Brokenness: Still Broken

(Image not mine)

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It started fifteen years ago…and now, it’s kind of quiet…at the same time not. All through last year I struggled around control of my health in having Graves Disease. I imagine my health will always be something I cannot take for granted as I did in my younger days. And in nearing our second wedding anniversary, I can tell you there definitely have been gritty moments of facing each other’s brokenness. This also will not stop as if we can “arrive” at a place in life where no more conflict happens. We keep changing and growing.

Health
Marriage

One day, God willing, we may have children. And as I’ve heard some mothers say, the time you carry them in your womb upto the point they start walking is really all the time you get that’s all yours. After that, they’re walking AWAY from you…growing up into their lives in a direction only God knows. We’ll do our best to guide, but it’s like the letting go starts when they let go of your hand and can walk on their own.

Children

And in uncertain economy, it’s not unlikely we may face a financial crisis either. Even now we are challenged to think on whether our security is in RRSP’s, savings and the “nest egg” or if our security is in God.

Finances

Then it’s as if you have to deal with all of the above again as you age into retirement. There’ll be another crisis of marriage, health, career, family, and so on. Spaced out over decades or some at the same time. Or maybe it’s repeatedly. And I’m starting to see more clearly that truly, while I “asked” for brokenness, our natural human condition was broken all along. We seek control…over ourselves and others…but do poorly at both. We are proud and often see slivers in others’ eyes while ignoring the plank in our own. We have misplaced expectations of ourselves and others and this causes pain. We are selfish and short sighted and have such deep trust issues. I see in growing clarity that our greatest “wisdom” is still just folly before God. And how much I need His wisdom. His grace. His forgiveness. His compassion. His love. Not just for myself, but so I would be transformed and be able to extend His qualities in abundance to others. I need HIM….living in and through and IN SPITE OF me.

And, that takes me being broken so that He can do that.

The Broken Pot (not sure of the origins of this story, but I got this story from here.)

A water bearer in India had two large pots, each hung on an end of a pole which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, and while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water at the end of the long walk from the stream to the masters house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.

For a full two years this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots full of water in his masters house. Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect to the end for which it was made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do. After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream.

“I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you.” “Why?” asked the bearer. “What are you ashamed of?” “I have been able, for these past two years, to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your masters house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work, and you don’t get full value from your efforts.” the pot said.

The water bearer felt sorry for the old cracked pot, and in his compassion he said, “As we return to the masters house, I want you to notice the beautiful flowers along the path.”

Indeed, as they went up the hill, the old cracked pot took notice of the sun warming the beautiful wild flowers on the side of the path, and this cheered it some. But at the end of the trail, it still felt bad because it had leaked out half its load, and so again the Pot apologized to the bearer for its failure.

The bearer said to the pot, “Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of your path, but not on the other pots side? That’s because I have always known about your flaw, and I took advantage of it. I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back from the stream, you’ve watered them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my masters table. Without you being just the way you are, he would not have this beauty to grace his house.”

Each of us has our own unique flaws. We’re all cracked pots. But if we will allow it, the Lord will use our flaws to grace His Father’s table. In Gods great economy, nothing goes to waste. Don’t be afraid of your flaws.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. – 2 Corinthians 12:9

Yoga Noga

(From Yogafortoday.ca)

Recently I heard of a discussion amongst some friends about whether or not Christians should do yoga. The strongest opinion against it comes from Pastor Mark. His main point is that yoga cannot be separated from Hinduism where each pose is a worship posture to their gods…so therefore, Christians have no business participating in something that is antithetical to Christian beliefs.

While I’m aware of yoga’s Hindu/pagan roots, I don’t agree that it necessarily warrants a complete ban. A number of “yoga” postures are regularly used in the physical therapy world as good stretches to do. Whether you call it a full back extension or Bhujangasana for the “Cobra” pose…it’s just a stretch position. Call it what you want, but I don’t think anyone can monopolize a stretch position. But here’s my thoughts on yoga which are based on these two verses:

“Everything is permissible for me”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible for me”—but I will not be mastered by anything. 1 Cor 6:12

“Everything is permissible”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is constructive. 1 Cor 10:23

Mainstream appropriation of various cultural practices are rarely aware of all the traditions or religious implications behind it; even if they know something of it, it’s not adhered to. Or it’s “practiced” as a novelty. This goes for anything pagan or Christian. I do believe it is necessary for Christians to be aware of the historical and spiritual roots behind something before blindly falling in and unknowingly being influenced in a spiritual manner that detracts from their walk with Christ. But I do not agree that everything with pagan roots needs to be banned. To say one should ban yoga because of its Hindu roots is like some churches’ reaction to ban Harry Potter because of it’s magic/occultic references, or to ban drums in worship service because of its Satanic rhythm. Even our Christian holidays have very pagan roots. Though some of those pagan festivals have been “redeemed for Christ”, our mainstream culture has made Christmas and Easter to be something different from what Christians meant for it to be. (“Santa” spelled differently is “Satan”. =P)  Celebrating Christmas or Easter does not make one Christian. Neither would celebrating Diwali, Hanukkah or Eid with friends who graciously invite us, make us Hindu, Jewish or Muslim.

Take Kung Fu or Tai Chi…they have roots in Buddhism and Taoism/Confucianism respectively. It’s used for meditation, strengthening of the mind and body, regulating deep breathing, self-defense and channelling energy. But once mainstream, the focus really is on core strengthening, de-stressing and other health benefits…similar to why I do yoga. Again, practicing these martial art forms does not make one any more Buddist or Taoist. Nor would, I believe, doing yoga make me Hindu.

Not to say there aren’t dangers or elements of eastern traditional practices that do not align with Christian beliefs, but this is where being well-informed regarding its history and spiritual influences, as well as having spiritual discernment, is important. We need to be discerning of what types of yoga or yoga studios one should be part of. If the studio/instructor’s focus is on channeling energy, finding spirit guides and aligning chakras, the discerning Christian should have alarm bells go off. (I like going to classes that focus just on the stretching postures, and I avoid classes that are filled with “Empty your thoughts, breathe in the one spirit and feel the energy of incredible goodness happening on your mat” type stuff.) Likewise for practices like Tai Chi/Kung Fu or anything else with nonChristian roots, exercise discernment! My uncle had taken a Tai Chi class with a segment on qigong…the instructor came around to students to assess and provide “qi” if they were lacking and when he came to my uncle, he told my uncle there was already “qi” in him (my uncle is Christian) and that he didn’t need to receive more “qi”. THAT should set off alarm bells to not take this Tai Chi class.

The easy way is to ban anything that has roots in pagan belief systems…but as my Pastor believes, I think it’s better to develop an informed and discerning mind as to what is beneficial, what might master you, what is constructive. etc. If someone’s faith does not allow them to do something like yoga, fine. But there are those who’s faith allows them to do yoga. Personal conviction based on the leading of the Holy Spirit should determine which it is. Either way, both sides should be respected.

My friend Superesc had the thought that stretching is stretching so if the term “yoga” cannot be separated from Hinduism, even if you could separate the spiritual philosphy from the stretching poses, then maybe just rebrand the exercise and posture names as something else. And well, someone’s done that…check out http://praisemoves.com/  =)

Storage Wars

Thing about downsizing is that you don’t know how much you really have until you move into a smaller space. We’re onto week three after moving into our condo. Having nearly 1000 square feet less than before…it’s a bit chaotic still.

The kitchen is unpacked and nearly everything fits. I say “nearly” because ideally, I would like all small appliances to be tucked neatly away in some cupboard. Our clothes…wow we have a lot of clothes…are also all hung or folded away into the closet, dresser and storage bin depending on the season. I’ll attempt to coax Skywalker into doing a fourth purge of clothes with me. We’re trying not to turn the second bedroom/office into a storage dumping area either. Still figuring out the linens, but the extra blankets are stowed in under-the-bed boxes. There are all these boxes of miscellaneous knick knacks needing a home too…still not sure about those either.

And then there’s binders and textbooks. Sigh. Why could we not bring ourselves to just recycle these? Well I know why, it’s namely because we spent thousands of dollars getting these paper goods for our education and to chuck it away without getting a dime back is just so anti-Asian-frugal mentality! I know you’re asking why didn’t we sell it right after university…well that’s because bookstores were buying it back for less than 50% of what we paid (read: Bad Deal) and you just never know when you might need to look something up again. I know. Now it’s too late to sell the books back and we’ve found in the last 10 years we haven’t needed to look anything up. Sigh. (Younger readers take note: SELL YOUR TEXTBOOKS ASAP.)

It’s really not as bad as I was initially imagining our storage situation to be though. For that I’m thankful. I was thinking we’d need extensive (and expensive) custom floor-to-ceiling shelving built in our living room. And while some more shelving/cupboards will probably make its way into the condo, I think what we’ll really need to do is to decide whether there is space for something before we buy it. If we can’t envision where it’s going to go, or if we can’t decide on what to give/throw away in order to make room for it, then it’s not coming home with us.

It’s not actually war on storage….but war on consumerism and clutter. Hopefully we’ll win.
Do you have any storage/anti-clutter tips you live by?

Shrewd & Innocent

Critical thought. Many lack it. I made a point to it in my recent post about why so many Americans are walking from their faith. “Christians” have built their faith on ideas heard from other “Christians” what the faith is about or based on what they think the faith is about instead of actually studying what the Bible has to say about God and how to follow Him. Or rather, what God/Jesus Christ has to say about Himself as recorded in the Bible and how  we are to follow Him properly.

I read an article in passing a while ago, apologies for losing the reference, but it featured common sayings that people believed were quotes from the Bible when it really wasn’t. For example, “God helps those who helps themselves” or “Cleanliness is next to godliness“. Read through the Bible folks, it’s not in there.

Though university I’ve been asked all sorts of questions like,

    • Why is there evil and  suffering in the world if God is loving?”
    • “Why do you discriminate against dating non-Christians?”
    • “Why won’t you accept Jesus was just a good teacher?”
    • “Your bible condones slavery, treating women like possessions and polygamy, why do you believe in something so backwards?”
    • “Why do you believe good people go to hell just because they don’t believe in Jesus?”
    • “Why shouldn’t a couple live together before getting married?”
    • “Why does bad things happen to me when I don’t deserve any of this?”

One of my best friends in university couldn’t answer these questions…and instead of seeking the answers, she chose to just walk away from her faith. I became determined to find out the answers…if the Bible was Truth, then it can stand up to questioning, and answers will be found. And so, I did find answers to each of those questions…and for most questions after university too. Interestingly, as time went on, the secular community has reached similar conclusions for some of the questions I’ve been asked. This really serves to cement in my mind that the Bible is always relevant. No matter what century we’re in.

The early believers were told to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15; bold and italics mine)

Prepared. I’m trying to be…and I encourage all believers seeking after God to be prepared as well. Thinking critically about your faith doesn’t mean you have to go to seminary, though that isn’t a bad idea, it does mean embracing questions the world will ask and going after the answers until you find it. Sometimes, as you spiritually mature, the answer gets fine tuned so it’s in better alignment with the Bible. Sometimes you just might need to be okay with not knowing the full answer until Christ comes back and you can ask Him yourself.

This Boundless.org article “Christianity in the Marketplace” gives an example of how Paul was able to share with the secular philosophers and great thinkers of his day. One point from the article I liked was that bits of truth is scattered in the world and you can use those bits to make a case for the Truth of God’s word. Point is, we need to know our world, we need to know ourselves, and even more, we need to know God as He reveals Himself in the Bible. Sharpen your awareness, fine tune your intellect regarding your faith and be resourceful in finding answers. Surprise the world by showing that Christ-followers do have very logical reasons for believing in and following Christ. No one else is going to do that for you.

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” Matthew 10:16

Two books I recommend for starters:
Case for Christ – Lee Strobel
Mere Christianity – C.S. Lewis (I LOVE this book!)

Bedroom Wars?

Before I got married, I had heard various stories from my married friends about how hard it was getting used to sharing a bed with their respective wife/husband. Interesting terms were used to describe the sleeping situation where someone was a:

  • flipper flopper
  • blanket hog
  • starfish
  • toilet paper roller
  • icicle/radiator
  • lawn mower
  • vivid/active dreamer
  • acrobat

Any of those describe your spouse? Our friends advised that getting a king size bed and/or two blankets will save the marriage. A good night’s rest is THAT important to a good marriage.

Thankfully, neither of us move much when falling asleep or when asleep. We fall asleep on our backs with an occasional turn to the left or right through the night. A queen bed fits us perfectly. The only applicable descriptor was the icicle/radiator one…which depending on the season, describes me. Yes both the icicle and radiator. This usually means I might need more or less blanket than Skywalker…so I’m seeing the wisdom in maybe needing two blankets afterall.


Especially when it can look this good!

(Images from ApartmentTherapy.com)