Monthly Archives: February 2014

Patience and Wonder

Still working along in the book, “Idol Lies”.  I must say I wasn’t particularly thrilled with chapter two *in the book* – but by the time I got done with the study questions, I had some serious food for thought.   The idol I have identified (this year) to work on is the idol of approval.  

A plan of attack and a plan of defense have shown up…

Plan of attack:  Wait upon the Lord.  All the verses that the study guide had me read talked about the immediacy of sinful desire.  So if I can consciously make choices to *wait* on approval instead of bouncing like a dog in a fake bacon commercial.. that would stave off the sinful aspects of approval-idolatry and let me work on 1) patience and 2) resting in the Lord.  Patience isn’t just a virtue – it’s something I need to have in my every day life.  I could start listing the ways that incorporating patience and not snatching would improve things, but we’d be here all day.

Plan of defense:  Focus on God.  This was in the study, and it’s on the header of my other blog… we are supposed to focus on the lovely things, and we’re supposed to look at God.  Biblically, that’s how we can avoid any amount of sin – put our attention on God.  So, I need to spend more time outside, preferably with time on my hands to just *look*.

Do you ever think about how the modern world works to separate us from a visceral understanding of awe?  All the time we’re plugged into the Matrix, whether our ears or our eyes… and when we’re not plugged into something for pleasure, we’re forced to for work.  Do you enjoy staring at ribbons of concrete when you have to drive somewhere?  Neither do I.  But if I sit and watch the hawks circle overhead for more than a second or two, I’ll find myself in an accident.

I need to be patient and wait upon the Lord, and I need to think about Him while I’m waiting… not just fill up my time with idle entertainment and comfort.

Patience and wonder.  That’s the way.

Faith Hope Love … and the right focus

I have faith that God will answer my prayers.  I enjoy loving on the people I have been praying for, and it is joy that God fills me with His love to pour out.  I have hope that prayers will be answered and fruition will be found.

But faith and hope aren’t words you use about things you can read on the side of a cereal box.   Those are words you use about things you cannot see, cannot touch, cannot taste.  You have to endure with patience and *keep* on being faithful and hopeful, keeping your eyes and focus on God – because focusing on the task at hand will kill your hope and set your faith in yourself and not on God.

If there was a prescription for praying for something in God’s will, every Christian on the planet would have a list.  We’d pray down our lists of good things for others, loving our neighbors.  Before long, we’d all end up praying for things like broken nails, because world peace and full tummies and righteousness?  Check.

But it doesn’t work that way.  Spiritual things *don’t* work that way, they rarely work in a linear easy-to-understand cause-and-effect kind of way.  We know that the prayer of a righteous person avails much, and that what we ask in Jesus’ name we will get (assuming it is in His will).  But there is a list of exceptions and free will has some odd mitigating factors.  (I don’t know how free will vs. God’s will works either, and no, neither does your theologian.  They have theories.  I know the theories, I just don’t know which one is true – if any).

No formula.  And we’re blind to the spiritual world.  We don’t know when our prayers have been answered, just are in queue to show up on our doorstep.  We have to have faith, hope, and a lot of patience!

I had some crazy stuff happen over the last couple of days.  Prayers were answered in a powerful way, and I was filled with joy.  Then I allowed myself to be distracted from my joy in the answering of prayer, in the glory of God, because of the crazy.  Taking my eyes from Creator to created.  -shakes head ruefully-

In our participation in God’s work, we can feel like – because we’re working – we should focus on our work.  Either to work harder or to criticize it or to be impressed by it.  It’s an abiding temptation.   I confess that to you – in all areas of my life!  “Just do it” and “abide” and “rest” – that’s hard.  To work but to look not at my work or the work to be done, just to chill out and do what’s placed in front of me to do and not worry about the consequences – good or ill.

Maybe it’s hard to look at God because He’s God.  Infinite and glorious, Light incarnate… all we do is drop our jaws and stare.  Overwhelmed, we pull away to look at ourselves, because we know what to “do” with ourselves.  But the things we know how to do with ourselves, in criticizing and praising our own performances, those aren’t from God.  That’s how the World decides what’s good work and what isn’t.

Because I don’t know how things work in the invisible, I focus on my own efforts in the visible.  But that’s never the answer.  The answer is to focus on God, to praise and glorify Him, to trust in His perfect love, and to get on with the work of the moment, whatever that is.  No worries, no fears, just … do what is next and get on with it.

 

About the Header

If anyone cares… 🙂

I came across that verse in my daily reading a few days back and it *perfectly* expressed what I’m trying to say and do with this blog.  Snapped a pic this morning (that’s the 8am sun from my backdoor) and… there you are.  🙂

It could be prettier, but then WordPress isn’t the pretty blog.  Anyway, it’s all about content over here.

It doesn’t always have to be hard

One of my great failings as a Christian is the tendency to grab after all the smallest whispers of sin.  Someone will say they have a problem with gluttony, and their symptom was a fondness for banana splits.  Immediately I’ll respond (in my head), “I like banana splits.  Ohmigosh.  I’m a glutton!  I have to give up ice cream!  How hideous I am!”  It’s not conviction from the Holy Spirit, it’s self-condemnation.   Banana splits are intrinsically yummy – liking them doesn’t mean I’m misusing them.

There’s a temptation in the long-churched… to pursue personal perfection, to be the first person to throw a stone at oneself, to be long-faced and downcast lest unholiness sneak in.   We don’t play cards or dance or go to the movies or wear buttons or bright colors or… yeah.  Humans.  We like to make rules where God hasn’t legislated.  If you’re under conviction, you’re under conviction – and that’s one thing.  If you’re not, but you want to look (or feel) “good enough” … well, there are folks lined up ’round the block with rules.  How many would you like?

My gift is exhortation.  And love.  I love like I breathe.  It’s not like I can help it.  You’ll recall your Bible… the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness, self-control… okay.  So I’m a Christian.  Love is something that *should* be part of my life.  The fastest way for me to cut that flow off is to try to force myself to be something I’m not.  I’m a briar rose – trying to train myself into topiary is pointless and ugly.

Beating myself up because of something random that God hasn’t convicted me about is just … it’s me trying to use the pruning shears on myself.  Sure, the branches get trimmed – so what?  If I’m one of the branches of the Vine, I can’t very well trim *myself*!  Just breathe and surrender and bloom, that’s my business.  Bloom and enjoy blooming.  Enjoy who I am, who God created me to be.

And bring it back to Him.   That popped into my head tonight during church… the love that God’s given me through His Spirit, why can’t I aim it at Him once in a while?  I don’t have to self-flagellate and hate and stomp my sinful flesh all the time.  That puts the focus too much on me.  I can open my arms and turn my face to God, turn my attention to Him, love on Him.  If He made me what I am, then why not give Him what He made me to give?

And rest and bloom and enjoy.  I don’t think any of us are meant to force ourselves into what we aren’t.  The Creator made us each unique, and when we find what He made us for, we’ll find great joy in blooming where He’s planted us.  Hating ourselves because we’re not calla lilies is silly.  Is it sinful?  Does He convict?  No?  Then just be.  Relax and bloom and shine and just BE who you were created to be.

Love.  Let go of fear, and LOVE.  “There is no fear in love…”

Hearts open like the petals on a flower…….

 

Idols and Approval

I don’t suppose I’ve ever mentioned this, but basically I write when I have something to say – which means that sometimes you get lots of blogs together, and sometimes I wander off into a corner.  Sorry for the drought, regardless.

……

Reading a new book for a Bible study with a friend at church.  She says I’m not allowed to read ahead (poo!) but it’s already been quite useful.   The book is called, “Idol Lies” and it’s by Dee Brestin.

The theme of the book is the hidden idols of the heart.  Now the church has been talking about idols in the life of a Christian for a while – people, activities, possessions, etc.   This book changes that up by focusing on the heart-attitudes of idolatry.  A need for approval, a need for control, a need for comfort.  Focusing on the sources rather than the results.

I always know when God wants me to pay attention, He says stuff twice.  :p  My last book as an intern was “Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership” and while I’m not a leader, I took it seriously enough to look for my weakness, which landed me on a desire for approval.

I’ve been through the worst of the crucible of choosing other people’s pleasure with me over God… so I thought we were done here.  It surprised me to be called back to this – but there’s always a new stone to extract, even in a well-plowed field.   And the more I think about approval, the more I think, “Oh.”

As I said to my husband, I take out the garbage to make someone else happy.  There is very little in my life that I do that isn’t designed to please someone else or elicit their approval.  (If you want to know what I do totally for myself, it’s eat, sleep and read.  It’s a short list).  If you ask me if my need for approval is an idol, that I’ll put above God?  No.  As I said, I’ve been through that crucible.  The most important person in my life, I had to hold out.  It hurt.  But I know that I will make that choice when it comes down to it.

So what gives?  I’m growing in maturity.  And mature ladies don’t let themselves be knocked down by every disapproving glance.  And they don’t spend their time worrying about how others see them, they stay on course and worry about the other’s good and God’s glory.

I don’t see myself changing my nature any time soon.  I figure God made me to make the people around me happy, and doing so brings me joy.  It’s oxygen to me*, as t’were.  But being a joybringer doesn’t mean *I* have to let myself be tripped up.  I expect I might just be more effective if I’m spending less time worrying about what those I’m trying to love on think of me and just loving on them.  (Love is in my blueprint, can’t help it).

Well.  Only one way to fix a hunger – feed it.  And so I asked God to be closer to me, let me feel His presence more in my life and let me know when I have pleased Him.  The need for approval is never going to go away – I’ll just have to put it in its proper place, with everything else, at the foot of the cross.

This looks to be an interesting read, I’ll keep you posted if I’ve got more to tell!  🙂

*hat tip of the phrase to my friend L

 

Faith and Prayer

Just keep praying.

Elspeth has a post up about hard converts vs. lifetime churchmembers that’s well worth reading.  http://lovingintheruins.wordpress.com/2014/02/05/church-kid-vs-the-hard-convert/

The church I attend has a very high percentage of adult converts.  It is humbling to hear the number of “interesting testimonies” in our ranks – and to see the faith radiate off of them. The folks whose pre-Christian choices radiate bad stuff into their lives, but they accept it, pray against it, pray for strength, and keep moving.  The depth of their love for our Lord is amazing.  Their faith is so strong, and so good.  It is glorious.

Someone was praying for each of those adult converts.  For all the research that most Christians came to Christ before they were old enough to buy alcohol, adults DO come to Christ.  There are no lost causes.  We need to not treat our friends and family members as if they’re on the enemy team – no matter what.  They’re humans, and humans all have the potential to come to Christ.  To change, to turn their lives around.  We are Christians, and to be Christian is to believe in miracles.

Perhaps you’ve given them the gospel, witnessed and debated and they’re tired of hearing it.  Keep living Christ out in front of them, and let your actions do the preaching.  And don’t stop praying.  You *know* that God’s will is that they come to Him, so you know that prayer pleases God.  Pray.  The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much… be fervent in your prayers for the lost.   Don’t lose hope.  We’re supposed to have hope as a gift of the Holy Spirit.  Pray for hope and belief for yourself!  Pray for perseverance for yourself, that you are strong to continue in prayer on their behalf.  Hold fast to the gospel and the truth, don’t get wishy-washy to please them.

And if you were blessed, as I was blessed, to grow up in the church, to grow up in a family of believers, thank God for that blessing.  Because your life (even if there might be an excess of jello salad) is a lot better than it might have been.  You might have made foolish choices, but you *knew* the truth.   And if you’re reading this, you probably came home.  And how blessed it is to be at home with our Lord.

Have faith, keep praying – you don’t know what work the Lord is doing on the inside of those hearts around you.