only help my unbelief

The graciousness of uncertainty
July 17, 2007, 11:00 pm
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Forgive me for the paucity of posts. I can’t promise it will get better.

Christian forwarded me an email he got with a quote by Oswald Chambers. It spoke so directly to some of the things I’m struggling with, so I thought I would share it.

 Naturally, we are inclined to be so mathematical and calculating that we look upon uncertainty as a bad thing. We imagine that we have to reach some end, but that is not the nature of spiritual life. The nature of spiritual life is that we are certain in our uncertainty, consequently we do not make our nests anywhere. Common sense says—”Well, supposing I were in that condition . . .” We cannot suppose ourselves in any condition we have never been in. Certainty is the mark of the common-sense life: gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life. To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all our ways, we do not know what a day may bring forth. This is generally said with a sigh of sadness, it should be rather an expression of breathless expectation. We are uncertain of the next step, but we are certain of God. Immediately we abandon to God, and do the duty that lies nearest, He packs our life with surprises all thetime. When we become advocates of a creed, something dies; we do not believe God, we only believe our belief aboutHim. Jesus said, “Except ye become as little children.” Spiritual life isthe life of a child. We are not uncertain of God, but uncertain of what He is going to do next. If we are only certain in our beliefs, we get dignified and severe and have the ban of finality about our views; but when we are rightly related to God, life is full of spontaneous, joyful uncertainty and expectancy.

“Believe also in Me,” said Jesus, not—”Believe certain things about Me.” Leave the whole thing to Him, it is gloriously uncertain how He will come in, but He will come. Remain loyal to Him.


Conviction, or being genuine
July 12, 2007, 10:46 pm
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I was going to write about God’s sovereignty tonight, but as I don’t really have the time to cover that topic like I want to, I thought instead I’d write about something I saw online today that got me thinking.

I mentioned that I’ve been reading this book called Total Truth. It’s really good. You should read it. Anyway, it makes the point in the first chapter that so many Christians live very compartmentalized lives; that is, they would say they are people ‘of faith,’ but it doesn’t really affect how they live, nor does it change their practices in their professions. I was reminded of this again today while watching a video at a site created by Ray Comfort, the well-known evangelist from New Zealand.

Watch the video; it’s about 8 minutes long. I was really convicted by it. For those of you who don’t have the time or willingness to watch it, basically he interviews professing Christians (coming out of the movie theater, no less) and asks them first if they watch R-rated movies. Most of them respond in the affirmative. He then goes on to ask them if they watch movies with blasphemy in them (i.e. using Jesus or God’s name in vain). Most of them say yes, but uncomfortably, as though they don’t really mind the blasphemy, but feel embarrassed that he actually calls it for what it is. I won’t ruin the video for those of you planning to watch it, but needless to say, I was convicted by the end of it. He makes some really good points about blasphemy and sex in films: Would you go to a movie where they used your mother’s name in vain? Would you let someone watch you be intimate with your spouse?

I guess some might argue that movies portray real life, and so there’s no problem with seeing stuff like this. However, I would argue back that while it may simply be a portrayal of real life, you’re not required to pay money to go and see it. I can’t avoid hearing Jesus’ name taken in vain when I walk to class; I can avoid using the money God has entrusted to me to pay to hear Jesus’ name taken in vain and watch people having sex, most likely not even within marriage.

Finally, I would go ahead and encourage you to ask this question – next time you watch a movie and enjoy it, think, “Would I ever say, ‘Jesus, I just saw this great movie!'” If the answer is ‘no,’ perhaps you should re-evaluate your choices.

I just think that today, Christians fail to be consistent and genuine. I’m not going to go off about how Christians talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. Christians don’t even talk the talk anymore! There are so many videos I’ve watched or scenarios I’ve heard about where Christians say things like “I believe that Jesus is the way to heaven” but then when pressed if that means that some people will go to hell, don’t answer as they should.

That said, it IS important that our actions match up with our words. If we say that we should be zealous for the name and glory of God, then we should be just as zealous not to see movies where His name is taken in vain. If we say that God is holy and desires for us to be pure, we should not put immoral images in front of our eyes.

I hope and pray that as Christians, we will all strive to be holier tomorrow than we were today, and to be passionate about glorifying God in every aspect of our lives.

Total Truth
July 10, 2007, 11:26 pm
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Tonight I spent 2.5 hours at Starbucks reading Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey. I like to read, but this book has sucked me in like no other. You could say I’m devouring it. Here are a few of the points she makes in the book so far that really stuck out to me.

– “The orthodox Christian holds a unified field of truth, because the God who acts in our hearts is also the God who acts in history.”

– “We can offer the world a unified truth that is intellectually satisfying, while at the same time meets our deepest hunger for beauty and meaning.”

– Humanity is always defined by its relationship to whatever is regarded as ultimate reality.

–  Morality is derivative – it stems from one’s worldview; we must engage the underlying worldview.

– Having a Christian worldview is obedience to the Great Commission.

– Evolution itself functions as religion.

– Christians need to reintroduce the concept that religion can be genuine knowledge.

– Everything hangs on your view of origins.

And finally,

“Taking a leap of faith is a sure sign that a person’s philosophy fails to explain human nature as he himself experiences it.”

I really am being captured by this book. It engages the mind as well as the heart, and is God-glorifying. I highly recommend it.

Related to that, someone recently asked me how I find all the good blogs I read. At the moment I have 67 subscriptions on Google Reader. Some of them are RSS feeds from news sites like the New York Times or, but the majority of them are personal or group blogs that I’ve found by spending the majority of my free time on the Internet. Tonight I added several subscriptions to my list in order to have a more comprehensive view of what’s going on in the world. I’m hoping that reading more liberal, secular sites/blogs will enable me to practice analyzing biblically oppositional worldviews. In the next couple of days, I’m going to start linking to some of the blogs/RSS feeds that I read daily.

Sticks in the fire
July 9, 2007, 10:45 pm
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Having grown up in Baptist churches until high school, I went to my share of retreats, revivals and camps. While I will make no judgment on the extent to which the gospel was presented (because I don’t really remember), I do remember one thing that they had in common. In almost every situation, at some point during the last session of the day, week, weekend, there would be some time of commitment. It had different forms, different methods, but the ultimate goal was twofold – 1) If you’re not a Christian, believe in Jesus and 2) If you are a Christian, what area of your life needs to be recommitted to the Lord?

At some retreats, those wanting to make a decision of some sort went up to the front to pray, or to the back to talk with someone. At others, we were sent off on our own to pray by ourselves. I remember at one place we were given notecards and told to write something down that we needed to give up, and then we each went up, ripped up the card and threw it in a big trashcan.

The one I remember best, though, was at a weeklong camp in North Carolina. At the end of the last session, we all filed out of our rows one by one and picked up a small twig. At the back of the building was a huge fire, and we each had a chance to throw our stick in the fire, symbolizing the burning of our own desires or the personal commitment of our lives to Christ (for the first, second, third, eight, fiftieth time).

I mention these experiences not to mock them. God saved me through a revival when I was six years old. And I believe many of the tears I saw shed at these functions were sincere, and I’m sure God used those events to draw many closer to Himself.

However, I think there is great danger in relying on circumstances like these to commemorate some kind of big decision we made for Christ, or in thinking that it takes a dramatic act in order to make that decision more “real.”

This past Sunday, my Sunday School class was studying the end of Acts 18, where Apollos’ ministry is discussed. The teacher was discussing how Apollos was a man mighty in the Scriptures, who had all the resources of secular knowledge at his fingertips. But, he said, Apollos only studied the world’s books in order to advance the gospel better, and the great majority of his time was spent in the Scriptures. From that he issued a challenge regarding our free time and how we use it. He encouraged us to compare our lives to that of Apollos’. How much time do we spend in the Scripture? What do we spend our times doing that won’t profit us eternally?

And there, in the fifth row of the Sunday School classroom, I was convicted about something I spent my time doing that has taken up days upon days of my time over the past six months or so. It is something I have felt small amounts of conviction about before, but yesterday morning, it was as though I heard a voice plain as day in my head saying, “Chelsey, you need to stop doing that.” And almost as clearly, my heart of hearts replied, “Yes, Lord.” When I got home from church, I took the steps necessary to remove that thing from my life indefinitely.

And that was that.

I relate this story not to boast in the depth of my obedience. As I said, I have ignored conviction in the past about this particular use of my time. I mention it in order to encourage those of you who have made commitments to the Lord and have failed in them. Those of you who are waiting for the fire to be lit in your heart about what God would require of you. By all means, take advantage of God-centered events that want you to make a personal commitment and verbalize what’s in your heart, but realize that God can use a Sunday School lesson from Acts 18 to change your life as well.

You don’t always have to throw a stick in the fire.

“The time has come,” the Walrus said
July 8, 2007, 5:33 pm
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Christian returns to the good earth, i.e. South Carolina soil, in 13 days and a few hours. When he left, the countdown was somewhere around 170 days. About three weeks after he left, we began reading the Psalms backwards such that we would be reading Psalm 1 on the day he was flying back. And so, today the Psalm of the day was Psalm 14. Hard to believe.

I don’t know that I’m at the point where I could accurately sum up what this past half-of-a-year has been for me. It has certainly been a time of growth. I also got to travel out of the country in order to see him, which was the first time I’d ever been anywhere “cool.” The six months he has been gone also mark 2/5ths of our relationship, as our 15-month anniversary was yesterday. And so only 60% of the time we have been together has been spent in the same country. And of those 9 months in the same country, we’ve spent only 2-3 of them total in the presence of each other.

It’s not your typical relationship, then. In fact, it’s almost completely atypical, especially when you consider how we met (a post for another day). Today he called me from the town of Heilbronn, at the place where he’s been the last week or so, and we were able to talk for about 40 minutes. That’s the longest we’ve talked on the phone since he left. In fact, we’ve probably talked on the phone less than 10 times the entire time he’s been gone. When he was in the US, talking on the phone was our main source of communication, so this has been a big change. And yet, those 40 minutes of talking were some of the most precious moments we’ve had in his time away. I felt free to bring up some things I’ve been worried about, and could hear his response not only in his words but in his tone of voice. When we’re talking online, I’m quick to interpret things like “It’s OK” as though he’s not listening or doesn’t care. But when he said those words on the phone today, it was in a spirit of love and gentleness, doing his best to comfort me from 4000 miles away.

These last 13 days will, I think, seem like the last mile of a long run – harder than all the previous combined. And while I know that July 21st will be here sooner than I feel like it will be, it will not be too soon. I’m thankful I have something to do the evening of the night he gets back – otherwise I think I would be camping out the airport all day. 😉

Eeyore evolves
July 7, 2007, 10:08 pm
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When I was in high school, I distinctly remember a conversation with some friends regarding personality similarities between each of us and Winnie-the-Pooh characters. Without any hesitation, I was unanimously voted as ‘Eeyore.’

“You’re so serious all the time,” they would say.

I was, in fact, voted “Most Serious” as a freshman in high school during our Honors program superlatives.

Now, at the ripe old age of twenty-one, with only a year of school in between me and the real world, I’m beginning to suffer from the implications of those accusations.

Last year I worked with a little boy named Winston who had autism. While I think his mother was happy with the job I did as a therapist, the one recurring criticism was that I wasn’t enthusiastic enough, and that I should try to be more excited about things, because Winston responded well to that. It wasn’t really that I wasn’t excited. It thrilled me when he mastered a concept. Rather, I just wasn’t expressive enough.

This summer I’m the official babysitter for a family with four little girls, five and under. They embody enthusiasm. It exudes from every one of their pores. I just got back today from four days with them up in the mountains, spending basically every waking hour with them (and some hours when we should have all been sleeping). I’ve gotten frustrated with myself over the course of working for their family because I just haven’t felt like I’m expressive or creative enough when I play with them. However, I think that these last couple of days taught me a lot about winning points with preschool-aged children.

Apparently, any word ending in “-ooty” is automatically hilarious. For example, “booty,” “tooty,” “hooty,” “doody.” It also helps if the word is in any way related to any kind of bathroom function or bathroom-related body part. Bonus points if you use multiple words, stringing them together.

I realized after the first day or so that most of my time was spent telling them what not to do and trying to avert any and all potential disasters, including but not limited to: Margaret getting her head stuck in the railings of the balcony; Mary Thomas falling into the fish pond; Frances getting stuck between her bed and wall in the middle of the night. I thought maybe I should try better to be more fun, to be more “enthusiastic.” So I implemented the above rule regarding word endings. What follows is my best remembrance of an actual conversation with Frances.

Frances: Goodnight, booty-pooty-hooty head.

Chelsey: Goodnight, tooty-hiney-bottom.

Frances: See ya, doody-hairy-bald-headed.

Chelsey: Sleep well, silly-willy-tooty bottom.

And so Frances and I became, as she declared over ice cream last night, “best buddies.”

Maybe Eeyore can evolve.

Just call me ‘Shooby’
July 3, 2007, 9:03 am
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Saturday my aunt, uncle, and three cousins arrived at my parents’ house to stay for a few days. Sydney just turned 6, Alayna is about to turn 3, and Abby was born in December. Needless to say, it has not been a quiet twenty-four hours (though after a couple months of babysitting four little girls under five, it’s pretty typical for me).

We decided that it would be fun to take them to the pool, so me, my mom, my aunt, and the two older girls piled into the car (I make it sound like it was fast – it took probably an hour to get everything ready) and headed to the country club where my family has a summer pool membership. I had a bag full of books, music and sunglasses, ready to lay out on a chair and work on my tan. However, within a few moments of arriving, it soon became clear that I was going to have to be in the pool with my cousins the entire time.

There must be a span of years, somewhere towards the end of high school and the beginning of college, where you feel kind of awkward in your own skin. You’re not really a little kid anymore, but you’re not really an adult. I think that a couple of years ago I would have just told Sydney that I didn’t want to swim. But maybe now I’ve realized that’s actually pretty jerk-ish of me, and now I really enjoy spending time with little kids. Does that mean I’m ready to have my own kids? I don’t know. If it does, I think I’ll still wait a while. A long while.

Anyway, my aunt had Alayna in her arms and was bouncing her around. Alayna wanted everyone to share in the fun, so she called out to her sister: “Sydney, I’m bouncing!” Then she looked at me.

“Shooby, I’m bouncing!”

None of us were really sure what she had just said. Shooby? She looked at me again.

“Shooby, I’m bouncing!”

Clearly she was talking to me. “Good job, Alayna!” I exclaimed.

And if there was any doubt that she was calling me ‘Shooby,’ it was confirmed again Sunday. We headed back to the pool, and after pushing Alayna on the swing for a while, she got off and ran to the baby pool. “Shooby, come on!” she yelled at me.

I’ve been called a lot of things. When my youngest sister was little, she couldn’t say ‘Chelsey,’ so she called me “Shashy” or “Shaf.” In the past couple of years, various foreigners and young children have called me everything from “Chesley” to “Charsy” and “Cholsey.” I guess you get used to it after a while.

Probably the cutest instance of it, though, was last night when we went out to eat at Moe’s. She looked over at me while eating her cheese quesadilla and exclaimed, “Shooby, I’m a’ eatin’ at Moo’s!”