The Fear Paradox – Some Thoughts on Success

Human life is an inscrutably odd mix of various, often contrasting elements. One such inscrutably odd element is fear. Fear is special even among the others of its kind — it contrasts itself in extremely peculiar ways. What I mean is chiefly this: we fear the possibility that we will fail miserably and embarrassingly at something very important to us. That cripples us all too often and prevents us from doing anything at all in the end. We also fear the possibility that we will succeed at something very important to us; and that so well that we couldn’t even ever have imagined it. That cripples us all too often and prevents us from doing anything at all in the end! Fear is its own paradox.

Most of us are familiar with that timeless quote that goes something to the effect of, “our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate, but that we are actually powerful beyond measure…” etc. It’s a beautiful formulation of the human struggle against fear by Marianne Williamson. All of us have felt that niggling, pricking sense of acute apprehension that, if we go through with this move or that one, we may actually succeed and have people knowing our names and be sought after and depended on and all of that. And all of us have felt, far more often than we would have liked, that debilitating terror that saps the very vitality from our limbs and makes us go numb all throughout our bodies and minds at the mere thought of having to face some dreaded reality. Here we have the two sides of fear. It is true that we fear the light. It is also true that we fear the darkness.

But, you know, that gets me thinking: doesn’t it then become apparent that human beings weren’t designed to be merely ordinary or median? After all, it’s not success that we fear — nah, we can handle that just fine, thank you. It’s unprecedented, overwhelming success that’s our problem. And it’s not failure that we shy away from — it’s glaring, epic failure. Particularly in the things that matter most to us. We fear either extreme of the continuum, and so most of us live our lives decidedly in the middle in most of the things we attempt. Hmmm… Food for thought…

Let’s focus on the light side for a bit. We all say things like, “If I’d known this is how big it would have turned out, I would’ve done this from the get-go!” Well, I beg to differ. I believe if people could see the scale of their success from even before they started down their path, more than half the world’s great achievements would never have come into being. Maybe that number would even have been reduced to zero. Back in high school I used to hear people make the joke that Bill Gates made $6,000,000 in his sleep every night. It probably wasn’t just a joke. But if a young Bill Gates had been shown a fleeting vision of all that he would have become (and in particular that one day he would have been making 6 mil in his sleep every night), he likely would have snorted, shrugged, shook his head at himself and dismissed the whole thing as a crazy daydream of his (cue: Just My Imagination, Boyz II Men version) and then we would never have had Microsoft and all that came with it and has come from it since then. I believe that is true because I’ve had my fair share of what I’ve termed “crazy daydreams”, and I know everyone else has, too.

It’s not just about the level of success, either. It’s about the level of challenge and pain that we’d need to push through to get there. Oh, and the level of opposition too! That alone would be enough to finish Bill Gates and the rest of us off. Isn’t that part and parcel of why we deem certain things “crazy ideas”? Isn’t that why we decide some things are just “too hard” or “too much work”?

I think what makes certain levels of human achievement even possible is the natural, gradual progression. It’s literally all about the process. Maybe a 10-year-old Gates would never have been able to take his own success seriously, as I described above. Because at that point there was nothing but the vision. It would seem ridiculous, unreasonable; it was too far away. But give that same Bill Gates another decade of constant work and experience and suddenly the same ridiculous vision transforms into a crazy idea that just might work! Countless smaller, “insignificant” victories have set the stage for the audaciously spectacular! Suddenly 1 Corinthians 1:27-28 starts to make sense in a whole new way! It’s amazing how tiny victories and amounts of experience change the human perspective on what is possible and what isn’t. It’s amazing how they redefine and restructure the domain of fear itself. It’s like they actually rewire the brain. We start to believe when we make certain small steps. And it actually helps that, the whole time, we can barely see farther ahead than just beyond our noses!

But that’s also one reason why I believe true success simply comes — it’s not something that yields merely to being pursued. Sure, you can pursue it and then achieve it. People do that all the time. But just as many people do precisely that, working very assiduously, and still fail even then. The greatest success is the one unlooked for. It’s the success that comes from doing what you’re passionate about without regard for what you can get out of it. It’s the success that follows you instead of the other way around. It’s a date with Destiny. I’m talking about the kind of success that gave rise to women earning the right to vote and own property, emancipation of not only the Africans and their descendants in Europe’s slave trade but of numerous similar groups since, the invention of the airplane and the reality of wireless communication across countries thousands of miles apart via something as simple as WhatsApp. All of these came from people who simply did what they were passionate about without regard for profit, and destiny met them and blew their dreams up bigger than they could have dared to hope.

They couldn’t see past their noses, but that actually helped. Because every little step toward the goal gave them just enough courage to handle the fear that they could see immediately around them. Those same steps could never have sufficed to handle the fear even 5 steps ahead! That’s ultimately why humans can only live in the now. Try as we might, we can’t have our futures now, we can only have our nows now. And that is as it should be. We couldn’t handle anything surplus.

And that brings me back to my earlier thought: we weren’t meant to be merely ordinary. That’s why fear operates the way it does — it’s actually a challenge to push past it and get beyond the median! But how do we do that? In a word, diligence. We’ve seen it too many times to count, right? People who keep at what they’re doing, one tiny step after the other, no matter how slow the going is, are the people who really live in this world, rich or poor. Those are the only people who ever find the “secret” to besting the fear paradox. They’ve learned the secret isn’t really a secret at all! And, really, the only way to be diligent is to focus on the now and not so much on the future. There needs to be a delicate balance here. Have your future always in mind. Always have a clear vision of where you want to be. But the future is the future! Now is where you are and what you have. You have to live now if you ever want to create that future. You have to keep pressing now. It’s one thing to have a future goal in mind but it’s another to have the wisdom and discipline to understand that that goal — that future — starts right now! Too often we comfort ourselves with thoughts of that future we aim for and then use that very thing as reason to procrastinate, folding our arms and doing nothing. We should look at the details around us and work at them. Seeing the “bigger picture” was never about ignoring the details for the big things. It’s always been about being able to see how those details come together to make that picture. So what small thing can I do now? What skill can I develop? What do I already have that I can now perfect? Like Moses, the question to each of us is, “What do you have in your hand?”

And as we keep focusing on what we can do now we’ll see one of the most incredible mysteries of life unfold right before our eyes. We’ll see our very understanding of ourselves and our potential change. It won’t happen drastically. It’ll all happen very gradually. Although, the realization itself may be very drastic indeed! I can’t forget the day I realized — very suddenly — that I wasn’t just some guy struggling to play the piano by ear or compose music anymore. Quite suddenly I became aware that my ears had developed to the point that I could pretty much figure out any song in a very short space of time, and that my brain now had constant elevator music playing inside it that I was simply itching to write down! I was even performing music and composing for others. And that erased all the fear that I had been feeling up to that point! Naturally, new and more potent fears attended this realization. But if it happened once it would happen again, right? All I have to do is keep working at it. The rest will fall right into place. The cycle will repeat itself. And it has, without fail.

The future usually invites us to entertain all kinds of fears. The unknown is, after all, the one thing we probably fear most. And that is why only those who have learnt the “secret” of trusting God will ever really have peace in this life. That’s the ultimate fear buster right there. If God holds the future and I’m His son, His friend, then what do I have to worry about? He is the one who coordinates it all. It’s so beautiful how He makes all the fine details come together. Even our flaws, our fears and our failures turn to gold in His hands. Remember, the people we admire most in this world are by no means perfect. Far from it. They’re all people just like us. If God could make something out of their mess, you can bet your last dollar He can do the same for you and me.

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Bitter Strength

You know, sometimes it’s really hard following God. Oh, wait — never mind. Scrap that “sometimes” nonsense. It’s pretty much ALWAYS really hard following God. And by “following” here I don’t mean believing in Him or committing to His ways, etc. No, I mean something far plainer — or at least what one would imagine to be plainer. I’m talking about keeping up with Him and His plans; being able to follow the action play-by-play, being able to sense a clear path, keeping up with the action so you understand what’s going on. I mean plain old being able to get what He’s up to in our lives and how it’ll all work out to be awesome in the end.

Nothing so complex as walking in His ways yet.

Fortunately (and sometimes extremely unfortunately, we’re convinced) we don’t get a copy of God’s playbook. We just get to take our positions on the field and make the best of what we do see and do understand in trying to navigate this ginormous game called “Life”, with just a liiiiiiiiittle bit of (perceptible) help from Outside. It’s fortunate because, were we to ever be gifted a copy of God’s aforementioned “playbook”, the vast majority of the world’s greatest achievements would never have even drifted near the pages of history — the journey required to get there is just too hard and too scary! We’d straight up tell Him, “No, God! You’re not getting me to go through all that even if it is to get to a point as awesome as that! Forget it! I’m quitting while I’m behind!” It’s unfortunate because, come on, we all generally feel (very strongly, too) that we should at least understand why we have to go through this — it’d make it all more bearable, we tell ourselves.

Cases in point: Joseph on his way to becoming Pharaoh’s almost-double; David on his way to becoming King of all Israel; Thomas Edison on his way to the light bulb; Henry Ford on his way to automotive success; Gandhi on his way to a free India; Beethoven on his way to classical mastery; Charlie Parker on his way to jazz lord status. Walt Disney on his way to Disney World. If these guys and millions of others throughout history had been given an inkling as to what awaited them on their journey, it would be interesting to see just how many of them would have gone on to make the history books, and for what!

Once upon a time I had a dream. I nursed the dream for months. Years. I agonized over it. The dream finally started to come true. And I dreamed some more. Time was drawing me ever closer to a moment of truth upon which all of my dreaming hung and around which all of my deepest desires revolved. I did everything I knew how to do. It was hard. It was a whole lot of uncertainty. It was nights of fervent prayer, days of existing on a razor’s edge. And then the moment came and was gone. And I? I stood staring blankly out into the distance, stunned. Shell-shocked. Incredulous.  Embarrassed. Powerless.

True story — that moment happened this morning.

And now here I am, feeling like Joseph in prison, or David in exile when God promised him the throne, or Edison wondering what on earth he could have got wrong this time… The not-so-cliche-at-all feelings of watching a dream — THE dream — slip away just as it seemed within reach…

It’s moment like these you most want an answer. Moments like these you most feel the need to be able to follow the play. Moments like these you positively ache to understand where He’s going with all this.

Especially when it all seemed set up so perfectly! Prayers were being answered. Circumstances were changing around. Even some fine details were lining up to the tee. Spirits were running high. Anticipation! Excitement! Hopes! The countdown to blast-off! And then…disappointment. Hopes dashed. Rocket explodes. Spirit cast down.

It’s like poor Tantalus — doomed, at least for the moment, to grasp at something precious only just beyond his reach…

This was supposed to be it! Why, God? Oh, please, why? What went wrong? Where did I go wrong? Did I mess up? This was what I wanted above anything else… And so the questions buzz around in your head, begging for expression, begging for release. But you hold them in, you restrain yourself. For the sake of not seeming weak when you break down. Or for the sake of not getting up into God’s face.

  • The wind and the waves shall obey My will
    Peace, be still. Peace, be still…

What God? Was that You? What are you saying? Peace? Be still? You’re still in control? Even though I can’t see what You could possibly be up to? Even though it hurts so much?

But, see, that’s just it! In my bitterness I find strength! Even when I’d rather not, I find it. God gives it. And I mean He GIVES IT, whether I like it or not. What do I mean? Only this: for all my questions and for all my desire to rail and let loose my turbulent emotions I find myself thoroughly rebutted and held in check by one simple idea. Is He not God? Did His eyes suddenly become blind so that He can’t see? His hands shortened so that their power is diminished? His ears heavy so that He can’t hear so well anymore? I build up arguments in my head. Arguments of emotion and expectation and hurt and disappointment and confusion. And He simply says, “Peace, be still. Sit back and watch Me work.” I want to say, “But I don’t understand!” But I cut myself off in the middle of the thought. Hasn’t He proven Himself infinitely wiser than me? I want to protest, “But this is what You told me would be mine!” And again I’m cut across by the response in my own head. And don’t you think He knows that? Don’t you think He sees? I want to throw a tantrum — and I find I can’t. It’s that bitter strength. That infuriating, annoying, sanguine, blessed bitter strength.

Because that’s precisely what it is — BITTER. I’d much rather be fragile and feeble. I’d much rather be left to my sense of hopelessness. I’d much rather feel sorry for myself. That would add some sweetness to the situation for a while. But I can’t. I’m not allowed. I have to be “adult” about it. Ever been comforted by your mom, your dad, your sibling, your best friend, your lover when you’d much rather be left to wallow in the sadness? You want to be left alone but noooooooo, there they are hugging you and putting your head on their shoulder and patting you and reassuring you and being all loving and gentle and kind and understanding and sensible — blecch! Well, like I said, that’s just what this is. That’s what God is doing. And that loving and gentle part makes it that much more bitter. Shout at me! Please! Let’s argue about nothing and everything! Let me be a spoilt brat! But He won’t let it happen. You feel the strength and the peace seeping back into you, and you hate it and love it all at the same time. Hmm… Maybe I should have called this “bittersweet strength”.

For all the pain, here’s the reality: God is God. God is good. God’s plan is superior. God’s timing is superior. God does what He does (and doesn’t do) out of love. You can trust Him to have your back. You can be sure He’ll turn this around for you, and make it several times bigger, better and more secure. Hasn’t He done it before? Hasn’t He been doing it every day since Man first breathed breath? So why doubt Him? Why fear? Why worry that He won’t work it out and won’t turn it around and won’t rescue you from this pain and embarrassment and anguish and fear? Yes, I know (TRUST ME!), it’s hard to keep sight of all that. But if you’ll only allow yourself, you’ll see it’s the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. God doesn’t make promises and fail to keep them.

David had his period of tears and constant danger and unrest. It didn’t last. God brought him to the throne. Joseph was pretty sure God had abandoned him a few times back in that pit and in that prison. Later his own mouth confessed God had had a reason to stage all that elaborate series of events. And he sure reaped more than his fair share of the benefits! Edison most certainly told himself scores of times that that last time was it; no more trying. God gave him the satisfaction of seeing the dream come to brilliant life. Gandhi had too many uncertain moments to count, going up against a superpower virtually on his own, and unarmed at that. God granted his passive resistance more firepower than Britain’s most formidable weapons of warfare. Beethoven had a rough time of it in so many ways. And those rough times birthed within him a sound he could have gotten in no other way and that still holds the world in awe a few hundred years later. Charlie Parker knew what it meant to be down and out. And that gave him a drive and a soul that boggled the minds of his contemporaries and subsequent generations. Henry Ford must have felt like the world’s biggest failure when he went bankrupt, and that more than once. One day his cars were being bought and sold almost everywhere and he reaped the benefits. Walt Disney had a vision and when he shared it he was told it could never work. Hundreds of rejections must have left him feeling drained and depressed. Look at Disney World now!

If God could use their down-times to do something on that scale, can’t He do the same for me? Won’t He? “Jesus Christ the same yesterday and today and forever.” That’s a very telling statement.

As for me, I want a testimony. In fact, I’m waiting for it. Delay is not denial. God loves to show up, and show up BIG! He promised me double for my embarrassment in Isaiah 61:7. He promised that if I keep on believing His Word, even when it seems silly to, I would come out on top. So I’m going to wait on God and watch the Master at work. I’m bustin’ out the popcorn, sitting down on the comfiest couch and getting a front row seat to the action. God is working — I don’t want to miss a thing!

Shhh! Keep it down! God’s on!

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The Divine Showman

I’ve been going through something of a rough time recently. Know what that means? It means that this was the perfect time for God to step in and reveal Himself to me in another unprecedented and awesome way. And He did! Why? Because that’s the kind of God I serve. That’s my Daddy. When I fall and get covered in bruises, that’s when He’s keenest on being there to pick me up. When I’m not feeling all that wonderful or upbeat or like I can see my way clearly, that’s when He makes sure to be there to comfort me and to remind me He never went anywhere. That’s when He gives fresh revelations that turn your whole perspective around. That’s who God is: He’s a Father. He’s a Comforter. He’s a Lover. The Master of the tender embrace. Sometimes we all need a reminder. And that’s precisely what God delights in — reminding us of who He is and who we are to Him so that our joy may be restored to us, and with extra added on!

This time God reminded me of a simple fact. It was so simple I found myself laughing at myself. How had I gone on so long and never given this simple fact any serious thought? Or better yet, since I’d already known it, how ever did I manage to lose sight of it? It came to me as I started reading over my Bible recently, all the way through from Genesis to Revelation.

And this is the simple idea God got across to me: God loves to embarrass His enemies for the sake of his friends. 

No, I’m serious — He LOVES it! I didn’t say He likes it or that He finds it OK, you know. It’s what He does. This goes waaaaay beyond a hobby for Him. It’s who He is! Don’t believe me? I can prove it. I’ve seen it over and over again within these pages these past few days. For starters you can look at Deuteronomy 28:63. It says:

  • And it shall come to pass, that as the LORD rejoiced over you to do you good, and to multiply you; so the LORD will rejoice over you to destroy you, and to bring you to naught; and ye shall be plucked from off the land wither thou goest to possess it.

The same pleasure He takes in establishing the godly is the same pleasure He takes in punishing the wicked! That’s who God is. He loves putting things right. He loves to serve up justice. Now our God is also a Lover. He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked as He says in Ezekiel 18:23. He much prefers that they be saved. But God also isn’t a fool. He loves but He’s not blind. If the wicked will not return to Him no matter what then He will be pleased to punish their folly. He’ll fix their business and rejoice that He has, just as a detective would in knowing he’s put away a hardened criminal for a long time or as a housekeeper would over having finally gotten the incredible mess under control. No self-delusions for Him! He knows when to call it quits and start making the hard decisions. But if they will be turned to Him, bet your bottom dollar He’ll find a way to do it. It’s who He is.

Everything God ever does is automatically on the spectacular side of life. And the best part about it? He does all of those things for the benefit of His friends, His beloved, His children. (Remember: it’s not God who needs miracles — it’s us!) I’m writing this to show just a few of those things in the hope that someone will be encouraged by it and realize that God hasn’t left them, and that He never, ever, leaves anything half-done. Whether it’s the big things or the small things God delights in showing up, and showing up in ways that baffle and embarrass His enemies while making His friends look like bosses. It’s who He is!

Looking back on my reading now I’m realizing I’ve never seen God do anything for His people that did not display incredible wisdom and ability. Even the simple things! And whenever enemies were involved they were put to shame every single time. He loves turning things around. And when He does, expect it to be spectacular!

Let’s pick out a few choice occurrences. We won’t even need to go far before you see plainly that nothing God does can be traced by mere human understanding. Let’s go all the way back to the top. In the Garden of Eden God told Satan, the power behind the serpent, “I’ll put enmity between your seed and the woman’s; you shall bruise His heel but He’ll crush your head!” And it’s been that way ever since. Far beyond just that prophecy, throughout history and even down to today, the people of God have been battered and bruised too many times to count; and yet every time God shows up on their behalf the blow to the enemy is far worse.

Remember Abraham and Sarah? Yes, Sarah was barren. And then here is this “God” person telling them they would have children. Can you imagine the years of embarrassment and reproach Sarah had endured, and Abraham with her? Even among the very people who followed them around as their “servants” and their “household”? Can you hear the whispers and snickers in secret places from some, or see the lamenting and head-shaking from others? Yet one day God surely showed up! And He did it when she was no less than ninety years old! In any age of the world that’s nothing short of a medical miracle! His message in doing this? “If I promise it, it MUST come to pass; and your circumstances will have NO power to stop it!” How about now? Can you see all those people, near and far, suddenly having to shut up about Sarah and stew silently in their bitterness? They had lost — spectacularly! They had been convinced she would always be barren, and thus the subject of their jokes and ridicule. Nature and experience even seemed to be conclusively on their side. …But God!

And in Genesis 14 Abraham (called Abram at the time) did with God’s help, three groups with whom he had formed an alliance previously and 318 home-grown servants what 5 kings and their entire armies couldn’t do — they defeated, pursued and embarrassed the powerful armies of  the 4 kings that the aforementioned 5 kings had been utterly defeated by. And all of this to rescue his nephew. He ended up being the hero of those 5 defeated kings.

Or how about Isaac one generation later? Again God shut up all those who had felt bitter against Abraham for not having allowed his son to get a Canaanite wife, and who had felt justified by Rebekah’s barrenness. Twenty long years they laughed. And then suddenly she had twins! And another time, in the middle of a harsh famine, Isaac had the audacity to plant crops — and reaped a hundred fold!

I doubt I need to spend much time on the Israelites in Egypt. Pharaoh held himself to be a god among men. Yet look at how God embarrassed him! Even when his magicians could replicate the first few signs, Aaron’s snake alone defeated and devoured all of theirs; and they couldn’t change the blood back into water. Yet these were the servants of a god! And soon they couldn’t even keep up with Jehovah’s signs anymore. God upped the ante. Pestilence. Locusts. Darkness. And finally death. And in all this where were the god Pharaoh and his relatives, the gods of Egypt? Huddled in a corner in powerless silence, that’s where!

When Israel left Egypt, God purposely led them into the wilderness by the Red Sea, even predicting to Moses that the Egyptians would think they had been entangled in the land and would come to take them back. The result? God parted the Red Sea — right down the middle — and the gods of Egypt were powerless to keep it that way and save their own soldiers. God didn’t just make a way of escape — He shocked the whole world in doing it. Israel was stuck in the wilderness for 40 years after that momentous day and yet when they were finally to enter Canaan the whole region was afraid of them. Why? Because they had all heard of Egypt’s startling destruction ahead of Israel’s arrival. Hundreds of years later in the era of Samuel and just before King Saul, the Philistines still recalled those events with utter dread when Israel (very foolishly) brought the Ark of the Covenant into the camp as a lucky charm against defeat in battle (1 Samuel 4:6-8).

But before even jumping that far ahead, let’s stick to the wilderness a bit longer. Let’s go to Numbers 31. This is one of the most remarkable military campaigns ever recorded anywhere. Twelve thousand Israelites (1000 soldiers from each tribe) went up against the Midianites in a war of revenge ordered by God Himself. The remarkable thing about the situation is that when Israel came back from the battle they brought with them certain trophies. These were in the form of — get this — 675,000 sheep, 72,000 cattle, 61,000 donkeys and a whole host of women and children (they had slain all the men in battle). After having been ordered by Moses to kill all the male children and all the women who were not virgins they were left with 32,000 virgin women (to say nothing of the children). Now for the questions: How many soldiers did Israel have to hack their way through to be able to carry home such a bounty? And how many women had they brought back in total to begin with? Because no matter how you spin it, those 32,000 virgins could not have been the majority. And we all know how men get about their mothers, children and wives. So it must have been a fearsome battle and Israel must have been ridiculously outnumbered from the get-go. And yet for all that, in verse 49 we are plainly told that not one of the 12,000 Israelite soldiers had failed to make it back home! That’s got to be one of the most embarrassing moments in military history from the perspective of the losers! God had His revenge, alright!

Or look at Korah and Dathan and Abiram, who rose up against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. God got rid of them in a totally new way at the time — He opened the earth under them like a trap door and sent them to their deaths. And what of Moses? While in Egypt it was said of him, “the man Moses was very great in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh’s servants, and in the sight of the people” (Exodus 11:3). In the wilderness, in His defense of him, God says, “If there be a prophet among you, I the LORD will make myself known to him in a vision, and will speak unto him in a dream. My servant Moses is not so, who is faithful in all mine house. With him I will speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the LORD shall he behold…” (Numbers 12:6-8). God exalted Moses plainly for all to see. He intervened several times to defend Moses’ character from people like Korah and even his own brother and sister in the passage quoted above. God exalts His friends. He delights in doing so. It’s who He is.

The same was true of Israel. When they were about to enter the Promised Land and sent spies into Jericho, Rahab told them plainly, “I know that the LORD hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you. For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt…” (Judges 2:9-10). And we see this happening over and over again. God exalted Israel in the eyes of the nations around them, both near and far. The job He had done in Egypt was so thorough that, faced with the prospect of an invasion from Israel, all Canaan sank into a horror of depression and fear. And it didn’t matter if they ganged up. In Joshua 10 God gives Israel the victory over 5 kings and their armies who had joined forces in hopes of defeating Israel. Outnumbered again, certainly, but God doesn’t rely on numbers to get Him his victories. And in the course of the battle God not only rained down massive hailstones from Heaven upon them, which killed far more of them than Israel itself had slain (and Israel had slain a great number of them), but He also stopped the sun in its course for about a whole day (verse 13) so Israel could complete their victory! Here are these people waiting for dusk to come so the darkness can aid their escape and there is God making the sun stand still in the sky to prevent just that!

How about Gideon who took a measly 300 men on God’s orders (it had originally been 32,000 but God brought the number all the way down to 300) and routed a joint army that had been described as “like grasshoppers for multitude; and their camels were without number, as the sand by the seaside for multitude” (Judges 7:12). Not only did these 300 send that entire army scurrying, but God caused the army to slaughter themselves in their confusion. That’s a few notches up from Leonidas’ 300! Or how about Samson who single-handedly defeated 1,000 Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey? Later he removed an entire city gate and carried it up into the hills when they had planned to shut him in and assassinate him and finally, when they could have sworn they finally had him, he toppled an entire building by himself, slaying Philistines by the thousands (and himself in the process).

Few things I’ve read made me laugh like I did when I read 1 Samuel 5 and 6. It was just amazing to see how completely and effortlessly God made fools of the entire Philistine nation, who could have sworn that in capturing His Ark (from off the battlefield, no less) they had somehow proved the superiority of their own gods. It was also scary. The very day they brought the Ark home God started to show His power. They put the Ark in the temple of their great god Dagon, next to his statue, and all went to bed. Next morning they come into the temple to find Dagon lying prostrate before the Ark of the Covenant — God refused to be put on the same level of any god. The poor fools couldn’t take a hint. They scratched their heads, stood Dagon right back up and went to bed again at the end of the day. This time God got serious. They found Dagon lying prostrate again, but in pieces this time. His head was severed, as were his two palms. It must have been an eerie picture. It shook them up so bad that people stopped walking in the area of the temple that this had happened altogether! And then God turned up the heat. Plague in the city. Rats. Death. And for those who had escaped, painful diseases and swellings on their private parts. A very rude awakening indeed! This cycle continued throughout all 5 Philistine cities. One city would feel the sting of God’s wrath and hurriedly send the Ark away to the next, only to have the same result. And this happened for 7 whole months. Where was Dagon and the other Philistine gods? That’s probably what the Philistine people wanted to know too.

Finally they concocted a plan to ship the Ark back into Israel — they couldn’t handle it! Death and disease and plague all over the nation. It was too much. They even sent along trespass offerings with it, their way of saying “OK, LORD! We get it! We’re sorry! But please don’t leave these plagues behind when You go — take them with You or we’re all dead men here!” But just in case it was all a coincidence they devised a test. And God is not one to have anyone mistaking His direct action for coincidence, so He sure did order the test to have the exact results they had prescribed. But that has got to be one of the most scandalous moments in the history of religion. Here are people who thought they had defeated the God of their adversary and brought home His artifact as the ultimate trophy, only to have to send it back home again with even offerings attached when they didn’t even serve Him to begin with!

We could go to Elijah on Mount Carmel facing off against 450 prophets of Baal and 400 other prophets associated with Queen Jezebel — him and God alone.We could look at how they carried on and cut themselves and wailed pathetically for more than half a day, and then how in an instant God sent fire that burned up not only the sacrifice but the water in the trenches and even the stones of the altar, reducing them to nothing. We could go to Elisha’s time when God magnified the footsteps of 4 leprous beggars so that the Syrian army could have sworn they were being beset by thousands of chariots and horsemen and quickly abandoned their siege. Or there’s Isaiah’s time when that one angel destroyed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers overnight. There are too many examples to mention in a single sitting.

Every time God does something for someone He makes a show of it. Thinking about it now, I don’t think there ever was a time that He did something on behalf of someone else that wasn’t spectacular. That’s just who He is — He loves surprising people. He loves doing the unexpected for those who love Him. And while He’s at it He invariably embarrasses their adversaries in the most amazing and even hilarious ways. One can’t help but shake one’s head in awe. And of course this aspect of God’s personality and methodology is summed up in the climax of human history, when Christ fulfilled that prophecy from way back in Genesis 3:15. Truly the Adversary bruised His heel. He was afflicted and tortured and then killed. But in return He bruised Satan’s head! He took a mere flesh wound, as it were, and instead dealt a deathblow to the powers of darkness once and for all. Paul puts it this way in Colossians 2:15: “And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.” Christ publicly embarrassed the kingdom of darkness by His work on the cross. And the time is coming when the full implications of that will work themselves out and be plain to even the sternest of unbelievers on that last, great day.

So for me and you the lesson is this: don’t fear. Don’t be afraid. Trust God. Expect Him to show up in our situations. And expect it to be nothing short of spectacular! God is waiting to rush in suddenly, like a superhero, and put our enemies to shame! God never shows up and yet fail to be absolutely spectacular. It’s just who He is! He’s the Divine Showman!

“One shall chase a thousand and two shall put ten thousand to flight.” That’s His promise to us. Tell me that’s not utterly embarrassing the enemy and making us look amazing!

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Birthed Into Greatness

Two tiny cells become one
After the precious deed is done;
No more two are they,
But a single entity:
Destined to grow,
Destined to be,
Destined to thrive,
Destined to be free.

Time is the cradle.
Joined at the navel
To the life of the Protectress;
The child of an Empress.
Destined to breathe
Destined by decree
Destined to know
Destined to see

Divine will directs it
Divine Word erects it
From a minuscule construct
Into an inscrutable, astounding edifice,
And destines it to feel,
Destines it to give,
Destines it to hope,
Destines it to live.

Coddled by Nature,
Loved by the Creator,
It bides its time in silent safety
Counting down the birthing days
Destined to walk
Destined to speak
Destined to transition
To strong from weak

And at long last the moment comes
Though without fanfare or beating drums
The Life emerges healthy and whole
The universe welcomes its newest soul
Destined to dream
Destined to progress
Destined to love
Destined for greatness.

Birthed Into Greatness.jpeg


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Knowledge is Power

Some real words of wisdom. God help us to stay humble as much in our knowledge as in our lack thereof.

The Life You Give

It is often said, “Knowledge is power”.
Power; The ability to influence people or events. 2. The right or authority to do something.
We all have been blessed with knowledge. Some are favorably blessed with more than the average person and others study continuously to grasp as much as they can. It is common knowledge that the learned (whether book- or streetwise) are always the people who are continually making strides and seeing repeated occasions of success throughout their lifetime. Depending on the level of determination, the occasions of success will vary dramatically. (I encourage everyone to expand your knowledge (power) and increase your drive to do every task (no matter how small) the best you can. This will positively influence your moments of success. Remember though, your failures will increase too. Do not be discouraged; begin with a made up mind to progress and don’t stop until you’re…

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Remember… (Part 2)


Remember Quote

Remember that life is short. You did not choose to wake up from your sleep last night, nor will you be able to choose whether you will awaken from it tomorrow. You do not even get to choose whether you will make it to bedtime today. Excluding suicide, of course; but this reminder is aimed at those among the living who wish to remain such. As for those who may be contemplating that path shrouded in shadows, remember this: that it literally is a path shrouded in shadows. Death is a country we all must pass through one day, but about which we know next to nothing. It is vain to hurry to meet it. If life has left you reeling from cruel blows and if circumstances have thrown you into despair, look around you, friend. You are not the worst of the lot. There are always those ahead of us and those behind. There are always those better off and those worse off. It is vain to dwell upon comparisons. Instead, may I encourage you to reflect on something else: no life in this world is anything less than exceedingly precious. No existence is inconsequential. Even if it feels or seems that way. Remember there is meaning in YOUR existence. There are people who hold YOU dear, even if you can’t see them right away. In life we must remember never to become blinded by the seen, the visible. Often it is enough to throw angels into despair. Look instead at the things we are apt to ignore because they are not tangible or visible to the naked eye. Indeed we often find they matter far more than the visible. When you are feeling as lost as a leaf in a whirlwind, look around and offer one kind word to someone you see who needs it. Make one tiny gesture of concern toward someone in a tight spot. You never know — you may just be throwing that person a lifeline; and you may just find yours in the process as well!

Remember that time marches on. Relentlessly. Unfeelingly, even. Nothing in this world, good or bad, lasts forever. The freedom and innocence of childhood passes quickly. So, too, does the springtime of youth. That first, uncomfortable day on the job is soon long gone and forgotten. That first kiss cannot be prolonged. The moment passes. We don’t get to eat that amazing ice cream cone for any longer than we actually do, no matter how we nurse it or how slowly we go. On the other hand, taking too long will cause it to melt, thus spoiling it for us (and making a sticky mess, besides); and at the end of it all, the pleasant flavour and the pleasure we get from having eaten that ice cream fades into memory. The pain of the injection needle and the dread we feel before the moment in question both ebb away into forgetfulness. Eventually that peerless love relationship between yourself and your amazing spouse will vanish too. If nothing life throws at you both can break you apart and dissolve your love and happiness, you will find soon enough that death can and will! The marriage vows themselves say it…

This means a few things. Firstly — that, tragically, pleasure is fleeting and impermanent. You will lose the things and the ones you love. That is inalienable truth. Objective Truth, even. Sex lasts but a few moments. It has to end sometime. The high from drugs are no different. (I’m not here saying that abusing drugs falls into the category of “Good”. The high is the focus here.) Nor are the highs from love and romance or from winning that big game or earning that promotion or being the life of the party. But secondly, it also means pain is fleeting and impermanent too! Eventually we learn to smile again after the death of a loved one. Eventually the horrible birth pangs of an exhausted mother come to term and thrown into labour for hours on end fade into mere memory. Depression doesn’t last forever. There is a way out, a time at which the clouds must disperse. Joblessness is also but for a time. Fear ebbs away. Fatigue vanishes with time. Joy comes in the morning! The lesson here is this: there is always hope. That is also inalienable, objective truth. Life is a series of ebbs and flows. The water is never still. Life is more like a raging sea than a tiny pond or a basin of water. The march of time robs us of so many things but it also makes newness possible. New mercies every morning are possible only because time marches on. New opportunities, new love, new happiness, new circumstances, new jobs, new friends, new perspectives are possible only because time is always on the march. So hang on to hope. It’s a big part of what makes us human!

Remember that you did not always know and that you did not have to know. Be patient with those who lack your knowledge and experience and wisdom, knowing that all your knowledge, experience and wisdom was gifted to you. You did not teach yourself your ABCs nor did you teach yourself to count. You did not teach yourself to cook. You did not teach yourself how to read and respond to social context. You did not teach yourself how to dance or walk or speak. You did not teach yourself to spell or to write or to sing or to play a sport or an instrument. You did not teach yourself how to do your job. You did not teach yourself anything you now know how to do. You may think you did. You may tell me about the difficult past you had where you had to do everything “on your own”, or how you just had an interest in something and decided to “teach yourself”. I promise you that you wouldn’t be the first, nor will you be the last. But remember: even if no one sat you down and directly instructed you on how to do any of those things you had to learn on your own, you had to have a template to follow. There had to be someone or something to copy. And even if it was harsh or disinterested, you received some form of criticism or feedback from somewhere. Otherwise, how could you have even known what to do or whether you were doing it properly or were even on the right track? Somewhere along the line you had to have interacted with people either directly or through books or videos in order to learn anything you now know. It matters not that you did not have direct or, shall we say, deliberate or wilful or intentional instruction from anyone. It does matter that you did have this instruction, indirect though it may be. Besides which, it is impossible that for every single thing you now know you have never had deliberate instruction. Some things, sure; but all things? Not possible.

So it is settled: you and I and everyone else who has ever lived has had to learn everything they know from people, from someone else. Directly or indirectly. So you did not teach yourself. It would be more accurate to say that you used your faculties of intuition and observation and understanding to pick up on the important details that enabled you to get to the level you now have attained. You were able to put the pieces together. And, indeed, what is special about that? All humans have that ability. Moreover, you do not know it all. There are things you have yet to know and understand. For these reasons, remain humble in all your knowings. Do not ridicule or disparage another person for his lack of knowledge. He is simply where you once were not too long ago regarding that same subject, and indeed where you still are now regarding another subject.

More than all this, though, it is principally important to remember the following little-observed fact: you did not make your mind or your brain. You did not give yourself the faculty of understanding or intuition or observation. Everybody has these, yet each person is born with them, not knowing whence they came. In the end it all comes down to this:  “Man’s goings are of the LORD; how can a man then understand his own way?” (Proverbs 20:24). All of man’s ways come from God. All of your ways come from God. He both directs your actual steps and and is the originator of all those mysteries of human existence we are no closer to understanding now than when the first thinkers among mankind set their minds to work to understand themselves and their brothers around them untold ages ago. “He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). The only reason you and I are able to know or understand or appreciate anything is because God has given us that ability. Better still, He is constantly directly and actively coordinating these faculties for us. That’s what it means to wake up in one’s right mind. Not only do we owe all our knowledge to other people, we owe it all primarily to God. Furthermore, we do not choose the circumstances of our lives and where we are born and who we meet and when and where. These factors play a very important part in how we learn, what we learn and when. But they are all in the hands of God once again. The only thing we get to do is choose how to react to these things, and thus we can speed up or slow down the process of how and what and when we learn. That is all we get to do: we get to decide some of what we learn, some of when we learn and some of how we learn. But in the end, all our learning is dependent on others, chiefly God.

So the next time you are thinking of ridiculing someone’s lack of information, stop and think for a second, or twenty. Reflect on the fact that you really are no different from that person in the big scheme of things. Remember the fact that you are privileged to know. Remember that this is due to a host of circumstances that you cannot fathom and often do not even care to fathom. Remember that most of this host are things way beyond the scope of your ability to control. So teach and correct with humility and grace and patience.

God bless.



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I Rise, I Give Thanks!

I rise, I give thanks!
Thanks because I had no control over anything while I slept.
Thanks because any number of things could have befallen me in the darkness of the night.
Thanks because any number of things didn’t befall me in the darkness of the night.
I slept in safety and warmth. My house was spared from attack or robbery.
No pestilences came to interrupt my sleep. No spirits harmed me.
No accidents happened in and around my house that would have compromised my safety.

I rise, I give thanks!
Thanks because I had no control over whether I would wake up.
Thanks because I cannot keep my soul tethered to my body just by wishing it to be so.
Thanks because my soul did remain tethered to my body and I sincerely wished it to be so.
My body worked throughout the night as it usually does.
No organs fell into disrepair while I slept, simple as it would be for that to happen.
No strain was placed on my sleeping body that might have caused damage.

I rise, I give thanks!
Thanks even if my night did not actually progress that well.
Thanks because I have sometimes been assailed with various difficulties during the night.
Thanks because these various difficulties have not succeeded in robbing me of my life.
I have experienced nights filled with uncertainty, the blast of guns, the threat of floods…
No bullets pierced the shield around my life. No leaks or floods stole the light of hope.
No rot or wear or tear or terror or threat ever succeeded in snuffing out my soul.

I rise, I give thanks!
Thanks because I’ve known both joy and sorrow.
Thanks because I know what it is to go to bed hungry or sick or scared or uncomfortable.
Thanks because in hunger or sickness or terror or discomfort I have lived to fight again.
I have known sweet sleep and I have known sleepless nights of dread.
No fear has crippled me, even when I was certain it had. No sickness has kept me down.
No dread has haunted me perpetually. Eventually new light and strength must come.

I rise, I give thanks!
Thanks because I am all too aware of the fact that life is precious!
Thanks because I have not been able to preserve my own life.
Thanks because at every step of the way it has been preserved for me.
I have often felt the fear of death come upon me. I have too often seen its sting around me.
No chill, however close to me, has ever fully taken me. I am still here.
No sickness or circumstance, however seemingly conclusive, has plucked me away.

It was never my doing!
How many times have I come close to being spirited away from the land of the living!
How many times have I escaped the hand of Thanatos unawares!
How many “near misses” have been recorded against me!
How many have plotted and planned to rid the world of me!

And yet I am still here…

So I rise and I give thanks.
Thanks, not to the universe, but to the Mastermind behind it.
Thanks because what is the universe but an intricate and precise system of blind laws?
Thanks because in the midst of this blind intricacy I find personal favour given to me.
I have seen things in this world that have gone against established laws just for my sake.
Often have I had to shake my head in wonder at the fact that I am heard down to the last detail.
Often have I marvelled at the precision with which I am preserved and provided for.

In the midst of this fathomless system of forces seen and unseen,
I am being protected and guided and answered with nothing less than the utmost care
And attention to detail. I see things come together for my good
In ways I could not have foreseen or calculated in my wildest dreams.
That unseen hand has worked time and again, with marvellous wisdom and care.
That unseen Person has watched over me always, without fail.

Therefore I rise and I give thanks
To God.

I Rise


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