Friday, December 15, 2017

Knowledge vs. Proof

My daughter had an interesting experience on the bus the other day. One of her close friends decided to assert his atheistic views on her, browbeating her verbally for being stupid enough to believe in God. Over and over, he denied the existence of deity and challenged her to prove otherwise. She was absolutely flabbergasted by his vehemence, finding it hurt her soul to hear it. She also felt terribly inadequate to answer him. Although she had tasted many sweet spiritual moments in her lifetime, expressing or explaining them to one who was so adamantly against God felt awkward. In the end, she simply repeated, "I can't prove it, but I know it," each time he dared her to qualify her faith.

While I felt bad for the hurting heart she had, I also rejoiced that she'd had one of those refining moments that cause a person to take stock in what they believe. She felt like a failure because she couldn't come up with words to convince him, but I thought she succeeded with flying colors because she acknowledged that faith isn't a matter of proof. It is "the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1).  She couldn't point to anything around her and say, "This proves unequivocally that God exists," but she could search within her heart and feel the many ways He has touched her over the years. 

Like the heart within us that we can feel beating, though we cannot see it.
Like the electricity that ignites our lights and appliances, though we cannot see it. 
Like the wind pushing the leaves along, though we cannot see it.
photo credit: YouTube

Some things are real even if we can't see them. The "proof" is in the effect. It's in what happens because of the thing we can't see. 
Faith in God, after all, doesn't work like a geometric proof or a scientific analysis. Though there are steps we follow to gain a knowledge of God, and though we can test the Lord's promises, our faith in Him is ultimately beyond empirical explanation to those who will not open their spiritual eyes.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Goals and Hope

A few days ago, I blogged about pressing forward with goals. I think there's a huge connection between having hope and setting goals. When we make a plan to change something, there is the implied belief that change is even possible, and the more we believe in the power of incremental progress, the more we have reason to hope in the promises of eternity as well as the immediate future.

However, sometimes in our eagerness to change and grow, we set lofty goals that can soon feel unattainable, so we lose hope and quit. I won't suggest that we shouldn't set our aspirations high, but I do think we need to make concrete plans about the path we will take to get there. And by concrete, I mean ... flexible concrete ... As in define the path, but don't cement every stepping stone permanently just in case. Because stuff happens, and we don't want the unexpected to so derail the planned course that we can't still reach our destination.

My martial arts instructor, KNJ Jeremy, explained how he went about creating his school's curriculum. He said in essence, "I look at what I want my black belts to be able to do, and then I work backwards, breaking it into pieces until we get back to the fundamental skills and techniques." By so doing, his students advance in a very logical, seamless way from one level to the next because each new skill builds on the one before it. In the six months that I've been assisting with children's classes, I've been astounded at how quickly his students improve, and the vision of black-belt proficiency is very real for some of them, even if it's years away.

Remember the "flexible concrete" bit? In Martial Arts, that might be something like an injury that means certain skills can't be practiced for a while. (Been there, done that multiple times.) Does that mean stopping all progress? No! With an end-goal in mind, I can still work on those stepping stones that are within my capabilities. In that sense, the "path" is not always completely linear or direct. It may look more like switchbacks going up a steep mountain, but hey--it's still going up!

We need to do the same for our goals, no matter what we're trying to achieve. Visualizing the finish line can thus be inspiring instead of daunting. We can accept unexpected obstacles as opportunities to reroute instead of turning back or throwing up our hands in defeat.  Self-discipline and self-forgiveness can work in tandem to move us forward with hope that we can achieve.

What long-term goals are you setting for yourself? 
What are some of the stepping stones it will take to get there?

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Hope Quote from Elaine Cannon

photo credit: Stanford Graduate School of Business

"The daily work of the Lord involves changing hopeless to hopeful ... And it is for us to find at last that in the midst of winter we have within us an invincible summer. In a world filled with adversity we can reach for joy."

Knowledge vs. Proof