“Take Me to You…”

Batter my heart, three-person’d God ; for you
As yet but knock ; breathe, shine, and seek to mend ;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp’d town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy ;
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

–John Donne, Holy Sonnet 14

Let’s be blunt, and say that there is no middle ground. There is no “Self” that thinks and acts on its own initiative and has no Master. The truth is that you are either a slave to Christ or a slave to Satan—that’s it.

As a slave to Christ, you are—indeed—free. But you can’t be free until he storms the castle of your cherished self, demolishes your ego, and enthrones himself in the seat of your heart. As a slave to Christ, you live day by day dependent on him, looking daily at his pure, holy, and loving character and by his grace the chains of sin that bind you are torn. The key to this freedom is the outright possession of your life by God. Apparent slavery. Are you willing to give up the control of your life?

On the other hand, as a slave to Satan you are under the impression that you have the greatest freedom imaginable (after all, isn’t the crummy Decalogue and the word of God nothing short of a yoke meant to keep you from all you really want to do?). The longer you’re under this regime, however, the more confined and debased you become. Apparent freedom is nothing more than self-destructive slavery that degrades you and your view of self, God, and the world around you.

I’ve come to realize that freedom is simply a matter of perspective, in which I must take into account whatI’m being freed from, and what I’m being freed to do. The good news of it all is that YOU choose what master you want to serve. No one can ever take that choice from you. So choose wisely.

May you choose the Master that frees you from degradation and confusion and frees you to be the person you were meant to be—free to do what is both great and fulfilling.

“For You have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love” Gal 5:13

Friends Again

I pounced on him mercilessly the next day, “Terry, where is that book about dreams that you showed me—the one with the pictures of constellations in the front?”

He looked at me blankly, holding the bar code scanner in his hand and a dog-eared paperback copy of A Child Called “It” on the other,“Uh?”

I sighed exasperatedly and reached for the computer to search in the database, “Dreams, soul, destiny….something like that. Remember?”

His eyes cleared, “Oh! The one about the occult?”

“The occult?” I was immediately turned off, which was a first because I’d always been indiscriminate about my reading material. “Hm…Never mind.” I continued searching the catalog and wondered out loud, if there was another similar book on the same subject.

“Why? What do you need it for?”

I was about plunge into a vivid recount of a bizarre dream I’d had last night when I became acutely aware of him standing next to my stool, looking down at my screen—ready to help me find that book, no doubt. He leaned closer towards the computer to type when his arm brushed mine. That did it. I felt myself blushing. Oh, I was mortified–and furious at myself too. “It’s OK. I don’t need it anymore,” I said and abruptly ended the conversation by going away.

– – –

Terry found me sitting by the vending machines in the library’s food court a while later. I was wolfing down some mess of leftover lasagna during my short break from tutoring, and he had me cornered because I wasn’t going anywhere without finishing my dinner first—cold or messy my lasagna may have been, but it was delicious, and I was famished.

“How you doing?”

“Same as always,” I replied taking a violent bite out of a piece of my garlic bread. I was determined to be nice, but without knowing how to do it without embarrassing myself. I figured that keeping to short, terse, phrases was the best way to go.

Terry said nothing and returned his attention to the vending machine. He bought a coke, a cold sandwich, and Doritos. He  took a seat in front of me and offered me some deliciousness-covered nacho chips.

I looked down at the wholesome contents of the red bag, and was suddenly struck with a though that made me smile.

“No thank you,” I said, but somehow it felt just a bit less stiff. I suppose it was because I was tickled by the role reversal that was taking place. I wondered if Terry had caught on too. Daring a peek at his face, I saw that he was also smiling with me at the thought of that day in fifth grade. We both laughed a little.

“Why did you always want to trade your lunch with me—way back then?” He asked.

I returned my attention to my lasagna,“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Oh, come on. Tanya. Those were the best turkey sandwiches I’ve ever eaten outside of Bob’s Sandwiches. I never knew why you did it. You never told me.”

“You never seemed to need an explanation. You always seemed eager to trade with me.”

“Yeah, but the first time I expected to drop dead or something—or end up with diarrhea.”

“Oh come on!”

“I’m serious! No one else bothered to approach me back then.”

“Well…” I looked at him, this time without feeling embarrassed. He sat there smiling at me like before, always interested in what I had to say, always kind. Here was a chance—a small God-sent chance—to fix what had gone wrong between me and my only friend in the world. I wondered if it was a late answer to a prayer I made, or if it was Zuri’s prayers on my behalf at work.

No matter. To me it was nothing short of a miracle, and you don’t let miracles pass you by just like that. So, as I was done with my lasagna and I had several more minutes left, I began. “Ok, I’ll tell you. But don’t get angry—you promise?”

“Hmm….” He made a pretense of thinking, “Alright”

“Alright then.” I put my elbows on the table and clasped my hands at the level of my chin, “It began the day I discovered—or thought I discovered—evidence that Mara had been abducted by aliens…”

 

part 16.1 of If You Only Knew

Pain

Tony followed me outside,  “Are you OK?”

“I’m fine,” I lied, and finding a convenient planter sat at the edge of it while I hugged myself “I . . . . just need some air”

“Are you sure?”

I nodded, then when a stab of pain at my side got me gasping, I shook my head “. . . It’s . . . my stomach hurts. Badly. I don’t know why”

“Oh.” He fidgeted nervously, as if looking for something to do “Do you need anything? I can go get it, there’s a pharmacy at the corner”

I was going to tel him to leave me alone and go back to the meeting, but I was attacked by another stab of pain, “Actually. I just wanna to go home. Can you call Zuri?”

“Of course” he said, springing to action

“Wait! You don’t even know who she is!”

“Oh. Right”

“Tall, thin. curly hair. She’s wearing green”

He went back into the room, and next thing I knew, both of them were next to me. Zuri had her purse and car keys, “Come on, Tanya. Let’s get you home”

“I’m sorry, Zuri,” I said when she deposited me in the car seat

“It’s alright, dear. Now, try to breathe, OK? We’ll be home soon”

“Yes.”

Dimly, I was aware of Zuri and Tony talking outside, then she was in the car and we were driving away.

“Breathe deeply, Tanya.” She said to me, “In through the nose, out through the mouth. Try it”

I did, but even that made my stomach contract in pain.

“We’re almost home, don’t worry”

* * *

I lay in bed, with an  ice-pack on my lower stomach, looking up at the ceiling, crying. How could it be that a bit of pain could bring one to one’s knees. Pain is a shameful thing, indeed. I heard Zuri and my mother come back upstairs, and quickly wiped my tears away.

“How are you feeling?” Zuri said, placing a cool hand on my head.

“It still hurts”

“Here, chew on this” She took a pinchful of dried leaves from a little pouch hanging from her wrist.

I obeyed, and quickly wished I hadn’t “Ugh! What is this?”

“Absinthe wormwood. My mother called it ajenjo and would give it to us in tea–and believe me it’s even worse in that form. Chewing is faster and just as effective. Now, be a good girl, and chew on it as long as possible, then swallow it.”

“It’s awful!”

“Yes. But that bitterness will help. The stomach suffers when we stress, or when we are anxious or sad, or angry, and that’s why your whole digestive tract feels like it contracts in pain. This bitterness helps it get back to normal.”

Mara spoke at last, “What happened, Tanya? How was today worse that usual? Some thing you ate, perhaps?”

That was Mara. So quick to judge and condemn. “No, mom.”

“Let’s let her rest Mara.” Zuri said gently, “She’ll be fine, I promise.”

They turned the hallway light off and went back downstairs. I was left alone at last.

She’ll be fine, she’d said. But would I?

 

part 15 of If You Only Knew

Prayers

“I thought you wouldn’t come”

“Long story.” He said, removing his jacket.

“You don’t have to sit with me, you know.”

“I want to. Besides, you don’t have a partner yet” He said, and asked me to scoot over a bit more.

As I didn’t want to make a huge issue about this business anymore, I said nothing, merely moved and made him more room. After the welcoming remarks and repeating the invitation to pray in groups for the sake of the newcomer, all thoughts turned to prayer again—and far away from me.

“That was close.” I said out loud, greatly relieved.

Tony said nothing. He simply glanced at the others and took in the soft murmur of prayer. “Everybody’s praying.” He whispered, “Do you want to go first, or do you want me to start?”

“What?”

“Pray.” He leaned in my direction, bowed his head and closed his eyes. I realized he meant it as an order, not as an answer to my question.

I began to protest “I don’t—I…”

He began, interrupting my protests, “Jesus Christ. I know you are alive and you reign in heaven. I pray for strength and deliverance from the devil and his fiery darts. I ask for courage to do what’s right, and I claim the power of your cleansing blood to purify me. Forgive me . . . ”

He paused here for a protracted time. I, who had kept my eyes open looking this way and that, now began studying his face with growing unease. His brow was furrowed, and his chin was sunk low on his chest. Fortunately he didn’t cry. He rallied himself and continued on, “And I also pray for my friend Tanya. We all come from different places and backgrounds, so I don’t know what troubles her. Please give her the power of your Holy Spirit to resist temptation. In your name I pray, Amen.”

“Amen” I said, unwittingly—and felt silly at catching myself doing it. But I was glad that he was done. I sat back in my couch and expected him to do the same, but Tony kept his attitude of prayer. He kept it so long that it was just plain weird…

“Tony. It’s ok… you can sit back now. We just wait until the others are done”

“Your turn” He said with his eyes still closed

“I don’t pray. I can’t. You don’t know I—”

“Just do it. If not for you, pray for me. I need it.”

The duration of my inner debate was not long—but it felt like it. It was so—so—awkward. How could I pray for Tony? And what for? I never even prayed for myself since that fiasco back when I’d asked for a miracle (a fat lot of good it did me)—and longer still before that. And why was the prayer time longer—much longer—than it usually took?

Tony kept his head bowed, as if waiting for me to start

I sighed loudly.

“Fine,”

Where to start?

I closed my eyes, and remembered way back when my grandmother had taught me to pray, which was peculiar—because I could not remember much from infancy.

Fold you hands like this. Yes, like that. Very good. Now bow your little head. Close your little eyes. That’s it. Now repeat after me . . . “Our Father in heaven…”

“Our Father in heaven,”

Hallowed be thy name,

“. . . Hallowed be thy name,”

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done. . .

“. . . Thy kingdom come, thy will be done . . . ”

Nothing more came. That was all I remembered, though I strove to recall the rest of the words, but I couldn’t.

What could I do?

God, what can I say?

I grasped for words, but I literally had nothing—nothingto say aside of my usual litany of incoherent rebellion.

I was on my own now.

“God. I have nothing…much to say to you . . .  just . . . ” I sighed deeply once more and continued this most difficult task, “Please . . . just listen to the prayers of the people here . . . Listen to them . . . And I pray for Tony here too, who is suffering. Amen”

“Amen” Tony repeated, and then sat back.

But I wasn’t looking at Tony now. Tony, the study group, the church, the whole city block was now a thousand miles away from me.

Because my heart and my mind were millions of light years away. Prayer had awoken the fierce and gnawing pain of loss and now all my bones and joints, my muscles, my innards, my fat, and even my overstretched skin ached as if cold, damp, sorrow had taken possession of me. And that feeling was exactly like that day—years ago—when I had told God that he and I were through.

And how sad, how cold, how vast, friendless, and empty the world had seemed, the day I’d lost my faith in prayer–that day that Grandma died.

 

part 14 of If You Only Knew

Tony

We were late on Monday for some random reason. When we got there, Elder Banks was about to conclude testimony and prayer time.

Zuri took her seat on the circle–as usual. I went to my corner, briefly scanning the room.

Tony wasn’t there.

Figures. Well, this is–after all–the last place anybody would want to be at…

I plopped on my couch as usual; the old frame squeaked in protest under my weight.

“…and now let us turn each other and claim the power of intercessory prayer. Turn to a brother or sister next to you, and pray for each other for a few minutes.”

I was not alarmed. They had done this before many times. That day, however, Elder Banks was filling in for Zuri who had come late. He must have felt the spirit or something, because he walked up to me, and with an evangelist’s booming voice and expression addressed me, “Daughter. Please join us in prayer.”

“Uh?” I squeaked.

“Come. You can pray with…let’s see…is anyone in need of a partner?”

The silence was eloquent.

Zuri was about to speak up when Martha and Horace—the oldest people in the room—said they wouldn’t mind having a third.

No. No. No. No. No…

Diversion saved me, however. It came in the way of a new arrival dressed in an elegant business suit.

What the–

“Why, welcome brother!” Elder Banks said stepping forward to greet him with a hand shake.

At first I didn’t recognize the newcomer. But then I realized that it was Tony walking in and taking a seat next to me on the vile, pink, couch. He flashed a smile at me and greeted me cordially.

“Hey, kiddo”

There was a murmur of surprise when it was understood that I, the mocker, had been the one to invite the new arrival.

I suppose that—being the good Christians that they were—they’d come to underestimate the power of the God they served, otherwise how could they fail to remember that He can use any situation and any person—even me—for his good pleasure?

For I’m sure it was his pleasure that Tony should be drawn to know and serve him.

* * *

Let me fast-forward fifteen years.

Tony has since then finished college and attended the seminary. He works as a Chaplain in the same hospital I work at and spends much of his free time at a youth shelter mentoring neglected youth to steer them away from a life of addiction.

Furthermore, he also bears the title “Doctor” as he recently earned his PhD—He’s even published two books.

I didn’t know what Tony would eventually become when I first saw him crying his heart out in church–not even that day he arrived at the Study Group. I didn’t even imagine either that Tony would be the person who would help me believe in the power for prayer again.

Life is funny like that. God certainly has a knack for surprising you.

I certainly was surprised by him the first day Tony went to the Bible study group.

 

part 13 of If You Only Knew

Gift of Prophecy – Sabbath School Discussion

Garden Grove SDA – Young Adult Sabbath School
28 Fundamental Beliefs – #18 The Gift of Prophecy
April 12, 2014
Duration ~ 50min (Adaptable to 40 min.)

Icebreakers

Please state your name and answer the following question.

Q1:      If you had access to a time-traveling Delorean for just ONE round trip, would you travel to the future or to the past—and where?

            FYI most people will want to go to the past—surprising, isn’t it?

It is within our human nature to want to know what is going to happen to us and to our world. That is why the FB we will be discussing today is really important for us. Fundamental Belief #18 deals with the Gift of Prophecy and its role in our lives, especially as we approach the end times.

Prayer

Intro – Definition of Prophecy

Q2:      What is prophecy? / How would you define “Prophecy”? / What is another word or synonym that could be used instead of “Prophecy”?

Continue reading

The Siren's Song

When the Sirens Sing

Enjoying intimacy with God involves walking in the Spirit. And walking in the Spirit MUST involve gaining victory over the flesh. It’s not a life of no longer being tempted. It is a life of overcoming temptation.

The following is entirely from J. Oswald Sanders; a passage I read this morning that I thought I should share:

The key is not the mere damming back of the temptation, only for it to break out once again, worse than ever. It is the counteraction operation of a higher and more powerful law. The principle [can be] powerfully illustrated in the Greek myths of Ulysses and the sirens, and Jason and the Argonauts.

When Ulysses and his men set out on their journey of conquest, they were warned by Circe to avoid the sirens at all costs. She told them that the sirens’ voices were alluring but fatal to all who stopped to listen. The unfortunate listeners became rooted like a tree and could not tear themselves away, until they died of hunger.

“Fill your companions’ ears with wax” she counseled. “If you yourself want to listen to their song, first let your men bind you securely to the mast.” Ulysses heeded her advice. “If the melody beguiles me,” he ordered them, “I charge you, disobey my word, and bend more strongly to your oars.”

At length Ulysses heard the beautiful strains that stole into his mind, overpowered his body, and overcame his will. As the music came sweeter and sweeter, Ulysses’ love for home weakened. He struggled with his shame, but at last the bewitching voices of the sirens prevailed.

“Loose me and let me stay with the sirens!” he raged. He threatened and entreated… He raged and tore at his bonds, for it was agony for him to leave the spot. But not until the last sound of music died away did they loose him. He had passed out of the zone of temptation.

Jason with his Argonauts set out in search of the Golden Fleece. Medea warned Jason and his men of the menace of the sirens, as they began to hear their bewitching strains. All around they could see the shore strewn with the bones of those who had succumbed to the sirens’ charms.

On board the boat was Orpheus, the king of minstrels. “Let them match their songs with mine,” he challenged the three maidens whom they could see, and whose silvery voices stole over the moonlit waters…The oars of Jason’s heroes fell from their hypnotized hands.

“Sing louder! Wake up these sluggards!” Medea cried to Orpheus. Orpheus struck his skillful hand over the strings of his lyre, and his voice rose like a trumpet. The music penetrated the souls of the infatuated men, and their souls thrilled. Orpheus kept on singing until his voice completely drowned the voices of the sirens. Once again the Argonauts took up their oars, and Jason and his men sailed to victory.

“Sing the song again, Orpheus,” they cried. “We will dare and suffer to the last.”

* * *

These stories strikingly illustrate two possible ways of gaining victory over the desires of the flesh. One is the way of negations and prohibitions. They are of some help and have their place. Ulysses was bound, otherwise he would have yielded to the cravings of his heart. His men had wax in their ears, or they too would have yielded. But it is an incontrovertible fact that to concentrate the mind on the desires of the flesh, if only to conquer them, seems to intensify the desires.

How much better is the Orphean music than the Ulyssian wax! With the heavenly Orpheus on board, as we listen to His heavenly music, the voices of the sirens lose the power of their appeal, and our spirits are set free.

It is all a matter of who is in control of the life. The self-life with its unlawful desires and tendencies is the citadel of the fleshly principle, and will continue to dominate until it is consigned to the cross. Paul wrote: “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal 5:24). That is involved in walking by the Spirit and results in our emancipation from yielding to the desires of the flesh.

– – –

Sanders, J. Oswald. Enjoying Intimacy with God “Walking in the Spirit”