Intro: Excerpt from The Circle Maker, The First Circle – Dream Big; Mark Batterson
There is certainly nothing wrong with an occasional stroll down memory lane, but God wants you to keep dreaming until the day you die. You’ve never too old to go after the dreams God has put in your heart. And for the record, you’re never to young either. Age is never a valid excuse.
Is it possible for a man to dream continuously for seventy years? […]
If you keep praying, you’ll keep dreaming, and conversely, if you keep dreaming, you’ll keep praying. Dreaming is a form of praying, and praying is a form of dreaming. The more you pray the bigger your dreams will become. And the bigger your dreams become the more you will have to pray. In that process of drawing ever-enlarging prayer circles, the sphere of God’s glory is expanded.
Our date of death is not the date etched on our tombstone. The day we stop dreaming is the day we start dying. When imagination is sacrificed on the altar of logic, God is robbed of the glory that rightfully belongs to Him. In fact, the death of a dream is often a subtle form of idolatry. We lose faith in the God who gave us the big dream and settle for a small dream that we can accomplish without His help. We go after dreams that don’t require divine intervention. We go after dreams that don’t require prayer. And the God who is able to do immeasurably more than all our right brain can imagine [Eph. 3:19-20] is supplanted by a god – lowercase g – who fits within the logical constrains of our left brain.
Nothing honors God more than a big dream that is way beyond our ability to accomplish. Why? Because there is no way we can take credit for it. And nothing is better for our spiritual development than a big dream because it keeps us on our knees in raw dependence on God. […]
Is it possible for a man to dream continuously for seventy years?
If you keep drawing prayer circles, the answer is yes. May you keep dreaming until the day you die. May imagination overtake memory. May you die young at a ripe old age."
The Week: Intro
1. The new speed vac breaks (or I heard about it – maybe it broke over the weekend?)
On Tuesday …
2. The most important microscope objective breaks
3. Friend has nervous breakdown
4. I get a flat tire
5. John gets a flat tire (same tire – not that that part matters)
Hmm. Something smells fishy to me.
I haven’t written much because things have been quite crazy, with proposal writing. I also wanted time to think and pray about things. I’ve still not come to any firm conclusions and don’t intend to draw any – but the space to think has been helpful. I’ve had a lot of fun this week as well (a.k.a. pumpkins, he he he). So, I’ll note the highlights of this week – a few interesting points – and speculate lightly on what it all means – something I usually don’t do, but this week feels different.
On Tuesday, I finally got a chance to buy pumpkins. I went around 1 p.m. or so, walking, and found the pumpkin horde, at this church on Decatur Rd. I promptly bought $40 worth of $0.50 and $0.75 pumpkins. I wasn’t sure I could carry them all, but I just managed. I stuffed them all in my backpack and there were still some left. I carried those like a sack in my jacket. One fell out of the sleeves, until I got it positioned right.
Some construction workers I passed by on the way back asked if I was carrying grape fruit in my backpack – I said, nope! Pumpkins! I had been depressed before this, but getting outside – feeling the glorious, crisp fall breeze, getting these pumpkins and carrying them back into Emory … it was like medicine for the soul. I had a complete mood shift and was feeling positively giddy, giggling hysterically at my pumpkin cache. They tend to have this affect on me.
I spread pumpkins around every place I could.
Unfortunately, about the time I got back and spread a few pumpkins about, I learned from Daniel that the biggest microscope objective had been destroyed. I was very upset about that – it’s a pretty terrible thing to have happen – and, combined with the speed vac, I felt at once it was spiritual warfare, prayed about it and texted all my trusty praying friends to pray. I always pray for equipment that breaks – it’s important.
This problem is worse than usual because it halts most all experiments in the lab. Daniel was also predicting it to be expensive to fix and it could take as long as two weeks for the part to get sent to us.
I saw Khalid come out of the microscope room, looking angry. I had imagined that if anything could ever make him mad, it would be terrifying to behold. (He’s usually such a mild-mannered person, in my opinion.) Yep. I wasn’t wrong. It was *exactly* as really scary as I had imagined.
I couldn’t understand why this would happen and was thinking about it, upset, in a kind of “alert mode” state, thinking about what to do. I had read about fasting that morning. I suddenly felt as if I was supposed to pray about it – very hard. It seemed to be what He wanted. So I finished what I was doing, left and did, for a long time, 4:30 – 6:33 p.m. until lab meeting – prayed about lots of things and that it would get fixed. The Lord gave me peace about it. Considering, I’m really glad I did. I usually wouldn’t mention this (Matt 6:5-6) but, in this case, after considerable thought, I felt as if I had to.
In lab meeting, there was Papa John’s pizza – my favorite! I was very excited about that. Apparently it was everyone’s favorite, because it was almost immediately consumed. I’m not even sure Carol got any.
I was scared of what Khalid would look like. I thought he’d yell at everybody, or at least, give them a serious tongue lashing.
To my surprise and relief, he didn’t, really – he was a lot milder than I anticipated. But I was still really tense until he mentioned the pumpkins to me – I’d put some on his desk. And a gourd. I hadn’t intended to give him any more, but when I came back with my gigantic pile, I was so ecstatic and I had so many, Khalid’s desk suddenly just looked lonely with only two pumpkins on it. And Khalid is awesome. He should have LOTS of pumpkins. I felt better after that and wasn’t as nervous.
Yuan gave a literature talk and then Yvonne talked about her data. She was frustrated with the reviewer comments and has been overworking herself – I knew she had been, before the submission – but I hadn’t realized she’d still been overworking herself afterward as well. She had a nervous breakdown.
That was more upsetting to me, at least by four times, than the microscope - such things always will be, for various reasons I've spoken about before. I was like … AHH!! *shift into EMERGENCY PROTECT MODE*
She had wanted to get pumpkins with me but I forgot to take her, so I told her we’d get some tomorrow. I hung around afterward, hoping to get to talk to her more, but, eventually, it was getting late, so I ended up going home, though I was feeling terrible about leaving when I didn’t know if things were ok or not and really stressed.
I called John while trying to leave the 6th floor of the parking deck. I was telling him what happened, worrying about Yvonne being stressed and also really worried that Khalid might be really stressed, with all this stuff going on. It was hard for me to tell in lab meeting. I didn’t pay attention and hit the side of this chain-link fence in this narrow part of the deck, and scraped up my mirror. I backed out of that, left the deck rapidly and started down the street, but by then it was obvious that my car was running rough and sure enough – flat tire, front right.
At that point, it was 10:00 p.m. and the rest of my mind left. I noticed for some reason, that though I had put the Emory police number in my phone – or thought I did – it was no longer there. So, I decided, well, I’d go back to the chemistry building. Maybe somebody in lab would know how to change a tire.
I walked back in and ran into Khalid. This was probably a good thing, because I got to ask about Yvonne and could see how he was doing. It made me feel better. However, I mentioned I’d gotten a flat, and he insisted on helping me fix it.
This was extremely nice of him. As soon as he insisted upon this though, I was incredibly dismayed – because, as I saw things, I was just adding to his stress, which he didn’t need. He said he hadn’t changed a tire in a while. It was hard for me to tell that, as he knew what to do, largely – I had no idea. My mind was gone anyway – made obvious by the fact that I called Kevin, who didn’t answer, but did I remember that I’d put the other lab members’ cell numbers in my phone BESIDES Kevin? Noooooooo. Of *course* not. *headdesk*
I tried to be helpful, but I couldn’t do much. I was divided between wanting to go get others from the lab and staying to help – I didn’t want to abandon Khalid, as he was fixing *my* car – that’d just be so wrong. I’d rather have inconvenienced just about anyone else though. Professors are important. They shouldn’t have to do this kind of thing. So, I kept vacillating between admiration and appreciation for his helping me and complete embarrassment and dismay that I was likely stressing him out and had no idea how to prevent him from helping. Khalid is just as stubborn as I am.
We had a nice pile of people eventually who ran into us: an undergrad, a grad student and Dr. Scarborough, by the end of it. The spare tire I have is a real tire, not a donut, which is great, since I had to drive on it a good way. Khalid did a great job fixing it. There wasn’t anything I could do to thank him appropriately, had I given him a million dollars, for all the thankfulness I felt. I really wanted to give him a hug and squish him into a noodle, with all the stress of this particular day, but I didn’t. In future though, he might just have to suffer it.
I collapsed into bed with John when I got home. I decided I wasn’t going to do any experiments or anything until I could make sure everything was fine in the lab.
I told him about John’s flat tire and he looked surprised, commenting on the utter improbability of that. Most definitely. There are no coincidences. But, I wouldn’t have expected him to notice that – no one else did whom I mentioned it to. I wished I could have responded more properly to his observation, but I did not. I was still too stressed. John prays for Khalid and the lab with me, you know. Just sayin’.
I went about checking on things – Victor was ok – Daniel looked stressed, but that was because of the microscope – Kevin didn’t even think anything significant had happened; he was more than fine – Zheng was ok – Weiwei was ok – Kornelia was stressed *note* – Carol seemed her usual inscrutable self – Yoshie was normal – Yang wasn’t around at the time – I left the building to pray and met Yuan, who looked happy and assured me that Yvonne was ok – she had felt much better after talking to Khalid and she and Yuan had gone home happily together. Ah good. So, Yvonne’s nervous breakdowns are probably like mine. Still, it’s important to rectify such stress so that it doesn’t continue. I was very thankful that the Lord sent me Yuan to tell me this.
I was incredibly relieved. Everything is ok? Everything is ok. *emergency mode, off*
However, just because I knew everything was now fine didn’t mean I could instantly become unstressed – this level of stress requires a cool down phase. Walking around the building, I was so relieved and also stressed, I couldn’t really pray my first lap. It wasn’t a really fearful, disquieting, scared stress – I just felt, disorganized, diffuse, exhausted and unhinged – kind of an underground kind of stress, if that makes any sense. It suddenly occurred to me that I was probably the most tense person in the lab, which rather amused me, thinking about it.
I told Esther what happened and she said not to worry about Khalid fixing the tire. The Lord probably sent him to help. True. And it made me feel a lot better talking to him. I guess it all worked out, in the end. Maybe it was supposed to be that way.
Later, Yuan and Yvonne and I got to go and get pumpkins together – that was a LOT of fun. We also got coffee. I got a pumpkin spice latte. It was a bit too sweet, even for me, but I felt as if it was appropriate, since we were getting pumpkins. We took pictures and they picked out their favorite pumpkins. I got MORE pumpkins! We talked about things you could do with pumpkins. See the photos here.
There was also a fascinating speaker from Berkeley on Wednesday – Matt Francis – who talked about bioconjugation strategies for proteins and other interesting topics. I actually enjoyed his talk more than any of the others so far. He made so many cool points. Daniel said his application to biology and cancer was not very in-depth, which was true, but I didn’t care about that part as much, because I was thinking about other things it could be used for.
Wednesday night, I finished my proposal draft for the cume, research part.
I met with Glenn from InterVarsity Graduate Christian Fellowship, whose ministry Nina recommended to me. We talked a while in Starbucks. I found out, to my amazement that Dr. Evangelista and Dr. Jacob at Oxford both knew the Lord, or had met with him specifically and spoken to him about the Lord – I was really happy about that, especially Dr. Jacob. I had no idea.
I think though I ended up talking to him too enthusiastically and ended up making him think I *might* be a little crazy. I tend to get excited, talking about the Lord, which is fine, but I have become kind of stranger in the last year, have to be careful about being too weird around people who aren’t expecting it. I’m not used to having this problem.
Glenn seems to be of the most common type of person in Christian ministry who doesn’t ascribe to the Lord speaking the way I’ve come to understand – nor does he see prayer the same way I do. This could describe a large majority of church-attending Christians actually, especially Southern Baptists, of whose churches I’ve spent the most amount of time in. It depends – some churches, denominations or pockets of believers understand the Lord speaking to be perfectly normal, and other even larger groups of believers think it’s completely strange, on a graduated scale. I’ve talked about this before. Baptists tend to be on the “think it’s completely strange” end – though I’ve met exceptions.
I’ve noticed the following kinds of people in churches I've been in:
1. the strictly religious kind – a large number, unfortunately, of some churches and all of others – people who go to church just because it’s the religious thing to do and don’t know the Lord
2. the complacent kind – the majority – people who know the Lord, but still just go to church religiously, aren’t seeking Him and don’t seem to understand that there’s any more to Christianity than going to church – this state is mysterious to me
3. the unsatisfied kind – other half of the majority – people who know the Lord, are attempting to follow Him, and are seeking Him frustratedly and in some measure, hopelessly, like I was, for so long – wanting to be closer to Him but not knowing how; there just aren’t that many examples out there to follow
4. the committed kind – people who know the Lord, are following Him, connected actively to His mission, but don’t think the Lord speaks, don’t emphasize prayer much, emphasize activity and events – not bad of itself
5. the crazy kind – a very few – people who know the Lord, hear Him, pray powerful prayers, glow with Him, are connected to His mission and some call crazy – these are the kind I’ve been most interested in and tried to emulate. I hope I’m trending in this direction, that the Lord is finally helping me live my dream of morphing into this kind of person.
Well, I’ve only become really noticeably strange to most “Southern Baptist” varieties of believers since about a year ago, though it has been perhaps growing submerged for five years, at least. See, for those of you who worry about me – I didn’t become crazy overnight – I thought about this a lot, before I went off the deep end. It took a lot to convince me about the crazier things I think. I’m not easy to convince. And the Lord teaches everyone on different time tables.
But, one thing I know – normal isn’t cutting it for the church – maybe we should all become crazy. I think this possible and even, should happen. Maybe crazy isn’t such a bad thing. If hearing the Lord speak, being connected to His Spirit powerfully, being stubborn in prayer, and talking to Him conversationally is crazy (by the way, all Biblical notions) – then I want more crazy in my life. Just sayin’.
I worked on proposal stuff a lot on Thursday. I got tied up doing stuff in the morning that ended up getting wasted which was really frustrating, but that’s ok – it’s life.
I went to Conticello’s class – it was about protein translation this time.
After I left Emory, I ALSO bought MORE pumpkins. To my overwhelming joy, the pumpkin people said that on Halloween or the day after, I could have ALL the pumpkins that were left, as many as I could carry. Often times, they'd get thrown out. This just CAN'T happen. The pumpkins, they need homes! I will find ways of giving them to people. After Halloween, there's Thanksgiving, which requires pumpkins and it's still the fall - there's ALWAYS an excuse for pumpkins to be around, I tell you. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
Yvonne and I walked back and talked about how wonderful the fall was. She said we should sit on this bench and enjoy it, so we did. It was really nice – perfect wind – perfect amount of sun. We just lay there on the bench under an oak tree and stared at the leaves. Leaves look especially beautiful when you stare up at them, with blue sky behind them. It was really rejuvenating.
I went to the Farmer’s Market and got some strange fruits and coffee beans for dad and mom – they like fresh coffee – these are Brazilian. Having tried it, I think the flavor is a little milder than what I prefer, but still good. I wanted to get Charlie in the Hill lab plums, because he’s given me two so far that were amazing, but I failed. I got some plums, but they are completely bizarre and taste terrible. They are also hard as rocks. I don’t understand them. Maybe they aren’t ripe. Oh well. You can’t win them all.
When I got home, I was depressed. I wished I’d stayed in lab, because the house was empty and I missed John, who wasn’t home yet, all my lab friends and Khalid. Just everybody. Nobody was home.
But, I did get good work done, more or less – read enzyme stuff and studied notes.
In the evening, Yuan called me to ask questions about her protein gel. She was having a problem. I prayed she’d understand what was wrong and talked to her about it and she said she felt better, just talking to me. She figured it out without me doing anything much. I was so glad.
End of Friday
Went to eat at Cracker Barrel with John and the Petree’s this evening for John’s dad’s birthday – good food – good times – I loved being near John. On Monday and Tuesday, I came home at 11 p.m. and on Wednesday, John came home at 11 p.m., so Thursday was the first day I really saw much of him. I’m sitting here at Brian’s house right now, listening to them do their role play.
Oh yes! And Brian came back from Belgium! His team won second place in the world tournament. They lost to Poland in the finals – very sad, very sad. But, we made a good showing. The European predictors didn’t even put the U.S. teams in the top ten. HA! We showed them. :D This makes me happy. Brian himself didn’t lose *any* of his games.
Speculation: What just happened? I don’t know yet.
I feel as if there was a shocking amount of spiritual warfare this week, obviously, and I still don’t know exactly why. The Lord hasn’t told me. Sometimes, He’ll warn me in advance. He didn’t this time. It came somewhat unexpectedly. I asked Him about that, a lot – why didn’t You warn me about this?
When there is a huge attack of spiritual warfare, I’ve found it’s usually for one of two reasons or both:
1. The Lord is about to do something amazing and the enemy is resisting it.
2. The Lord already *did* something amazing and the enemy is livid, furious, ticked off about it.
All the incredibly weird, intense spiritual warfare around my mom’s birthday was of this first variety. The Lord warned me it was coming, at the time.
However … I don’t know. But I kind of feel as if what happened this week was of the second variety. It just feels that way to me. I’m not sure exactly why I feel that way – or, I do, but to list all the reasons is just not something I want to do. I’m not exactly sure what the Lord did – this is where I get into theorizing, that could be completely off, altogether.
I know a few things that I feel strongly about. Spiritual warfare this week felt like “capstone warfare” of some kind that happens when the Lord is about to do or has done something big. It wasn’t *entirely* unexpected. There’s been a lot of warfare going on for weeks of increasing intensity that I haven’t talked about leading up to this week, so though it might seem like it from this blog, it didn’t come out of the blue to me. I just wasn’t expecting it specifically.
I feel as if, the Lord has told me He’ll show me eventually what all this means and wants me to see it. On Monday, I just felt from Him that He wanted me to trust Him, He’d be leading me every day, the week would be confusing, but He’d be with me in it. The fog was lifting and the day was dawning. (This from looking back in my notes. I note take on everything.) The Lord gives me word pictures in my mind sometimes when I pray. These are just things I felt from Him. He’s been telling me for some time that He’s answering my prayers a lot more than I knew about, for different things. I believe Him some days and other days, I totally do not – and I ask Him to help me with that. I pray anyway though, whatever I feel like.
I feel as if I see a few possible explanations and He’s given me some – but they all feel more or less … impossible. Which doesn’t mean anything to the Lord, but still – I don’t believe them. Or, I probably won’t, unless the Lord choses to hit me with a brick.
I was really annoyed with Him Friday for not telling me anything. I feel as if I’m waiting for something and don’t really know what it is, which is highly annoying, like an itch I can’t scratch. I think, the Lord partially confirmed that, as I was praying. He said to wait a little longer. While praying about the week, I also felt as if He said, “I know you’re annoyed with me. You should pray about that and I’ll help take it away from you.” This amused me, because He was right. I get frustrated with the Lord sometimes, especially when I don’t know what He’s doing.
I feel as if He said me that if He told me everything I wanted to know immediately when I asked, I wouldn’t grow spiritually like He’s helping me to and I wouldn’t learn, so He can’t do that. It makes sense. Still frustrating though.
I also felt as if He said He’d show me something next week and that He’d surprise me – which alarmed me for a second – the last time the Lord said that was about … oh, June 11th … and the surprise almost killed me. However, He assured me something like, oh no, it wasn’t going to be a surprise like what I’d be expecting. O.o Isn’t that the definition of a surprise? LOL But… I think I know what He means. And then, who knows, maybe I don’t, and maybe, I heard Him wrong. I like to hear things three times three different ways, before I’m confident about it. Maybe the surprise will be very small instead of terrifying. And He’s almost *always* showing me something new every day, so the fact that He’ll show me something next week is not, in and of itself, very surprising either. We’ll see.
If one of the theories I have about this week is true, then it’s *possible* that Khalid knows the other piece I don’t. This is not something I would usually think. But, who knows? In this case, it’s possible. He knows more about what he thinks, what’s going on with him and about the lab than I do. And I pray primarily for him and the lab and other graduate student friends. Therefore, spiritual warfare at Emory is for these reasons, as far as I know.
Unfortunately, if that’s the case, I’ll never know – unless of course, the Lord makes it possible some other way. I wouldn’t know how to ask and he’s terribly unlikely to tell me. I’m still really hesitant to talk to Khalid about the Lord. I don’t, unless the Lord prods me insistently to say something very specific, which He has only done three times so far.
And, if this theory is wrong, it’s one of the others I have. These to me are even more mysterious than the first theory. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see. I’m not terribly offended whatsoever if ALL my theories end up being wrong. I’ll just wait on the Lord, until He decides to show me what He wants to. It’s always the best course of action. He doesn’t make me or anyone wait any longer than is necessary, I’ve found – it’s always because He’s doing something, preparing something or teaching me something. I’m not worried about it. I’m excited to keep praying for everyone and see what the Lord does. I’ll be asking Him how He wants me to pray – because I feel like some things have changed – and I don’t know now, exactly how to pray – but He’ll tell me. He always does.
This morning, I talked to John a long time, about an hour and a half, about the Lord, and about Him speaking, why some people thought this strange and others didn’t, about the church and even what heaven would be like. It made me feel a lot more comforted. John knows some areas of Scripture better than I do and has seen far more of the inner workings of the “church,” meaning, organization of it and people in it, than I have. We both enjoyed talking. John is always such a comfort and support to me. He doesn’t think I’m strange, at least. That’s what counts, to me. [Well, in another sense, both John and I acknowledge each other to be mutually crazy, but this fact doesn't bother either of us.]
Meanwhile, I have lots of cool science to do. Next week is going to be busy as crap. Thank goodness for Monday and Tuesday fall break. NO CLASS AND NO LAB TA!!!! YESSSSS!!
I have a midterm on Friday for Bioorganic, which I’ve heard terrible rumors about that it is killer (this does not altogether upset me – good classes always have these rumors about them and Dr. Weinert’s class is good). I look forward to doing experiments. I look forward to reading papers. I look forward to everything, pretty much. It’s going to be a good week! I can feel it.
Appendix: Scripture, The Circle Maker
Ezekiel 37:1-10 (KJV)
The hand of the Lord was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones,
2 And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry.
3 And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord God, thou knowest.
4 Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.
5 Thus saith the Lord God unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live:
6 And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the Lord.
7 So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone.
8 And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them.
9 Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord God; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.
10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army.
I felt as if I was supposed to read this passage on Friday morning. This particular chapter has always been so meaningful to me. I felt as if the Lord spoke to me a lot from it, that He was making me kind of like Ezekiel, in that, I’d listened to Him and did what He asked. Now it was my part to wait and see what the Lord did. When the Lord asked Ezekiel if the bones would live, Ezekiel didn’t say, “Of course they can! Your power can do anything!” He just said, “Oh Lord, you know.” I love that statement, so much. It shows a complete dependence on the Lord. I felt as if the Lord was telling me that just because I couldn’t imagine things He was going to do happening didn’t mean that they wouldn’t happen – I believe that He can do these things, if He wants to and have said, “Oh Lord, you know.” And for Him, that’s enough. For this I am very grateful.
Sorry I include the above passage in KJV again. I’ve been trying to post NKVJ, for easier readability – but, for me, KJV is the version of the Bible mom read to me in childhood, and this passage is so meaningful to me, I just had to put it in KJV. It didn’t feel right otherwise. Sorry – I know that makes no sense. Here’s a link to it in NKJV.
Psalm 40 (NKJV)
I waited patiently for the Lord;
And He inclined to me,
And heard my cry.
2 He also brought me up out of a horrible pit,
Out of the miry clay,
And set my feet upon a rock,
And established my steps.
3 He has put a new song in my mouth--
Praise to our God;
Many will see it and fear,
And will trust in the Lord.
4 Blessed is that man who makes the Lord his trust,
And does not respect the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies.
5 Many, O Lord my God, are Your wonderful works
Which You have done;
And Your thoughts toward us
Cannot be recounted to You in order;
If I would declare and speak of them,
They are more than can be numbered.
6 Sacrifice and offering You did not desire;
My ears You have opened.
Burnt offering and sin offering You did not require.
7 Then I said, “Behold, I come;
In the scroll of the book it is written of me.
8 I delight to do Your will, O my God,
And Your law is within my heart.”
9 I have proclaimed the good news of righteousness
In the great assembly;
Indeed, I do not restrain my lips,
O Lord, You Yourself know.
10 I have not hidden Your righteousness within my heart;
I have declared Your faithfulness and Your salvation;
I have not concealed Your lovingkindness and Your truth
From the great assembly.
11 Do not withhold Your tender mercies from me, O Lord;
Let Your lovingkindness and Your truth continually preserve me.
12 For innumerable evils have surrounded me;
My iniquities have overtaken me, so that I am not able to look up;
They are more than the hairs of my head;
Therefore my heart fails me.
13 Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me;
O Lord, make haste to help me!
14 Let them be ashamed and brought to mutual confusion
Who seek to destroy my life;
Let them be driven backward and brought to dishonor
Who wish me evil.
15 Let them be confounded because of their shame,
Who say to me, “Aha, aha!”
16 Let all those who seek You rejoice and be glad in You;
Let such as love Your salvation say continually,
“The Lord be magnified!”
17 But I am poor and needy;
Yet the Lord thinks upon me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
Do not delay, O my God.
I read this Psalm this week and this morning and it’s just so beautiful and comforting. I love all of it. So I put it here.
Excerpt from The Circle Maker, Chapter 3, Mark Batterson
"A few years ago, I read one sentence that changed the way I pray. The author, a pastor of one of the largest churches in Seoul, Korea, wrote, “God does not answer vague prayers.” When I read that statement, I was immediately convicted by how vague my prayers were. Some of them were so vague that there was no way of knowing whether God had answered them or not.
It was during this spiritual season, when God was challenging me to spell out my prayers with greater specificity, that I embarked on a ten-day Pentecost fast. Just like the 120 believers who prayed in an upper room for ten days, I felt led to fast and pray for ten days leading up to the day of Pentcost. My rationale was pretty simple: If we do what they did in the Bible, we might experience what they experienced. You can’t manufacture a miracle like Pentecost, but if you pray for ten days, a miracle like Pentcost might just happen.
During that ten-day Pentecost fast, I was teaching a series at our church on miracles, and we had just experienced one. We miraculously purchased a piece of Promised Land that we had circled in prayer for more than five years. We took stones that had been lain in the foundation and gave one to everyone as tangible tokens of the corporate miracle God has performed for National Community Church. Drawing on that corporate faith, we challenged people to personalize the question Jesus posed to the two blind men outside of Jericho: What do you want me to do for you? Then we wrote down our holy desires on those stones. I spelled out seven miracles and started circling them in prayer.
In the spirit of full disclosure, not all seven of the miracles I asked for have happened. In fact, one of them even seemed to backfire. I asked God to give us the movie theaters at Union Station where our church met for more than a decade, but instead of giving us the theaters, He took them away. The theaters were unexpectedly closed down, and we were given less than one week’s notice to vacate. It was extremely disappointing and disorienting at the time, but I have to admit that this apparent “anti-miracle” was the catalyst for some bigger and better miracles that have happened in its wake. What seemed like the wrong answer turned out to be the best answer. So not every prayer will be answered the way we script it, but I’m convinced of this: The miracles that have happened would not have happened if I hadn’t drawn a circle around them in the first place.
The more faith you have, the more specific your prayers will be. And the more specific your prayers are, the more glory God receives. Like Honi, who prayed for a specific type of rain, nuanced prayers give God an opportunity to reveal more shades of His sovereignty. If our prayers aren’t specific, however, God gets robbed of the glory that He deserves because we second-guess whether or not He actually answered them. We never know if the answers were the result of specific prayer or general coincidences that would have happened anyway.
That stone with seven miracles written on it sits on a shelf in my office. Occasionally I’ll pick it up and hold it in my hand while I pray. There isn’t anything magical about it, but it acts as prayer insurance. It insures that I don’t forget what I’m praying for. It also insures that God gets the glory when the miracles happen. When you spell out yours prayers with specificity, it will eventually spell God’s glory.
The Ladder of Success
It’s easy to get so busy climbing the ladder of success that we fail to realize that the ladder is not leaning against the wall of Jericho. We lose sight of our God-ordained goals. Our eternal priorities get subjugated to our temporal responsibilities. And we pawn our God-given dream for the American dream. So instead of circling Jericho, we end up wandering in the wilderness for forty years.
A few years ago, I enjoyed a rare day with no agenda. I had just dropped off my family at LAX after a wonderful spring break in Southern California. I stayed behind to speak at a leadership conference, but I had one day in between nowhere to go and nothing to do, so I found a Starbucks along the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica and spent the day circling Jericho.
That margin, along with a little California sunshine, made room for an epiphany. As I sipped my White Chocolate Mocha, it dawned on me that I had never really defined success for myself. I had written a couple of books and started traveling on the speaking circuit, but neither of those goals was as fulfilling as I thought they would be. I often felt excitement mixed with a profound sadness as I scrambled through airport security on my way to whatever speaking destination was next. My life reminded me of the joke I would sometimes tell about the airline pilot who came over the intercom and said, “I have good news and bad news. The bad news is we’re lost; the good news is we’re making great time.” That's what my life felt like, but it wasn’t a joke.
I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t want to be successful, but very few people have actually spelled out success for themselves. We inherit a family definition or adopt a cultural definition. But if you don’t spell it out for yourself, you have no way of knowing if you’ve achieved it. You might achieve your goals only to realize that they should not have been your goals in the first place. You circle the wrong city. You climb the wrong ladder.
As window-shoppers strolled up and down the promenade, I scribbled a personal definition of success on a napkin. That napkin may as well have been a stone tablet inscribed by the finger of God on Mount Sinai. God redefined success and spelled it out for me on that napkin. Like definitions in the dictionary that capture different dimensions of a word, I jotted down three variant spellings.
The first definition may sound generic, but it’s specific to any and every situation:
1. Do the best you can with what you have where you are. Success is not circumstantial. We usually focus on what we’re doing or where we’re going, but God’s primary concern is who we’re becoming in the process. We talk about “doing” the will of God, but the will of God has much more to do with “being” than “doing.” It’s not about being in the right place at the right time; it’s about being the right person, even if you find yourself in the wrong circumstances. Success has nothing to do with how gifted or how resourced you are; it has everything to do with glorifying God in any and every situation by making the most of it. Success is spelled stewardship, and stewardship is spelled success.
The second definition I wrote down captures my calling. Whether I’m writing or preaching or parenting, this is the driving passion of my life:
2. Help people maximize their God-given potential. Potential is God’s gift to us; what we do with it is our gift back to God. Helping people maximize their God-given potential is why God put me on this planet. That is what gets me up early and keeps me up late. Nothing is more exhilarating to me than seeing people grow into their God-given giftedness.
The third definition reveals the deepest desire of my heart:
3. My desire is that people who know me the best respect me the most.
Success is not measured by how many people I pastor or how many books I sell; success is living life with such authentic integrity that those who know me best actually respect me most. I couldn’t care less about fame or fortune. I want to be famous in my home. That’s the greatest fortune.
If you don’t have a personal definition of success, chances are you will succeed at the wrong thing. You’ll get to the end of your life and realize that you spelled success wrong. And if you spell it wrong, you’ll get it wrong.
You need to circle the goals God wants you to go after, the promises God wants you to claim, and the dreams God wants you to pursue. And once you spell Jericho, you need to circle it in prayer. Then you need to keep circling until the walls come tumbling down."
Comment: how I define success; have you? and FIN
1. To truly know and love the Lord with my whole heart, mind, body and strength (Mark 12:28-31; Micah 6:7-9; Deut. 6:4-13), as a Person and hear Him speak so clearly, that He can merely whisper something and I’d instantly move to His voice – we’d move as one – like paired dancers.
This is something I have sought my whole life and until recently, had not even the smallest hope of ever achieving. But now I think, maybe, if the Lord wills, He will bring me there. He has given me that hope. It’s the only thing that really matters to me in life. If I don’t have this, then nothing else I do will ever mean anything to me. I’m sure Mark would also like to know the Lord. Perhaps he just looks at it differently than I. To me, it’s an all-consuming central focus for everything that I do.
2. I want to learn constantly and rejoice in the things I find, sharing it with other people.
To me this means read constantly, learn about science, DO A CRAP TON OF RESEARCH!!! Mark said that to him, nothing is more exhilarating than seeing people grow into their God-given giftedness. To me, nothing is more exhilarating than when I’m researching how to solve a problem, solve it and learn a new fact about science, where I can see a little piece of God’s amazing wisdom. It makes tears come to my eyes – literally – nothing, absolutely nothing, is more exhilarating to me in all of life than that. And I share it with Him and rejoice in it with Him. The other part of that is I want the things I learn to benefit people.
That’s it. Actually, that’s all I really want in life, if I had to choose. I’m a very simple person. I never want to give up learning, dreaming, rejoicing over the Lord’s beauty in science, sharing it with Him and knowing Him, imagining new possibilities, until the day I die.
I want to share the Lord with others, but as Mark says, “doing the Lord’s will” has more to do with being than doing. And I honestly think that the best way I can glorify Him and share Him with others is not *always* by talking about Him, but simply by pursuing and knowing Him the most fully that I can. And as I do that, He’ll take care of the sharing part. That’s not to say I’m against talking about the Lord – definitely not – it’s just, knowing Him will always be my first focus.
If I listed other things, I’d think of them more as goals, than as definitions of success. Here are the other two:
1. To write SF/fantasy books – because only in writing can you truly create anything your mind can think and make it *real.* I want whatever I write to have the Lord’s themes in them.
2. Have kids. Yes. That’s important. And I want to make sure to teach them how to love the Lord, and to enjoy reading and learning.
That’s it! Now you know. What are the dreams God has given YOU? Have you written them down? Are you praying about them? I would.
My greatest fear used to be that I’d get to the end of my life and discover I’d lived it for the wrong reasons or never knew the Lord, as I longed to know Him. It terrified me. But I think the Lord’s shown me that He’s not going to let this happen to me – and it’s not because I’m so great – but because, He’s heard my prayers and He’s so merciful and good to me.
That’s all I think the Lord wanted in this post. May He bless you with His peace!