This weekend a whole group of saints from Boston-Cambridge-Newton rented a charter bus and drove down to Harvey Cedars, New Jersey for the Fall College Conference here on the east coast. Now I don’t know what the term “charter bus” evokes in your memory but to me there is nothing that speaks to the quintessential high school experience quite like the charter bus adventure. We used to load up in Coach USA buses and drive all over Texas for our conference swim meets, fine arts festivals, and even a class-wide week-long trip to Big Bend State Park in eighth grade. Everyone rushed to sit as far back as possible to get away from the teachers, but inevitably regretted their decision when that guy (it’s always that guy…) decides to try and clog the toilet on purpose. But besides that we always had so much fun getting rowdy, watching movies, and just talking with each other as the bus ate up the miles between us and our destination. They say that the journey you take is just as important as the destination you reach, and the journey was always much more memorable when chartered.
I guess that due to these experiences when I heard that we were taking a bus to the conference I immediately fell back into that kind of mindset, and unconsciously expected this ride to be similar to those in the past. As we got on the stereotypes began to play out: all the old people sat in the front, and I for one immediately headed back. The ride there was relatively uneventful; everyone was tired and for the most part no shenanigans happened that I was aware of at least.
However on the ride back things started happening that made it seem like this ride would be one of those fun ones…we started playing riddles such as Bobby’s world (so exciting…) and just having a good time. But for some reason I just wasn’t feeling happy or satisfied; I had enjoyed all my trips in the past so much but for some reason it just wasn’t doing it for me this time. Dissatisfied with this experience, I decided to tune in and tune out while everyone else continued having fun. I’m really not sure why, but it just seemed that I wasn’t able to just let loose and have fun. But this all changed when a couple of the bros decided that it would be good to start singing all the songs from the conference. A guitar was brought out, and as we sang and enjoyed the Lord together on the snowy highway, all my dissatisfaction with my life, the current situation, everything, just melted away. We must have sung and played for close to three hours, and I enjoyed the Lord so much, even more than I had at the conference. There was just such release in singing with the saints. It was wonderful.
Looking back I am just so full of appreciation towards the Lord: He has turned me from being satisfied with all the things of this world to only being satisfied with Him. The Lord is the only thing in this world that truly satisfies, and nothing else, not even chartered bus rides, can come close.
This is my story, this is my song: Praising my Savior all the day long!
Here are some pics from the conference:
So I got my camera…and I’ve taken about 250 pictures in the three days since I got it. We spent all Saturday at the Champagnes’ house down in Rhode Island and that was a real treat; their backyard opens right onto Narragansett Bay so we got to kayak, sail, hunt for clams, and do all sorts of other fun activities. I think the best part though was in the evening: after we had all eaten everyone gathered together in the house and a spontaneous training-wide team time broke out, in which we enjoyed the Lord and prayed for each other. I really felt like that night we broke through a little bit–this was one of the few times so far this year that we have been able to truly just be together and enjoy with each other. We even called many of our other term-mates and sang the graduation song to them…apologies if you got left out! It’s always good to be reminded that even though there are so many things to take care of, so many new ones to care for, and so many responsibilities to shoulder, if we aren’t enjoying the Lord and caring for one another we are missing the whole point.
Here’s hoping for many more times like that.
And here are some examples of the photos. Critiques welcome.
I’ve never been one of those picture hounds; my entire life is not catalogued by date on Facebook for everyone to see like some people I know. But I do have to admit there is something about taking a picture that preserves a memory better than we ever could ourselves, unfading and unforgettable. I am one of those people who never gets tired of reading the same book or watching the same movie, and in the same way I love to look at my pictures and in a sense re-live those times in my life. Multiple trips to Taiwan, Poland and Big Bear (not to mention three and a half terms of training) are all on my phone, and I love having them with me: escape into nostalgia is always only a couple of taps away.
Therefore I was understandably upset when the camera on my iPhone broke last May…there went my only camera and also my ability to capture all those instances that I wanted to remember over the last half of my fourth term, the summer, and the first part of being here in Boston. I kept on pulling out my phone by reflex for about a month, only to remember…oh right…my stupid camera is broken. Even now I feel like I don’t remember much about my fourth term, especially compared with the first three. That is actually the main reason I’m getting the iPhone 4S…not Siri, not the faster processor, but the freaking camera.
In addition to this, I have decided to invest (probably too much) money in a D-SLR: the Nikon D3100. I love always having a camera in my pocket and for sure I will be using my phone a lot, but I also want to take the next step and start taking pictures other people would actually look at. So just a heads up to all of you photoheads/Photoshop junkies out there: HELP!
“Wow God is totally punishing me right now.”
“Man I must have done something really bad to deserve this.”
Sound familiar? I find myself thinking some iteration of these phrases waaaaay too often. Thing is, this is totally not the case. Everyone goes through tough situations, but God never puts us through something just to punish us or because He is frustrated at how awful we are. Here’s a (semi) revolutionary thought for you- God’s heart toward us is always good! We have a God who loves us, and who causes all things to work out for good toward us. However this good is not our natural concept of good, but results in us gaining more Christ. God arranges every situation in our life, and His goal in every single situation, even the tough ones, is to give us the opportunity to gain and enjoy more of who He is.
I think I’m starting to realize how much my religious concept of who God is and what He wants limits my pursuit of Him and my enjoyment of Him. I still find myself thinking of God as this disapproving, scary Guy on a throne who I am trying my best to do good for. This is so totally not the case. God knows our weaknesses and sympathizes with them, and He does not want us to do some work for Him. God wants us to enjoy Him! Even in the toughest situations, His goal is to turn us to Him as our enjoyment. This goes against all our natural concepts as human beings, but is so vital to our going on with the Lord. I need to see this more! Lord make this real to me! Turn me from my religious concepts! Turn me to You!
It’s kind of ironic that after posting last week about how I don’t really see God’s economy that clearly, our assignment this week in the training is to present our understanding of designation in Romans 1:3-4. Actually, getting into this portion of the word has really helped me to see what God is after, both in general and for me specifically. Obviously there has been no blinding revelation, but I do see a little more.
When Jesus was on the earth He was not the Son of God in His humanity, but through His death and resurrection His humanity was uplifted and He was designated the Firstborn Son of God as a man. Why is this significant? If we compare Romans 1:3-4 with Romans 8:29-30 we see that God does not just want one man to express Him, He wants many brothers for His Firstborn Son. (ps by definition a Firstborn Son has to have brothers; otherwise He is not the Firstborn, He is the Only Begotten). Jesus lived on the earth and then was designated the Son of God through resurrection. In the same way we are living on the earth today, and God is designating us as the many sons of God through the same process of resurrection. He was the Prototype, and we are the mass reproduction.
Obviously we are not on the exact same trajectory (we don’t have to die on the cross; He took care of that for us) but we still need to experience resurrection by the addition of God’s life into us because this is the only way that we can be designated as sons of God. As we are sanctified (the divine element is added to us), transformed and conformed (the divine element shapes us), we are growing in life until eventually we are glorified (the divine element is fully expressed in us). We are going through the same process that Jesus went through today, and eventually we will be just like He is in life and in nature.
When we received the Lord we all received the life of the Lord into our spirit as a seed, and as we enjoy Him and experience Him this seed grows in us day by day. And just as there is no need to tell a carnation seed to grow into a carnation or an apple seed to grow into an apple tree, there is no need to try and become a son of God. All we need to do is water it, and this life will eventually manifest itself in us, making us the sons of God in full. Throughout this process the importance of our spirit cannot be stressed enough. Our human spirit (Proverbs 20:27, 1 Thess. 5:23) is where this all happens, and if we do not contact our spirit and be those who life and walk in the spirit (Rom. 8:4) then this is only doctrine and can never be real to us. When we eat something it is not necessary for us to know the full recipe in order for us to enjoy it; we just need to open our mouths and take it in. In the same way \we may not understand the whole process of designation, but when we open our mouths and call “Oh Lord Jesus!” we take Him in and experience Him as our resurrection life. What we need is more life! We need more calling! Oh Lord Jesus!
I have really been appreciating that this is the gospel we need to preach. We don’t have these riches just for ourselves; God wants to have many sons! We have to be those who go out and speak this to people! We are being designated as the sons of God, and you can be too! This is why we all are here, to be sons of God and to gain more sons of God. Eventually this will consummate in God gaining His full expression here on earth and in our enjoying of Him for eternity. What a purpose!
I’ve been sitting here at my computer for about two hours now, but if you asked me what I accomplished I wouldn’t be able to tell you. Its during moments like these that I really start to question the meaning of life (yes this is one of those tortured metaphysical posts again. deal with it). To me it seems like I spend so much of my life waiting for things to happen in the future, or just finding ways to fill the time until I can go do something. What a waste! Why haven’t I written the next great American novel, or actually sat down and wrote a song, or painted something, or picked up a hobby, or learned a new language…
Actually all those things just sound like more creative ways to fill my time as well. Growing up in the church life and going to the training, it can be almost a reflex to say that God’s economy is the purpose of my life and the reason for my existence. But I’m not just satisfied with parroting that anymore; I need it to be real to me. Because honestly, it’s not.
Just an aside here; how can any reasonably intelligent person not be tortured by the meaninglessness of human existence? We go to school to get good jobs to make money to buy things to support a family because that’s what our parents did and that is what everyone else is doing around us…but if that is all there is to life then that is pretty pathetic. And don’t start about that whole “driven by evolution to pass on our genes” business. That is not enough to want to keep on living. I have a deep need for purpose in my life, and the times I feel its onus the most are the times when I am not doing anything worthwile…like right now. But what purpose is there in the world? Making money…yeah right. Ask any rich person, and they’ll tell you material goods are not the way to happiness. Helping others…helping them do what? I was not born to help old ladies cross the street. Sure I’ll do it, but if that’s why I’m here then bring me the check please. I quit.
It’s kind of funny to me that this kind of mini-crisis would happen right in the middle of being here in Boston, giving yet another year to the Lord and pushing “real life” yet further back. I can’t deny that the Lord has led me here and that I believe He has a purpose for me, but I really need this purpose to become so real to me, in a practical and subjective way. I want to be a visionary. I want to really, really, see it. I want to see what the Lord is doing, and that THIS is why I am here. I’m not satisfied anymore with just going along for the ride. Lord, show me!
To me music is both terrifying and fascinating. When I listen to it sometimes I feel like the moth circling a candle, unable to stay away from both the beauty and inevitable destruction that it promises in equal measure. Music is a uniquely powerful medium, and its effect on me is equally powerful. I have listened to songs that have transported me completely out of myself, that have made me stop everything that I am doing and just listen, and that have evoked such emotion in me that I have cried from the beauty or the sadness, I am not sure which. Hello, my name is Stephen Bruso, and I am an addict.
I think the reason music has such power over us is that it has the ability to touch our soul in a very deep way. Music is the highest form of expression known to man, and through it we are able to express our thoughts and feelings in ways that mere words cannot even begin to articulate. One the one hand it is terrifying to think that another person’s creation could have such an effect on our very person, but on the other hand losing yourself in the music, just letting go, is an experience unlike any other.
However, I have to say that as I have been experiencing and enjoying the Lord more and more over the last two and a half years, I find that I enjoy music less and less. I have tasted the highest enjoyment, and now when I listen to those songs that used to move me to such an extent all I feel is a sense of dissatisfaction and can’t help but ask, “Is that it?” I mean, this is the most powerful medium known to man! How is this not doing anything anymore? Blaise Pascal once said that there is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man, and no matter what we try and fill it with nothing seems to satisfy but Him. Before I really knew the Lord music seemed to have this ability, but now that I have experienced the true satisfaction and rest in the Lord there is no way that I can go back. This is not to say that I don’t listen to music anymore because I still do, but I no longer look to it to provide my deepest enjoyment because I have found it to be completely and absolutely inadequate compared to the Lord. Nothing compares to Him, and nothing can approach the satisfaction and enjoyment that we can find in Him. God’s desire is to be man’s sole enjoyment, and I hope that as I go on I can be turned from everything else until my only satisfaction is in Him.