Arrow Not Shield

“When we think we are in control of the results, rather than called to be obedient as we release the results to God, we will experience guilt, tension, and discouragement”. – Dee Brestin, “Idol Lies”

My main spiritual gift is exhortation.  I’m God’s little cheerleader – the friend that will come alongside you and encourage you to do whatever it is that you need to do, the one who always has the optimistic lookout, the one who will smile while she kicks you in the rear.   I do that unofficially, I’m going to start doing that officially soon (finally found the right people to connect with at church… mentorship program here I come).  I enjoy being who God made me.

But it is VERY easy for me to fall into thinking that I have some control over the outcome.  I don’t!  Even when I’m working with someone hand-in-hand for years at a go, I don’t have control.  When I start believing that I control the results, and that the results have something to do with *me*… well, I get discouraged.  (It’s always the reverse of your best gift that is your worst sin – I’ve swallowed despair’s lies a time or two, to my shame).

I’ve been in a period of mostly short-term missions, where I’ve been learning to open myself up to just bringing a little of God’s light where ever He points me.  And thus He’s taught me to be an arrow.  Fly swift, straight, obedient to His direction. Do what I’m supposed to do, say what I’m told to say, pray and love and embrace and encourage.  God gave me the gift of love – I love easily and naturally.   It makes exhortation easy – I love very nearly everyone, so naturally I want their best.  It’s not like I can help it.  :p

But love makes me protective.  And I am not supposed to protect.  I got hit with that 2×4 today while doing my study.  I’ve been burdened with unforgiveness for someone who hurt someone I love for decades – I kept willing to forgive, doing the work, praying… and finally it broke today.  I was using that unforgiveness, that old hurt, to hold “strong” so that I could protect.   (Pretty sad source of strength, oh well).

But the Lord is her shield.  Not me.  The Lord is MY shield.  And all my loved ones – if they belong to God, they’re shielded by Him.  He never asked me to stand in His place – that’s His job. I need to let go.    He is the avenger of blood, He is justice, He will protect.  Not me.  Never have I been asked to do these things – I wasn’t made for that.  

To be who God called me to be, I need to be able to give my very best and then leave the results to Him.   To open my hands and to trust in the God who loves more than I could ever imagine loving.   I need to keep my eyes open to opportunities to do right – I’m being challenged to really step up in maturity – but I don’t have to carry the weight of the results.  Not my burden.   I’m just an arrow – I have to drop the burdens so that I can fly whereever the Lord chooses to send me.

So… time to fly!

Boredom

Boredom is much maligned around these parts, but boredom is a useful emotion.   (I certainly am not defending those who say, “I’m bored” and then wait for the universe to provide novelty – the sensation of boredom, however, is worth exploring).

Boredom, or the craving for novelty, is what starts people doing and learning new things.  I, personally, am forever getting an itch to do something different or learn something new.   And what has that got me, you ask?

One year I learned to bake bread, properly.  And I baked so much bread I provided 75% of my family’s bread that year.

One year I decided to stop being afraid of pastry – and learned to make a mean pie.

One year I decided to try my hand at tailoring.

This year it was making corsets.

There was the year I did a proper double-dug garden – in heavy clay.  (I was younger then, but yes – I really did, two feet deep and properly fluffed, every inch).

For me, boredom is the push that makes the difference between, “I’d like to learn about that someday” and “Today is a good day to start”.  If I was perfectly content doing the same things over and over and over… I’d be the same person I was decades ago.  And wouldn’t *that* be dreadful.

Some people find that travel satisfies that itch.  They have to see what’s on the far side of the hill.  And why not?  We need explorers.  We need people who like to bring back novelties to those at home.  

Some people find that serious study satisfies the itch.  They start learning about insects and never stop… sometimes those people make interesting discoveries.  Until the last century or so, most scientists were rich and bored – or monks and bored.  The room to work with, the room to explore… time to “waste” that becomes time not in the least wasted.  The ability to try new things.  

Boredom isn’t a bad thing, it isn’t a bad thing at all.  It’s only bad when you don’t see it as a push to open new doors in life.  There are always new things to do, new things to learn, new things to see, new things to experience, new things to contribute to the world around you.  

It’s only a bad thing when you stop at, “I’m bored” and don’t go on to, “Well, now what?”  No one else can satisfy that itch, you’re just going to have to get off the couch and do something.

Carpe diem!  Let’s go find a rock to turn over, shall we?  -grin-

Otherworldly Thinking

In this world, we’re told to:  Make our own destinies.  Take action.  Steer the course for our lives.  We’re told that we *should* control our situations, our surroundings.

It’s very counter-cultural to be willing to cast all cares aside and trust utterly in God.  And it’s *not easy*.  It should be.  But it is an otherworldly way of thinking, and it is a battle.  Ah, yes.  We’re supposed to take every thought captive.  But those captives can make quite a noise behind their prison walls….

I want to be something I’m not yet.  I want to be like that hermit on the hill who trusts God to bring him food and drink, sunshine and rain, joy and meaning.  I want to soar effortlessly along, flying on wings of faith.

“I want” is always a problem, is it not?  :)  Are we humans ever satisfied? Satisfied with ourselves, satisfied with our surroundings?

I look at myself and I am displeased.  I make the mark, “Be ye perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect” and I fall short.  (Duh).   And I grit my teeth and shove hard on that prison door, leaning on it to hold it closed.   Instead I should be holding this verse to heart…

1 Peter 5:7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.

Instead of holding the prison door with my strength, perhaps I should take those thoughts captive so I can hand the string over to Christ and have done.  Not burying the worries, but surrendering them.  Surrendering them over and over again – as often as they come up.  Talking things out with Him, not just confessing anxiety.

Not every moment of life can be easy.  For me, being patient in a time of change is terribly difficult.   It doesn’t have to be easy, it doesn’t have to look easy.   Because I have hope.  Hope not in the change, but hope in Christ, that whatever comes will be beautiful.   All this *will* pass………………

It’s positively otherworldly, to let it go and not try to hang on and steer.

Right Action, Perfectionism, Control

I like control as much as the next person.  As I’ve been writing about control as an illusion, I’m starting to realize that one of the ways I exhibit my desire to control my life is by displaying the inverse.  When I can’t get the results that I want, I walk away.   I give it my all, do everything I’m “supposed” to do – and when it doesn’t work out, I can say, “Well, I did everything I was told, and it didn’t work, so I’m out!”

I’m showing that my hope is in the result.  That what matters is what I’m showing, not what I’m doing.  The outside, not the inside.

It’s results-oriented.  I’m trying to let God make me into someone far more process-oriented.   There are far too many factors in life that I have no control over – results aren’t my business.  But that doesn’t mean I can just throw up my hands and walk.   Nope.  I still need to do my duty, even if I think my right actions aren’t making a difference.   There’s where faith comes in – having the faith that God’s got it, and He’ll make good from my little mud pies.

And ripping my hope in the results out and letting it burn.  Because God’s “good result” might not be *my* “good result”.  Our pictures aren’t necessarily the same.

Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

It’s tempting for me to play it safe when I decide to be process oriented.  Why give my all and not get my prize?  After all, if I’m going to sweat, I’m going to sweat for a result, right?   RIGHT?

Wrong.

Colossians 3:23  And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;

That verse was written to servants serving their masters, but can it not equally apply to me, working for myself?  Am I not a human?  How much stuff do I do *for myself*.  For *my* goals, for my pride, for my glory?  (Yes, I’m wincing as I write this).

There’s no way to rip this desire to please myself out without replacing it with something else.   So then, with what shall I replace this?

With a desire to please my Lord.

And how can I make *that* desire more than an intellectual exercise?   I have to spend more time with Him.   Fall more in love with Him.  Talk more with Him, and listen when He tells me where to reach and when to wait.

Greater dependence on God, less dependence on me.  … And still get up, do what has to be done, and do my very, very best while I’m doing it.  Shine and dance and sing – for an audience of One.

The way out of perfectionism, the way to let go control, is love.  Loving Jesus and obeying Him in all things.

 

 

(In an exhibit of God’s usual humor, I started listening to a CD that I bought my husband for his bday as I was writing this.  The first song and the first paragraph… ah, Lord.  Some days you’re louder than others… -shakes head, laughs softly-)

Love and Courage

I was thinking about the paladining thing again today…. and was called to read 1 John 3.

1 John 3:23 This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us. (NASB)

Sometimes I get sucked into this world’s wisdom, and wonder, “should I play it safe, should I put up the defenses and concentrate on my own life”?  And … that’s not Biblical.  Sure, we should concentrate on purifying ourselves as He is pure (also in 1 John 3) but … for what purpose?  It’s not for the purpose of our salvation, we know that our works of righteousness are as filthy rags to our Lord.

Looked up the word love as it is used in this verse … Quoting from Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary, in regards to agapao (love/charity):

“Christian love, whether exercised toward the brethren, or toward men generally, is not an impulse from the feelings, it does not always run with the natural inclinations, nor does it spend itself only upon those for whom some affinity is discovered.  Love seeks the welfare of all (Romans 15:2) and works no ill to any, (Romans 13:8-10); love seeks opportunity to do good to ‘all men, and especially toward them that are of the household of the faith,’ (Galatians 6:10).

Love is about putting ourselves out there to do good stuff for those around us.  It doesn’t matter how we *feel* about it.  And we’re *commanded* to love.  That’s the Big One.

God never EVER told us to make nice safe pleasant lives for ourselves.  He told us to go out there and love others, as He has loved us.

God is ultimately in control of my safety and well-being.  He is the creator of the Universe.  Control is an illusion… the gunshots I heard the other night could have come through my bedroom wall and sent me directly to Heaven, no stopping along the way.  But they didn’t.  The wave that I dived under today could have broken my neck.  A shark could have swam up and eaten me.   A car could have hit me – good heavens, I drive on I-5 regularly, that’s probably the most death-defying thing I could manage!

So – since my safety is in God’s hands, what’s really in my hands is what I do with my days, hours and life…………..

I will love.

 

Culture Shock

I’ve written a bit about this before – how conservative Christians are going through something akin to culture shock, because the larger culture is writing our static sense of morality as a failure to stand by the Christian values of love and kindness. It’s terribly painful, the more so when we know that it isn’t true. We aren’t always NICE – but we do actually do things for those less fortunate, so we’re probably kind and loving.

But why do they attack us? Why not the Amish or Mennonites, with whom we have 90% agreement on things Scriptural? Because the Amish are not a power. They’re quaint. Conservative Christians did hold a great deal of power, and people who say that they are Christians still do.

We are, as is everyone else alive, manipulated by the currents of society. We allowed ourselves to be shooed into one “team” – and social media has done one thing exceptionally well, and that’s reduced dialog between intelligent people to teams chanting fight songs. All of us – conservative and liberal, Christian, Pagan, Jew and Gentile… we’ve been reduced to teams.

The opposing team (or teams) sees us as a team to be deposed, a power (a dangerous, not-to-be-trusted power) to topple, an enemy to vanquish. If we are lucky, they merely wish to reeducate us.

And so we find ourselves, having lost the culture wars, being treated like any other fallen foe. We were expecting a frontal attack, we were the victims of a whisper campaign. Confused, upset, acting out… trying to win hearts that have been seduced away by bread and circuses.

But we have a way through. We can come together around the person of Jesus Christ. I might disagree with some of you about daily practice – but we can agree about who He is, what He does, and that He is in charge. We can circle up the wagons and worship our Lord together. We can hold each other up in prayer, we can encourage one another, we can strive to bless one another.

And then – then, with our hearts gladdened, we can remind each other that this is not our home… and that our enemies aren’t flesh and blood. Not one of those people who hates us so much is truly our enemy. They are all potential siblings in Christ, all potential members of our family. We have been given instructions for such a time as this – all we have to do is open our Bibles and read. And then love. Love those folks spitting in our faces. Love them and welcome them with open arms when they hear the Lord’s call.

Whether we believe that this is the time of the end, and soon our Lord will call us Home, or if we believe that this is just another time of trial to walk through, the Church as a whole *will* be on the other side of this change. We know that to be true. So let us stand firm.

We can see and deal with the stages of grief as the world hands us the black hats… but let us hold the regard of this world loosely. It was never *this* world that was made to love us, and we can never lose the Love we have been given.

Nothing may be “normal” again – normal doesn’t matter. God does.

Normalcy?

Is what we assume “normal” more cultural or more Biblical?

When we do (or don’t do) something because that’s just how it is, our actions or lack thereof come much more naturally. That’s why we as parents are so protective of what our kids consume via screen time and who our kids associate with. That’s why if you have friends who swear like sailors, soon enough you’ll be dropping F bombs too.

This is one of the reasons fellowship is so important, as is community. If you feel like “people do this” because “people do this” and your actions aren’t at all exceptional – they’re easy. When you’re the outlier, the lone wolf, conforming to whatever standard you’ve set for yourself becomes that much more difficult.

We say things like, “Did your mama raise you in a barn?” to people who fail to live up to our basic social expectations. But how do we intelligently question our expectations and align them with the Bible rather than with the surrounding culture – and how do we then support ourselves in said endeavor? And how do we help those around us do the same?

We find ourselves in a transitional time, culturally, especially those of us who are socially conservative. We were raised with certain expectations of behavior – niceness, courtesy, helpfulness… all of which align more-or-less with NT values. It becomes very easy to equate those Biblical values (kindness, gentleness, etc) with conservative values (girls wear pink, boys wear blue). However, equating the two does us a couple of disservices – it pushes away Christians who aren’t of our own culture, and it makes us easy targets for hypocrisy (is it more important that my son not wear nail polish, or is it more important that he obey lawful authority?)

The larger culture is moving rapidly to moral relativism, which is implicitly anti-Christian. So – knowing that we need to have ourselves reinforced by those around us – do we withdraw in order to create community? Do we attempt to create a community within the larger culture? Do we understand the difficulties we’re under and prayerfully dedicate ourselves to going it alone with God?

I can’t answer those questions for anyone except my own family… but I can bring this up, so that we can start questioning the ways we live our lives, checking ourselves against the Bible rather than Little House, and reminding all of us that we were chosen to live in such a time as this.

Question your assumptions. :)