me.
How to find out whether you’re fit or not?
Easy: go run in one direction for 20 seconds.
Done? OK, how do you feel?
If, like me, you experience shortness of breath, shooting pains in your shins, and generally feel like dying at the mere thought of running for 20 seconds then you, like me, are definitely out of shape.
Once, my wife and I went to the bank to pay a traffic violation fine. The security guard informed us we needed to present a photocopy of the violation ticket to the teller. We didn’t have a photocopy. I looked at the wall clock – 15 minutes to closing time.
I asked the guard where the nearest photocopying machine was. Somewhere down the street, he mumbled. Great.
So I left my wife and made a dash for the photocopy shop before the bank closed on us. At first, I walked briskly. No need to panic, I told myself. It can’t be that far.
I was right; it only took me five minutes to get there. I whisked myself to the counter and presented the ticket. Unfortunately, the owner was busy trying to figure out certain photocopying settings and, with her back to me, her head buried in the machine, she told me to hang on a sec.
I’m a polite guy and I hate rushing people. But “just a sec” turned into at least a minute. I started getting antsy. The bank would be closed in less than 10. I’m a paying customer – I’m not forking over P1.75 for this!
Soon enough, however, she photocopied the ticket. I bade farewell and returned to the street which suddenly seemed strangely long, as if stretched by unknown forces, warped forever in every direction. The time was about 2:55… I knew that a brisk walk back wouldn’t cut it.
So I ran.
Well, it was more of a fast jog than a bid for Olympic gold. But those 20 seconds of sudden energy were all it took to make me realize that 20 seconds was all I was gonna do. For not only were my shins exploding into tiny fragments with every pounding step but my belly was climbing out from under my t-shirt making people on the sidewalk wonder how on earth a man so skinny could actually have a gut the size of an American football.
I stopped before my heart crapped out on me. If the bank closes, the missus won’t be happy. But at least I won’t need bypass surgery. I turned a corner, breathing as if on Mars, and saw the bank in the distance. The security guards outside were craning their necks in my direction.
What, you’re gonna close? This very minute?? I began to pick up speed.
When I got to the bank the guards courteously opened the front door, which is just as well because I would’ve careened right through and had a spasm on the marble floor. I managed to find my wife, thrust the photocopy into her hands, and watch her scram to the teller while I curled into a sweaty ball on a nearby chair.
Fitness First beckons.
My love affair with books began when I was a little boy sprawled on the living room floor.
I was lying on the carpet, peering at a strange world of chair legs, fingernail clippings, and dead hair when I noticed something alien propping up the sofa.
It was a book. A small beaten paperback, valiantly subbing for a sofa leg that had died and gone to sofa leg heaven. Its hard work was unnoticed from the world above but from my ground-level advantage I could see that it was putting in the hours.
Somehow I got my hands on this book. I remember its wounded midsection, crushed by the nightly weight of a family bloated with dinner, settling down to watch TV. Did we care more for electronic entertainment than we did for reading? The injured book would have said so.
These are patchy memories of course. I don’t remember what the book was about (I think it involved a talking otter named Olga); neither can I remember what I did with it after taking pity on its broken chest.
What I do remember is that I enjoyed opening its pages, looking at the amusing illustrations, and trying to understand what all the words meant.
It was a strange book. You’d think a talking otter would be enough to capture the imagination of a 5-year-old wouldn’t you? Well, it didn’t. Mr Otter was bizarre and his conversations were lost on me. But his world, the literal pages in which he lived, musky and brown with age, were certainly alluring. It was nothing like the bright-colored Dr Seuss books in infant school. No, this was a different vehicle with a different universe. Were there others like it?
There were. I soon discovered another musty paperback lying around the house, a dog-eared book about Robin Hood. Like Mr Otter it had an aged, neglected feel to it and looked ready – almost eager – for prop-up duty. Luckily, I caught it before it could be shoved beneath a wobbly table.
This book captivated me. It was a definite improvement over Mr Otter; I could actually understand some of the sentences. Of particular interest was when Robin Hood dueled with Little John over a small river in the middle of Sherwood Forest. I could practically smell the oak trees and feel the autumn air gnawing at Robin’s face. I could hear their clashing staffs and echoing grunts. And I could truly sense Little John’s paradoxical joy of being felled into the cold waters by an impish yet fearless stranger. I knew they’d become friends. Indeed they became comrades.
I didn’t have the faculties to finish the book (it was clearly geared for young adults) but it had sufficiently awakened me to the power of the written word. I would dip again and again into my favorite portion of the story, the river duel, and reveled in my fragmented understanding. This, coupled with the book’s weathered charm, reinforced my belief in realities greater than my own.
Books were journeys, adventures in imagination. The people who wrote them, they had the best jobs in the world. Their tales were gardens of wonder; the price of admission was simply belief. All I had to do was open their books and enter the gates.
This was when I knew I was going to be a writer.
Thirty years and countless books later here I am, a product of all I’ve read, a lover of words. Ask me what my favorite tomes are and be prepared to wait in vain; there really are too many to mention.
From Enid Blyton’s Famous Five, Arthur Conan Doyle’s Hound of the Baskervilles, Steven Mosley’s A Tale of Three Virtues, to John MacArthur’s Ashamed of the Gospel, my loves are like the mismatched patches of a cherished quilt.
All I can say with certainty is that my first books are the ones I love the most. I know I can scarcely remember them and for this they tease me in the night. But they’re the ones responsible for my overloaded bookshelves. They’re the ones that keep me reading and writing, trying to recapture the smell of oak, the cool of the forest, the strangeness of sentient animals.
Mr Otter and Mr Hood, I owe you.
“Don’t think – feel! It is like a finger, pointing away to the moon. Don’t concentrate on the finger or you’ll miss all the heavenly glory.”
And so Bruce Lee introduced an entire generation to Eastern philosophy. That and lots of awesome Kung Fu.
I remember thinking, when watching Enter the Dragon as an 8-year-old, how awesome it would be to fight like that. To do a 360 backflip, kick a man on the chin and then land in exactly the same position without breaking a sweat… I’d be the toast of my street, my school, the entire town.
I never did think much of the whole finger-pointing-at-the-moon thing though.
Wait, that’s not entirely true. I remember thinking it sounded profound. Like something wise and maybe even true. But not enough to move me in a deep, philosophical way. Prepubescent boys in 1980s England were far more interested in Star Wars, karate, and quoting movie lines than pondering deep Zen mysteries, it must be said.
But of course, as a grown-up whose head is now crammed with an overabundance of cinematic one-liners, I often find myself pondering the profundity of such statements.
This thing about fingers pointing to the moon, it certainly does sound intense. I’m a stickler for good anecdotes and truth pictures, so I find myself trying to decipher Mr. Lee’s teaching, particularly in my context as a Christian.
Could it mean it’s dangerous to focus and obsess over a pastor instead of the Christ he proclaims? I can agree with that. Modern consumerist Evangelicalism is the perfect petri dish for this kind of superstar pastor hero worship. Have you heard so-and-so’s podcast? Have you read his latest book? Do you subscribe to his blog? Do you follow him on Twitter? You gonna catch him at next year’s so-and-so uber-conference? He’s just so awesome!
Sure we can and should love our pastors. And it’s OK to have Christian heroes to look up to and emulate (I have plenty). But things go awry the moment we admire the pastor in exchange for the Jesus he’s preaching (if, indeed, he preaches Jesus at all).
In this age of nifty digital content, slick video, and even slicker websites, it’s easy to idolize the messenger while overlooking the Message.
Could Bruce Lee have referred to revelation? Could the “pointing finger” be the stuff about God, the theology, the right doctrine, the ideas and truths that show us who God is?
If so, I say “concentrate on the finger!” Theology, the study of God, allows us to see, understand, and revel in the glory of our Maker. To think that doctrine and “the deep mysteries of God” somehow distract from the awesomeness of God is a falsehood. We study to know, to plumb the depths of His knowledge, to drink deep the pure waters of His revelation in order to celebrate Him, to be refreshed, instructed, rebuked, and grounded in God.
To NOT study about God is to gaze into heaven, ignorant.
This is important, as Jesus is the ultimate “finger” that points us to God. “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father,” He told Philip in the upper room (John 14:9). If we set our gaze on Jesus, if we seek to know Him intimately, we get a fuller, clearer, and richer understanding of our Creator.
More importantly, Jesus is the only way to be reconciled to the Father (John 14:6). If we want to know this righteous and holy God, if we want to be hoisted from our sinful quagmire and restored to Him, we need to focus on Jesus, the very revelation of God, who gave his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).
To not focus on Jesus, to sort of throw our hands up and assume that God is too nebulous to properly grasp (which is what a lot of Christians actually believe these days) is dangerous for the soul, to say the least.
Of course, Master Lee had neither of these things in mind. He was simply telling his student to not overthink Kung Fu. According to Lee, the act of raising your leg and kicking someone 4 feet into the air was simply a wonderful thing to bask in – to feel – rather than to analyze and figure out.
So actually it’s not as mysterious as it sounds. But I thank Lee for pointing me to Jesus.
I’ve always struggled to live the Christian life. Call me a dolt with an unquestionably thick skull but I’m the kind of believer that easily forgets what Christ has done for me, focusing instead on what I must do for Christ lest I incur His wrath and be smitten across the forehead with a lightning bolt, ala Harry Potter (though infinitely more hideous and not nearly as cool).
That or sometimes I just fail to obey coz, you know, it’s just so hard.
These days, by God’s grace, I’m not as passionately obsessed with sin that the gospel is eternally eclipsed. I’ve learned to glory and rest in the power of the gospel, to embrace the love of Christ than be oblivious to it.
But still there are days when the narrow way feels more like a tightrope.
I suspect that you, dear Christian friend, often feel the same way. That’s sort of how it is I guess; God bridges the chasm between His and our unrighteous selves, He saves, regenerates, and gifts us with His Holy Spirit, reassures us of His love, grants us the power to live victorious lives and what do we do? We go back to building some sorry excuse for a bridge in an attempt to connect both sides of the chasm, as if Jesus Christ were not enough, as if He has not already reconciled us to Himself.
This is human nature, of course. It is counter-intuitive to believe in a sovereign God who alone redeems us and makes us holy. It is anathema to our fallen minds that the Lord would choose to save us without ever asking us for our approval or to at least chip in and aid the process. As many of us like to quote, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. We practically fall over ourselves to contribute, to give, to do something in order that we might own our salvation.
It’s just that God will have nothing of the sort.
You see the gospel declares that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). Did you get that? Christ died while we were still sinners – rebellious people, dead in trespasses, unable to please God, indeed not even seeking Him. Salvation, in this light, is wholly of the LORD and not some cooperative effort between Creator and created. We wouldn’t have anything to do with Him, much less cooperate with salvation.
No, the gospel is an act of God, a divine accomplishment devoid of human will. And to God be infinite glory because it means He gets ALL the credit.
Charles Spurgeon explained it this way:
And if GOD does require the sinner—dead in sin—that he should take the first step, then he requireth just that which renders salvation as impossible under the gospel as ever it was under the law, seeing man is as unable to believe as he is to obey, and is just as much without power to come to Christ as he is without power to go to heaven without Christ. The power must be given to him of the Spirit. He lieth dead in sin: the Spirit must quicken him. He is bound hand and foot, fettered by transgression; the Spirit must cut his bonds, and then he will leap to liberty. GOD must come and dash the iron bars out of their sockets, and then he can escape afterwards, but unless the first thing be done for him, he must perish as surely under the gospel as he would have done under the law.
…Salvation is of the Lord. The Lord has to apply it, to make the unwilling willing, to make the ungodly godly, and bring the vile rebel to the feet of Jesus, or else salvation will never be accomplished. Leave that one thing undone, and you have broken the link of the chain, the very link which was just necessary to its integrity. Take away the fact that God begins the good work, and that He sends us what the old divines call preventing grace-take that away, and you have spoilt the whole of salvation; you have just taken the key-stone out of the arch, and down it tumbles. There is nothing left then.
A splendid summation of the doctrine of salvation, I say. I mean how marvelous, how wonderful, right? God predestined me to be saved and He did it without my contribution, and while I was a filthy blasphemer to boot. That’s what makes God so awesome; He can do what no one else can. He loves like no one else can love and saves our sorry selves to prove it.
But back to the quandary of holy living. Why do we have difficulty in living the victorious life? Why does it seem, after having acquired so great a salvation, that we’re more comfortable trying to build a make-shift bridge to the Divine when the cross has been permanently jammed between that otherwise impassable crevice?
It’s because the heart is fallen. Our default setting is to think we can earn our salvation, that somehow we can perform a righteousness that’s pleasing to God. The apostle Paul, while still a murderous rabbi, boasted a pre-salvation resume that listed achievement after flaming achievement. And yet, in Philippians 3, after acquiring a knowledge of Jesus he swiftly declared his human righteousness as dung. His accomplishments simply couldn’t compare to the righteousness of Christ, “which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith” (v9).
Did Paul struggle with sin after being saved? For sure. Romans 7 couldn’t be clearer. The real question is how’d he balance things? How did Paul, as he traversed the tightrope that is the Christian life, keep from falling into the frothy pit of legalism on one side and the bubbling pit of antinomianism (otherwise known as “extreme grace”) on the other?
Good question. Especially as this is how it’s been for the vast majority of Christians – a constant struggle in striking a happy balance between the two. Legalism or extreme grace: finding dead center is like pinning a tail on a donkey while blindfolded. And made to turn in multiple directions. With a steel ball chained to your leg.
You see, for the legalist, the Christian life is a laundry list of do’s and don’ts. Don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t dance, don’t go to the movies. Piety is defined by the barriers we erect, the strict codes we live by, and the many extrabiblical regulations these entail.
Legalism is difficult because it’s work driven by fear and powered by human flesh. The love of God and Holy Spirit have been chased out of town.
For the antinomian, the Christian life is all about grace, grace, and more grace. Forget the law; it only brings death. The antinomian isn’t interested in pondering God’s commands because he believes God demolished the law through Jesus. Or in other words, the less concerned about the law you are, the less likely you are to be caught in its trappings.
Both positions are helpful in that they spotlight good things that go a long way in helping us purse holy living. After all, the Bible DOES command us to obey God, flee immorality, and despise evil. And yes, the gospel does liberate us from the tyranny of the law and point us to a better way, namely Christ who saves us and through whom we can do all things.
And yet both positions, on their own, can be terribly destructive. Legalism wears us down, breeds self-righteousness, and pushes us away from God rather than closer to Him. It’s like munching aspirin – an awfully grim way to fight pain wouldn’t you agree? Not just that but legalism also gives rise to rebellion against God because sooner or later He’ll seem “too hard to please”. We burn out, bow out, sometimes taking almost forever to return.
Extreme grace frees us from the law, yes, but often results in a disregard for the law that leaves us vulnerable to sin. One extreme I’ve seen is a disdain for confession of sin and a reinterpretation of Luke 11:4 and 1 John 1:9 to reinforce this notion. You know you’re going off the deep-end when you reinvent theology and play origami with Scripture to make it all fit.
But what to do? Mesh the two together? Cut out all the bad parts and live by some hybrid, gospel-powered observing of the rules?
Actually, sort of.
The Bible is chock full of holy directives, positive and negative. Pray without ceasing. Love your enemies. Put on the whole armor of God. Don’t grieve the Holy Spirit. Flee immorality. Don’t be anxious for anything. These and a whole host of practical commands dot the entire New Testament.
I think it’s safe to say that God expects us to obey these commands and live pure, faithful lives.
And yet, not I but Christ, amen? Galatians 2:20 makes it clear that it is not we who live but it is Christ living through us. It’s a mystery, I confess, and I don’t think I’ll fully understand or resolve the tension of this verse while sinful and earthbound. But I do accept this truth and happily concede that God lives through me. How this pans out involves rest in the finished work of Christ, I’m sure.
But obedience is still key. Grace doesn’t nullify our obedience to His word; it empowers us to fulfill it. And while we may not perfectly obey, there’s no doubt Christ will continue to work in us to make us more like Him (Phil. 1:6).
In short, I believe we must make every effort to be holy (Hebrews 12:14), to obey Christ and to live lives that conform to the Word and its prescriptions. We simply have to make sure that this obedience is powered by the gospel. In other words we don’t obey to be accepted; rather, we obey because we are accepted in Jesus. We don’t do good works to earn salvation but we’re saved and therefore able to do good works as a result.
Will we ever find a perfect balance in this life? It’s definitely the goal. And yet I know, as a fallen creature, I’ll always veer into one of those two extremes. Thank God we have an Advocate who prays on our behalf and guarantees ultimate victory. And thank God this same Advocate, the Lord Jesus Himself, has promised not only a final day of deliverance from sin, but the grace to live in holy anticipation of it.