Monthly Archives: March 2014

Creative Energy Attracts

A desire for change is driven by dissatisfaction with the established set up.  Either there’s a bare table, and it wants to be a table with a flower arrangement on it, or there’s a mess that wants to be cleaned, or there’s ignorance that wants to be fixed…  you don’t change what you’re content with.

When we are young, or when we are angry, the energy for change is fast and hard – one speaks of being “driven”.   It’s a fiery energy.   It is great when you need to clean up sewage or rototill the back forty – and there’s NOTHING better for cleaning out the junk drawer.

But sometimes the task ahead isn’t a simple task – or even if it is, it’s a task that is beyond our current levels of energy or push.  Or maybe we have too much on our plates, and can’t devote all of our resources to one goal.  (How common this is, for mothers!)  If we only know the driven energy, speed and fire and oomph, how do we make changes happen one day at a time?

I find myself in a place, in several areas in my life simultaneously, where the energy of change can’t be the energy of destruction, it has to be the energy of creation.    I might have quite a lot of things I’d like to lose (pounds, weeds, dustbunnies) but I must keep my home running, be there for my husband, school my kids, etc.  I CAN’T exhaust myself powering through – all the other plates i’m spinning will fall.

I find that the energy of drive, when let out only a smidge at a time, leaves me more than a bit nuts.  It leaves me forever feeling negative – because that driven energy wants to make change happen QUICKLY.  When it does not, it sours and distorts.   I don’t want to become distorted.   So – how do I make change happen, and not make myself into something I am not?

Embrace love, patience, kindness, faith, compassion.  What?  How’d we get here – we were talking about weeding!  But I have faith that love will foster the change I seek.  Patience to slowly create good, and concentrate on creation.  Instead of focusing on the weeds that need to be ripped out, I concentrate on the flowers I’ll put in their places.  And I take time to *put flowers back in*, not just forever repeat the same cycle of “weed” “rain” “swear” “weed”.

Same thing with my body.  Instead of endlessly flogging myself with diet and exercise, I encourage myself to eat mindfully and be more active, choosing to do the things that leave me feeling really *good*.  I choose to read the books that leave me feeling good, say the words that leave me feeling good.

I choose to seek God in all that I do, small or great, and I have patience with the rate of change, and faith that change will indeed come through perserverence.

And this doesn’t distort me, this leaves me hopeful, cheerful, loving – with time and energy to pour out on those around me.

And *that* makes people wonder what’s different… which maybe, just maybe, might attract them to Christ.

 

Mining the Comments: The Call to Christ

Maeve is brilliant.  She said:

 I can recall that a long time ago I had a priest who was forever lecturing that our actions and our voices needed to be making people want to say “tell me more! tell me why you are as you are” and not “let’s get away from them; they’re so strange; I don’t ever want to be like that”.

Which, at least for me, leads to the following: and what, exactly is it about us that would make anyone want to even consider asking “why?” and thinking that maybe they could have a change of heart too?

I guess I’m less concerned with how “perfect” we appear to be, but rather whether or not people can see something is us that they want for themselves.   I would hope that what I display in my actions, words, demeanor, and appearance is that I have something wonderful in my life; something that makes my time here on this earth worthwhile and valuable; something that more often makes me a “blessing” to others than a “curse”. I KNOW that that “something” is my faith; I want it to be visible in a way that attracts that same desire for “that something” – faith in others.

I can tell you, from talking to my friends who are non-Christians, that this is NOT how Christians as a whole are coming off.   We’re supposed to have the Light of God inside of us, we’re supposed to be fearlessly kind, insanely loving, mindbogglingly forgiving… and mostly the Worldlings just hear us yelling instructions.  To them.

Living the Christian life isn’t *supposed* to be possible without Christ.  If the Law was sufficient, we’d still be under the Law.   So why do we yell about the new law to folks who haven’t signed on?

Oh.  Well, yes.  It’s much nicer to live with people who have the same values as we have.  Much easier to raise our kids (I have two kids.  Youngish kids.  I get this) when we don’t have to constantly explain to them what exactly that poster (or advertisement, or magazine cover) is about.   And it’s upsetting to watch people sink our world perpetually further into darkness.  Yeah, i get that too.  (Have I mentioned that I live in California?)

But we weren’t changed from the outside in, we were changed from the inside out, by the blood of Christ.  Isn’t that what we *really* want for our neighbors and friends?  That they come to Christ and be reborn?  Not that they’re pleasant to live with, but that we can live with them forever in Heaven?

I think we can still freak them out – but we need to freak them out by being so blindingly full of Christ that we are truly *not* of this world, and that we do indeed (thank you Maeve) make them want what we have.  Make them uncomfortably aware that we are different – not because of our rules, but because of our hearts.

And sometimes they won’t like that.  And sometimes they’ll hate it at first and then come ’round.  And none of their response to us being full of Christ is our responsibility – just our being filled with Him and getting out of His way in what He chooses to do in our lives – and the lives of those around us.   We’re only called to live His love.

Let’s do this.  🙂

Set Sail

What is the point of your life?

Is it to live in comfort and safety, taking all due measures to increase security?  Making money, making friends, keeping up with the Jones’ and being nice?

Or… is it to make a radical difference in the world around you?  To take the chance of being hated and making enemies, to have your friends misunderstand and disapprove of you… to invest in people that don’t look salvageable, in being different from the folks around you?

I say it’s the second one.  We know that things are temporary, souls are eternal.  We know that *our* souls are saved and in the hands of our King. John 10: 27-29 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.  We know what the great commission is:  Matthew 28: 19 -20 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

Taking the circles of relationship into a marine metaphor (as has been done by CS Lewis) – one could think of your first circle of relationship as boat maintenance.  You make sure your hull is patched up, check for barnacles, make sure you have all your gear, etc.  The second circle of relationship is how you’re relating to other boats in your fleet – can you sail together for a purpose, are you staying in communication, is everyone working together?  The third circle is where you actually go out and sail.  How does your little boat manage the sea?

I feel like a lot of the time, Christians tend to sail cautiously around the harbor and maybe do some formation work, when we really ought to be getting out to sea.  The battle has been won – and I get the honor of participating anyway!  Why do I keep hovering around home base, hoping not to get dirty?  I can’t *lose*.  1 John 5:4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith And I am *commanded to sail*.  I am commanded to tell others about Christ.  I have been equipped for the battle… why am I sitting at home, hoping someone else will handle it?

Remember that *this* is not Heaven.  This Earth is our place of work.  It’s the place where we’re supposed to strive to the uttermost, take some chances, invest in our Master’s plan. Matthew 25:14-30 (the Parable of the talents) Playing it safe is *not* what He told us to do!  We’ve all already won.  It’s time to get in the battle and see if we can’t get a few more folks out of enemy hands before the field is cleared for all of time.

Let’s get out there and be fearless!

The different circles of relationship

The first circle of relationship is internal.  It’s between you and God.  Where is your desire?  Is it to please God?  How is your faith walk?  How is your prayer life?  Who are you on the inside?  This will always ultimately pour out the cracks in your outside self – so making it a priority to keep this circle of existence in top shape is the only sane thing to do.

The second circle of relationship is between you and other believers.  Between you and your family, between you and the members of your church.  You’re under someone’s authority (everyone is), you have authority over someone else… how are you dealing with that?  Are you obeying in this circle?

The third circle of relationship is between you and the outside world.  How do you relate to non Christians?  To strangers on the street, to the grocery clerk, when you’re driving?  Is it evident that you’re a Christian?  If so, are you making Jesus look good?

The fourth circle of relationship is between you and the larger world.  This is you as a citizen.  How do you vote?  Do you vote?  Serve in the armed forces?  Write letters to your congressperson?

The four circles of relationship are all part of all of our lives.  Because we are all part of the body of Christ, each one of us has different areas of concern.  That’s how a body works – my legs walk, my fingers type.  Both are important!  Let’s not pick sides.  A healthy member of the body of Christ has to deal with all four circles of relationship.

*My* emphasis here is usually the first and third circles.  I am pretty intense about my relationship with Christ, and I’m equally intense about showing that in my actions to the world around me.  But if I leave off my second circle, and start to treat my husband poorly or flip off my pastor – that affects the first and third circles quite immediately!

Thinking of all four of these relationship circles enables us to sort out problems.  Say I had a problem with loving my husband correctly.  Is it a second-circle problem, where I need to learn to be a better wife in a practical fashion?  Or is it a first-circle problem, where I need to learn to obey my God?  Unless you know where the problem lies, helping me solve it is extraordinarily difficult.

As the world grows darker, our third circle – the light we shine around us – grows greater in importance.  But if we’ve no light to shine (our first and second circles are out of whack) we make Jesus look bad instead of making Him look good.

So, being that my gift is exhortation – let me exhort you.  Get your internal life in order, get your relationships in order… because that third circle?  It’s been neglected and misused.  We may never be the “nice people” again – which is fine – but Christians are supposed to be the *good* people.  God’s empowered us, He indwells us as the Holy Spirit – we need to let Him shine.

To God be the glory, great things He has done.

What can we do?

I had the rare treat of going to see Chuck Missler in person today.  (I know, geeeeeeek fest).  I expected a prophecy update.  That’s not quite what I got, and that’s interesting.  I mean, this is Chuck Missler for heaven’s sake!  The man lives and breaths prophecy!  Didn’t discuss a squink of it until the Q&A session, and then he tried to spend more of his time on the main subject at hand, which was “so what do we do now”.

What he did talk about was the seven letters to the churches in the book of Revelation.   He talked about church history, and how the folks that really cared about Jesus and the gospel above all else got in trouble with the rest of the church.  That this was normal.  He encouraged us to get into home fellowships, and to teach one another and encourage one another in our missionary activities.  (Assuming that all of us, as Christians, are missionaries).

There’s more, but that was the gist of the presentation.  I have reading to do, lol. Tonight my pastor hit it out of the park with a sermon about the first and second commandments – love the Lord thy God, and love thy neighbor as thyself.  Talked about “who is our neighbor” – and then he talked about the verse after it, how the scribe who asked the question was, “close to the kingdom of God” BUT NOT IN IT.

And all of that brings me ’round to a discussion on E’s site, where I got a bit ranty and said “If we could just say to people, ‘Jesus said do it this way’ and then help them follow His commands, we’d be hooked up”.  But that’s the THING.  People don’t care what Jesus said.  Sometimes they don’t care because they’re close to the Kingdom of God (and are pretending to be part of it) but don’t really care about submitting their lives to the King.  In which case, what can *I* do with that person?  The problem isn’t their behavior, the problem is their (lack of a) relationship with Christ.  I can tell you to obey Jesus until I’m blue in the face and explain what you should do… but if *you don’t love Him* it’s totally pointless.  Sometimes they plain don’t know Him and don’t care to – so again, what the heck?  My arguments are based on Biblical values.  If your value is “I do what I want to do ’cause I want to” – well, hey.  You go do that.  Even Paul will let you have at if you’re unsaved.  It won’t work out well, but … that’s how people come to Christ a lot of the time, they hit rock bottom and finally give up doing things their way.  That’s how *I* surrendered.

We’re going about this backwards.  I totally get it.  Our society is a muckpit (being polite) and it’s gross and I want to fix it too.  But the thing is – we can’t fix the outsides of people whose insides don’t belong to our Lord.  We say, “God likes you to do this” and they say, “whatevs”.

FIRST we must get them to Christ.  FIRST.  So first we have to show them God’s love and what it *really means* to be a Christian.  Not that we have weird rules for ourselves, but that we are willing to love them *right where they are right now* and keep praying for them and hoping for Christ to change them and having faith that the Holy Spirit is working in their hearts and lives.

I’m sorry.  I wish I believed that we could change this society from the outside in, that we could make people sane again.  But I don’t.  The only thing we can bring them is Jesus.

Yeah, in the meantime loving them means helping them find sanity and get closer to the Light.  But that’s not the end.  The end is agape-ing them *because that is what our Lord commands us to do* and giving them the good news that they can be filled up with this crazy, insane, doesn’t-make-sense love TOO.

Guys – they don’t want our denim prairie skirts, even though mine are tots awesome.  They just don’t.  But a lot of them don’t know a DANG thing about love.  Go talk to a non-Christian and come home and cry yourself to sleep.  I have.

We have Love.  We *have* to share it.  What if tomorrow – tonight – is our last chance to do so?  What if we’re the last person on the “might do the right thing” list?   We have Love.  We have Light.  And it doesn’t matter what they say about us.  It doesn’t matter what they do to us.  It matters that we share the Love and Light that was given to us by the grace of God.

We *have* things to do.  Let’s not get distracted along the way.

Fighting Despair

I have a friend who’s an ex-Catholic, and she introduced me to the concept of the Seven Deadly sins… and that each one of us is most plagued by one of those tendencies to sin.

It’s ironic that someone like myself, whose gift is exhortation, is most tempted to despair.  But ’tis true.  When my plans fail, when my work doesn’t show fruit, I have a tendency to give up.  And the more that the result matters to me, the more likely I am to get despondent when things don’t turn ’round quickly.

Now, I’ve battled through despair once… but the stakes were very high.  I was willing to walk through the valley of the shadow of death for what I battled for.  Other things in life?  Not so much.  They’re important to me, and I feel badly about myself for not making them happen, but worth my last gasp?  No.  Just no.

How can I battle on, when instant gratification isn’t going to happen and giving up is something I’ve done off and on for ages?

My first idea was getting more process oriented.  Instead of thinking about my goal, I need to think about the daily good things I’m doing that contribute to that goal.   Instead of thinking about being thinner, I need to think about the smaller portions and longer walks.  Instead of thinking about how I wish my yard looked, I need to make a daily time to spend in the garden.

That’s not a bad thing – but I need more.   I need positive stuff.  I need to not just think, “my small thing to do for this is x” because then I can despair if I don’t do X every day.  I need a carrot!   I need to find ways to take smaller portions (check) and *splurge* on spending time moving my body.  I need to find things I like about gardening (meaning I need to balance my time weeding with time planting and cutting flowers and harvesting fruit – because I hate weeding).  I need to feel like my daily stuff IS the good stuff, not just the medicine I’m swallowing down in order to *get* to the good stuff.

And that’s how my idol of approval gets a hold of me.  If I can get someone to tell me that my life is going well, then that means that it’s going well.  I don’t need another human to approve of me, what I need to do is submit my smallest actions to God and seek His approval in each day.

Each day, sufficient unto itself… because we don’t know if we’ll have a tomorrow, but we are supposed to do our best with what we have today.  That doesn’t mean I kill myself trying to complete the work today.  That means that I am faithful to *do* the work that’s put before me today, and then leave the result to God.

There’s nothing more difficult for me than to let go of the consequences and faithfully act each day.  No pie-in-the-sky, no cup-of-despair.  Just daily faithfulness and patience and perseverance.

And that is how I shall vanquish despair.

Battling Nothing

“And Nothing is very strong:  strong enough to steal away a man’s best years not in sweet sins but in dreary flickering of the mind over it knows not what and knows not why, in the gratification of curiosities so feeble that the man is only half aware of them, in drumming of fingers and kicking of heels, in whistling tunes that he does not like, or in the long, dim labyrinth of reveries that have not even lust or ambition to give them relish, but which, once chance association has started them, the creature is too week and fuddled to shake off.”  (CS Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, Chapter 12)

vs.

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

I wrote a blog post over at TBL http://hearth-tobelovely.blogspot.com/2014/03/do-more-good-things.html that really seems to have hit a few hearts square on target, so I thought I’d elaborate a bit over here.

The Enemy’s name *means* accuser, and he likes nothing better than to call you out on all the things you “should” be doing and battling you vigorously when you try to turn your face to the innocent things that you truly enjoy.  When you’re about to take a long walk, our enemy cheerfully reminds you about the pile of laundry.  When you’re writing an ailing relative, he’ll make you feel guilty about the weeds in the front lawn.  When you’re tired and it’s time to rest, he’ll keep you fiddling around with not-much.  To everything there is a season…

I’m quite sure that none of you sit at the computer fiddling around, click-click-clicking, looking for the place that *you* clearly need to put in a word, checking to see what the weather will be doing next week (five times since this morning), making sure all the places you “go” online are in good order.  No?  Just me?  And no one else feels (in the back of their heads) that they’re “working” if they’re sitting at their computer, attentive for that chime of the email… even if all they’re doing is click-click-clicking.  Surely.  “in the gratification of curiosities so feeble that the man is only half aware of them” only rings a bell with *me*.

No?  Apparently I am wrong, and this is common.

I’m no Luddite.  I use my computer heavily, and it’s my only during-the-day communication with my husband (who works outside our area-code and anyway is hardly at his desk).  But enjoying technology and using it can swiftly and silently turn into being used *by* it.   Clicking around can eat up hours of my day if I let it… for what?

If I’m tired (and sometimes the physical nature of housework makes me tired), then take a nap!  If I’m lonely, call a friend.  If I need a break from the kids – well, I can take one, they’re old enough.  It’s better for me to take an honest moment to myself to solidly recharge than half-way hold it, never getting satisfaction.  But so easy.  So easy.

An object at rest tends to stay at rest, and an object in motion tends to stay in motion.  When I’m inside, it seems so much *work* to go outside.  When I’m outside, I realize how much fun I’m having and I just stay there.  I worked hard in my sewing cave all weekend, consciously choosing not to check my computer every five minutes – and I felt all the better for it.

I’ve decided to call my click-clicking (and my snack-snacking) the fidgets.  The happier I am, the more I’m doing proper Hearthyish things, the less I fidget.  I work, I rest, I play.  I don’t fidget.  But get me nervous and out of sorts – like the two days this week when my husband worked extremely late – and watch me click so fast my mouse finger gets sore!

You have to make a choice to fight the fidgets, to be your best self doing your proper things.  You have to push back against the guilt that throws a list of to-dos at you when it’s properly time to rest or play – or when you’re neck-deep in doing something else.  The BEST way to do that is to pray, and the next step is to consciously start doing something you love.  Something that motivates you – I’ve decided boredom isn’t about not having anything to do (all housewives have a should-do list to the moon) but not having a list of things that you care about or are motivated to get done.  Similarly, when I’ve spent all morning working on something I love, I can power through my chores.  Tasks expand to fit the time you have to deal with them – or a bit over, if you really don’t want to do them at all.

Ignore the accusations, fight the fidgets, and defy the Nothingness.  You and I, we’re meant to LIVE.