Happy 2nd Blogiversary to Driving Toward Morning!

Fellow travelers,

It’s amazing to think it’s been two years since Driving Toward Morning’s first post!  Thank you to everyone who has read, liked, and commented on the blog.  A special thank you to anyone who has shared it with their friends or used what they found here to encourage others.

Looking back on my 1-year anniversary post, here are some thoughts on how I’ve done with my year 2 goals:

  • Re-blogging old posts to get closer to posting something every day: I posted almost twice as often, and almost a third of the posts were repeats.  Still not every day but moving in the right direction.
  • More predictable post length: Most posts are now in the 3-to-4-minute read range, with less variation.  Again, progress!
  • More posts on history, holidays, groups of quotes, and other topics: I think this has been the same in year 2 as in year 1, and I want to work on these more in year 3, especially moments from history.

Also, I’m learning that a blog is not good for: Writing serial posts.  There’s no way to know what order people are reading things in, and whether they remember what was in an old post (especially if it takes me a while to continue a series!).  So, I’m working harder on making each one stand on its own.

The Big Picture
Although each year seems to have its own goals, I don’t want to lose sight of why I started this in the first place.  Right after I launched the blog, I decided each post should meet 3 criteria: every post should be Compelling, Clear, and Charitable, meaning:

Is it about something that matters eternally, and is written in a way that connects emotionally and is worth reading? (Compelling)
Is it logical and makes sense, or is it likely to be misunderstood? (Clear)
Is it written in love, to build up whoever reads it? (Charitable)

In a way, these are just a modified version of Ephesians 4:15-16, which says:

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”

The compelling and clear parts are the “speaking the truth,” and the charitable part is the “in love” part.  However, the three criteria are not equal.  If I am compelling and clear, I might come across as clever, smart or a good writer, but without charity, “I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1).  Without love, I’ve done it wrong, and therefore being compelling and clear should be tools used in service of being charitable.

I am still thrilled to be writing and am encouraged by the impact it’s had on my life, from challenging me when I am complacent, from encouraging me in my faith, and from growing deeper connections with friends and family, plus new connections with other bloggers.

Working on this blog has encouraged me, and I hope it has encouraged you as well.  Every one of us has something important to offer for God’s glory and for the benefit of the world around us.

Please leave a comment on what you’ve liked and what you’d want to see more of!

On Hiatus

Taking a short hiatus from this page for a little bit. Need to allocate time to some other things, and want to finish up some posts I’ve been working on for a long time, but couldn’t get in with the daily grind.

Be back by May!

Holiness is Like a Bowl of M&Ms?

Rock stars get a bad reputation for big egos and decadent lifestyles, and often for good reason.  But sometimes it’s just a misunderstanding.  Over the years, rock band Van Halen has been criticized over the infamous “brown M&M” clause in their contract with concert promoters.  Listed among many requirements, including how they want the stage set up and safety concerns, was buried a requirement that there should be a bowl of M&Ms backstage.  But not just any bowl: it had to have absolutely no brown-colored M&Ms.  This clause gained the band a bad reputation, because what kind of egomaniac would make someone go through the work of picking out every brown M&M?  Don’t all the colors taste the same anyway?

However, the clause had nothing to do with the band’s taste in M&M flavors or colors.  In addition to all the contract terms needed to cover many “important things,” they also needed a quick and easy way to know that the workers at the arena had thoroughly read the contract.  The M&Ms were that way.  Because of the “brown M&M” clause, as soon as the band walked backstage, seeing the bowl of M&Ms would immediately let them know the “important things” would be covered as well.

What’s this story doing on a Christian blog?  In the Bible, God describes His relationship with His people as a covenant, a form of contract, in this case between a King and His subjects.  Some parts of this agreement – consider the long descriptions of the tabernacle and temple in the Old Testament – may seem dull and insignificant.  Much of Exodus 25-27, and most of Exodus 35-40, detail the design of the tabernacle as given by God to Moses.  The collection of the materials, the work of the craftsmen in building the various parts, and finally Moses setting up the completed tabernacle are listed in seemingly repetitive and pointless detail.

However, in addition to God wanting His tabernacle set up correctly, the mere accumulation of detail also makes a point – that God cares about every single detail of His covenant with His people.  Nothing is to be ignored, just like the bowl of M&Ms.  But this concern for detail does not mean that He is holds every violation we commit over our head to make us feel guilty.  Instead, it makes two points:

First, anything less than holiness is not good enough for God.  If He accepted less, He would not be just.  As one brown M&M was too much for Van Halen, or one drop of cyanide would be too much to put in our glass of water, one instance of sin is too much for God.  Therefore, only Jesus, by living the perfect life, could be acceptable to God the Father.  Fortunately for all of us, Jesus’ righteousness is offered to us freely.  He met the standard of perfection for us.

Second, the level of detail lets us know that He cares about every detail of our lives.  We can talk to Him about anything because there is nothing He is not concerned about or is not interested in hearing from us, or able to lovingly walk alongside us through.  David wrote in Psalm 23:4 that:

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
            I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
            your rod and your staff,
            they comfort me.”

The rod and staff of our Good Shepherd are not there to punish us, but to guide and lead us through every experience we have in this world, good or bad, and into the next world, where all is holy and good.  His covenant with us – His contractual promise – is to be our God, and we are to be His people.

Our Father in heaven cares about every little thing.  Even brown M&Ms.

In Pursuit of Fruit

What fruitful habits do you have for spending time with God?  Are there personal patterns in your relationship with Him through prayer, Bible study or other means?  Note that I write “fruitful” instead of “enjoyable” because although we’d like to enjoy every moment with God, as our Father He sometimes has to tell us things we won’t like immediately.  As Jesus said in John 15:2 – “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”

One example of a fruitful habit for me has been to study more than one book of the Bible at a time.  What do I mean by this?  For example, I currently have a goal to read 1-2 chapters each of the Psalms and the Pentateuch[1] daily, along with study Bible notes.  The idea came from a recent sermon, where the 5 books of Psalms were described as similar in theme to the 5 books of the Pentateuch.  Shortly after, I read that: “Just as Genesis tells how mankind was created, fell into sin, and was then promised redemption, many of these psalms [book 1, or Psalms 1-41] discuss humans as blessed, fallen, and redeemed by God.”[2]  With a little work, I was able to map out a schedule lining up the Psalm readings with the other readings and I’m trying to follow it.  Reading different parts together can help make connections I wouldn’t otherwise.  One connection recently led me to post about frustration with my cat and how it relates to Noah and the ark.

At other times, I’ve been reading a Gospel along with the Psalms, or one of the prophets because changing the pattern over time helps reveal unexpected context or connections.  I wouldn’t talk to a friend the same way over and over again, so why do it with God?  Years ago, when reading Psalm 46:10 and Matthew 21:15-16 on the same day led to a stark reminder that God is worthy of, and will receive, all praise.  These are those verses that nailed the point home:

Be still, and know that I am God.
            I will be exalted among the nations,
            I will be exalted in the earth!”

But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read,
             “‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies
                        you have prepared praise’?”

I know I can’t require God to speak to me in a certain way, but these occasional “accidents” from different parts of Scripture have reinforced each other in ways I might have never seen or might even have resisted.  Sometimes, we might prefer to keep certain truths away from certain parts of our lives, but when we make time to be quiet, listen and allow different parts of God’s word to collide in ways we didn’t expect, we may uncover an encouragement or a challenge that bears fruit.

What creative and fruitful habits do you have for spending time with God?

[1] The first five books of the Bible, sometimes called the books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy)
[2] Life Application Study Bible, introduction to the Psalms.

The Desires He Delights to Give 2.0

Does God give us what we desire, or does He decide what we desire?  Some of my earliest prayers I remember (I was probably about 6) are ones asking to wake up the next day with my room full of all the toys I wanted.  Naturally, I never woke up to a room full of toys.  God probably knew I would only ask for more, and if I kept up that attitude toward prayer, there would never be enough.  That doesn’t mean I only prayed that prayer once…I learn slowly, but He is patient.

This sort of prayer isn’t limited to minor things like toys, nor do I think it is unusual.  While his mother was suffering from cancer, a nine-year-old C.S. Lewis prayed earnestly for her to be healed.  When she wasn’t, and cancer took her from him, his faith was shaken for years.

In my case, in later life, after understanding Christianity somewhat better, one of the first Bible verses I set out to memorize was Psalm 37:4, which says:

Delight yourself in the LORD,
       and he will give you the desires of your heart.

But I still wondered: are the desires what He gives us, or is the fulfillment of desires what He gives us?  I now believe it is both.  In the times I genuinely seek Him, I find that He molds my desires, so they become more aligned with His character.  I also find that He directs those desires toward what will fulfill them.  While that fulfillment is not always immediate, I learn to trust from what He does fulfill that all will be made right in eternity, and I also learn patience and peace.

When we truly delight in Him, we end up finding out that what we desire is righteousness; we also find out that He provides all the righteousness we desire and need.  We find those desires fulfilling rather than frustrating, we find that fulfillment durable rather than fleeting, and therefore find ourselves content rather than anxious.

However, we don’t always delight in Him, or seek to desire what He desires, and we find ourselves conflicted and unfulfilled.  Reflecting on his prayers for his mother’s healing, C.S. Lewis later wrote what he had wrong:

“I had approached God, or my idea of God, without love, without awe, even without fear. He was, in my mental picture of this miracle, to appear neither as Savior nor as Judge, but merely as a magician; and when He had done what was required of Him I supposed He would simply – well, go away.”[1]

Elsewhere Lewis wrote: “God allows us to experience the low points of life in order to teach us lessons that we could learn in no other way.”  By experiencing disappointment and death in this world, perhaps He is teaching us that death and disappointment are all that this world has to offer.  Sometimes this is the only way to get us to let go of the world and embrace eternity with Him, even while we sojourn here. Sometimes He lets us down easy when the toys do not appear; sometimes He lets us experience significant pain.  All in His wisdom.

Therefore, since He is both Savior and Judge, as well as all-wise:

“Commit your way to the LORD;
         trust in him, and he will act.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
         and your justice as the noonday.” – Psalm 37:5-6

Keep Driving Toward Morning, dear fellow travelers, and today, pray we will find our delight in Him.

[Version 1.0 of this was posted 4/19/22]

[1] Lewis, C.S.  Surprised by Joy (1955).  P. 21