“Let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth”.
We might be tempted to conclude from this study that cities are inherently bad, but this is not so. God gave Israel their capital city of Jerusalem, and the ultimate abode of God’s people is God’s holy city coming down from heaven (Rev. 21:2). The concept of “city” is not evil, but the pride that we may come to attach to cities is what displeases God (Gen. 19:12-14). We sin when we look to civic triumph and culture, in place of God, as our source of meaning and direction. Bruce Waltke concludes his analysis of Genesis 11 in these words:
Society apart from God is totally unstable. On the one hand, people earnestly seek existential meaning and security in their collective unity. On the other hand, they have an insatiable appetite to consume what others possess….At the heart of the city of man is love for self and hatred for God. The city reveals that the human spirit will not stop at anything short of usurping God’s throne in heaven.
Of course we are blind to this because it is happening all around us. In this day and age for thousands of years. We are still seeking significance and fame apart from God. We disguised it in our quest to honor and worship God through our “offerings”. But He just wants our obedience; nothing that we offer to Him by our own strength can even hold up.
The insidious nature of this is so subtle that we tend to miss. That’s the great work of the devil. It is never the fights on moralistic grounds that he is interested to engage. He willingly allows us to be distracted by it.
How do I counter this? By living with gratefulness. To be blameless when mocked by those whom I’m tempted to please. To allow God’s non-order (the Flood) to overcome my disorder.
And then new creation begins again. As He breathes the Spirit into me.
“There’s an old communication theory that goes: When predictability is high, impact is low. In other words, when the audience thinks they know what you’re going to say, and you go ahead and say it, your words makes very little impact. On the other hand, when an audience is surprised or intrigued, they will think long and hard about what they’ve heard.
The same goes for Christian outreach. Remember that one of the primary acts of the evangelistic believer is the arousal of curiosity among unbelievers leading to questions and faith sharing. Acts of philanthropy and hospitality by Christians today are not unheard of, but neither are they unexpected. If we hear a Christian businessman donated money to a cause, or that a church has opened a feeding program or a hospice, we aren’t intrigued. It is expected. I’m not suggesting Christian philanthropy shouldn’t continue as an expression of the grace offered to us in Christ, but it doesn’t evoke questions the way it might have in the fourth century. Neither does living a fine upstanding middle-class lifestyle in the suburbs. Again, I’m not saying we shouldn’t live our lives this way, but if we’re trying to live questionable lives, then cutting the lawn, saying hi to the neighbors, washing our car, walking the dog and driving to the office every day is hardly an intriguing lifestyle.”
Frost’s challenge leaves no room of me to be comfortable. I’m forced to confront the demons of mediocrity (as far as understanding how Christ’s message compels us to live) that has been released by the systems of this world.
This can only be subverted by missional habits cultivated daily to guide me on how to think, feel or act.
This week let me start with Bless.
I’m going to pass on making New Year’s resolutions this time around. Instead, I’ll take Rilke’s famous advice about “living the questions,” and carry into the New Year a few of the wonderings Hillman’s poem evokes in me:
• How can I let go of my need for fixed answers in favor of aliveness?
• What is my next challenge in daring to be human?
• How can I open myself to the beauty of nature and human nature?
• Who or what do I need to learn to love next? And next? And next?
• What is the new creation that wants to be born in and through me?
– Parker Palmer
List out, in one column, the activities from the last month that ‘drained’ you.
List out on a second column which activities ‘filled you up’. Are you in an emotional deficit or a surplus?
List out underneath the line on the left side what activities in the coming month you expect will drain you.
List out on a second column the activities in the coming month that you expect will ‘fill you up’.
Do you anticipate an emotional draining month or an emotionally replenishing month?
List out on a second column the time you spent that you feel were a waste of time or a time sink. That is, what did you consume that made you feel bloated and empty?
List out in one column, the time you spent this past month that you feel, created more time for you. That is, what did you create that made you more productive and more effective?
List out underneath the line on the left side, the time that you know that you will lose in ‘time sinks’.
What time you are setting aside in the coming month to be creative? Itemise that on the right hand side.
Do you anticipate an exciting creative month or a plodding bogged down month?
In the empty lot ” a place
not natural, but wild ” among
the trash of human absence,
the slough and shamble
of the city’s seasons, a few
old locusts bloom.
A few wood birds
fly and sing
in the new foliage
–warblers and tanagers, birds
wild as leaves; in a million
each one would be rare,
new to the eyes. A man
couldn’t make a habit
of such color,
such flight and singing.
But they’re the habit of this
wasted place. In them
the ground is wise. They are
its remembrance of what is.
– Wendell Berry
1. You must not dilly-dally.
2. You must be your word.
3. You must have good intentions.
4. You must admit to being the maker of meaning.
5. You must not feel sorry for yourself.
6. You must have a vision that you are striving for.
7. You must tie creativity and experimentation with survival.
8. You must be the change you want to see.
9. You must rally others with your vision.
10. You must stake your reputation on your better self.
11. You must be comfortable with the consequences of being who you are.
12. You must share.
13. You must make your own advice and take it.
14. You must manage your stress, health, and clarity.
15. You must study your mistakes.
16. You must retry things you don’t like every once in a while.
17. You must make time to enjoy things.
G: Hey bro… just wondering, did you call me yesterday? Something about doing a voice-over thingy?
V: No la… Absolutely no recollection of it. I was very busy yesterday. Wouldn’t have the time to call ya.
G: Seriously?? My gosh, it seemed so real. Was it just a dream or purely imagination? Cos I remember vividly that a conversation took place between us.
G: Dude, don’t joke lar. C’mon, I’m freakin’ out. (damn, first teeth-grinding. now this?)
V: Bro, I really didn’t call you!
G: Did I really imagine it then? Am I going crazy?
G: One sec. Let’s hang up and I’ll check my phone history.
G: DUDE! YOU DID CALL ME! It says 1:05pm and for 35 seconds.
V: Really? Are you sure it’s not a missed call?
G: Dude, I’ve got proof man. You called me about a voice-over job.
V: OHHHH! VOICE-OVER. I thought you meant voice-over internetl protocol.
G: …… (what a geek)
V: Yes… yes.. I did call you for a job. Hehehe.
G: So I’m not crazy. Thank God.