Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The "Eye of the All Seeing"

From Stranger Days: Chicago

Does God "see" all that we do?  Can we really get away with anything?  We try, don't we?  In Psalm 139, David talking to God says,

"You have searched me, Lord, and you know me.  You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.  You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.  Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.  You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?  Where can I flee from your presence?  If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.  If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.  If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me," even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.  Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.  How precious to me are your thoughts, God!  How vast is the sum of them!  Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand- when I awake, I am still with you.

If only you, God, would slay the wicked! Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!  They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name.  Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord, and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?  I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies.  Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."

What is David trying to hide here?  What problems is he dealing with?  He doesn't want to do what HE wants to do.  He wants to do what GOD wants him to do.  

Cain didn't want to do what God wanted him to do.  When he killed Abel, the Lord asked him, "Where is your brother?"  Cain said he didn't know!  "Am I my brother's keeper?" he responded.  Of course God already knew the truth.  Abel's blood cried out to him from the ground, the Bible says.  God punished Cain, but curiously still protected him at the same time from being killed himself.  It was part of God's plan I guess.  

Jesus constantly demonstrates an intimate knowledge of people, people who didn't yet know him.     When he met the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well, he already knew everything about her, and her relationships with men.   He already knew that her spirit needed refreshing before he talked with her.  He told her he was the Messiah, and she believed him.  It says she left her water jar to go back to town and tell the people about him.  "Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did.  Could this be the Messiah?" 

Nobody who approached Jesus had secrets that he didn't already know about.  Nobody who he approached had secrets so bad that he wasn't willing to still approach them.  The people who approached him knew they needed him.  He approached those whom he knew needed him.  Is Jesus calling you?  Do you want to know him?  You can, today, right now.  You can acknowledge his existence,  and accept him in to your heart.  His spirit will indwell you, and you can be a new person.  He can help you with your struggles, today and forever, and he will be your "lifelong counterpart."   

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Coming Soon.... Stranger Days: Brooklyn Bridge!

"If you're not where you want to be in your life, it is probably because you're stuck inside of your own comfort zone."

Yesterday was the first installment of the next Stranger Days book, from the Brooklyn Bridge, NYC! I will be returning a few more times before I self publish it on Lulu.com with the others.   It was an amazing first day of walking the bridge, and asking my usual question, "Would you mind writing or drawing in this book?"  I began around 10am, and ended the day about 3pm.  I did not keep track of how many people I asked, but it was quite a few.  If all of the people who said, "no" had not declined, I think there would have been at least 20 or more other entries in the book.  It's difficult to be shunned!  But I can't take it personally you know.  If only those who declined could realize that I actually chose them, maybe they would have reconsidered.  When I approach someone it is not really that random.  I'll talk about this kind of thing and more when I finish the book though.  Now, let me explain the entry you see above.

Toward the end of my day, I saw a young lady oil painting at her easel toward the Brooklyn side of the bridge.  She was doing an amazing job by the way, and if she had been selling them I would have bought one.  My  initial thought was not to ask her, because I didn't want to impose, to interrupt, to make her put her brushes down and lose track of thought and view.  But as I've learned in these experiences, our presumptions of others are often wrong.  So I took yet another risk, and approached her anyway.  I was relieved when she obliged.  She did put her brushes down, and in fact, had to just put everything away because she had a plane to catch soon.  I don't know if she felt any frustration at not getting further strokes into the painting or not.  But she was very nice, and understood what I was doing completely.  What she wrote is a good example of that understanding.  As an artist, she strives to connect to this world in deeper ways as well.

I was so happy I pushed through my hesitation of asking her.  I was getting weary at this point from the "no's" but also just from walking so long in the sun and wind.  My feet hurt, and I was hungry.  It was a relief to sit on the bench and wait as she made her entry.  Sitting down it was a joy to just feel the wind on my face, and look out across the water and at the city.  It really is an amazing view.  Her willingness actually made the other rejections fade in to the background, and my weariness faded too.

 By the way, Jesus was always drawing people out of their comfort zones.  The woman who poured all of the expensive perfume on His feet (Matthew 26) amidst many who judged her must have been out of her comfort zone.  (They thought she was just out of her mind!) The disciples who followed him definitely left their comfort zones of what was familiar to them.  They never knew what was going to happen next.  From what we read in the Bible, the apostle Paul, after his conversion, lived completely out of his comfort zone for the rest of his life.  God Himself, becoming man in Christ, left His comfort zone in order to bring us back to Himself in love everlasting.  Noah, and his willingness to remain true to building the Ark, listening to God's instruction in the face of adversity from all of those around him, left his comfort zone.  There are so, so many examples in the Bible of how leaving your comfort zone is when you will truly find life.  I encourage you to read about them for yourself.  Maybe you've been thinking about Jesus lately. Maybe it is time for you to leave your comfort zone of unbelief, and accept Him into your life.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Rich Mullins

The picture above is an entry from the Chicago book.  I came across almost the exact same quote about 3 years after I had done the book when I was reading An Arrow Pointing to Heaven, by James Bryan Smith.  It is a devotional biography about one of my absolutely favorite musicians, Rich Mullins.  Chapter 10's title page opens with a quote from Rich Mullins' song called "Live Right."  The quote says, Live like you'll die tomorrow, Die knowing you'll live forever.

I was going to place this link at the end of the post, but I want to put it here instead as an introduction to who Rich Mullins was.  It is interesting how the interviewer, Sheila Walsh, comments at the end of it, "Well, it sounds like we only have about 4 more years of Rich's music...."  She was referring to a joke he had made about himself earlier in the interview.  However, it turned out to be true.  He was gone from this world within 5 years of the interview.  Well, here it is.  It is about 25 minutes long, so please watch it at a time when you can see the full interview.  You won't be disappointed.

I was first introduced to Rich Mullins as a very young teenager when my Mother took me to a concert of his at Lincoln Christian College in Lincoln, Illinois.  I enjoyed the concert, but nothing in particular about the evening stands out too much.  I wish I could go back and attend it again as the person I am today.  My Mom bought me a cassette tape of his at that time, and I would go to sleep almost every night in high school listening to it.  It brought me much peace, and still does.  It is the album, The World as Best as I Remember It vol. 1.  One of my favorite songs (they are all favorites really) is "Calling Out Your Name."  He plays the dulcimer on that one, and it is such an inspirational sound.

I am grateful to my Mom for taking me to that concert, and doing other things to influence me in a direction of faith.  However, after high school I drifted away from faith, hope, things like that, spiritual things.

But I came back!  It is interesting that the first sermon I heard, by Pastor Lutzer at Moody Church in Chicago, was about that very thing; coming back to the Lord.

Now listening to Rich Mullins' songs brings me even more peace.  I understand them better now because I know the Bible better now.  Mullins' poetry is derived directly from specific verses in the Bible.  For instance his song "Who God is Gonna Use" is about Balaam and Esther, two people who God placed in particular places at particular times to ward off evil intents against the Isrealites, God's people.  He's not just singing thoughts, ideas, wishes.  He is singing truth.  At some point I let go of that cassette tape, but I bought the cd as well as volume 2.  I also now own The Jesus Record, which is an album of the last songs Rich Mullins ever wrote before he tragically died in a car accident in 1997.

His influence on people (including me) who had never met him, never could have met him, is astounding.  There is story after story about someone feeling like their life is over, feeling down and out, but come across a Rich Mullins song.  Then they hear his words, and it practically heals them!  Its a balm to their soul, because he is reflecting the message of Christ in song.  He focused on that message.  He wasn't afraid to reveal it in the best way he knew how.  I join everyone else who says THANK YOU Rich Mullins, for your faith, your courage in this life, to live as though you will die tomorrow, and die knowing you'll live forever.

Monday, March 13, 2017

A Prepared Path

A wonderful thing about letting Jesus into your heart is that He comes to stay for the long haul.  He is not superficial.  His motives for wanting a relationship with you are pure and sincere.

I didn't just accept His truth, and then be left to my own devices.  Things, people, were already in place to guide me along my new path.

One of those people is named Jeff.  He was working with Campus Crusade for Christ, and through other students I ended up connecting with him.

By the way, this post might make more sense if you've read the 'Testimony' page I put up. 

The very week after the events that lead me to the crossroads of believing in Christ, I met other students in the computer lab who were talking about a Bible study.  In the year and a half of my time at school I had never heard any discussion like that.  It is interesting how my path crossed theirs in that moment.  I was connected to other people who believed, and would be able to encourage me, confirm for me, this new direction in my life.  Jeff was leading that study with them.  He invited me to a retreat the following month.  It was a refreshing, renewing excursion that I desperately needed at that time.  Taking a cold campground shower on a chilly early morning is nothing compared to what Christ went through on the cross!

The long haul.... otherwise known as, E T E R N I T Y.  He says he has prepared a place for those who believe in Him.  John 14:1-4 says "Do not let your hearts be troubled.  You believe in God; believe also in me.  My Father's house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.  You know the way to the place where I am going."

Saturday, March 11, 2017

A Favorite Hong Kong Entry

Here is an entry from the Hong Kong book.  Before I traveled there this particular time in 2011, I connected with some fellow cycling enthusiasts on the internet.  When I met up with them in person I had to ask them to leave there mark for me, and they graciously obliged.  The friends who drew these images left me a memory of our New Territories ride that day, about 25 miles.  They were (are?) part of the Hong Kong Vintage Cycling Club.  It was a special time.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Beginning

In February of 2003, I bought a cheap blank journal off of the Merchandise Mart stop in Chicago.  Over the course of the next 3 months, I would ask fellow "L" riders the same question, "Excuse me, would you mind writing or drawing in this book?" That journal became, "Stranger Days: Chicago."

Then in 2011, after being invited back to Hong Kong to adjudicate again for a piano festival, I decided to do it again.  I took a special blank journal with me this time, given to me by a good friend, and asked strangers around me the same question, "Would you mind writing or drawing in this book?"  This one became "Stranger Days: Hong Kong.