Pointless, Mundane, and Redeemed

Practical. Transitory. Ordinary.

Mundane life. It is most likely resented because it is not spectacular.

While we encourage each other to stop and appreciate the small things in life, we don’t always mean it. Not really.

We want to be known for doing impressive things — or at least things that are worthy of noticing.  We dread being unseen and ordinary. We dread living a mundane existence.

At the root of our ill-will toward mundane activities and mundane living, however, I believe is the annoyance that it is pointless. We begrudge the repetitive nature of the mundane. At least I tend to.

Washed dishes will become dirty again.  Gas tanks need to be refilled. Lawns are cut, only to regrow. Weeds in flowerbeds are maddening in their reappearance. Endless stacks of documents need stapling, sorting, or filing. Thousands of phone calls need answering. Years come and go, marked by the same paperwork, the same taxes, the same repairs, the same cleaning and re-cleaning, the same organizing and reorganizing, the same frustrations. Even successes in everyday life can turn mundane.

What has been will be again. There is nothing new under the sun. (See Ecclesiastes 2)

Hopeless, right? The mundane nature of life has created a rut that we cannot escape.

So we look for a plot twist. We find out we’re really royalty (it makes a good movie)… or we come into money… or we finally receive that accolade… or we get our breakthrough to fame. With a plot twist like that we could escape the rut created by a mundane life.

But what if the office worker, the teacher, the mother, the father, and the hundreds of other professions were not necessarily meant to escape mundane life? What if the mundane could be redeemed from pointlessness?

Plot twist.

It has.

The sovereign purpose of God has given purpose to the most mundane of lives.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians 2:10

Christ has redeemed the mundane for his followers because all our works are for him.  The fulfillment for our work is in him. The honor, gratitude, and advancement we hope to attain in our earthly work pale in comparison to our inheritance in the Lord.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

Colossians 3:23-24

God has planned all our works — the mundane, the noteworthy, and the spectacular. All are unto him.  He accepts our work because of Christ. The presence of his Holy Spirit in us reminds us that we do not work for the futility of a passing world, but in his strength and with the hope that our work is not in vain. Therefore…

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Galatians 6:9

We work, even in the mundane, with the hope of the only accolade that matters: God’s.

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!'”

Matthew 25:21

We work with hope and courage to do the ordinary because we know that God is at work — even in the mundane.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

What I Need to Know

This month, I’ve been participating in July’s Scripture writing plan from Sweet Blessings: God is Our Refuge. Focusing for over a week now on the promise of refuge and salvation has led to many thoughts and prayers, and I’m looking forward to the remaining 23 days.

The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, he know those who take refuge in him.

Nahum 1:7 (part of day 7)

When do I need refuge? When I am afraid. When someone, or some situation, or some sin, or some other worry is pressing on me. In that moment, what I want most to know how everything will be resolved. I want to know, “what will happen?”

As with many others, however, what I want most to know is not what I need most to know. The way of quieting my heart and mind is not in knowing the end from the beginning. No, Nahum says in 4 words (in English, two in Hebrew) what I most need to know: The LORD is good.

The LORD — יְהֹוָה Yĕhovah

Not “one”, not “a”. There are no others in His rank. No other lesser gods to somehow grab power. No equal forces of good and evil to balance out, no equal dichotomy of right and wrong. He alone is unrivaled in the universe.

The eternal, self-existing One. He does not need our help.  All things happen according to His will — even the things that most trouble us. He is the authority, because He existed before all things and He is the Creator and Master of all creation.

is good — טוֹבtowb

He is right. Excellent. Rich and Valuable in estimation. Because He is good, He does what is good. Since He is good in His very being, He is trustworthy.

That’s what a child knows when they run to a parent for help when they are afraid: My parents are bigger, and they are good to me.

Because the LORD is unrivaled in His power and good in His very nature, He is “a stronghold in the day of trouble.”

And as an added balm to a worried heart, “he knows those who take refuge in him.” He knows every hair on their head. He hems them in behind and before. He sees their goings out and staying in. He has written down everyday of their lives. He calls them by name.

So take courage.

He is God.

He is good.

He knows you.

 

The LORD is good,

a stronghold in the day of trouble,

he know those who take refuge in him.

Nahum 1:7

 

 

True Testimony

“It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain in the temple was torn two. Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this, he breathed his last.” Luke 23:44-46

“And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised.” Matthew 27:50-52

Saturday Song: Crown Him with Many Crowns/Rejoice the Lord is King

I spent a good part of today lost in a new book, a new story. One theme was the corruptible natural of man — even a good one — when lured by the possibility of absolute power.

Tonight, one of the things about God’s nature that I love is his incorruptibility — that he was tempted, yet was without sin. As tonight’s hymns reflect, we can rejoice that he alone is king, the matchless king throughout all eternity because his goodness can never be altered by absolute power.

I hear the Savior say,
“Thy strength indeed is small;
Child of weakness, watch and pray,
Find in Me thine all in all.”

  • Refrain:
    Jesus paid it all,
    All to Him I owe;
    Sin had left a crimson stain,
    He washed it white as snow.     — Evelina M. Hall

Crown Him with many crowns,
The Lamb upon His throne;
Hark! How the heav’nly anthem drowns
All music but its own!
Awake, my soul and sing
Of Him Who died for thee,
And hail Him as thy matchless King
Through all eternity.

Crown Him the Lord of love!
Behold His hands and side—
Rich wounds, yet visible above,
In beauty glorified.
No angel in the sky
Can fully bear that sight,
But downward bends His wond’ring eye
At mysteries so bright.

Crown Him the Lord of life!
Who triumphed o’er the grave,
Who rose victorious in the strife
For those He came to save.
His glories now we sing,
Who died, and rose on high,
Who died eternal life to bring,
And lives that death may die.

Crown Him the Lord of heav’n!
One with the Father known,
One with the Spirit through Him giv’n
From yonder glorious throne,
To Thee be endless praise,
For Thou for us hast died;
Be Thou, O Lord, through endless days
Adored and magnified.       — Matthew Bridges

Rejoice, the Lord is King!
Your Lord and King adore;
Rejoice, give thanks, and sing,
And triumph evermore;
Lift up your heart, lift up your voice;
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

Jesus, the Savior, reigns,
The God of truth and love;
When He had purged our stains
He took His seat above;
Lift up your heart, lift up your voice;
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

His kingdom cannot fail,
He rules o’er earth and Heav’n,
The keys of death and hell
Are to our Jesus giv’n;
Lift up your heart, lift up your voice;
Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

Rejoice in glorious hope!
Jesus the Judge shall come,
And take His servants up
To their eternal home;
We soon shall hear th’ archangel’s voice;
The trump of God shall sound, rejoice!   — Charles Wesley

 

By God’s Grace, arranged and played by Katie 

Swirling Clouds and Songs

Great is Your Steadfast Love

Psalm 86 — A Psalm of David

1 Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me,
    for I am poor and needy.
Preserve my life, for I am godly;
    save your servant, who trusts in you—you are my God.
Be gracious to me, O Lord,
    for to you do I cry all the day.
Gladden the soul of your servant,
    for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.
For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,
    abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.
Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer;
    listen to my plea for grace.
In the day of my trouble I call upon you,
    for you answer me.

There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,
    nor are there any works like yours.
All the nations you have made shall come
    and worship before you, O Lord,
    and shall glorify your name.
10 For you are great and do wondrous things;
    you alone are God.
11 Teach me your way, O Lord,
    that I may walk in your truth;
    unite my heart to fear your name.
12 I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
    and I will glorify your name forever.
13 For great is your steadfast love toward me;
    you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.

14 O God, insolent men have risen up against me;
    a band of ruthless men seeks my life,
    and they do not set you before them.
15 But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
16 Turn to me and be gracious to me;
    give your strength to your servant,
    and save the son of your maidservant.
17 Show me a sign of your favor,
    that those who hate me may see and be put to shame
    because you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.

In an Instant

He loads the thick cloud with moisture; the clouds scatter his lightning.  They turn around and around by his guidance, to accomplish all that he commands them on the face of the habitable world.  Whether for correction or for his land or for love, he causes it to happen. Job 37:11-13

It was sudden.  Even with sirens, there was no warning for what was about to happen. 200+ mph winds. Shattering glass. Roaring thunder. Pitch blackness.  Crying people. Leveled buildings.

And God’s amazing mercy.

This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life. Psalm 119:50

February 5, 2008

The first storm came that afternoon.

The forecasts warned of such strong storms that the city’s public schools let out early.  I was four days into student teaching.  My cooperating teacher and I were on the phone calling the numbers on our students’ information sheets to tell a parent – in Spanish – that school was closing early because of the bad weather.  The buses were leaving in 20 minutes.  Would someone be at home to let the child in?

As the children left, I held the door open for a group of second graders on their way to the bus. Wind gusts howled around the corners of the building and thunder stormed overhead from this, the first storm.  A little girl threw her arms around my waist, looked up with big brown eyes and asked, “Are we gonna be OK?” “Of course you are, baby,” I smiled at her. “But, you are gonna get awfully wet if you don’t go on.”  She laughed and move on.  The nagging truth of what I didn’t tell her settled in to my stomach.  I didn’t know if we were going to be okay, as we’d like to think of it.  It wasn’t my promise; it wasn’t her promise.

What was our promise that day? Safety? Preservation of possessions? Is it only with those realities we can say that God is good?

The First Song

Two songs stand out in my mind. The first was the last song I heard before the second storm came with its lasting changes.  On my drive back to my dorm room, Mark Shultz’s voice sang out,

You never said it would be easy, but you said you’d see me through the storm…

And even though I’m walkin’ through
The valley of the shadow
I will hold tight to the hand of Him whose love will comfort me
And when all hope is gone
And I’ve been wounded in the battle
He is all the strength that I will ever need

He will carry me…

“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)  That was my promise.  I could plan, and prepare, and pray, knowing that at every second my God would be with me.  He would be with me for one of two ends: either to preserve my life or to bring me safely from this life into His presence.

The Second Storm

A little over three hours later, the sirens were going off.

In fact, they’d been going off for fifteen minutes.  Eight of us girls sat in the downstairs dorm bathroom (with our homework of choice), reading, talking, laughing.  Two other girls sat in the living room just outside the bathroom.  We’d been through this before.  The siren would run its course and nothing would happen.

Then we heard a train.

The lights flickered.

Our ears started popping.

We yelled for the other two girls to get in the bathroom just as they jumped in.  One of the girls slammed the door shut as the power went out and the windows exploded.

I remember when I first discovered how fast thoughts are.

I was a little girl trying to see how many thoughts I could think before four seconds went by on the microwave timer.  Even though the tornado only took a matter of seconds, it seemed as if time had stopped.  I wish I could say that I wasn’t afraid when I heard the train coming, but I was.  It got louder – sounding more like ten trains – then even louder, until it sounded like nothing I’ve heard before or since.  It felt as if the sound were vibrating through every organ, bone, and muscle in my body. The wall I was leaning against for protection shook from the tornado’s fury.

Surely I had mere seconds left to live.  For a moment, I was filled with awe that the time had come.  I was going to see my Maker’s face!  I had waited for this for most of my life!  Then, I remembered what might happen in those intervening moments.

And I was afraid… afraid die in a building torn apart by a tornado.

Then I felt a voice say, “But then you will never hurt again.”  I felt courage from that.  That was my promise.

A couple seconds later, the tornado was gone.  I was still there, and so was the dorm.

It was so dark in the bathroom that we could not see one another.  We called family members to let them know we were okay. We prayed. We cried. We sang to our God because He had saved us.

Then we heard the news being shouted from outside. “Hurt and Watters are gone!

Five simple words, but I couldn’t understand them.  How could two entire residence complexes – fourteen dorm buildings – be gone?  On our evacuation route we soon saw with our own eyes.  The tornado had gone right through both complexes.  The buildings that weren’t leveled were missing walls and roofs. People were trapped in the rubble.  Paramedics were loading students into ambulances.  Surely dozens of our friends were dead.

Was God still good?

The Second Song

And in the end, the end is
Oceans and oceans
Of love and love again
We’ll see how the tears that have fallen
Were caught in the palms
Of the Giver of love and the Lover of all
And we’ll look back on these tears as old tales.

‘Cause after the last plan fails
After the last siren wails…
There is love.

Andrew Peterson, After the last tear falls.

The second song softly played over the speakers of the van as we drove back to the university the next morning.

The EF-4 tornado had gone through the rest of the town, and the morning light revealed the damage left behind.  Whole houses were gone.  Roofs had been lifted off and set down in a neighboring yard.  Debris lay everywhere.  Cars were flipped upside down and dragged across parking lots.

The view behind my dorm

At Union that day, search and rescue crews went through the rubble of the damaged dorm buildings.  Around mid-morning we got the news that everyone had been accounted for… and no one at Union had died.  Did this mean God was good?  Was that the proof of God’s love for us?

My Final Hope

Scripture is clear: God is love and his love never fails.

In every circumstance, God is good. He shows His goodness in fulfilling His promises.  Sometimes He shows that goodness by extending mercy to save from physical danger.  If this life were all that there is, then saving my life would have been the ultimate mercy.  If, however, there is life after death, then the ultimate mercy would be to save me for that life.

The truth is, I was an enemy of God and destined for destruction. I was condemned, not because of my actions alone, but because of my sinful heart.  And I could never save myself.  God extended the ultimate mercy to me by awakening my heart and mind to believe in Him.  Because of Christ’s death for my sin, I am now saved from judgment to belong to God forever.

One day, I really will have only two seconds left to live, and then I will see my God.  And I will not be afraid, but stand before God as a beloved child.  That is my promise and I will rest in it because the steadfast love of God never fails.

 

His grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

 

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.  For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

 

Monday Musings: In Need

2015/02/img_3217.jpg

Ps. 18:6 “In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.”

Going through old songs and rediscovered this beautiful prayer. Thankful it is answered with Ps. 23:5-6, and many other promises like it:

“You fill my cup to overflowing. Surely Your goodness and love will be with me all my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever.”