Looking for the Third Option: How my library book made me think again

IN this digital age I still read printed books from the library. Yes, my town is still blessed with a library. And, yes, I’ve been known to read eBooks; they need no shelf space, are searchable, highlightable (should there be such a word) and quotes can easily be copied for the obligatory social media sharing. Physical books, on the other hand, don’t need batteries, aren’t prone to startling you with notification sounds and don’t emit harmful light when you read them in bed. And with the added technology of a bookmark, I get real-time updates of how far through I am, at a glance.

None of which is particularly relevant to the point, except that the point was made to me by reading a physical book.

End GameThe work in question is End Game by Matthew Glass, which GoodReads describes as “a powerful geo-political thriller set in 2018 that describes the build up to a confrontation between the navies of the world’s superpowers, U.S. and China, off the Horn of Africa.” Couldn’t have put it better myself.

The build-up to said confrontation begins with shenanigans on the US stock market. The book was written in 2011, just three years after the 2008 financial crisis, and envisages how the influence of investment funds belonging to foreign governments could conceivably wreak havoc and bring about another crisis. It was quite an eye-opener to realise how much influence other nations can potentially exert on a country’s economy via their investments. Our economies are deeply intertwined and we’d better get used to it.

Add to the mix a UN-sanctioned military intervention that unwittingly upsets the Chinese, stir well and wait for a few weeks until you somehow end up with a standoff between navies that could lead to a major war. The fictional US President can’t quite believe how this has escalated and despairs that such financial and military crises should converge just as the country goes to the polls for the midterm elections. Not only that, but none of the options his advisers give him are appealing, all leading to disaster one way or another, sooner or later. They pretty much boil down to a classic Hobson’s Choice between Act Tough or Back Down, both of which will have dire consequences as things stand.

Until, that is, the US ambassador to the UN challenges the President to think again. She manages to get him to consider the work of a professor friend of hers who’s been predicting exactly this kind of issue as globalisation marches on in its various guises – not least, on the world’s stock markets.

While the academic isn’t accustomed to applying his theories to the real world, let alone coming up with pragmatic solutions, conversations between him, the ambassador and the President eventually lead them to the Third Option.

Desired effect

The Third Option emerges from considering two questions:
“What might be driving them to behave like this?”
and
“What do they want?”

These questions might sound trivial, but up to that point, it’s clear nobody has really asked them. Naturally, the resulting diplomatic and military strategy, although risky, has the desired effect. The military forces stand down, there are internal political maneuverings in China, concessions are offered by the US and things get back on track. Lessons have been learned and the tale reaches a very satisfactory conclusion.

And…?

“Nice book review,” you might be thinking (I wish), “but what’s this about it making you think again?” Well, I see a general moral from the tale that when you seem to have no good options, there’s always a better way if you look hard enough. And, with God on our side I genuinely believe that’s true; the Bible promises that He’ll give wisdom to anyone who knows they lack it and who asks Him. (Caveat: Sometimes an option that looks bad to me may actually be the right one; I just don’t want to follow it!)

wpid-Photo-5-May-2013-0957.jpgBut it just so happens that the story made me think again about two specific issues in my personal life where I felt I was either banging my head against a brick wall or repeating mistakes of the past. In both instances I could predict with reasonable certainty what my options would lead to, none of it particularly helpful. So I asked for that wisdom and believe that in both cases I was pointed to a Third Option. For one issue it came from reading articles on a web site; for the other it was literally a case of telling myself that my normal reaction had been unhelpful for long enough so I needed to change it.

Just like in the novel, my Third Options don’t sound particularly insightful or sophisticated, but they’re what I needed to at least start off down a hopefully more fruitful path.

Telling (not)

By the way, I’m aware you may be curious about what my issues actually were. Because I had no intention of saying what they were, I hesitated to write this post but decided I would, if only for my own future reference! So – sorry, not telling. Not because they’re terrible or scandalous, but because they’re private (remember that word?!).

The more important question is: Do you need a Third Option today? Get looking, get asking. If you seem to be heading for disaster now or disaster later, pray for the better way. Pray for the right conversation, the right idea – whatever it takes.

 

 

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Growing Pains

“What we often don’t realize is that the thing we are trying to get away from is the thing that God is trying to use to grow us.”

Talk about the uncomfortable truth. Like this blogger, I have a strong aversion to discomfort, pain or even mild inconvenience. You’d think I’d have learnt after 30+ years that God’s agenda isn’t the same as mine; but no. I still like to entertain the delusion that belonging to a loving Heavenly Father means He’ll always see it my way.

Good reminder.

Grateful because…

Because I sat in church today

And in front of me were song lyrics celebrating Jesus Christ's resurrection

His victory over death.

 

Because I sat in church today

And to the left of me were my son and daughter-in-law

A blessing from God.

 

Because I sat in church today

And to the right of me were my daughter and son-in-law

Both following Jesus.

 

Because I sat in church today

And behind me was my wife, playing with my granddaughter

Both made me smile.

 

Because whichever way I turned

Gift upon gift upon gift upon gift

That's why.

 

Easter Sunday 2016

Why doesn’t God…?

Why doesn't God heal me / my wife / my mother-in-law?

Why doesn't God make me more successful / give me more money / let me find my dream job?

Why doesn't God get rid of those antisocial neighbours / unpleasant colleagues / rude people?

Why doesn't God [enter your current concern / worry / struggle / burden / gripe / pain here]?

You get the idea. The stuff that bugs you / really hurts you / gets you down / causes you serious anxiety is different to my stuff, and changes over time, but if we're believers in Jesus Christ we all ask the Why doesn't God…? question from time to time.

I'm here to tell you that there are only two possible answers, whatever the stuff / trouble. And they both relate to the F-word.

No, not that F-word.

Faith. In God.

Because although God may want to answer my prayer / grant my request, I need to excercise the faith that says He is good, He's my Heavenly Father – and that I need to ask Him. The Bible says He knows what I need before I ask – which implies that He expects me to ask. And if it applies to what I need it applies just as much to what I want. He wants me to come to Him in faith, relate to Him and speak with Him – rather than just sitting back then complaining that I don't have what I want. It puts the emphasis on Him instead of me.

Equally, He may know that it's best for me not to get what I think I want. He may want to grow something else in me, grow some more faith in me, by putting up with my troubles / disappointments / failures and exercising the faith that says He Knows Best and that He Plans Something Better.

Hard to do? Absolutely. Easy to write in a blog post? Totally. True? I think so.

What's your question for God? Bring it to Him – along with the F-word.


This post was prompted by my wife's godly wisdom in response to my bemoaning something not to my liking.

 

 

It’s OK for Christians to be anxious

No, really, it is! I found it in the Bible. OK, so it's in the New Living Translation, which is a bit of a paraphrase but is my favourite for general reading. I find it often brings out meaning I would miss from the NIV, which is my standard “proper” translation. And I tend to find The Message a bit, well, distracting somehow. It, too, has its moments of clarity but I don't like reading chunks of it.

So back to the being anxious thing. Here it is:

You won’t spend the rest of your lives chasing your own desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God.

1 Peter 4:2

Told you. While some may quibble with the translation, I doubt many will dispute that it is a good thing to be anxious to do what God wants, what with Him being Creator And Lord Of All and everything.

Apologies if you you were expecting controversy, heresy or some other aberration at which to be outraged. I don't actually think worry is OK at all (I'd go so far as to call it a sin – yikes!). Have a read of this post of mine on that topic and then come back here for the rest of today's deep insights.

There's another verse about doing God's will that I've always “liked” (in the traditional, rather than Facebook, sense):

for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

Philippians 2:13

(And that one's from the NIV, as that's the version I learnt it in back in the eighties when doing Navigators Scripture Memory.)

So I would thank God for that verse and comfort myself with the knowledge that no matter how badly I seemed to be doing, or however unfruitful my life was, He was at work in me so that I'd want what he wants and then go out and do it. Methinks, however, that I've been somewhat passive and not playing my part. Because Peter says I'll be anxious to do God's will, not just sitting there waiting to be inspired to want it. And he also says:

The end of the world is coming soon. Therefore, be earnest and disciplined in your prayers.

1 Peter 4:7

Earnest. Disciplined. Prayers. I need to ask God to bring this about in me. I need the power of the Holy Spirit enlivening and empowering me. I need to submit, surrender and make myself available to be compelled by the love of Christ like the apostle Paul was.

Fact is, none of that is new to me. But I'm coming back to it, and Him, afresh and looking to be that person who wills and acts according to His good purpose, anxious to do His will. I know He'll answer prayers like that, and already is doing. Please pray for me that I'll not forget, give up – or be anxious when I shouldn't.