05 May 2011


I’ve been off this blog thing for quite some time now. A few things have changed.

Probably my favorite change is that blogger.com (the lovely host site) keeps statistics on viewership and traffic for the blog. Sweet!

Since blogger.com has been keeping statistics (I’m not sure when that date is):

I’ve had 1,407 page views.

The views have come from the USA, Canada, India, UK, South Korea, Brazil, Japan, Ukraine, Australia, and Singapore.

The top referring site is www.google.com or some other international variation of .com.

What’s really cool?

If you search “cool bumper sticker” using Google’s image search, a picture featured in one of my posts comes up as number 6! (I can’t take credit for creating the image, however.)

I honestly think I might spend some time trying to get it to number 1. Anyone wanna help?

I’ve also married, moved from a floating, ever-traveling home to Denver, CO, and been to Disney World, but statistics! Come on! How exciting!

02 May 2011

Great Mercy

Perhaps God, whose mercy is great, can extend mercy even beyond the finality of death?

Or does God’s great mercy extend only to that which is contained in a human’s lifespan?

Consider 2 Samuel 24.

To summarize:
God ‘causes’ David to take a census of Israel and Judah. David enacts on this ‘causing’ and takes a census then feels guilty for doing it. He tells God he has sinned and asks for forgiveness. God sends Gad, a prophet. (Almost like God in disguise. “Wait, who are you?” “Go . . . um, Gad.”) Gad, from God, tells David, from Jesse, you have three punishments to choose from. Whichever you choose, God inflicts on you. One, famine. Three years. Two, running from your enemies. Three months. Three, plague. Three days.

David realizes he’s in trouble, but he does recognize he has some control over his fate. He responds: “I’m in a desperate situation, but let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for His mercy is great. Do not let me fall into human hands.” So, God, great in mercy, sends the plague for three days; 70,000 people died. I guess God chose for David?

Meanwhile, while God’s angel was doing His bidding inflicting plague, the angel arrived at Jerusalem. God ‘relented’ and told the angel to, “Stop!” Immediately the angel joined David who, on Gad’s, or God’s, orders was currently building an altar at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.

David had a dispute with Araunah who, noticing David was king, wanted to give David the materials to build the altar. (He was also cool with David building the altar on his threshing floor too.) David wanted to have to pay for the materials and the use of the threshing floor. He’s king and so gets what he wants. He paid 50 pieces of silver.

This is apparently where the angel came in and David noticed, as one notices angels just showing up, and pleas with God, “I am the one who has sinned and done wrong! But these people are as innocent as sheep – what have they done? Let your anger fall against me and my family.” David gave up his offering to God and God answered his prayer.

What a strange story.

I, for one, struggle to see God’s great mercy on display here. It seems God was behind this whole thing and David was just the pawn getting all the blame. God’s the bully, the mob boss; David’s hitting kids at the flag pole, whacking knee caps and dumping bodies. God was angry at Israel, God caused David to take the census, God caused David to feel guilty, God killed 70,000 people with a plague, and David is running around trying to make sense of it all. Great mercy indeed.

If we take the later of the two questions posed above as the extent of God’s great mercy, in this context and the context of the world around us, God’s mercy is neither great nor very merciful.

However, if we remove the limits placed on God’s great mercy, the limits of the human experience, the life we live and know, the lifespan of humanity, God’s great mercy suddenly becomes great. God’s great mercy suddenly becomes merciful.

David appealed to God’s great mercy. How was David shown mercy in that situation? How were the 70,000 who died from the plague shown mercy in that situation? It’s not evident immediately, but we’re given assurance from David and multiple other sources (Nehemiah 9:19, 27, 31; Psalm 119:156; 1 Peter 1:3 to name some) that His mercy is great. How? Where? When? Perhaps it is beyond our experience now to see how, where, and when?

I take great hope in God’s great mercy as I think many who proclaim some version of the Christian faith (actually, I’m sure many who proclaim some version of the Judeo-Christian God). I also take great hope that His great mercy is beyond what I see in front of me; death, disease, destruction, war, etc.

In light of recent events, in light of past events, and in light of future events, I hope we continue to plea for and give ourselves into God’s great mercy for the very reason that it goes and acts beyond what we experience, what we have experienced, and what we will experience.

15 March 2009

Poland Invades My Space

I love and loath awkward situations. I like to do things that make me uncomfortable because I like to see how I react, but once I’ve made myself uncomfortable, I like a little comfort to get be back on the ground. However, it seems frequently when I do find myself in an uncomfortable situation, there is no way back to comfortable, but rather only one path towards more discomfort. Speaking in relative terms, let’s look at a finite example.

Today I was given the opportunity to participate in a church service for people living on the street. Not something I’m unfamiliar with considering I’ve done it at least 3 times in Vancouver; twice having to give the message for the service. However, these past visits to such churches have not been opportunities to develop relationships, but rather opportunities to serve. Now, during this service in The Hague, I’ve was given the opportunity to develop a relationship with a man from Poland who is looking for a job while living on the street.

The situation was funny. I was sitting at a table with 4 Polish men, none of which spoke much English. They spoke Polish (obviously), Russian, Czech, some German, some Dutch, but very little English; I only speak English. I was thinking to myself why God would have put me in this situation. There are so many more qualified people back on the ship to be in this situation. There are people who speak English and Russian, English and German, or English and Dutch, but He had to choose to use the one who only spoke English.

Then another Polish gentleman sat down at our table. He had spent some time in England, so his English was quite good and he and I got to talking. He’s really focused on getting a job, making some money, and getting back up on his feet. In one sense, I’m pulling for him. He seems like a nice guy who deserves a break. But in the other sense, I know that even if he gets this break, he won’t be satisfied. The pursuit of money is not the pursuit of happiness; it really only leads to more disappointment. Only something infallibly faithful can be ultimately satisfying. Money has no ability to be faithful or not, it’s an object. Ourselves and others, who handle this money, are completely fallible and therefore are unfaithful and ultimately disappointing. God, being holy, perfect, and alive is the only one who can fill this void. So unless he finds this truth, he’ll be disappointed. It’s a sad predicament.

But, as my statement about being uncomfortable said earlier, my discomfort in trying to strike up a meaningful conversation with this man was followed up by actually connecting with this guy, inviting him to the ship, him saying he’d like to come, and him inviting me to visit the shelter he hangs around for a cup of coffee. With God you can never just get a little uncomfortable, that just becomes your comfort level and He’s not interesting in see you comfortable; at least He’s not interested in seeing me comfortable. So, He’s pushes the envelope a little more.

I suppose I just need to trust that God could and actually might do something with this situation; if not in the gentleman’s life, my own. And that’s probably what I’m most frightened of, seeing something change in my own life. Something needing to change existing implies something in my life slipping out of my control which implies I don’t have control over my life which implies blah, blah, blah. Basically, there are always going to be things wrong in my life. It won’t be perfect under my control because I can’t see in all directions at all times. Something’s bound to blindside me. Therefore, I really have no control, and so something else has control or there’s no control at all. I believe the former, but not always. This situation could help me in coming closer to always. Pray for it.

06 February 2009

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind

There’s something you should know. There are people walking around this world who just look lost. They tend to sit and stare, raise ridiculous questions, and just down-right act differently than you and me. Well, different than you; I happen to be one of them. We are those who think, like, more than normal. Who think without even thinking. Who tend to spoil the moment with their overactive realism. This is a confession of one such hyperactive cranium so that we may better understand each other as brothers and sisters in God’s family.

Those of us who tend to be on the more intellectual side seem to have very dangerous minds. If I could shrink you down Fantastic Voyage style and let you travel around in my brain, you’d see it rarely stops; I think it takes Christmas off. That’s the dangerous thing of it though, it never stops. We’re always thinking.

What are we thinking about? Everything! Have you ever thought as to why birds can fly and you cannot? Why dinosaurs are now extinct? Why God exists in three persons, one of them being 100% human, but is one god? Have you ever thought of these things all at the same time? This is the horrible life I and countless others are forced to suffer through. (Please RSVP to my pity party c/o clayton.zylstra@gbaships.org.)

One such consequence to this overactive intellect is the deprivation of hope. Given enough time to think through something, I can convince myself of anything about that something. When this happens, due to my human nature, I tend to rule out hope. Hope to me, in my most desperate hour, is a failure to see reality as it stands. If I have hope my sick grandmother will be healed, I fail to see the situation as it stands; her body is frail and she has to go sometime. If I hope that salvation will someday come to the world, I fail to see the brokenness of humanity and the sheer astronomical impossibility for everyone in the world to come to one agreement about who Jesus was and is; there are some people who love to disagree.

However, there is hope. Consider Matthew 22:37, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and all your mind.” I tend to find loving God with all my heart and soul quite simple (when you have very little of either, all of it isn’t that much). But I struggle to love God will my entire mind as evidenced with the depressing paragraph preceding this one. However, there are some of you who have no difficulty loving God with your mind (this is not to say you don’t have one as was implied by my finding simplicity in loving God with my heart and soul), but struggle with loving will all heart or soul. You can help me. You can help us. We can help you.

Luckily God made us all different; different because He put us in a community to depend on each other to lift up our weaknesses. You are to show us brainiacs how to love with our mind and we are to show you romantics how to give God your heart and we all need to show the spiritual wanderers how to love God with their souls. You are to remind us realists there is hope.

So, if you see someone sitting alone, staring off to nowhere, it might be tempting to just leave them alone, but it would be real encouraging to just walk by and say, “Don’t worry, there is hope.”

01 February 2009

Communication Breakdown

I don’t talk to God. Well, I talk toward God I think. I tell Him what I want, where I’m struggling, but it feels like I give it to him in voicemail format.

“Hey God, it’s me Clayton. Just calling to let you know I still feel anxious about the future. I realize I’m supposed to trust you and all, but I’m finding it difficult. My mind just won’t let up on this future thing. Do you think you could get me some peace of mind? I’d appreciate it. Well, hope to talk to you soon.”

I’m fairly certain God listens to his voicemails, but it seems a pretty crappy way to communicate with a heavenly father figure.

I feel like God is at a party and he’s talking with someone else and I’m just trying to politely wait my turn to ask him a quick favor. Both parties, God and the other guy, glance over and acknowledge I’m there. They both know that what I have to say won’t take any time at all, but they keep talking anyway. Then I grow impatient and I leave. I jump on the computer after getting home and shoot God a quick email.

“Hey God,

Saw you at the party tonight and I wanted to ask you a quick question, but it seemed you were a bit occupied. I’m just feeling a little bit anxious about the future. I realize I’m supposed to trust you, but my mind won’t stop focusing on the future. I was wondering if I could get a little peace of mind? That’d be cool.

Well, thanks for reading.


God reads his email, but I feel my heavenly father figure should be a bit more accessible.

I think I’m struggling with communicating. How often or how many different ways can you tell someone you’d just like a little peace of mind before you actually get it? Perhaps the failure is on my end. In fact, that’s highly likely, but what do I do about it?

My mind won’t let me in to fix it so I figured I’d go to the supplier. Seems as though I’ve been on hold a while. I keep hearing that I’m a valued customer and I keep getting thanked for my patience, but I really just want to hang up. I’ll just get someone on the other end that doesn’t speak English or doesn’t have an answer so they send me to another operator. They’ll probably tell me just to read the manual. I’ve been reading the manual, that’s how I’ve discovered I have a problem, but it doesn’t offer much in the way of a solution.

Maybe I’ll try calling God again. Nuts, voicemail.

“Hey God, it’s me Clayton. Just calling to let you know I still feel anxious about the future. I realize I’m supposed to trust you and all, but I’m finding it difficult. My mind just won’t let up on this future thing. Do you think you could get me some peace of mind? I’d appreciate it. Well, hope to talk to you soon.”