“The LORD will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring.” – Isaiah 58:11 NLT
“So much to do, so little time.” – “Hurry!” – “Work harder!” – “You had better take advantage of every second if you want to be successful.” – “Keep your head down and carry the weight of the world on your shoulders.” – “If you don’t do it, it won’t get done.” – “If you want to please everyone you have to get it done right now.” – “This is ASAP!” – “You are highly valuable…if you succeed at what you do.” – “You can push yourself harder.” – “Don’t stop working until you drop or your health starts crippling you.”
These types of statements or thoughts are rarely verbalized, but let’s be honest, these are the subtle messages that has been propagated across American culture for years now. Personally, I could fill up pages with similar thoughts that go through my mind. This has become our default mode of operation. We are experts at filling up empty space with some sort of work or noise (guilty). It is as though we have become addicted to achievement…sometimes at the expense of gifts that God has put in our lives. Often times at the expense of our quiet time with God.
Our culture has forgotten how to sit on the front porch and carry on a conversation. We have lost our ability (or desire) to relax. Have you ever taken a “relaxing” vacation and noticed how it took the entire trip just to begin to relax? What is the deal?!
One of things I love most about traveling is learning from other cultures. Something I learned quickly when visiting India on three different occasions, is that Indian culture does not operate at the same panic level that we do. Yes, things still get done, but certainly not at the break neck speed of modern America.
In America, we will skip breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner because we are SOOOO busy (again guilty). In India, from Government officials, all the way down to the poorest of society, everything stops when it’s “tea time”.
During “tea time” in India (and most of Eastern culture), tea is not consumed the way we consume the holy bean…aka coffee. Drinking coffee in our culture, most often happens as we are running out the door on the way to school or work. We may grab some more mid-afternoon, not necessarily for the pleasure of it, but to ward off the post-lunch lull so that we can continue to be “productive”.
Drinking tea in Eastern/Asian culture is more of an event. It is a predetermined and set aside time of the day in which conversation occurs. It can be very formal or very casual, as you can see from this roadside chai walla we visited (by the way, this masala chai was ridiculously good).
Having tea with someone is an enjoyable way of building relationship through conversation. Leaders within communities usually have tea together before discussing business deals or making decisions. If you are putting together a schedule for an event, you must incorporate tea time. Tea time is simply a part of the rhythm of life in India.
Lately, I have been considering what it would look like for me…for us, as followers of Christ, to slow down and take more time for “tea”. I am fairly certain that the Savior of our souls would love to meet us there. In India, you can find tea stands on almost every street. At any moment, you can pull over and partake of the masala goodness! What if we decided to pull over more often and take some time fellowshipping with our Heavenly Chai Walla?
What if we stopped giving so much of ourselves to the ASAP’s of the moment (which are never as critical as they actually seem) and took more time to drink in God’s presence? The traffic is often unbearable in the larger cities in India. So, why not pull over and drink tea? Why do we feel like we must keep the pedal to the metal and white knuckle the steering wheel right on through the traffic of the day? Right on through our lunch hour? These are questions I am asking myself!
At what point did I allow my task list to supplant my quiet time? This happens without even thinking. The enemy wants us to skip our “meals” with Jesus. He wants us to remain distracted and out of rhythm. He is happy with us being overwhelmed and striving for man’s approval and that elusive pat on the back. He wants us to physically and mentally break down under the stresses of life. He wants us to keep looking inward and not upward, because he knows we have no power in our own strength.
Our strength lies in our tea times. I love that with God it doesn’t have to be formal. We don’t have to dress up for the occasion. We can pull over at any time, right in the middle of the chaos of the day and drink in His love and encouragement. His nourishment is never prepackaged. It is the real deal. It’s authentic. It is full of fresh ingredients and His recipe is perfect. It is exactly what we need, exactly when we need it. Why won’t we just pull over?
Lord, we simply ask that tea time with you would become a more prevalent part of the rhythm of our lives. Help us to remember that as we rest in You, we are demonstrating confidence in Your faithfulness. Please remind us in those ASAP moments that the only thing that is actually “critical” is our relationship with you. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Why was this Windows 8 machine not functioning properly? After all, it was practically a brand new computer. The capabilities of this high-end, workhorse touchscreen system had been reduced to that of a Dell dinosaur running Windows 95 (or worse). At some point, just about everyone with experience using computers knows what it’s like to have their machine slow to a proverbial crawl due to the sneaky existence of viruses, malware, spyware, scareware, etc. What exactly was it this time? I didn’t know…but what I did know is that this computer was no different from any that I have ever worked on.
In some cases, the problem is subtle, hidden, slowly crippling the machine by running excessive processes that occupy precious system resources like your processor and memory. In other cases, the culprit is obvious. The giant flashing pop-up demanding that you call “support” because your machine has 80,345 viruses is hard to miss. Either way, from my perspective, the process of removing an infection and getting the machine back to it’s maximum level of optimization really doesn’t change. It starts and ends with troubleshooting. In my line of work, it is literally what I do every day.
My basic process for troubleshooting starts by establishing a clear understanding of how a particular system is actually supposed to function. I establish this baseline. I ask myself, “What is the expected or desired behavior? Is the machine clearly operating at the level it was designed to?” Secondly, I will usually ask the owner to take me back to the last time it was working correctly, and what happened right before they noticed problems. I observe: When does the problem occur? I attempt to identify a problem by observing the response of the machine. Through this process, I also aim to eliminate what it could NOT be. By a deliberate process of elimination, I begin to isolate and establish a root cause. Finally, I address this root by utilizing certain tools I have accumulated over the years, while leaning on my past experience (and other times…Google).
What is my point in all this? I believe the troubleshooting process can be applied to our spiritual lives as well.
Satan is a savvy black hat hacker. He is looking for weaknesses and vulnerabilities in our lives that he might be able to exploit. He will attempt to brute force attack, trying to obtain internal access by relentlessly utilizing different passwords over and over again. All the while he is simultaneously preparing to send Trojan horse packages to attack us from the inside. He tries sowing things into our lives that looks like an enticing gift, but is actually delivered with the intent to wreak havoc once unwrapped.
Once the enemy gets into our systems we begin to degrade and fail to operate as we were designed. Successful attacks sometimes happen overnight, but what I most often find is that this usually occurs over an extended period of neglectfulness. It’s clear that unaddressed indifference and neglect ultimately result in unintended complications. There must be a well thought out strategy and plan in place for not just maintaining, but also continually improving. Thankfully God has the tech specs laid out before us, white pages full of detailed instructions.
So what is our “troubleshooting strategy” when something lands on my hard drive that shouldn’t be there? Yes! We as Christians have the Ultimate Firewall…Jesus! We are covered, protected, and redeemed by the blood of our Savior. No weapon formed against us will prosper. But what if we neglect our relationship with Him? What if we never take the time to patch or upgrade our operating systems via prayer and studying His Word? If we maintain the same old operating system, the enemy will eventually begin finding new back doors and vulnerabilities.
In the world of IT, from the perspective of the firewall Administrator, there is a fine balance between allowing users enough freedom and flexibility to do what needs to be done and completely locking down the network to the point that too much freedom is taken away and the environment is 100% controlled. God is not going to lock down the network and control every decision in our lives. He is going to allow us the freedom to make our own choices. In IT, we can have the greatest firewall in the world, but if users are intentionally (or unintentionally) opening their systems up to attack, it’s only a matter of time before some “troubleshooting” is going to need to take place.
Make no mistake, the status of our salvation will never have to be maintained by our works. The slowed computer is still a computer. However, neglecting our relationship with Him and ignoring the little foxes in our lives will directly affect the quality of our walk and the lives of those closest to us. We will be like that high-end machine, operating at 30% capacity. We as children of God, were not meant to operate below or even at a basic baseline level. We were made to operate above capacity with unlimited upgradability. A piece of malware may find it’s way onto our hard drive from time to time, but when discovered it will be violently attacked by our anti-malware agents.
God, thank you that you are our anti-malware Agent…our Firewall. You give us free will to make choices. Thank you, that as we follow you and lean in to hear your voice more clearly, you show us how to avoid the little foxes and how to not open ourselves up to attacks. You lead us directly to root cause. You are the ultimate Administrator. There is no virus that you cannot remove. You make us into more than we could have ever imagined by expanding our capacities and capabilities. Thank you that you made us infinitely re-writeable. Thank you that even when we fall down or infect ourselves with bad coding, as we turn to you for help, by Your grace You delete the malicious and replace it truth and forgiveness! You fortify us against the schemes of the enemy. We lean into you, and we open up our lives to Your wisdom. We give you free reign to optimize our coding. In Jesus’ name, amen.
There’s a deep desire in all of us to do something great. God made us that way for the ultimate purpose of glorifying Himself. The question I’ve had recently is, what does that look like for me, for my family? How can we tackle an existing problem and make a difference? Who can we help? How can we share the Love of God in ways we never imagined? The over-shadowing question to these types of questions is…How can we navigate our way beyond the boarders of our circle of safe-ism and move more into the uncomfortable? I’m talking about the place where we take the things we learned in the circle and drag it outside to be exposed to new adventure and less calculated risks. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t yet completely know what this looks like for me…but I do know it requires a paradigm shift, faith, boldness, allowing yourself to dream a little, and being okay with doing something unconventional. My personality tends to fights this, but I presume I recognize it and that the status quo needs to be shaken up a little.
We’ve all experienced the helplessness and desperation of life’s darkest moments. It’s during those times that the enemy of our soul does everything he can to silence us from crying out to the only One who can redeem us. If he can succeed in silencing us he can prevent us from telling the Master what it is we need.
I love the biblical story of Bartimaeus, the blind beggar, who’s account was recorded in both Luke 18 and Mark 10.
Here is Luke’s account:
35 As he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36 And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant. 37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” 38 And he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 39 And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 40 And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” 42 And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” 43 And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.
In this story, we see the blind beggar in the midst of a crowd of people. He hears a huge commotion and asked the people around him what was going on. They tell him Jesus of Nazareth is passing by. Now obviously, Jesus’ reputation was already preceding him, because Bartimaeus knew who He was and immediately knew what to do. He called out to Jesus by name, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” What is often overlooked in this passage is the fact that the people actually rebuked him and basically told him to shut up.
This is where I have so often found myself. In my moments of pain, disappointment (in myself and others), self-condemnation, weakness, and the like. In these moments we just want to shout out and tell God what we want. But these, these are the pivotal moments in our lives where the enemy loves to step in and tell us to, “shut up”. That it won’t do any good…that we haven’t done enough to have our prayers answered…that we are alone in our pain…that we are too dirty…unworthy of the Master’s attention…that God is too busy with more important things…that we just need sit down and shut up.
The people in the crowd tried to shut him up. I can’t help but think that these people were being used by Satan to prevent this man from receiving the restoration of his eyesight. The enemy knew what would happen if he did. He knew that the restoration of his eyesight was only the beginning. He knew that not only would the man’s life be radically changed physically, but also spiritually.
I believe the man’s response to the efforts of the enemy (again, recorded twice in the New Testament), was recorded so that we would know how to respond in critical moments like these. So what did he do? The Bible says that he cried out all the more! He basically said to them in his response, “No, I won’t shut up. I will not be denied! I know who that Man is and what He can do for me. Now excuse me, but I am going to get His attention.”
So what happens next? What is the response of Jesus?
So Jesus, in the midst of a throng of people, obviously a pretty raucous group, hears the man over all of them. He heard Him, number one, because He is always listening for the desperate cries of the broken, and number two, because the man actually cried out. So when He hears the cry of the blind man, He stops. (That alone is an entire message in and of itself. ) He stopped in His tracks and said (paraphrasing), “Hey, bring that guy over here.” He then (knowing the guy was blind) proceeds to ask him what he wants. This gave the man the opportunity to simply say what it is he needed.
I think it is important to note that there was no pre-requisites prior to Jesus answering the man’s request…just like many of the miracles of healing Jesus performed on scores of people recorded in scripture. He didn’t tell the man to first go to the temple and repent, put on sack cloth and ashes, and beg Him really hard and maybe just maybe healing would occur. No, He said, “What do you want me to do for you?” The man told Him, he received his sight, his life was changed, and he began to follow Jesus.
Father help us to cry out in the midst of our pain. Help us to ignore the voice of the antagonist. Help us to cut out offering futile, justifiable reasonings as to why we think we do or do not deserve to have our needs met. You gave us example after example through scripture where you responded to those who, knowing of your goodness, simply cried out to you. May we ever be like little children running to our Father with our requests, knowing that we have a Good Father who will make sure that our needs are met. In Jesus name, Amen.