Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Spiritual Fruit-Flies

[The following is taken from a reflection I wrote in the summer of 2009. The grace of God is as real today as it was then. Enjoy!]

It all started when I finally got around to cleaning the kitchen...

The tension between the fruit flies and myself over who had dominion over my kitchen was reaching the boiling point. It had happened a few times this summer, where we had let the kitchen go a week or so without cleaning and then the annoying little bugs would start to show up. Usually the method of retaliation just called for an hour of cleaning and then the fruit flies would (I assume) die of scurvy soon after. Lately however, the consequences of uncleanliness were becoming more severe. The days got hotter, the kitchen stayed dirtier longer, and the fruit flies began distributing war propaganda amongst their own kind. This called for more drastic means of subjugation. Why clean the mess when you can simply trap the fruit flies in a container with a piece of fruit, toss the whole thing in the freezer and watch them drop...like flies?

Well, sending 'em to the cooler was fun, but obviously the solution was a thorough and sustained cleaning. Actually, I love cleaning kitchens. I find there's something therapeutic, maybe even spiritual about it. It was during this long clean yesterday afternoon, listening to MC Hammer and scrubbin' away that I started to see the first parallels to the Christian experience. You can probably guess what I'm thinking. Before Christ, life is a mess and then when the Holy Spirit convicts us, we are driven to pursue that ongoing redeeming process, which some call progressive sanctification; the idea that we are not perfect but that we submit to the leading of the Holy Spirit to be at work in us until we die, and then we shall be like our savior (1 John 3:2)! It's a great truth, one of my favorites!

But here's where I want to camp out for a bit before moving on, because I think there is another half to this truth, that doesn't get its fair share of air time. We as Christians love talking about progressive sanctification predominantly when we got our hands in the sink. When we have screwed up our courage, accepted conviction, (forwent lunch in my case), and got into the fray, we can talk about perfection in progress, cause we're seeing it and touching it as we speak. We step out in faith to take on a challenge and God is right there providing for our needs as we go. What a good day to be a Christian!

The reality is though, our perceptions of progression and perfection are often drastically different from those of the God we serve.

An hour later, I went back into the kitchen for a long anticipated supper in my clean kitchen. I had chicken ready to be grilled and taters, cheese, and veggies in abundance! When I stepped into the kitchen and turned on the lights I was unpleasantly surprised to find that the population of fruit flies that had contentedly been spread out in the apartment had amassed on the grill I was intending to use, doubtless hungry for whatever in the kitchen still had a trace of food smell on it.

It was in that moment that the realization and frustration prodded my mind that if I had let the mess remain, I wouldn't have had half as many flies in my way. Spread out they were bothersome, but when they descended like a cloud in the one area I wanted to make food, it reached the point of aggravation! There was nothing left that I could clean to make them go away. The ambition and the fervor of that afternoon was gone and I know that too many people know exactly what that feels like.

This is inevitable to all who seek to follow Christ, for as we strain for godliness and freedom from the entanglement of sin, there always comes that moment where we expect specific results and instead we get slapped up with a reminder of how far we still have to go. And I know a lot of people who are probably in a place like that right now in their spiritual walk. They've hit the ground running and they've stepped out in faith, and everyone's on board and life is being transformed, you turn a corner and suddenly,


We're in over our heads. My prayers aren't "working". Evil has taken the upper hand and I'm slipping.

And can I'll be honest with you, I wouldn't have even bothered with the first half of this post, if it wasn't for this part right here. Cause you probably don't need to hear that from me. You don't really need to be encouraged about progressive sanctification when you are seeing that transformation take place before your eyes. What I'm concerned for in my own life and in the lives of my fellow brothers and sisters is the tendency we have to loose faith and to withdraw when the situation gets bleak, as if somehow God were ashamed of us and needed some space.

What a sick thought...

Remember when he saved you? Was it cause you were outstandingly clean or moral? Or was it in the moments of your greatest depravity that he dared called you lovable? And I'm not writing this to deny that we do have a responsibility to pursue Christ or to spell out how this valley and hill experience works, but my heart is aching for those of us who are entertaining the thought that maybe we somehow disqualified God's progressive sanctification.

And I know that this kind of issue is difficult to address on a wide scale so I'm not going to try, but my confidence is that Jesus Christ is our savior today as much as he has ever been. And I will encourage us to take greater stock in his word that he will never leave nor forsake us. We're going to make it!

"being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:6

And for the record, dinner last night (eventually) was incredible and with a small piece of peach, I was able to kill 75 fruit flies with one strike from my sandal! (I even took a picture on my phone!) Well, that's it for today's analogy. If you've been able to keep up, I thank you kindly!

Shalom until next time!

Jake Rivers
August 17, 2009

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Free Inside!

Something wonderful happened to me the other day. It was kind of moment you never quite see coming, but when it does, you wonder if you could ever forget it.

Brown is Chocolate, Red is...Power?
OK, maybe I'm exaggerating. Let's go back to Monday when I selected a new cereal at our local Brazilian supermarket. Now generally, I try to play it modest when it comes to hyper-sweet, kid's cereal. Heck, for a few years I was putting down bran cereal like it was my job! But to this day, I remain quite partial to the occasional "Start your day with a sugar rush!".

Living in Brasil has meant learning to adjust to a whole new world of brands and flavors. Typical Brazilians do not commonly eat cereal, which leads to a pretty lean selection, for a steeper price. Thus, I was quite pleased to discover a rising assortment of the "Sugar flake" variety, which, in agreement with corporate opinion, are not just good, but are indeed, "Grrrrrrrrreat! In fact, it appears Brasil is a few brands ahead of the Canadian market when it comes to these pseudo-corn confections.

Seriously, I can hear a Top Ten list forming
in my head, just looking at that bear...
This time around, I decided to forgo the beloved steroid-stricken tiger for for something new...In this case, what appears to be the answer to the riddle of what you'd get if you crossed an animated polar bear with Jay Leno.

Anyways, the real adventure came as I popped the box open yesterday morning and was met with a tsunami of nostalgia.

A "Free-Inside" Hot Wheels! (The kind that drives when you pull it back)

I know, right? Totally awesome! In one moment, I was transported right back to those moments of sweet vindication that make childhood worthwhile. [Now, I have to admit, the car was contained in a separate package from the cereal, which defeats the whole purpose of searching through the cereal to get the prize, but in that moment, it was nothing but pure thrill!]

Then came the cold dose of reality:

"I have no use for a Hot Wheels car! What am I going to do with this thing? I have enough clutter in my apartment back home...Oh well, I suppose I can always just give it away to some kid here in Brasil..."

But after I finished my hummingbird-worthy breakfast, I came upon a new discovery...This little guy comes with "Do-It-Yourself" stickers! You know what that means!

"Ashleigh! Cancel my appointments for the next five minutes, I have a ride to pimp!"

Let me tell you, man. I stuck those stickers. With precision enough to make an artist weep, I placed those 17 minute bad boys like a boss. Soon I was holding up my finished creation for the world to behold. She was a beauty. She was perfect. She was...mine?

Oh crud...

It wasn't just those black and orange stickers that found themselves attached to my little car. Like a sentimental fool, I'd gone and instilled value in something I was planning to just give away.


Well, I suppose I have a tough decision ahead of me...So, at this point, I'd like to put the question out there,

Q1: What would you do in my situation?

Q2: Have you ever found yourself outrageously attached to something ridiculously silly? If so, what is it?

Let me know your thoughts,


Jake Rivers

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Women and Missions

Mary Slessor, 19th-18th Century
missionary to Africa.
For this week's Wednesday night conversational ESL class I have the privilege of opening up the discussion on "Women and Missions". As I slowly wandered my way through the familiar stack of missions text books that form the lion's share of our portable library here in Brasil, I found myself perpetually struck with a growing realization.

I love this topic.

Why, you may ask? Take a look.

1. Controversial Reasons: There's a lot of room for debate here, whether it's explaining why women comprise TWO-THIRDS of today's missionary force, or why women comprise 70% of the 1.3 billion people living in deep poverty. Not to mention the classic debate of where the lines (if any?) are drawn for women in church ministry. And when I say GOOD debate, I'm not give any praise to the H8ers* and the Trollers* who talk big and do nothing. I mean the debate that actually gets people thinking in a way that leads to action (James 3). Maybe at some point in the future I'll actually post more on my convictions regarding this one, but for now I'm glad that people are talking about it, because (let's be honest), it's something we need to be talking about both in the church and in the world!

*I've never used these terms publicly before. Please correct me before I make a n00b of myself.

2. Personal Reasons: I married a woman. She is a missionary. I love her.

3. Encouraging Reasons: This is huge. I am amazed and filled with joy, reading about the accounts of women, who, for centuries, embarked into the unknown, faced sickness, death, disease, loneliness, ridicule, and more for the sake of the gospel. What a powerful testimony through the ages!

I want to go even further on a limb here in regards to the many single women today who feel the call of God to serve him in missions. You ladies do not receive the respect and encouragement you deserve. I cannot know what it may be the Holy Spirit leads you through or what sacrifices you may need to make to run the race set before you. But I do know that you are part of a powerful legacy. And you have the very real assurance of Christ that HE will be WITH you to the very end. Be encouraged sisters, His grace is amazing.


Jake Rivers

Friday, November 2, 2012

Star Wars Re-casted!

With the recent corporate shift of Lucasfilm into the Disney Empire, many of my fellow fans have resurfaced their old (and generally impossible) aspirations for the future of Star Wars. Not to be outdone, I felt it only fair to contribute my outlandish speculations on what would happen if the original Star Wars trilogy was re-filmed and re-cast today? 

Here are the actors and actresses that come most readily to mind:

Luke Skywalker: Rupert Grint
Sure, he's a nerdy ginger, but let's be honest, we actually really liked him for it in Harry Potter. He could easily pass for the hopeful farm-kid with big dreams, who actually feels heroic when the need arises.

Princess Leia: Ellen Paige 
Strong, intelligent, elegant. Ellen's got it all. There's nothing lifeless about this one. Yet she doesn't loose her cool at the drop of a hat. You need that if you're gonna tell off Han Solo in the midst of his swagger. Speaking of which...

Han Solo: Nathan Fillion,   Hugh Jackman   Robert Downy Jr.

Let's get one thing straight. Harrison Ford IS Han Solo. Period. What we're talking about is who could do justice to the character if presented in a different light. Fillion is perfect. However, the Eternal Laws of Parody require that the Firefly lead stick with his Serenity and leave the Falcon alone. Hugh has the scruff and the smile, but he's just too...jacked! Downy Jr. delivers the class and the charisma. Plus it'd be fun to see him as the "street smart" know-it-all for a change.

Chewbacca: Will Ferrell 
Hear me out, please. Let's start with the essentials. Chewie is freakishly tall: Check. He makes weird noises: Check. Also, let's remember that you need to be a top notch physical actor to pull off the speechless role. Any fans of Ferrell's early SNL career will affirm that he is in fact, a genius when it comes to physical comedy. ....OK, I didn't want to say it, but he's also VERY comfortable running around without clothes! There, it's out! Next character please?

C-3PO: Jim Parsons
You need to ask?

Obi-Wan Kenobi: Pierce Brosnan 

You heard right. His life as a man of action is all in the past. Now He's the old warrior with a twinkle in the eye and the spunk to get the job done right. "These aren't the droids you're looking for..."

Moff Tarkin: Daniel Craig
Speaking of Bond...Does it not add a chilling depth to this character? He's willing to go to any lengths to destroy his enemies...And he's the bad guy! Gives me the creeps!

Lando Calrissian: Will Smith
Really, why not? This the story all about how, I came to be the Baron Administrator of a place called Cloud City! "My, oh my, what have we here...?"

Mon Mothma: Judi Dench
Once again, back to the Bond franchise. She's a leader, we respect her, and if you need to hear the news that many Bothans have died, who else would you want to break it to you?

Emperor Palpatine: Ralph Fiennes
 To be honest, this is more of a test just to see how much evil one actor can personify. Voldemort, Hades...etc. Secondly, I want to see Mace Windu send a Patronus saying: PALPATINE HAS TAKEN OVER THE MINISTRY OF MAGIC!!!

Darth Vader: Lawrence Makoare
Don't be afraid, the voice is still Mr. Jones, but that intimidating giant in dark armor can't go to just anybody. You probably don't remember the name, but you remember the presence in Lord of the Rings. AKA: Lurtz, Gothmog, and... THEFREAKINGWITCHKINGOFANGMAR!!! YOU DON'T KNOW THE POWER OF THE DARKSIDE!!!

Well, that's as far as I got for know. I'd love to hear some of your ideas for any of these or other beloved Star Wars characters. Until then,

May the force be with you!

Jake Rivers