Wednesday, October 31, 2012

No Formal Dinners for the Next Two Weeks

No formal dinners in our house for the next two weeks! Announced our resident Martha Stewart after we dropped my husband off at the airport for his two-week long trip overseas.

I didn’t realize we EVER have ‘formal’ dinners, I was confused. Except, maybe for Christmas or Thanksgiving…

You know what I mean – the sitting down at the dining room table, the tablecloth, the settings.  The whole big thing at the end of the day. For next two weeks, we eat casually at the kitchen counter. Until Daddy comes back…

And so the decision was made. Day in, day out.  We still kept majority of our schedule intact.  The violin practices.  The chores. The homework.  The bed-time routine. The good-night kiss.  But, instead of the-end-of-the-day-meal being a type of feast, a celebration of family re-gathering after a day of work and school, we kept it simple and quite utilitarian.  For we still have to eat.  And we continued to eat pretty much the same things we normally eat – chicken and potatoes, soup and salad, pizza and mac’n’cheese, and all that in ample quantities.

But the meal-times, despite their ample provisions, became marked by Absence.  And even though our tummies were full, and all the nutrition was working its way through our bodies, something was missing.  Because someone was missing.  And life, even though it continued in its manifestations pretty much the same as it always does, felt incomplete.  Felt empty.

Jesus and his disciples were much better known for their attendance at the parties and celebrations than prayer-and-fasting meetings.  Their apparent lack of discipline and restraint must have grated on the religious sensibilities of many, for eventually somebody gathered up enough courage to call Jesus on the carpet. Jesus’ answer to them was

The attendants of the bridegroom cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. Matthew 9:15

There are days when the Bridegroom is with us and life feels like a never-ending party. The table is bending under the weight of food, the dishes are set, the loved ones are all around, and the cup of our joy is overflowing. But then comes a day when the Bridegroom is taken away, to a far country, and the party dishes are put away.  Our spiritual food is served at the kitchen counter rather than at the bountiful dining room table. Although all our needs might be generously met, something is missing.  Someone is missing. Our heart aches, feeling the Absence – His absence. And our soul is bent down with fasting, longing for the day when He will return from the long journey and we find joy in His presence, feasting at His table, seeing Him again face to face. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Dreaded "S" Word

Of course, I am not trying to imply that all suffering in our lives is noble, profound, heroic or even undeserved.  In fact, I might say that majority of our household’s day-to-day, run-of-the mill suffering is self-inflicted and happens as a result of downright stupidity of various members taking turns at it.  My children are almost professionals in this area. I guess they learned it from the best. Perhaps this is why our family’s favorite TV show is America’s Funniest Home Videos. Every Sunday evening we spend an hour laughing at ordinary people doing dumb things and experiencing various degrees of painful consequences.  I always wonder why it’s so delightfully refreshing and quite entertaining to see somebody else publicly humiliated and even injured for their unintelligent choice.  Of course, the participants in the show may actually cash out their foolishness.  But, I wouldn’t recommend it as a career. 

I think that the creators of the show are onto something , though. Helping people put their mistakes in a larger context, being able to laugh at your own as much as other people’s stupidity truly is an all-around good medicine. Life is hard enough, and sincere laughter is a well-documented healer. 

I also need to remember that not all pain and suffering has moral weight to it.   Ignorance, immaturity, honest misjudgment and naivety can cause some serious injuries but they are not necessarily morally wrong.  Some parts of our brain don’t develop until we are in our late twenties. I have to remind myself of this physiological fact every time one of my children makes an exceptionally outrageous choice.

What were you THINKING?!!!

I dunno.  That part of my brain is still missing and it's not going to show up until I am out of this house. 

Learning from our mistakes and the pain associated with it is an integral part of growing up and maturing. Some lessons will just not sink in until we begin to hurt.  All my driving life I considered the small signs with the big black numbers written on them on the side of the road as ‘speed suggestions’.  I always appreciated their grandfatherly feedback, but being mature, responsible, capable adult, I felt at liberty to determine the actual speed of my vehicle and drive accordingly. It took one flailing policeman and $180 speeding ticket for me to for the first time see the little signs as the speed limit – the law!  One could say that I got away easy since this lesson hurt my wallet only, and I would have to agree (despite the fact that I had at least a dozen better uses for the money).  But, easy or hard, I have to say that the pain was sufficient to virtually transform my driving from that day on.

 The Scripture says that, even though He was God’s Son, Jesus learned obedience through the things He suffered (Hebrews 5:8).  If the sinless Son of God needed to go through some painful experiences to learn such a valuable lesson as obedience, who do I think I am to get away without similar training?!!!

Monday, October 29, 2012

And They Lived Happily Ever After…

If I was writing a fairy tale, this would be an excellent stopping point, with a standard conclusion:

And they lived happily ever after. The End.

Jesus, however, doesn’t promise a fairy tale, happiness ever after.  At the heart of the Christian gospel (which, by the way, means ‘good news’) is a crucified Savior – misunderstood, despised, rejected, betrayed Son of God, handed over to the authorities by those who claimed to know, speak and work for God. Denied by one of his closest friends. Abandoned by God the Father.  It is this Jesus that calls us to follow Him. One step at a time.  Wherever it leads.

So, where is the good in such ‘good news’? For, unless we are in complete denial, we would all acknowledge that there is no such thing as ‘happy’ crucifixion, ‘happy’ betrayal, ‘happy’ suffering, ‘happy’ death. Some of us have bought into the well-advertised illusion that the goal of our lives – stated or unstated - is ‘pursuit of happiness’. Sooner or later, however, we will encounter a problem that brings into question ‘the happily ever after’.  When we do, we will either ignore the reality of pain by avoiding it at all cost, anesthetizing ourselves with whatever we can lay our hands on, reenacting the illusion of the fairy tale; or we will distort the integrity of the whole counsel of God's Word by picking and choosing only what fits neatly into our sanitized paradigm.  Or both.

At one point during His ministry (in fact, one can say almost at its peak), the Lord Jesus uttered some hard sayings that turned out to be too much for the genteel sensibilities of his hearers.  As a result, many of His disciples left Him. (John 6:66) As if that wasn’t enough bad news, He turned to the Twelve and asked them if they wanted to leave as well. 

Now, when I read this, it sure doesn’t look to me like the best marketing strategy for building up your platform. In fact, it’s downright disastrous.  Peter’s response far from offering gung-ho, strong, reassuring commitment, is at least honest in its ambivalence.

Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life?

Lord Jesus, there are things in Your way that are really, really hard to swallow.  Part of me wishes there was another way, an easier path. But, I realize that sometimes life as is, is hard to swallow, period. And, on our own, we can make it even harder than it needs to be. But, You, You lift our heads to higher horizons.  You connect the dots for me.  You make suffering, even crucifixion, fit into God’s larger-than-life plan, and I would rather stick with You – life and death, joy and suffering, crucifixion and resurrection-, because You alone have words that breathe life and light into my soul. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

Be Careful What You Say, It May Come Back to Bite You

I am savoring this wonderful, and, O.K. I’ll admit it, a little weird life that is governed by invisible Reality of the Person who is like no one I’ve ever known. Some days, however, I go for hours before it hits me, I am not alone!  My mind’s default seems stuck on ‘autonomous’. I realize it will take time to reprogram this default. But with each passing day that turns into week and another, there is more and more genuine evidence of the reality and truthfulness of Jesus’ words and His identity – God-in-the-human-body!  There is so much I don’t understand, but I can rest my weight on Him and that is enough.  The recurring struggles slowly quiet down like the tremors after an earthquake. I am convinced that Jesus is truly who He claimed to be and everything He says is Truth – life-giving, life-altering Truth. I still can’t get over that I was sought out and  found  by the One I wasn’t even looking for!

One day out of nowhere in particular I hear an echo of my voice in an almost forgotten conversation,

If this is true, it’s worth giving your whole life to it.

I choke on the big gulp of coffee, spilling half of the content of the mug in my hand all over my pants. The ramifications of the rash pronouncement are beyond my capacity to fathom. At the time I made the claim, I was convinced it wasn’t true.  Today I know it’s more true than anything else I know. And, yes, I can honestly say that it is worth giving your whole life to it… to Him. He is worth it! 

But despite both, I knew I couldn’t do it.  No way.

I couldn’t even begin to imagine what that would mean in my life… Do I turn my back on everything – my studies, my journalism career – and become… what?!!! A nun?!! A street preacher?!! A blogger?!!!

I see a 12 inch gaping abyss between my head and my heart and I am powerless to transcend it. 

Lord, I know it’s true. I believe it’s worth it.  I believe You are the truth.  And You are worth it. But, I just can’t… I feel like such a loser… I want to be able to do it, but without You making it happen, it’s not going to happen.  It’s impossible…  But, if You can do it in me,  I am willing…I don’t know what it all means, but I am willing…

That’s all I need…


That’s all I need – for you to be willing. I can take it from here.

But… but how?!!!

One step at a time… just one step at a time.

That’s all?!!! That’s all You are asking – just the next step?  I think that even I can do that…. With Your help, of course…

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The God of Breakfast Casseroles, too

I wait for the trolley near the train station. It’s getting quite late and the street lights are glistening in the puddles that formed after the rain. Same streets.  Same trolleys. Same trees. Same apartment building. Same mom and dad.  Everything is the same. On the outside, I look pretty much the same as well.  And yet, holding my same old duffel bag, I feel like I just got off an intergalactic space ship.  Everything is different.  All the books on the shelves in my home library have no words to quite contain what I am garbling to express on the inside. For once in my life, I am left speechless.

My mom and dad dismiss my initial excited Jesus-loves-me-I-love-Jesus announcement as a passing fad.  I try to convince them that it’s not a fad, that it is more real than anything I’ve ever done in my entire life,  but seeing the expression on their faces makes me drop the subject, realizing I must allow time to do the speaking on my behalf.

I am reading the Bible – no, more like devouring the Gideon copy of the New Testament entrusted to me as a good-bye gift – for breakfast., lunch and dinner, and several snacks in between.   The words on the pages are vibrant with life, and energy and vitality – I can’t get enough of it.  I finally got my own personal mail and every word of it is mind-blowing.  There is still a lot I don’t understand, but, as instructed, I skip over those passages and latch on like a new-born on the life-giving flow pouring out from…

Abide in Me and I in you.  As a branch can not bear fruit of itself, no more can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches...He who abides in bears much fruit... Apart from Me you can do nothing.

Interestingly enough, along with the spiritual adrenaline rush, the new horizons opening up, the massive influx of new information to process and digest, I find myself increasingly incompetent in the things I used to do without giving them a thought, simple things like baking.

I should be able to handle this on my own, I am frustrated with myself as I toss the ruined batch of dough into the garbage can. But, soon it becomes evident that this is not a coincidence but only a beginning of a life-long process of unlearning the deeply ingrained habit of managing my world and all its details –big and small - on my own.  

For this God, who holds the Universe He created in the palm of His hand, who shook and uprooted the foundation of my life and tore down its lofty strongholds apparently enjoys making breakfast casseroles with me.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Crumbs that Satisfy on the Unpredictable Journey

It’s not about us doing anything… anything at all.  It’s more like resting our full weight on His word and promise... on what HE did for us, once for all… And keep on resting... It’s faith in this invisible God and His now invisible to us Son who finished everything for us …we simply receive, we enter into this incredible life with Him by what we believe in our hearts of hearts… God already knows what’s in our heart but we can express it to Him in words through prayer…

I don’t know anything about  how to pray? Can you help me?

No way, I want to say,  for I am as clueless about how to pray as you are, but in the same breath I also yelp a cry for help, an emergency alert prayer to God who got me into this pickle, WE NEED YOUR HELP RIGHT NOW!!!

He closes his eyes in full anticipation of my expert assistance while I keep mine panic-wide open, and start with few simple stuttering words.

Lord Jesus, we need you. …

By the time we say, Amen, few seconds later, I am exhausted. He opens his eyes, looks at me and say,

Thank you but I feel really tired right now.  Is it O.K. if I take a nap?  He stretches out on the empty seats and dozes off.  I watch him as he is resting, his face transformed by peace… My peace I give to you… Not as the world gives… but My peace… Do not let your heart be troubled… Don’t let it be fearful…

I take the New Testament off the shelf under the window and flip through the pages until I find the fourteenth chapter of the Gospel of John. Just a few words, a few tiny heavenly crumbs fallen from the Father’s table, and not only is my own soul satisfied but I find, to my amazement, that there is more than enough to share... 

He wakes up just in time for me to get off the train at my stop, while he continues on to his village.  I encourage him to find a copy of the New Testament and ask Jesus to speak to him, to make those old words alive, fresh and meaningful to him... There is so much I want to tell him - that he has 24-7 direct line to the Lord of the Universe and to make sure to use it, that all his sins - past, present and future are wiped clean on the Cross, that... that... that... I am afraid I'll forget something important, but, there is no time. Then I realize that the same God who orchestrated this encounter will be with him and will tell him all he needs to know when he needs it.  And I am reminded to rest again not only for my own soul but for this man's soul as well. We say our good-byes, tears filling my eyes again as I watch the train move on.

What a strange life I’ve entered into… what a strange life…

And so I became the world’s most reluctant evangelist… a pauper (still quite argumentative pauper, I must add) sharing the crumbs that satisfied her hunger with other hungry and tired travelers seeking a place of rest for their souls on this life’s unpredictable journey.

Monday, October 22, 2012

This Jesus is for everyone. Everywhere. Even for people with bad haircuts...

I am not sure if I know what the answer is for you, I am thinking, but for me perhaps the best answer right now is to jump out of the window, because this conversation is going in the direction I do not like.  Of course, I don’t say that.  But, I certainly hope he doesn’t expect me to give him the answer for the meaning and purpose of his life! I am just beginning to try  to re-con-figure out my own! And yet...

It’s getting dark and stormy clouds are gathering up on the horizon.  We watch an amazing light show of lightening flashes in silence for a few minutes, the rumble of thunder drowned by the noise of the train. I wonder if the display might be a cue from this God I barely know. So, against my natural reservations, I decide not to take any chances and jump in. 

Well, I start hesitating, feeling incredibly awkward as I consider how to continue. I am not sure if this is going to make any sense to you…I am still very much sorting things out myself. It’s all very new to me too, … I want to say, About few hours new, but decide to skip that part. So, I proceed to share the disjointed snippets of my story and how it collided with the Jesus-story, and how everything I'd believed was right-side-up is actually upside down, and the other way around. It's a messy,poorly wrapped  package of my personal story and few simple highlights of His life-death-life-can-you-believe-He-said/did-that?!!! story as recorded in this old book I used to dismiss and edit wearing my critics hat on. 

He is listening intently, soaking up every word.  I talk about restlessness, and resistance until all resistance was used up, and forgiveness and the cross.  And going from keeping a safe distance, standing at arms length, watching from the outside, to jumping both feet in, head-over-heals, in way over my head… As I am talking I am thinking how way over my head I am in that very moment. I need Jesus right now, while I am speaking, to help me connect the dots for this guy, who looks so lost and hungry and thirsty…
I believe, I sheepishly conclude my implausible story, that this Jesus is for everyone. Everywhere. Even for people with bad haircuts I feel absolutely no personal affinity towards.  I skip the last sentence, feeling quite convicted about my petty, small-minded, small-hearted preferences. And with quite a shock, I recognize the miracle of the moment, for without Jesus there would be absolutely no way I would ever talk with this man, but I decide to spare him this detail also.  I shake my head, for I know how strange the whole story sounds, and look back at him.  He looks me in the eye and says,

So, what do I need to do?

I feel the pain of my jaw hitting the dirty train floor.  That’s it?!!! Just like that?!!! 'What do I need to do?'No arguments? No debates? No sneering? No scoffing? No agonizing?  I stare at him in utter disbelief, but he seems quiet, sincere and actually waiting for me to answer his question.  Part of me wants him to slow down, to reconsider, to think about it… this is a serious decision. In reality, I feel scared spitless and utterly unworthy to be a part of it at all...  

The faraway storm that was brewing on the horizon has moved closer.  He closes the window shut and we move back to the compartment. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Please, Leave Me Alone!

I look up, not a bit pleased to be interrupted in my internal monologue and definitely not in the mood for company.

No, I’d rather be left alone, I was about to say, but he is already in, closing the door behind him.  He plops down on the seat right across from me and gives me a big, friendly smile.  I can’t help but notice that his barber must have been drunk when he gave him the haircut.

I think I’m going to get some air, I mutter standing up, open the sliding door and walk into the hallway.

Good idea!  I’ll join you! He responds cheerfully, this time not even asking permission, and follows right behind.  I look at him, wondering as to the best way to spell out a subtle social cue, like STAY AWAY FROM ME!  So, I turn around and return to my seat without a word.   He is undaunted by my rudeness and back in his seat across from mine. We do this silent inside-outside compartment dance – I scowling, he smiling – several times until I finally stop.  I am not sure whether I am more irritated by the man with a bad haircut or the God who orchestrated the whole scenario, impervious to my personal preferences, likes and dislikes.
The man eventually catches up with me in the hallway and starts telling me his entire life story.  Been there, done that, need this, need that, need more money.  More money would solve all his problems and he would live happily ever after.  I just stand there and listen, unsure of what I am supposed to do.  Finally he moves on to village gossip and several picturesque characters’ life stories and concludes with the richest guy in the village. Has cars.  Has tractors.  Has houses.  Has this.  Has that. Has… has… has… Every Friday he drinks himself into oblivion and remains drunk the rest of the weekend. Then Monday comes and he is back at work, nursing a hangover headache…

Well, I finally interrupt his monologue, stating what I see as quite obvious, It sure doesn’t sound like your rich friend has found the answer either…

The guy looks at me as if I have just discovered America all over again.

But, if riches are not the answer, he begs, then what is?!!!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Who Placed The Bible on the Chopping Block?

The sobbing eventually subsided and the tears dried up. The New Testament was still on the small fold-out shelf under the dirty window where I placed it when I first entered the compartment.  I picked it up and started flipping through its pages unsure where I should start. 

My freshmen year of Comparative Literature studies, I was required to read some portions of the Bible, and even write papers about it, but, as somebody once pointed out, I was reading other people’s mail.  I couldn't make sense of it at all. I was quick to dismiss the text as implausible, irrelevant and full of contradictions – a disjointed concoction of colossal nonsense that had absolutely no bearing on my life.  I was like a self-appointed editor-in-chief, wearing a critic’s hat, question-marking, underlining and crossing out with bright red pen everything in the Bible that didn't make sense to me. The chopping block was mine, and so was the hatchet. Having completed my school assignments, I thought I had given appropriate attention to the ancient book and was ready to move on to more pertinent subjects available on the current global idea market, bustling with fresh energy and excitement.  

You can’t read the Bible like that! My Jesus-friends used to object when I shared my previous experience with God's written word.  If every time you found something in the Bible you disagree with, consider far-fetched, stupid or impossible to believe, you ripped that page out, by the end of the year you would be left with the covers only, nothing in between. This is God’s living Word. You must ask Him to speak to you through what is written and help You understand it so it can transform your life.

Their passionate dedication to the integrity of the Word of God in its entirety took me completely by surprise.  I've never seen anybody so wholeheartedly devoted to this old book and every word written in it. Even if I didn't necessarily agree with them, I couldn't help but respect such loyalty.

But now, instead of judging and editing out the content of Word of God according to my likes and dislikes, I was ready, even eager to listen.  I couldn't wait to discover more of what was written inside this book, for now I recognized it for what it was - God’s love letter addressed personally to me! There was so much to learn, so much to understand.  Best of all, His Spirit was with me – in me! - to breathe in fresh life into the ancient words. The words of incredible promises, the words of instruction, the words of correction... 

As hope swelled up inside my heart, the sliding glass door to the compartment opened, and a man stuck his head in,

May I please join you?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Surprise! God’s Way is NOT Our Way

I need to let them know!!  The thought of sharing the great news with my exhausted, long-suffering Jesus-friends pounced in my head with the mixture of excitement and urgency.  They won’t believe it!! They’ll be absolutely thrilled…

Just then there was a knock on the door. The French guy stuck his head in,

We need to talk.

Yes, I jumped to my feet, we do! I have some great news to share with you.  But, he didn’t seem excited.  I had no idea what was going on, but it didn’t really matter for I finally got it. I finally knew what they were talking about, from the inside out, not as an outsider watching in. I was loved, and forgiven, and empowered by the Spirit of Jesus Christ to live a life of purpose, and joy, and…

You need to leave. He said without expression.  We’ve talked about you and prayed and decided it is best for you to leave. Right now.  Go back  home.

No, you don’t understand.  I… I just prayed, and received… and… I DO understand now… I KNOW  it’s true…Jesus is…

We got you a one-way ticket back home, he interrupted my excited rambling, apparently deaf to the great news I was trying to share. The train leaves in a couple of hours.  You need to get your stuff together and get ready.  We’ll be leaving in thirty minutes. With that he stood up and left the room. I was stunned.

But… but… I shook my head in utter disbelief. This can’t be happening… it’s crazy... I slowly pushed my chair away from the table, struggling to get up. 

At the train station, I was given an old copy of Gideon New Testament with Psalms and Proverbs which I received like a bag of gold.  We prayed and said our good-byes. I found a seat in an empty compartment, sat down and I begun to cry like a baby, as the train slowly moved from station.  Mingled with tears, and misunderstanding, and disappointment, and the rhythmic sound of the wheels on the tracks, I suddenly realized, was peace … that same peace that followed unconditional surrender to the unsearchable ways of the One who loves me and knows me better than I know myself.

Thus I was introduced to the mysterious, sometimes seemingly non-sensical ways Jesus Christ chooses to work through the agency of man. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

I’m Diving In

It was not completely unlike going deep sea diving. You stand on the shore, or even on the edge of a boat, and wait, and debate, and hesitate.  And talk and talk, all night long until the pale light washes the eastern horizon, and shake your head ‘NO’ – as if you could stop the Sun from rising, and argue about the surf and the water temperature, the sea life underneath and the topography of the ocean floor, the tide and the Moon, but your feet remain dry as well as the top of your head, and everything in between.  You can talk as long as you want, but unless you take a plunge, you really don’t know what you are talking about.  You never experience - never know - the ocean.

Waking up that afternoon felt like finally jumping off the boat, and diving in and getting back to the surface, and splashing in the shallows of the unfathomable ocean of God’s love and mercy revealed, contained in the human vessel of His beloved Son Jesus.  .   

Aaaaah… THIS is what they’ve been talking about all along, I think, savoring this strange universe I’d fallen into, on one hand, kicking and screaming like a toddler ripped off the monkey bars of this world’s playground; on the other, fully and without reservation, mainly because there was nothing else left to hold onto anymore.

It’s Dorothy meets Alice meets Lucy right outside the back of the Wardrobe leading into Narnia.

I have a vague inkling that this might be just the first step in a lifetime of adventures ahead.  But, I am too amazed by the reality of being personally known, and loved, and accepted by Christ, and the possibility of knowing Him and loving Him back to pay much attention to what lies ahead.  For right now, all I need to know is that He is enough – much more than enough – and I can’t believe what a lucky fool I am to have Him in my life. 

It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life. I Timothy 1:15,16

Monday, October 15, 2012

Arrested by His Rest, Surrendered to His Peace

When Your Most Formidable Opponent is 
Actually Your Best Friend

The sense of despair permeated every molecule of the days and weeks that followed.  On one hand, I had a glorious life to enjoy, cruising around the gorgeous Adriatic coast, with an amazing future prospect of becoming a cutting-edge scientist, or a journalist, or both, with money in my pocket, and more friends than I could handle. There was nothing more I could wish for at that moment, and yet, despite all this I was downright wretched.

The head-on collision of the two incompatible world-views was more than either my mind or my heart could handle. The seeming perfection of my external life only made the turmoil within feel all the worse.

During that time I was haunted by the words of Jesus recorded in the Gospels, promising peace…

Peace I give to you, My peace I give you.  Not as the world gives, I give to you.  Do not let your heart be troubled, neither let it be fearful…

Or rest,

Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavy-burdened, and I will give you rest…



I wanted – I needed that peace!

I wanted – I needed that rest…

…but not from Jesus…

God? Maybe…

Jesus?  No.

But, there seemed to be a problem.  For the same Jesus who promised this peace for a tormented mind and heart, this rest for the weary soul also said,

I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  No one comes to the Father but through Me.

No one comes to the Father but through Me…. Echoed in my mind. But why? Why? Why? Why do I need a mediator? Why does it have to be through Jesus? Who does he think he is?!!!

And all the turmoil over time culminated, distilled into one focal point– this Jesus, I didn’t want. This Jesus I resented – in His meekness, humility and brokenness, in His unapologetic, audacious claim He expressed over my life.

I wrestled, and argued, and argued, and wrestled day and night, week after week until all the arguments, all the feistiness, all the debating and negotiating and bargaining were used up, and I was on my knees, asking, no – begging - for that peace, and forgiveness – if His death on the cross included this open rejection…

In that blubbering unconditional surrender to the more formidable ‘opponent’ I discovered that He is - has been this whole time – my true Friend, the One who indeed knows me better than I know myself and loves me anyway…

And peace… and rest… descended on this tormented soul as I fell asleep - finally reconciled - in the scarred arms of the Crucified Savior. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

The One Unforgivable Sin

There is only one sin God can not forgive...

It was a beautiful day.  The night’s storm has scrubbed the streets and the sidewalks clean, which were glistening in the light filtered through the branches of the trees shading the restaurant. The waitress who’d brought us the coffee was now slowly wiping the table next to ours and tidying up the chairs. My ears perked up. 

Only one?!!! I was a dry sponge, eager to learn as much as I could about this fascinating Being I didn’t believe even existed just few days ago.  What is He like?  What does He love? What does He hate? Does anything tick Him off? Can I really know Him?!!!

If it’s only one, I am in good shape. I chuckled with a huge sigh of relief.   I’m sure I’m not going to win this reverse cosmic lottery and be guilty of THAT one.  What is it?

Self-righteousness, my friend replied with unreadable expression.


The world might as well have fallen off its hinges. I couldn’t believe what I just heard. How can something that seems so right turn out to be so wrong?!!! All my life, I tried so hard to be right, to the point that became the core, the very essence of my being. You could look me up in the dictionary under ‘self righteous’. I was proud of being proud! Even if I wanted to, there was nothing – nothing ­– I could do to change this. This is who I AM.
For the first time in my life I had a problem I was completely powerless to solve.  The weight of the revelation sat on me like a mountain of hopelessness.  Awake or asleep, alone or in a crowd, the world as I knew it – the ignorant fool’s paradise - was crumbling before my very eyes.

I knew I was doomed.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

There is only one God, and you, my dear, are not Him

My hitherto simple life of self-sufficient atheist became extremely complicated overnight.  The thought of somebody knowing me better than I knew myself was utterly unnerving to say the least.  And yet, it appeared to be true. 

To believe in God for me would truly BE like committing suicide – intellectually, emotionally, socially – you name it. It would be like throwing away, denouncing everything I’d ever worked for, believed in, counted upon all my life. Everything everyone I knew banked their lives on. Perhaps the worst part of the whole story was that I would have to start all over on the foundation of something I’d ridiculed and dismissed as a crutch suitable only for those incompetent weaklings who couldn't make it on their own.  And now I was facing a serious prospect of being counted as one of them! This was not according to the plan! It was downright humiliating.

But, I also felt strange moral and intellectual obligation to at least give it a fair shot.  I couldn't ignore it anymore.  Having had a couple of decades of practice of being my own god, I admit that my view of God with capital G was quite microscopic. I assumed we could be a team of equals (I know, I know). I even thought I could enlist Him into my life on my own terms, although even at that time the scenario seemed rather fishy.  Over the years, I learned that even though most people wouldn't be as blunt to articulate it in such terms, I was actually not alone.

Needless to say, it was a rather bumpy start from the very beginning. In the weeks that followed, however, what was plain to everybody else started becoming more and more clear to me as well.

Indeed, there is only one God, and I, whether I liked it or not, am not Him. 

Friday, October 05, 2012

Keepers losers, losers keepers…

The following morning I woke up with a start. I sat up in bed, the late morning sunshine washing out the bedroom with blinding light.  Then a gleeful thought crossed my awakening consciousness.

Ha! He didn't do it! I did my part. I prayed and I asked, and He didn't hold His end of the bargain… I was already gloating over how I would rub this into the face of my religious sucker friends.

Then, another thought crossed my, now fully awake mind.

Are you so sure…?

The gloating dried up instantly.  Nothing in my life leading up to this moment had adequately – or even remotely! - prepared me for what followed.

Still sitting in bed, I started remembering what I was dreaming about that night.

In my dream, I was haunted by a choice I needed to make.  It was an unbearably difficult decision, only I could make, and I tried running away from it… going from one place to another… trying to forget, avoid, get as far away as I could… But I couldn’t.  Wherever I went, it followed me.  Nobody was going to make this choice for me.  It wasn’t forced on me.  I didn’t feel manipulated or coerced. It was almost like an invitation, I was free to decline.  But, then I would never know what my life would be like if I had accepted it.  The choice, the invitation was… to take my own life.

I gasped. 

Taking my own life was never a part of my present or future agenda.  I loved my life.  But, somehow I knew that the dream wasn't a matter of swallowing a bunch of pills or any other way people choose to end their physical life.  Not at all. This was a matter of recognition that my entire life up to this point has been built and operated on an unquestioning assumption that there is no God. The time has come for me to examine this assumption and the implications this examination may carry for the rest of my life. 

He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. John 12:25

Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. Matthew 16:25

Thursday, October 04, 2012

"He knows you better than you know yourself"

The possibility of the existence of a different reality which transcended my pea-size universe of egocentric atheism started gnawing at me until I couldn't bear it any longer.  I needed to get to the bottom of it. I was a journalist, and I had to follow this outrageous lead, even if it killed me.  All my accomplishments suddenly lost their luster, and I felt miserable and powerless to trick myself back into the blissful happiness of an ignorant fool.

Around that time, my exhausted, persevering, having-reached-the-end-of-their-capacities new friends made a suggestion.

You know, we can answer all your questions, and the next day you would come back to us with more. But, God He knows you.  He knows what you need. He knows you better than you know yourself.  Why don’t you just ask Him… He has His ways of getting through to you, where we are obviously failing.  You are making it a lot more complicated than it really is.

I saw nothing simple in what they were saying.  The situation was complicated!  And yet I had to admit that their proposition was quite attractive and, in its own crazy way, rather reasonable. If there was God (and we know, of course there isn't) , He would have to know everything.  Arrogant that I was, I never claimed to be omniscient.

I had nothing to lose. And, perhaps, I could even prove them wrong about this figment of their imagination they call God.  Still, t was hard to wrap my mind around, “He knows you better than you know yourself”.

That’s just IMPOSSIBLE! I argued.  Nobody, I mean, NOBODY knows me better than I know myself.  And I know myself quite well.

The stars above blinked silently.

But, what if…? Is there…Could it be that there IS…  Somebody… out there…?!!!

No answer.

That night, before I went to bed, I went down on my knees (I thought that was what you were supposed to do when you addressed the Almighty) and said my first stumbling, haltering, as-sincere-as-I-could-muster at the time prayer to the God I didn't believe existed.

Hello. Errr... Hi there, if anybody is listening… These people tell me You know me better than I know myself.  So, I am thinking, if that is true, You would know the best way to reveal Yourself to me, so I know it’s You. If You truly are there, I really, really need to know it. Since You are God,  I am not going to tell You do this or that. Just do it quickly – like tonight, while I am sleeping – so we can get over with this and move on with our lives.  … Amen?

I don’t know if there is a right and a wrong way for an atheist to pray to God.  I was already in way over my head and rather desperate. Exhausted from the internal turmoil, I got up from my knees, collapsed into bed and fell asleep. 

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Those who build their houses on barrels of TNT should not play with the matches

In the subsequent days and weeks, I was relentless. If there was a skeptic’s question, I’ve asked it.  If there was an atheist’s argument, I defended it.  I laughed and scoffed at their answers, which generally went back to the Bible, they quoted as if it was God’s Word.

Can’t you think with your own heads?!!! Can you tell me anything worthwhile that doesn’t come from this old, moldy book?!!!

But, they seemed all too content to defer their own wisdom to the wisdom of the well-worn out, scribbled upon and underlined pages of the ancient writings I’d always considered a compilation of far-fetched myths and legends.

But, I wanted to… I  needed to know the truth.

We disagreed on just about every topic we discussed, but, surprisingly, despite the disagreements, I actually enjoyed being with them.  Even liked these people who were an embodiment – joyful, carefree, loving embodiment of everything contrary to what I believed as true, important and valuable.  It felt like a head-on collision of diametrically opposite value systems. However, I also saw inner consistency between what they said and how they lived.  Their outrageously crazy system was consistent within itself and with the outrageously crazy life of love and joy they lived in Jesus’ name. One day, I even told them that if all this talk about God and Jesus was true, it was worth giving your whole life to it.  If this message truly comes from the Messenger they claimed was the only one worthy of worship, then every person on this planet must hear it.

Of course, at the time, I thought I was safe from the implication of such claims, because I knew it wasn’t true. 

It couldn’t be true!

For if it was true, I would have been wrong my entire life.  And that’s simply impossible.  How could I be wrong if my life worked?!! I was a self-made success.  I had a future.  I had my dreams, and my plans, and my goals.  And I just wasn't interested in some deity messing with them.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

No Woman, No Cry

After seemingly endless hours on the ferry, we were all glad when we disembarked in the port of Split.  We found a quiet spot near the ancient walls of Dioklecijanova Palace and sat on the large cool stones, enjoying the reprieve from the heat.  The French guy got his guitar out and started to play.  He sang God-songs from the depth of his soul and to my amazement and utter dismay, my carefully guarded internal walls started crumbling down.  Crying in public was the most humiliating display of human weakness, and in my book it was something that simply wasn't done. Unable to control my emotions, I did the next most dignified thing I could think of at the moment.

I ran away.

It took me several minutes before I could return to the group, but the moment I heard the music, I fell apart again.  The Slovene saw this as an opportunity to invite my participation in that aforementioned useless activity called “prayer’. I was so desperate for my humiliating condition to stop that I agreed.  So, right there, in the shadow of the old palace walls, I prayed my first prayer, inviting Jesus into my life as Savior and Lord.

At the mention of the name Jesus, all my old walls sprung back up. I was again my old, rational, reserved, emotionless self.

I don’t believe a word of what we just said.  I don’t believe in God.  Much less that Jesus Christ is God’s only son.

Back fully in charge, I thought that the battle was finally over. Little did I know that the real battle had only begun.

Monday, October 01, 2012

I’m sorry, but I am just not as screwed up as you are

I thought I had given the God-issue enough thought and attention to effectively dismiss it and coast the rest of my life with conviction that there is no God and it’s all up to us.  But, less then a week later, while enjoying the gorgeous view of the Adriatic from a deck of a ferry, I was cornered once again, and that without a chance of escape.  But, this time it wasn't Americans who had been culturally pre-programmed to believe in God.  No, on the ferry I met a Frenchman, a Slovenian, and a young woman, Vesna, who later became a very good friend, who was from Belgrade too. They all apparently believed in the same God-talk, No-Other-Way-to-God-but-Jesus talk, not-religion-but-personal-relationship talk I had been deluged with by my culturally-indoctrinated American friends. 

But, this time I had a problem.  These people were NOT Americans.  There was a French guy!  It doesn't get any more secular than that. And there was a woman who went to the same high school I did!  It doesn't get much closer to home than that!

And all of them had something…. something… in common besides all this God-talk.  They were different.  They had something I couldn't quite put my finger on that I knew I didn't have.

The French guy said,

It’s Jesus… living inside us.  That’s what makes us different.

Yea, right.  I said, and thought. This is what I call seriously  w-e-i-r-d. 

Each of them shared their own personal journey of faith.  How they met Jesus.  The difference He made in their lives.  The change.  Even transformation.

I couldn't argue with their stories.  I couldn't dismiss what I saw and heard in them. So, I half-heartedly conceded.

Yes, I can see how it works for you.  How it makes sense in YOUR life.  But, you guys were all so screwed up.  You were so messed up, you NEEDED God. You needed help.  You were desperate. You needed this crutch. But, I… I am different.  I’m sorry, but I am just not as screwed up as you are…or at least as you used to be.  I am happy for you, but I…  I don’t really need this… it’s just not for ME.