Saturday, August 9, 2008

Surprise Me God, Update #4

Hey everyone,


Not much to report here in Wolff house during the Dog days of summer. Our oldest two girls are off with friends at a sleep-over, and they will get to go horseback riding. We have the new Wii Fit game (thanks NaNa), and the kids are using it consistently, which is nice to see. Exercise and fun? Crazy idea, huh?


Well, here is my short and sweet update on praying 'Surprise me, God' over the last few weeks – I think I am becoming a better listener, to both people and God. For example, this past Tuesday or Wednesday I had lunch with my bride. Now this was the height of the Brett Favre mania on TV, and the restaurant had the ESPN news reports flashing all-over the screen. And it was an effort, but I gave my wife my attention. She needed some time to talk with me, and tell me some of the plans she has, and it was great.


A second example was a new Client who is both blind and deaf. Now this would normally seem like an insurmountable hurdle for me, but he called me and wanted me to come over and visit and I did. Our meeting was a little comical. But I did see someone who needed a new friend in his life. So I hope to make my new Client's home a place where I become a regular visitor.


Finally, the Word of God is fresh and new, and I am feeling like I am getting more help from the Holy Spirit, especially over the past few weeks. It's fun to have issues I am debating (in my own mind - J), and to have the answer clearly given to me, though I literally have read this same verse a number of times before. For example, I still think about the topic of how much of our own effort or work Christians need to put in to grow in righteousness. And though I have read Romans 9:30-32, many times before, this morning it jumped out to me, righteousness comes through faith, not by working at it. And then I also came across John 6:28-29, which repeated the same thought: Then they said to him, "What must we do, to be doing the works of God?" 29 Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent." So I am spending more time in the Bible, enjoying it more, and having the blessing of God's Holy Spirit open it up to me more than it has in years.


So why do I think God is speaking to me now more than before I started my "Surprise me God" experiment? My quick answer is that before I spent too much time in my thoughts thinking about crafting the perfect arguments to persuade my atheist / unsaved friends. And things I read were also designed to help me in making the perfect "Tom" argument against unbelief. And so I see now that this is wasted effort. So I've given up much of my argument crafting reading / thinking, and replaced it with thinking about God's Word. I think this is the way I need to be fixing my eyes on Jesus, rather than on my own efforts, but I'll need more assurance of this before I abandon it altogether. So that's what's going on in my faith walk this week. I hope anyone visiting my Blog is also being blessed by God in whatever ways they are seeking and walking with Him. I pray this for you in the name and righteousness of Jesus, Amen.


edward oleander said...

Actually I think it's a great thing for you to turn your spirituality inward. Among the Pagan crowd, that is considered the best way to seek enlightenment. Kinda matches some Buddhist tenets that can really apply to any religion.

I can hear kind of a wide-eyed wonder in your "voice" in these posts, and I think that's pretty cool.

I hope you don't give up the efforts with us unsaved though. I believe that keeping your mind sharp with the debates will help you when you're focusing inward. It takes a freshly sharpened mind to cut through the inner mish-mash. I also think that building an Unbelief-proof "Inner Tom" gives you a sort of quiet place to go, kind of like an inner Fortress of Solitude. Our debates help you keep the Fortress in good shape.

I know it sounds a little funny for me to be encouraging you to bolster your faith. Truth be told, I don't think I would ever want to see your Faith crumble. You're too interesting the way you are, and I don't think you would survive long as an Apostate anyway...

John's home... we need to find a date for breakfast. His niece is still hanging on, and he sounded kind of upset to have to return home when he did, but vacation time was short. He might benefit with some talk time...


Bryan & Meggan said...

Hey Tom,
We've heard about the financial situation you guys are in and we wanted to let you know that we are praying for God to give you opportunities to get some more income. Above all else, though, we pray that you and your family would remain content in whatever He gives you as you work diligently in whatever work He provides for you. He is a faithful God and He is a good God.

On the apologetic front, I long ago came to your conclusion personally. I understand if some people are wired for those kinds of discussions, but I usually find them to be a waste of time. However, the information gathered by such apologetic studies are always encouraging as they affirm the viability of the Christian faith. I personally prefer to study Scripture as you seem to be in this season of life.

Much love,
Bry (& Meggan and Lillian)

tom wolff said...

Hey Bryan,

Thanks for your prayers and your encouraging words. I agree with you that things learned in trying to help the unsaved, seem to help most and encourage the saved. Its one of those weird paradoxes I guess...?

And thank you also Ed. I appreciate your comments. I'm not saying that if we get together that I'm going to stop witnessing to you. So yes, I would love to see both you and John, and see how you guys are doing. If not over breakfast, maybe at a coffee shop? Let me know.

tom wolff said...


I think you meant to be kind when you say I am working in a Zen-like / inward spirituality, with my ‘Surprise Me God’ experiment. So let me share another story from Tuesday to get your take:

My son is going into 1st grade. He had a first meeting with his teacher and it was scheduled for 2:00 p.m. I wanted to go and meet his teacher, and I wrapped up what I was working on at 1:33 p.m. I knew Peggy would be driving our son and leave about 1:45 p.m. And so, to make it from my office in Bloomington back home to Burnsville, I needed to go very fast.

But I decided to follow the rules of the Bible (obeying traffic laws – Romans 13), and trust God instead. So I went the speed limit the entire way, I was praying to God, and I felt no sense of urgency. And just as I pulled up into driveway, Peg was in her car and had just put the key in her ignition, and they were just about to pull out. So I made it just in the nick of time. I view this little story as an example of God’s timing being perfect.

So was this an example of Zen-like inner-spirituality? I equate what you're apeaking of as something like the 'Force' in Star Wars: Trying to tap into an unknown / unknowable spiritual power. (Insert your favorite Star Wars line here: _______________________). (I will go with – I’m your father, Luke. Search your feelings… add heavy breathing.) But what you call Zen isn’t what I’m about, and isn’t what I’m doing. It's not something inside of me that I'm tapping into.

Instead, I think I’m doing something the Apostle Paul described as ‘Walking in Christ’. He uses this phrase in Colossians 2:6-7, where walking in Christ means walking with faith and thanksgiving. Here is the verse: “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”

Thus, it is not some sort of unknown Zen / “force” I’m dealing with. Instead, it is the known Triune God, His known Holy Spirit. ‘Walking in Christ’ looks to me as very different than the Zen-like walk you’re speaking of. To ‘Walk in Christ’ means to be “established in faith”, faith that Jesus died for my sins, and He is my Savior. And what better news can there be than this? Thanksgiving is so much easier when I am focused on Christ’s sacrifice redeeming me, than on my circumstances. And that God loves me based upon my faith in Christ, and His Grace. So I believe walking in Christ, walking in faith, trust and thanksgiving, is what brings me this peace I am currently experiencing. So there then (that’s Minnesotan for Amen!)

edward oleander said...

Hi Tom,

Of course I meant that as a compliment, and in a kindly way. And yes, the thing with driving... That was so Zen it hurts.

Like most westerners, and Christians in particular, you have a hard time separating Zen from Buddhism. Zen has nothing to do with an actual spiritual force. It is a way of interpreting the forces that actually exist. It' not a religion, but a philosophy, and works well in conjunction with any existing religion. Because it's roots are tied closely to Buddhism, and it's from the same part of the world, the two tend to get mashed together a lot.

My favorite book of Zen quotes has several from the Bible in it. Jesus is considered, by Zen scholars, to be one of the greatest Zen Masters to ever live, assuming all statements attributed to him are true.

Okay... Maybe the fact that you're on a Zen journey is one those surprises you're looking for? you have to admit, you didn't THAT coming...


ps: Here's a test for you: when you were busy obeying the traffic laws, were you biting your nails about being late, or were you calm?

pps: If you have ever driven somewhere, and basically didn't notice the passage of time during the drive, but were suddenly kind of surprised to find yourself at your destination, THAT is Zen in action... It's about the closest an average American can ever get to a meditative/contemplative state of mind...

Meditate on this, Grasshopper...