Our society is full of competition. Competition and comparison causes people stress and is one of the causes of depression. Out of competition and comparison come spite between colleagues in work places. We look at pop culture and see how we don’t measure up to their good looks, fine voices, and persona. We compare ourselves to them. No wonder why people feel down on themselves.
People spite their co-workers with harsh criticism; slander them with false accusations. Low self-esteem stem from some of these things. A source of this can be the deception for one’s need to compete and compare ourselves to others. We want to be more significant and feel important about ourselves. It is one of the reasons why people who fall victim to this, or get tired of this endless wheel of competition end up quitting their jobs and severing their relationships and/or even marriages.
During my recent stay at a spiritual retreat centre, I came across a book by an author of whom I did not know or read from before. My host recommended to visit the library and locate the devotional writings of Joyce Rupp.
“Compassionate One, when I think poorly of myself because I do not match cultural norms of how to speak, think, look, or act, lead me to acknowledge and appreciate the gifts I have been given. Draw me inward to my core goodness. I will sink into that cradle of kindness and gain strength from what has lasting value. Disengage my strong connection to the “rush, push, and shove” approach to daily life. Release in me whatever craves to be the best, to rise to the top, to show off who I am and what I can do. Hush the strong voice of insecurity that steals energy from my spirit. Calm the anxiety that aches to have the spiritual life of another. Lift the darkness from my inner eye so that I see wth gratitude how enriched I am in my relationship with you….”
This is from Prayers of Boundless Compassion, 2018 (p. 6). Rupp is a Servant of Mary, a Catholic spiritual guide, and retreat leader. I very much like her style of writing. This has imagery and is visual and it draws and directs the reader into a spiritual direction. It speaks to me and is well written and draws from her experience. I shared this excerpt as my personal prayer today. I pray to the Lord: Help me seek and trust in your goodness and the fruits of your Holy Spirit. Fill me with more of your compassionate presence, with who you are, and make me more like you, O God.
Evil and wickedness can unseat people and families from their moments and places of comfort. Illness/injury, loss of work, family struggles, and other personal trials can cause a lot of discomfort. These are trials and evils–not necessarily caused by the evil one or other people. No noticeable cause. Nothing external or people to blame. It just happens when it happens.
The Lord wants us to be still and wait. The psalmist wrote in v. 37, “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.” The writer wrote this in the context of chaos and evil being plotted against him and occurring all around.
This is very hard to do. The fallback is to become anxious, and possibly stirring up a hornets nest and possibly making others as anxious as one’s self. To be still before God and wait patiently for him without an answer or solution to our problems is one of the hardest things to do (or not do). We want answers or at least an acknowledgement of our struggle from God. Not later, but now. When we hear silence and nothingness, it feels we are unheard. We feel insignificant because we feel ignored.
“Hope in the Lord and keep his way. He will exalt you to inherit the land…”, says the psalmist (v.34). We are waiting for a reason, not for no reason. We are waiting for God and his rescue.
(posted while on my retreat at Rivendell on Bowen Island BC)
Today, I finally found some time to rest. I let out some tears and a moment to cry. Nothing bad happening. No evil. No chaos. None. Reason for my cry was that I finally found some time to rest. Weeks and months and a year went by. Work and life was busy. Non-stop without time to rest.
As a servant, the work of helping and walking with others through their struggles and chaos, and administration, and even sermon prep in chaplaincy does not equate to rest. Ministry is still work. Yes, it’s still work, though it’s a part of God’s calling.
During this moment during my spiritual retreat on a small island, I was reading Psalm 37 while listening to the song Still. That’s when the tears started rolling. I realized my need for a time to rest. Rest from serving, from helping others, and just “find rest my soul…in quietness and trust,” as the song writer said in Still.
Hide me now Under Your wings Cover me Within Your mighty hand When the oceans rise and thunders roar I will soar with you above the storm Father, You are King over the flood I will be still and know You are God
Find rest my soul In Christ alone Know His power In quietness and trust When the oceans rise and thunders roar I will soar with you above the storm Father, You are King over the flood I will be still and know You are God (song: Still, Hillsong)
(posted while on my retreat at Rivendell on Bowen Island BC)
Ever been tempted to cheat on an exam? Ever thought about taking a shortcut to achieve a means in order to make a gain? If you have, that’s normal. We’ve all come across one or two temptations to cheat within our lifetimes. It can happen in a person’s career, business, and in relationships.
At times, the temptation can be unbearable and eat away at you on the inside. It can be so irksome that you wish you didn’t have to deal with the temptation. What makes it worse is that you think you can actually get away with it without getting caught. Insane…right!
Do people ever get away with cheating? What makes us wonder about the possibility of getting caught is when we witness other people get away with it.
In the bible, a story about Jacob the cheater seemingly has no repercussions from cheating his older brother Esau out of his birthright, and later, also his blessing. As the story goes, Jacob had to run away because his older brother was very angry with him.
If the story were to end right here, it would seem to imply that Jacob got away without getting caught. We know he was caught and escaped death by running for his life.
Later, he would have to pay a price. He runs to his uncle Laban’s house. Meets his two daughters Leah and Rachel. He ends up having to work seven years to have Leah as his wife, then another seven years to have Rachel. He felt cheated out of seven years and then another seven years because Laban had the intention of cheating Jacob out of his labor.
Later, schemes of cheating one another would continue when Jacob tries to exact revenge on uncle Laban by cheating him out of large herds of goats, lambs, and sheep. He had to run away again.
This whole story of dishonesty, conniving and exacting revenge on one another takes place between chapters 25-33 in the book of Genesis. It seemed like an endless cycle.
In reading this entire story as a whole, we can see that cheating does not pay. An endless cycle of dishonesty, cheating and revenge will take place.
So if you ever had thoughts of cheating on exams, on your spouse, on your co-workers, better think twice. Cheating does not pay. You will get caught…eventually. Justice will be repaid.
It is interesting that Japan and Germany had been travelling on dangerous paths prior to the Second World War. People had been yearning for a great German nation. Japan was hungry for domination in East and South-East Asia. Their yearning back to greatness gave rise to regimes that indoctrinated an entire generation. What is interesting is what allowed these circumstances to arise?
My hypothesis is that there was likely a spiritual vaccuum in both of these countries. They had made greatness their god. They desired greatness more than anything. They didn’t care how it hurt innocent people. Many millions of people died at the hands of imperialist Japan and Nazi Germany. They either lost or did not have a spiritual foundation to support their societies. The Church grew weak in Germany. There was a spiritual and religious staleness within. Ethics and morality fell by the wayside and it allowed vain pride and desire for greatness overtake the souls of their nations.
A nation without a spiritual foundation will eventually be forgotten. What China lacks today is a strong spiritual foundation. China may be strong and gaining economic strength, but will it last? Its authoritarian government seems to seek to become a god or godlike. Any nation, China included, needs a government with a sense of humility at its core. What if China does become the pre-eminent economic or military powerhouse in 10-20 years? Well, what then? If we learn from history, any nation can fall like Germany and Japan had fallen during the Second World War. It sought greatness as their god.
Today, South Korea has become a rich nation. They have also become a great Christian nation. It is my earnest hope and prayer that China also becomes a Christian nation. Christianity could potentially provide China a spiritual foundation it never truly had. In its past life, it was inundated with Confucianism and Buddhism. This was sort of a spiritual foundation but it was not able to propel China to greatness. These philosophies and religions brought China a certain level of spirituality but the Chinese people eventually lost their way. It eventually became a weak nation that other nations picked on. A portion of the Chinese population fell prey to opium addiction. They lost generations to drug addiction and as a result, it became incapacitated. It allowed Communism to step in and take action against imperialistic intimidation.
Hence, the rise of Communism was needed to beef-up its borders. These former religions and philosophies, as good as they were, are limiting. Although Christianity has not yet taken hold of China as it has to the degree like it has in South Korea, they are on their way to becoming a greater nation than it used to be under Buddhism and Confucianism.
I hope and pray that their turn toward Christ will not falter. I also pray that my father’s motherland of China can become that great nation for Christ that it can potentially become. I believe it can do so with Chinese characteristics. Christianity can bring a humility to its national core that Confucianism and Buddhism could not bring. Christianity can help reinforce a spiritual core that communism cannot. Communism has at its core a requirement to control. It must keep a tight rein on its people through intense big brother tactics. It does not trust individual rights and private property.
I pray that these two nations of South Korea and China will not forfeit the opportunity to build their spiritual heritages as nations that follow Christ. All nations need a spiritual foundation in order to maintain peace in order that prosperity may come. Throughout history, all nations that have become prosperous have acquired the prerequisite for peace—that is, a strong and robust spiritual foundation. Without peace, nations cannot become prosperous. Poverty only results from political instability. In the past, English and American prosperity ensued due to a peaceful environment.
May God also grant peace and prosperity to China, South Korea, and other nations along with a reverence for God.
There are new nations rising from the ashes. Undoubtedly, China is one, and South Korea is another. I predict there will be many more to come as nations become more developed. Future nation states will rise from the southern hemisphere, South, South-East and East Asia, and perhaps eventually Africa. Europe and North America and Japan have had its turn.
Today, there are far fewer products being made in the U.S.A. and the western world. There are only a few items I own with this label. What we are seeing far more of today is the label, “Made in China.”
We ask ourselves, where have the good ol’ days gone? We hear the slogan, “Make America Great Again.” Nothing wrong with that. No doubt, America has had its days of greatness. Many products used to be produced in America and proudly stamped, “Made in the USA.” My father remembers those days. England used to be a great industrial nation. Germany and Japan are still strong but we are constantly look behind our backs and seeing other nations gaining ground.
Sadly, though, I do not foresee a total return to those good ol’ days of American made products. The cost of production is far too high and the value of world currencies do not help. I do not doubt America’s potential to produce top quality products. America still has the know-how and technology to succeed. However, what is most concerning is the spiritual condition of America’s national soul.
I am old enough to remember when America’s vehicles were considered unreliable and were not built to last, e.g., Ford’s vehicles were sadly referred to as: “Frequently On Repair Dock”. How true is this of many American-made products today? I don’t know. There used to be an innate desire in Americans to produce excellence but sadly it does not run throughout most of American society. Rather than producing quality and providing workers with good salary and benefits, corporate America is largely driven by profit and cost-cutting measures to benefit the bottom-line; hence, today’s desire of many people for Japanese-made and German-made vehicles like Lexus, Mercedes, and BMWs. It might seem surprising that some North Americans and most Europeans have never driven American-made vehicles.
I stated in a previous post, China is ramping up their production and innovation. As strong as they already are, I believe they have the potential to become even better. It might take a decade or two, but they will become one of the premier powerhouses in the world. Many predict that China will eventually overtake the United States in G.D.P. by this next decade. It has already become an innovation power-house. China is pouring billions into Research & Development. As I read about technology internationally, I’m learning about how they are now one of the top leaders (if not the top) in Artificial Intelligence (AI), 5G networks, electric vehicles (EV), including solar energy and rechargeable batteries. I predict they will soon become the top providers of 5G technology in the world and artificial intelligence (hence America’s fear of Huawei).
It might just be a matter of time when China will improve and eventually overtake America in quality of production. Japan has already done so in many respects but have seemed to reached a plateau. My father remembers the days when Japanese products were also considered inferior products. That changed as Japan improved. Being younger, I only have memories of Japanese products being top-notch quality. Today, South Korea is gaining ground on Japan. Future generations will foreseeably consider Korean-made and even Chinese-made products as top-quality.
Chinese society and Chinese people are a people who vigorously strive for excellence. There is a deep-seated desire to become number one. One day, I was shocked to hear from my own daughter’s mouth, who is now only 11 years old, that she thinks China wants to become the world’s number one nation. I asked her where she got that impression? “Oh I don’t know”… or “I just know.” She likely picked it up from watching YouTube videos. I’ve seen a few myself. This is the impression that today’s younger generations have of China. It wasn’t like this when I was growing up. China was poor and looked down upon as a hopeless socialist basket-case country. Today, that’s changed.
In the future, perhaps a hundred years down the road, Chinese people might yearn to remember their good ol’ days too. China’s younger population will eventually decline and its overall population will shrink. Demographics experts predict trouble will begin looming on China’s horizon in about 30 years from now due to population shrinkage.
Today, however, China has a grand opportunity to make history. However, history will be remembered only if a nation becomes a spiritually strong people. How can this take shape? ( Read the next post. )
As a kid in the schoolyard, I remember making promises to do something, or making an oath to reinforce what I said was absolutely true. One went like this:
“Cross my heart, and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye.” And if we got away with crossing our finger hidden behind our backs, our promise didn’t count as a real oath.
Somehow, these silly antics were supposed to reinforce the truth. As we get older and grow out of our elementary ways and methods of making what we say sound more believable, we’ve changed things up a little: “To be totally honest with you…” Well, as if what we just said was going to be more truthful than usual.
I just ran into a very strange saying in the Old Testament Bible. This one has always stumped me and caused me to ponder upon its meaning and how it originated. It seems that an oath made under a man’s scrotum was somehow more binding.
“So the servant put his hand under the thigh of his master Abraham and swore an oath to him concerning this matter.” (Genesis 24:9)
Really stumps me. Hard to imagine its significance. Anyone get the meaning of this one or how it originated?!