Happy 1st Anniversary to Driving Toward Morning!

Fellow travelers,

Although the blog was registered earlier, May 20, 2021, is the date of the first post and so today I wish Driving Toward Morning a happy 1st anniversary!  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.

I am thrilled to still be writing and encouraged by the impact it’s had on my life, from challenging me when I am complacent, from encouraging me to be more public with my faith, from growing deeper connections with friends and family, to creating some new connections with other bloggers.  As the “About” page here says: “Purpose #1 of this blog is to force me to think about, ponder and organize my thoughts around Christianity’s relevance to my life and to others. Purpose #2 is to proclaim the truths of the Gospel of the kingdom of Jesus Christ into our present world.”

Although I thought for years about starting this blog, where I thought I had a plan, I found that things ended up differently:

  • Aiming for more than a post every two weeks seemed like too much, and it would take over a year to write the main ideas I had.  I’ve posted 115 times so far, but oddly most of those early ideas remain unfinished and unposted.
  • I intended Facebook as a way to advertise the blog to others.  Instead, I started a Facebook group in October, which became a driver for me to post more frequent, shorter, and often devotional-like content.
  • I initially struggled to keep posts under 2500 words, sometimes breaking things up into 2 parts.  Now the average post is less than 700 words, with some less than 100.
  • Keeping a thread going through multiple posts was harder than expected.  I’ve started and (so far) dropped several threads and series.

So, a lesson of year 1 is that planning is often futile!  On the “About” page of the blog I wrote very early that “If the Lord wills, I will continue to write and do this or that. (James 4:15)”. I don’t know how long this will last and what it will evolve into, but I’m grateful for the outlet and for any encouragement it has brought to its readers.

What to expect in year #2 (other than to expect the unexpected):

  • Re-blogging.  I plan to re-post existing content in an effort to post more consistently, to bring back some posts I liked or that got good responses, or to bring back topics I intended to continue, but didn’t.  Hopefully I can tie up some loose ends.  “Rewind Wednesday” is probably where these will end up.
  • An attempt to be more predictable about the size/length of posts.  On Facebook, I’m going to add a reading time estimate above each link to the blog.  Also, I’m going to try and keep the longer posts to a regular cadence.  Maybe reserve long reads for the weekend?
  • More posts on history, more holiday posts, more groups of (hopefully) thought-provoking quotes, but also perhaps posts on books I’m reading.

Lastly, the “About” page also says that “As a layman, I have only my own experience in life, study and prayer to offer.  This is not a ‘proof’ blog, but an encouragement blog.  As a writer, I consider how to stir up my readers to love and good works.  (Hebrews 10:24)”  Don’t be shy about letting me know how I’m doing.

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.

This Mother’s Day, Celebrate the Caregivers

I was recently invited to a workshop on “Caregiver Bias,” which was explained as a problem in our society that people who take care of children, older or sick relatives, or others in need don’t do as well in their careers.  In addition, they said, since Caregiving is more often done by women than by men, these social norms are discriminatory and need to be corrected.  The workshop was part of a broader Diversity and Inclusion initiative, which includes support for women’s reproductive choices.

But shouldn’t Caregiving for children, the elderly, the sick, and the needy be what we celebrate and admire most?  Shouldn’t we choose Caregiving?

In that spirit, for this Mother’s Day post, I choose to salute a diverse set of Mothers:

  • I salute those mothers who choose to serve their families and communities full-time.  Those who volunteer on the PTA, at the local church and food pantry, and who make the school plays and concerts run smoothly.
    I salute the working mothers who choose to make time for the PTA, their church or food pantry, and the school play.
  • I salute those full-time mothers who choose to keep their calm when asked “so, what exactly DO you do all day?”
  • I salute those mothers who choose to run their own business in a way that allows time for them to spend with their children.
  • I salute those mothers who didn’t plan on having children but choose to love and care for them always.
  • I salute those mothers who choose a partner who can focus on Caregiving where they can.
  • I salute those who choose to support those in need who are someone else’s children and relatives, as if they were their own.
  • I salute those who choose to support the choices of all mothers, even if their choices aren’t what they would choose themselves.

Mothers[1] very often sacrifice for the benefit of others, and this Mother’s Day let’s celebrate and admire them all, especially the ones who demonstrate that Caregiving might be the most important career of all.  Let’s be biased in their favor, not today but every day.

After all, aren’t our careers a way to provide what not only we need, but also what others need and can’t provide for themselves?  As suggested by the Apostle Paul a long time ago:
Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.” – Ephesians 4:28


[1] Fathers do too, but this is Mother’s Day.  Look for my Father’s Day post about a month from now.

“No reserve, No retreat, No regrets” – History for April 9

At the young age of 25, American millionaire and philanthropist William Borden died in Egypt on April 9, 1913.  Despite never making it to the mission field in China, Christianity Today once called him “the most influential missionary of the early 20th century.”  Borden’s story has inspired Christians and missionaries ever since.

As an heir to his family’s fortune from silver mining, William Borden had many opportunities in life, yet shortly after high school he became interested in missionary work.  Some said he was “throwing himself away,” but while a student at Yale, he quickly gained a reputation for his sense of purpose and dedication to Jesus.  He established a Bible study and prayer group that eventually included about 1,000 of Yale’s 1,300 students.  Off campus, he funded the Yale Hope Mission in New Haven with his own money and was often seen with widows, orphans, homeless people, and drunks, providing for their needs, and telling them about Jesus.  It looked like God was preparing him for a fruitful future as a missionary.

After graduating Yale, Borden turned down attractive job offers, choosing instead to study at Princeton Seminary, intending to minister to Uighur Muslims in China.  He finalized his plans and set sail, stopping in Egypt to study Islam and Arabic in preparation.  However, he contracted cerebral meningitis in March 1913 and died a few weeks later on April 9.  Did God take him too soon, before his work was done?  Borden didn’t seem to think so.

After his death, family reported that in his Bible were written the words “no reserve”, referring to his willingness to put everything aside for Christ, then later “no retreat”, after turning down job offers upon graduating Yale, and finally “no regrets”, apparently written shortly before his death.

Skeptics deny this note exists, citing “no evidence.”  However, friends and family claim to have found the note, and testimony is evidence.  Even if the note doesn’t exist, he still made the choices he made, living a life which declared that the salvation given through Jesus Christ was worth more than all the earthly benefits a young millionaire could have.

Skeptics may also say Borden, and God, failed because Borden’s life didn’t go according to his plans.  What was the point?  But as they say, the LORD works in mysterious ways and His plans are not always our plans.  Borden impacted many during his days at Yale before leaving for Egypt, and by events he couldn’t control, he may have become a better witness for Christ by death than from living as a missionary.  In his will, he left his fortune to several Christian agencies, including China Inland Mission, which named Borden Memorial Hospital in Lanzhou, China, in his memory.  Seized by the government in 1951, the hospital is now the Lanzhou Second People’s Hospital, but locals know its history.

During his short life, William Borden lived with a dedication to Christ that continues to inspire believers over a century later.  Even though he never made it to China, his testimony made it there and provides hope for persecuted groups and those who Christ calls to serve them.

Having all this world could offer, he chose to live for the next world.  Engraved on his gravestone in Egypt are the words “Apart from Christ, there is no explanation for such a life.”   Even if the note is just a legend, “No reserve, no retreat, and no regrets” summarizes the life of William Borden well. 

Interested in more History? Select “History Bits” from the “Blog” drop down menu at the top of the page.


Sources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Whiting_Borden
https://www.christianitytoday.com/history/2017/february/forgotten-final-resting-place-of-william-borden.html
http://home.snu.edu/~HCULBERT/regret.htm

On Driving Through the Beatitudes

Fellow travelers,

Writing about the Beatitudes has been harder than I thought. If “repentance is a U-turn on the road of life” then the first two Beatitudes are the ones that tell us we’re mentally and emotionally going the wrong way. I’ve worried about the tone of some of those posts compared to the short, daily encouragement posts from earlier.

However, if you’re still following along, quoted below is a peek at drafts from next week’s posts. Turning the car around is hard but it’s not enough. However there is light ahead:

“If misunderstood, the first two Beatitudes alone can leave us in a place where we’re a mess and the world is a terrible place and there’s nothing we can do about any of it…
But God promises that there is work for each of us to do: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10). ‘Blessed are the meek’ promises a way forward – for every person in their own way as guided by God’s benevolent will.”

Getting in Gear
The working title for Monday is “When You’re Stuck in Second Gear,” and yes I’ll soon be referencing the theme song from the TV show Friends.

Although I’ve learned many of the things I’m writing about over many years, I’m still learning as we go, and have never tried to put any of it into a cohesive whole. For example, in hindsight I think the post I’m planning for Monday should have been the first one in the “meek” section, but it includes things I hadn’t thought of before today. Maybe someday, I’ll re-edit the whole thing but for now it is what it is! A big part of why I write is to force myself to think more but also to turn that knowledge into loving action. I hope that if you take this journey with me, it helps you find what “Driving Toward Morning” looks like for you. Even if it’s awkward along the way.

Thanks for reading!

4 8 15 16 23 42 – Blessed are the Meek #3

Do you ever feel that God has appointed a task to you that you can’t see the point of?  These opening verses refer back to previous posts about Jesus asking Martha to move the stone away from the opening of Lazarus’ grave, and also to the man who was given only one talent to put to work for his Master’s benefit:
“Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” – John 11:39
He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’” – Matthew 25:24-25

As we continue a series on the Beatitudes with the third Beatitude “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth[1] I am reminded of the mid-2000’s TV series Lost, where character Desmond Hume is trapped on a mysterious island and enters a code into a computer every 108 minutes.  He does it – even in the middle of the night – because he was told he is “saving the world” by someone he trusts.  When the code – 4 8 15 16 23 42 – is entered on time nothing happens except the re-setting of a clock to 108 minutes.  “The numbers” are referenced over and over again in the show, individually or all together, and seem to have a mystic power over events.  The number of minutes allowed to enter the code – 108 – is the sum of the six numbers.  Even fans seemed to believe “the numbers” had power – there was a boom in playing them in the lottery.

As other characters find Desmond and ask questions, the numbers and the button become a case study of faith versus reason.  Why is he doing this?  Eventually, the button isn’t pushed on two occasions and the consequences are very serious indeed, but this lesson is only learned by failing to act on faith.  While initially faith demands that Desmond enter the numbers over and over again, the two failures show that there was a reason behind Desmond’s faith even if he didn’t know it.  It wasn’t pointless after all.  However, failure isn’t always the best way to learn to be meek.

Every Talent Matters
In a story told by Jesus in Matthew 25:14-30, a man entrusts his servants with some money (the “talents” in the story were a large unit of currency, and the word later came to mean a natural or special ability): five to one servant, two to the next, and one to the last servant.  The first two servants use their “talents” to bring in more for their master, but the last buries the money in the ground to keep it safe.  This servant might have been thinking: “What’s the point?  The other guy has five talents, and with that I might be able to do something.  But with only one…Why bother?”  But if the master’s intent was to keep the talent safe, why would he give it to a servant?  It was only after some time, when the master returned from a journey, that the servant learned the consequence of his inactivity.  The servant is cast out and his talent is given to the better servant.

Waiting until we have more to offer, more to do, or a better sense of the possible consequences is like burying our talent in the sand and therefore determining for ourselves that it does not matter and there is no point.  In the words of “Shy Away” by twenty øne piløts, you “manifest a ceiling when you shy away.”  Whatever purpose God has for our talents – in their exact amounts and types – it wasn’t for us to bury them.  The meek servants who took what they had and worked for their master’s interest, were rewarded.  “For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.[2]

For me personally – sometimes I put off, or want to give up, writing because it seems pointless – who reads this anyway?  But it’s what I currently feel compelled to offer.  Blogging may seem a strange thing to do, but it’s better than burying these ideas in the ground and hoping a fruit tree magically pops up.  I don’t know what will happen when I do or don’t write, but I know a refusal to be meek to our Lord has consequences.  Sometimes we aren’t sure why, but we know Who is asking.

Play Your Own Numbers
Jesus has not asked me (and probably not you) to enter “4 8 15 16 23 42” into a computer or to move a stone from a tomb, but He knows exactly what He wants us to do, to become, and how He wants to impact others through us.  There are specific needs He wants only us to meet, including our own needs for meaning and joy.  We should never just copy someone else’s “numbers,” but seek our own.  If Lost fans won the lottery with those numbers, they would have to share the prize, but if each won playing their own way their prize would be much bigger.  Likewise, I believe the eternal reward is higher when you play the numbers – and only the numbers – God gave you personally[3].

Consider God’s personal instructions to you as your own lottery ticket, or the most important treasure you will ever have:
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field…
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” – Matthew 13:44-45

Being meek is not a matter of how much one has to offer but knowing who you offer it to and being faithful to that master’s interests.  It is not a matter of knowing why, but a matter of trusting the One who asks you to be meek.  He is the King of the Kingdom.

Finally, just because the consequences aren’t obvious to you doesn’t mean there aren’t any:
“Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?” – Guardian angel Clarence Oddbody, in It’s a Wonderful Life


This post continues a series on the Beatitudes. To start at the beginning, click here, and for the next post click here


[1] Matthew 5:5
[2] Matthew 25:29
[3] Is it stretching the point to say what happened to Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10:1-3 resulted from them trying to “make up their own numbers”?