I’m typically not a fan of New Year’s resolutions, for a variety of reasons I won’t get into, though mainly because I don’t see why we need to wait until January 1, a random, arbitrary date, to make a change in our lives.
But this year I decided to break my own resolution about not making New Year’s resolutions by setting three:
- Go somewhere new every month.
- Stop saying the F Word and every variation of it.
- Study the Bible.
It’s the last one I’d like to get into today and, ideally, every Sunday I can for the remainder of 2019, and hopefully long after that.
See, I was raised in a Christian household. We went to church here and there and we prayed a bit and we were taught to believe in God, and all three of us – my brothers, Tyler, Cody, and I – went through the motions just fine.
But did we really believe what we believed? Did we know? Or did we just accept it because that’s what we were supposed to do?
I didn’t know. And I didn’t for the first 26 years or so. For the past few years, I’ve begun reading a good bit of literature on the topic, with the best two reads being The Case for Christ and More Than a Carpenter, the latter a gift from the parents of Matt Blanke, one of my closest friends. I began going to church more, having more conversations about faith. I even read the entire Book of Mormon.
Yet I hadn’t cracked the Old and New Testament. Which I began this year, and every Sunday I’m able, I’m going to share my thoughts, reflections, musings, what I liked, what I didn’t like, what I got out of it – whatever it is I’m inspired to write from what I read in the scriptures that week, that’s what I’ll write. It’s more for me. Writing about things I’ve read helps me absorb it better. I’m just publishing it because I like discussing these kinds of things, learning from other people’s thoughts and takeaways.
Today’s January 20. I’m only 41 pages in, and those 41 pages have been a high-octane thrill-ride. We’ve had a flood. We’ve had a slave, Joseph, who was accused of rape, became a prisoner – and then rose to second in command in all of Egypt and saved an entire nation from a seven-year famine. And now we have Moses, who’s an interesting case – born into a sure-death, floated down a river, discovered and raised by Egyptians, excommunicated from said Egyptians, tapped by God to save the Israelites from the Egyptians. At the moment, Moses has saved his people from the Egyptians. Most of you have heard of the parting of the Red Sea. That just happened.
It’s a lot.
There’s a lot going on, especially with Moses, who essentially hasn’t had a day to relax since he was born. Reading it has had an interesting effect on me, namely in that it has made me want to stop complaining about a single thing, for what could possibly compare to that? Yet I’ve been doing that a lot of that lately. I’ve been doing that because I’ve been feeling a strange sense of overwhelm, stress, scatterbrain. It’s an odd sensation for me, given that I typically oscillate exclusively between two types of moods: happy, and annoyingly happy. Why I’ve felt this way makes sense; I’ve accepted a full-time job building up p1440’s digital content, which I began a few weeks ago. At the same time, I’ve been easing out of my other freelancing jobs that sustained me for the past three years in California – writing for VolleyballMag.com (I’ll still continue writing SANDCASTs for them), guiding high schoolers with college application essays and other writing help, writing for DiG Magazine. Meanwhile, Tri and I are brainstorming ways to expand SANDCAST, and as a beach player, I’m devoting more time to practice and lifting.
It’s a blessing of a problem to have, and I’m mindful of that. But it’s still created an odd feeling of irritability for me, begat from frustration from doing too many things at once, not having enough time to do all of them, and inevitably not doing any of them well. So I’ve turned my attention to a concept of stillness. Not physically still, but mentally. How can I get my mind to just.
And then I came across Exodus 14:13-14. Moses is leading 600,000 Israelites away from Egypt, away from slavery, away from a life no reasonable person could enjoy. But where are they headed? Nobody, even Moses, seems to know for sure. Meanwhile, the Egyptians, who are quite pissed the Israelites have fled, are hot on their trail. The people are looking for answers.
“Moses answered the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.’”
Not physically. No, if they just sat there, they’d have been overtaken by the Egyptians and either slaughtered or returned to slavery. But mentally, all God asked was for them to be still. To trust. To have a little faith. It’s a concept my good friend and pastor, Graeme Cowgill, espoused, one he coined dynamic stillness. It means, essentially, that while were physically doing many things, mentally, we’re calm, because we know we’re doing what we’re meant to do, what we’re supposed to do. In Moses’ case, what God intended him to do.
And would you look at what happens: Moses stretches out his hand, parts the Red Sea. They cross. The Egyptians don’t. Victory is had.
All because of a little stillness, a little trust.
It was just last week that a pastor at a church I attended said “A little faith can change the world.” Indeed it seems it can. One just has to be still enough to grasp it.
Whether you believe in God or not, the Old Testament or not, the New Testament or not, it really doesn’t matter. Moses has an inspiring story. If you’re not a believer, I get it. It’s physically impossible for a human to part a sea on command. Just think of Moses as an OG Avenger. You can be inspired by the Avengers even if you know that Captain America isn’t a real human being and that we’re never going to have Thor mixing it up with Thanos in New York City.
What I took from it is this: If the Israelites, former slaves, who had been through plagues of locusts, frogs, gnats, flies, hail, darkness and witnessed the Passover – one of the most terrifying events yet in the Bible – who are being pursued by an angry Pharaoh and an army of well-trained Egyptians, can be still, can trust, can have faith, well hot damn, how hard can it be for me?
In these first 41 pages, the concept of stillness is an oft-recurring motif. Noah was stuck on an Ark for an undetermined amount of time, and yet he was remarkably still – and it all turned out ok. Abraham was commanded to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, and he was still, full of trust – and it all turned out ok, as a ram took Isaac’s place. Joseph was sold into slavery, wrongly accused of rape, thrown into prison, and yet he was still – and it all turned out ok, as he interpreted the Pharaoh’s dream, correctly predicted a famine, saved Egypt, and was second in command of one of the most powerful nations on Earth.
All because of a little bit of stillness.
Favorite verses thus far
Genesis 14: 22-24: “But Abram said to the king of Sodom, ‘I have raised my hand to the Lord, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, and have taken an oath that I will accept nothing belonging to you, not even a thread or a thong of a sandal, so that you will never be able to say, ‘I made Abram rich.’ I will accept nothing but what my men have eaten and share that belongs to the men who went with me – to Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre. Let them have their share.”
Genesis 18: 13-14: “Then the Lord said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.’”
Genesis 40: 8: “’We both had dreams,’ they answered, ‘but there is no one to interpret them.’ Then Joseph said to them, ‘Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams.’”
Genesis 45: 4-8: “Then Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Come close to me.’ When they had done so, he said ‘I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now, there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will not be plowing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all of Egypt.”
Genesis 50: 19-21: “But Joseph said to them, ‘Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.’”
Exodus 3: 13-14: “Moses said to God, ‘Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?’ God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”
Exodus 4: 8-12: “Then the Lord said, ‘If they do not believe you or pay attention to the first miraculous sign, they may believe the second. But if they do not believe these two signs or listen to you, take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground.’ Moses said to the Lord, ‘O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.’ The Lord said to him, ‘Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.’”
Exodus 14: 13-14: “Moses answered the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still.’”
Exodus 16: 16-18: “Moses said to them, ‘It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat. This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Each one is to gather as much as he needs.’ The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. And when they measured it, he who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little. Each one gathered as much as he needed.”