Monday, January 30, 2023

The Names of God - El Shomri

God is my protector

Why am I writing about the names of God?   El Shomri, another name for God, means God is my protector.  While there is no specific instance of a person in the Bible calling God this name directly, it is used several times in the Psalms..

Psalm 31:20:  'In the shelter of your presence you hide them from all human intrigues;  you keep them safe in your dwelling from accusing tongues.'

Psalm 121:5-6:  'The Lord watches over you— the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.'

So how have I seen God as my protector?

Experience #1: The Landslide

In the early spring of 1990, the Vancouver coast got a lot of rain - notably more than it usually gets.  I was a freshman, majoring in music at a college close to Abbotsford at this time.  The college was located up a hill in the small town of Clayburn, BC.  It poured so much one cold weekend that the road up to the college washed out.  There had been a significant landslide, and it was within walking distance of our dorm.  

Road Washout in Clayburn, BC
Road Washout at WPBC in Clayburn, BC

That afternoon couple of sophomores came up to the dorm, muddy all over.  They said there was some incredible mud - almost like quicksand - at the bottom of the landslide and it was 'pretty cool' to mess around it.  Being relatively young and inexperienced, I thought this sounded like a bunch of fun.  I changed into some throw-away cloths and headed down with them to the slide.  Sure enough, it was quite muddy down there and the mud was deep.  One could easily sink dangerously low if not careful.  We spent the better part of 45 minutes down there exploring the slide.  

S.A. and G.D playing with me in the mudslide
S.A and G.D playing with me in the mudslide

What I didn't think about until decades later was what a dangerous position we put ourselves in playing in the mud at the bottom of the slide.  Very often (particularly if the rain keeps up) a secondary slide can happen.  We would've been directly in its path and would've stood no chance in getting to safety.  Maneuvering in that mud was slow and painstaking work.  God protected us in our youthful ignorance there that day.

Experience #2: Kamikaze Deer

Fast-forward 15 years to 2005.  Our family was on a trip from Calgary to Edmonton to celebrate a new business contract I had just signed.  We always prayed for God's protection before we left on longer driving trips like this, and on this trip was saw Him answer quite tangibly.

After praying, the kids settled in the backseat of our Honda Accord and we left.  The speed limit on that freeway between Calgary and Edmonton is 110km/hr and we were going at least that fast.  :-)  We had just crested a long hill and had a beautiful view as we continued north.  This particular day, the view happened to include a herd of deer sprinting from the west side of the highway, intent on crossing the highway and making their way east.  

I noticed them from a long way off and continued speeding north, confident that they would pass some distance in front of us, which they did.  Unseen until too late was a straggler to their group.  This deer's life mission was to catch up to its buddies.  I didn't expect the deer to be so single-minded, so I kept moving.  Our trajectories met - the deer realizing this before me, jumped and managed to mostly hurtle the car.  The car grazed its legs as it flew over our roof.  This caused the deer to fall when it landed.  It quickly got up and followed its friends east.  I continued north with a good shot of adrenaline and a lot of questioning from my wife.  The car had a hardly noticeable bump on the roof and an absent radio antenna after that.  God really protected us there.

Experience #3: Post-Covid Flying

In the last 5 months, I've done a bunch of flying - some personal and some business.  I've logged close to 20,000 miles on 12 flights through/to 7 airports in 6 countries.  There have been lots of Covid strains in the air during that time, many of them 'more virulent and contagious'  than before.  To my chagrin, I've sat beside people who have coughed halfway across the continent.  We've prayed for God's protection as we've travelled and we haven't gotten sick.  I genuinely see that as God's protection as the planes, airports, and security lines are always crowded with few people wearing masks.

My wife and I flying to Poland in Sept 2022 - God's Protection
My wife and I flying to Poland in Sept 2022

Sunday, January 29, 2023

A Wasted Life? Journal Entry Jan 2023

Growing up, I was keenly aware that my life should mean something.   Multiple sources encouraged me to avoid 'wasting time' and 'wasting money' etc.  Days were busy - school, basketball, volleyball, concert band, stage band, piano lessons and practice, part-time jobs...  I had a litany of activities to ensure my time and my resources weren't wasted.  

As an adult, the acute desire to avoid wasting my life hasn't dwindled.  But marital, career, and family responsibilities easily obfuscate (or at the very least, add complexity) to what it means to avoid 'wasting my life.'  What makes a life meaningful?  Whose definition of 'a meaningful life' should we follow to ensure that our life isn't wasted and holds value?

This train of thought and line of questioning came to the fore this week when our worship band decided to read a five day devotional together (online) called 'Don't Waste Your Life.'  We were doing this together through The Bible App.  Its formatted so you can read the devotion along with some scripture, and then comment together on it online.  

To say I struggled with the prose in this set of devotions would be putting things mildly.  The phrasing of the thoughts comes across very strong and decisive.  I actually found when I finished reading a devotion, my own thoughts and feelings were in complete turmoil and upheaval.  I frankly felt like I didn't measure up and my life wasn't good enough.  The devotions had sentences like: 

'The wasted life is the life without passion for the supremacy of God in all things for the joy of all peoples.' 

'The opposite of wasting your life is to live by a single soul-satisfying passion for the supremacy of God in all things.'

'If our single, all-embracing passion is to make much of Christ in life and death, and if the life that magnifies him most is the life of costly love, then life is risk, and risk is right.  To run from it is to waste your life.' 

I believe the turmoil and upheaval I felt was not positive. If the author intentionally wrote this way to challenge believers to action (to avoid wasting their lives) he/she was quite successful.  I would argue that the author took their 'writing license' too far.  How can I live like this, in this day in age, in a 'secular' IT job the demands my attention and careful thought most of the day?  Never mind the familial demands on my attention and time when I am done work for the day.

The author tried to speak to this in the last devotion, saying things like: 'Secular work is not a waste when we make much of Christ from 8-5' and 'Through his scattered saints he spreads a passion for his supremacy in all things for the joy of all peoples.'  I just couldn't get over everything else that was said, and the voice it was written in.  So absolute, confident, and binding.  I wouldn't be able to live up to this author's expectations without feeling condemned all the time.

Photo by Molnár Bálint on Unsplash

I'm tired of having to sift through devotions like this after trying to live my life for God.  How does this author live?  Does their life line up to these broad, sweeping, absolute, theological statements?  Have they ever worked in a secular job?  Does their spouse think the author's life aligns with what their writing?  How do I know?  If I don't feel joyful, do I have to manufacture or synthesize joy or risk living a wasted life for the day?  Bottom line - I find it challenging (read irritating) to submit my heart to strong teaching like this when I can't see it lived out in front of me.

Of course I don't want to waste my life.  I want to live for God, and seek him first.  I want to 'do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly' with him, 'making it my ambition to live a simple life' and 'give thanks in all things, for this is God's will for me.'  My understanding is that the fruits of the spirit (love, joy peace, patience, etc.) should be natural by-products of a healthy relationship with God, not a compulsion based on some strongly worded paragraphs.  I don't want to be so heavenly minded that I'm no earthly good.  I want to be able to act and communicate with people without them thinking I'm a weirdo.  

Matthew 9:36 'When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.'

Matthew 11:28-30. 'Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.'

Remembering The Kindness Of God in Raising Our Kids

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