Monthly Archives: October 2017

Perseverance in Prayer

Taking off of yesterday’s post, considering last night at prayer meeting….

Sometimes when I pray, the Holy Spirit shows up very obviously.  (No, not tongues – I just pray with a lot more power and a LOT more boldness than is “me”).   This happens often in corporate prayer, sometimes when I’m alone.   It is no more likely to happen when I’m fasting than when I’m not, and no more likely to show up when I’m emotional about the subject than when I’m not.  It just happens.  And when it does, it’s AMAZING.  Just… amazing.  It feels wonderful.  If every prayer time could be like that, that … yeah.  Addictive to the Nth.  I *wish* I could call that up – but I can’t.  It’s.Not.Me.

So, when that happens, especially since it’s not “me” doing the praying, I’ve considered the matter handled.  Why should I continue to pester God for something He’s given power to?  That seems rude.

And then I bang up against that parable.  And the way that Paul talked about his own prayer life.  And the admonition to “pray without ceasing”.  -sigh-  I read the story about Daniel, praying and fasting for 20+ days for Israel, and how although the angel was dispatched to chat with him on day 1, it took all that time (and prayer) to get the angel over to Daniel.  It’s very clear – persistent prayer is *important*.  I don’t get to leave off my prayer duties just because the power and passion showed up one day.  Even though I feel ridiculous, having wept on my floor of a Tuesday, just reading off the prayer request on a Wednesday.  My feelings don’t signify.

I find the working of the spiritual world very confusing.  Someone needs to print out a roadmap.  Wait.  No.  Then we go all controlling, which leads to occult stuff.  Yeah.  I know.  I get it.  Blindfolded in a room full of rattlesnakes, we don’t go bumping around.  Bah.  It’s still CONFUSING.  How do our prayers affect God’s sovereign will?   How does this work?????????

It’s all part of this weird lesson.  Patience isn’t just sitting here, waiting for God to do what He said He’d do.  It’s getting up and working toward those goals every day.  Hope and Faith and Trust work together, and Patience and Perseverance work together.   Yesterday was big stuff for me, I’d thought Patience was just sitting there, waiting and trusting and holding still.  But it’s not.  It’s moving forward, even when you’re not getting positive feedback.  Of COURSE it’s important to have prayed and fasted and gotten counsel before you start moving – oy!  If you’re not going to depend on constant happy signs, you’d best know what you’re about, and know that it’s Biblical.  This Christian life business isn’t as cotton candy easy as some folks make it look…

Some part of me doesn’t like this because it gives me too much power, and some part of me doesn’t like this because it relies too daringly upon hope.  I mean, it’s one thing to hope as you sit passively, looking out the window.  It’s another to trust God for the harvest while you’re out in the fields, with no backup plan.  Trusting God to make good out of what I put out there is a terrifying prospect.  Knowing (as I do) that some of that will be harvested in my life, but much may very well not be isn’t a very comfortable thought.  And if I don’t keep knocking, if I don’t keep working… then what I started might not ever come full circle?  No, it’s not a comfortable thought at all.

It’s a very Christian reality though.

1 Corinthians 1: 18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wiseAnd the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.”

20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

26 For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28 and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29 so that no man may boast before God. 30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31 so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

Can we be real?  I don’t LIKE it when people think I’m a fool.  I don’t LIKE it when I’m condescended to.  “Oh, she’s so sweet…” I want to have something to show.  I want to have results, I want to have lots of results, and I want them *right now*.   Dude.  I care about my unsaved friends.  I want something to show them, so they can see God’s power in my life.  I want something different… but I’m not different.  I’m part of this culture and I want my stuff now, before they forget … before they write me off.  Before they write God off.   The stakes are so high…

I guess the stakes are too high for me to do this life stuff MY way, because God knows I don’t know what I’m doing.

So, persevering.  Lists.  Daily things.  Waiting on the Lord while out in the fields.  I guess… that’s life.  Ja?

Advertisements

Perseverance

One of the parables that bugs me is the parable of the woman with the unjust judge.
Luke 18: 1 Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart, 2 saying, “In a certain city there was a judge who did not fear God and did not respect man. 3 There was a widow in that city, and she kept coming to him, saying, ‘Give me legal protection from my opponent.’ 4 For a while he was unwilling; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Even though I do not fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow bothers me, I will give her legal protection, otherwise by continually coming she will wear me out.’”6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge said; 7 now, will not God bring about justice for His elect who cry to Him day and night, and will He delay long over them? 8 I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”
I don’t like being a pest, and I don’t like pestering God.  If I ask… why do I need to keep bugging Him?  But it’s pretty clear that that is His will.   That’s what he’s been working on with me lately.  Not just praying in the Spirit, getting down and going deep – but praying for the same list of things every day.  On paper.  Perseverantly.
And so I was thinking about that, and it brought to mind the verses in 2 Peter about the progression of virtues, and because I have used both the KJV and NASB, patience and perseverance both stuck in my head.   So I looked it up, and it turns out that  perseverance in the NASB = patience in the KJV.   Well, that’s weird.  Because I don’t think of the same virtue with those two words.  Let’s study.

 

KJV first:

2 Peter 1:5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; 6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.

Now NASB:

2 Peter 1:5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.

What’s interesting is that dictionary.com defines perseverance as:

1.steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc.,especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.
2.Theology. continuance in a state of grace to the end, leading to eternal salvation.
Synonyms: 1. doggedness, steadfastness.
And patience as:
1.the quality of being patientas the bearing of provocation,annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper,irritation, or the like.
2.an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with  delay: to have patience with a slow learner.
3. quiet, steady perseverance; even-tempered care; diligence:to work with patience.
Synonyms: 1. composure, stability, selfpossession; submissiveness, sufferance.
Both the KJV and NASB are good word-for-word translations, but sometimes… sometimes words bring you up short.  Perseverance is an ACTION word – read the definition – it’s about persistence in a course of action.  Patience, on the other hand, is a PASSIVE word – it’s mostly about not acting out under provocation.
Thus, we are off to the Greek.  What’s the word, and what does it mean? (Biblestudytools.com)
ὑπομονή
hupomonē
hoop-om-on-ay’

  • steadfastness, constancy, endurance
    1. in the NT the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings
    2. patiently, and steadfastly
  • a patient, steadfast waiting for
  • a patient enduring, sustaining, perseverance
Reading that definition carefully, I see both.    You’re “not swerved” from your chosen course of action.   But you “patiently wait” too, which usually implies staying in one place.   Come to think, both “stand” and “walk” are metaphors used of the Christian experience.  (So is “run” – as in “run with patience the race that is set before us…”)
And where I end up?  Patiently waiting for the result of a course of action from which I shall not swerve.
Which is what the widow did with the unjust judge.
Things are starting to make a bit more sense….

Fear

Your correspondent is not happy with the whispers in the wind of late.  It seems like everyone is getting fed a diet of fear on the daily…

I.Hate.Fear.

I’m not going to say that every mistake in my life was made because of fear, but the percentage runs at least 75%.   And the really BAD mistakes, the ones that had the nastiest consequences?  Those, those I made from fear.  Fear of man, for the most part.  -sigh-

I’m not going to say that I don’t fear any more.  Because I do.    I do, however, try very hard not to make my decisions based on fear.  I have very good reason.  I fear fear, if you will.

Contrariwise, the track record of the decisions I’ve made, shivering and quaking in my boots, ready to cry at any second because I was so scared, but walking forward ’cause that’s what needed doing?  Those decisions have worked out well.   (Frequently not in the immediate, but certainly in the long-term).

My intellectual analysis of a situation, based on experience and patterns?  Those?  Pfagh.  If it is possible to have a *negative* gift for prophesy (insofar as future-telling is concerned), that would be me.   What’s sad is that my pattern analysis is generally excellent… it’s the factors I don’t know about that throw me.

I think that’s what God is talking about in

James 4:13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” 14 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” 16 But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.

The world around us is full of terrifying stuff right now.  There is every reason to add two and two and start building a bomb shelter.   Pattern analysis?  People – the birth pangs are coming closer, we need to boil some water!

Okay, fine – baby’s a-comin’.  But where will I be when that happens?  I don’t know.  What will need doing at that moment?  I don’t know.   What tools will I have?  Who will I need to protect?  I don’t know.   Stressing out and giving into anxiety?  Worthless.  I don’t have the information that I need in order to make those decisions.

I know that making myself stronger in character is a good idea.  I know that making myself stronger physically is a good idea.  Those generally *are* good ideas, on days ending in Y.  And I know that spending more time on my knees is a great idea.   God’s been working on me on that pretty intensively lately.   He’s confronted me with a good many things that I can’t do anything about – outside of the prayer closet.  MORE PRAYER.

Ephesians 6:12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

God doesn’t tell me what will come next.  But He does tell me what to do *now*.   Today, this hour, this moment.   So, I do that.  And sometimes that’s insane.  But … He’s always had the situation under control.

So – a story of me being completely insane… this is about five years ago.  My son was in a theater group that met at a church, on the 3rd floor (accessed from the outside), on Friday nights.  I pulled up outside one night to pick him up.  9pm.  Dark, obviously.  The ground floor is surrounded by hedges … and this particular night, was apparently the meeting place for the local gang.

Fun.   Guess who forgot her cell-phone?  Yep.   So, I can’t call the cops.  I’m not going to go home, because my kid is up there – and those kids are going to start coming down the stairs soon, right into gangland central.   I can’t call the adults… again, no cell phone.   -sigh-  At least they look like junior gangbangers.

-rolls down passenger side window-  “Hi boys.  Whatcha all doin’ out here?”  “Oh we go to this church”.   “Now boys – I know you don’t go here, ’cause I’d have seen you”.  “Sure we do!”  “Mmmk”.  [dangit, that didn’t work][deep breath]

You know, by the time I got my window rolled up, my engine turned off, and my purse collected – they vaporized?  I watched those boys jump into cars left and right.  Because of ME.  (It is an article of conviction that anyone who runs from me is up to no good – because why would you run from me?  Ooo scary – nothin’ like 5’2″ pudgy women to strike the fear of … cupcakes? into a young man’s heart).

I was terrified.  But I didn’t have a choice – they were between me and my son – and there was no way I was going to let him (or any other kid) walk down those stairs.  Scared as I was, I had a lot better chance than an unsuspecting kid would.   And they ran.  Why?     They scattered like they’d heard sirens.  But there were no sirens.   I don’t know why they ran… but they did.  God had it.

But I had to get out of the car.  They didn’t start running until my door opened.

Contrariwise, I could tell you about the heartbreak when I was confronted by the thought of losing something precious unless I caved in to pressure to sin.  I could tell you about how many more tears I ended up crying, how much damage that did… well, I could tell you about that stuff if that was a suitcase I opened up for just anyone, which it is not.

I hate fear.  I hate seeing what paying attention to circumstances does to all of us.  I hate seeing fear turn into anger, despair, hatred – muck and mire and vomit and pain.

I have a lot more work to do in this vein – I confront fear every day.  And that makes me hate it more, every day.

Isaiah 41: 10  ‘Do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,
Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’

Yeah.  We might all get thrown to the lions next week.  It’s not all sunshine and roses.  But if so, God will be there.  There is nowhere we can go where God will not be with us, strengthening us for the task at hand.  If we give into fear, however, we can’t get on with our primary battle, which is done in the spiritual realm.

If we give into fear, we learn to hate our enemies – instead of love them.  If we give into fear, we learn to embrace all sorts of odd little rules intended to increase our “safety”, that really separate us from the work we are here on this planet to accomplish.  If we give into fear, we close our mouths.

Fear’s bad juju – unless you’re fearing God.

What will be, will be.  I don’t know the future, I do know upon Whom I depend.  When I get to the future, He’ll have the tools I need to do the job He has prepared for me to do.  I trust Him.

 

Do the Next Thing

Ephesians 5: 15-16 Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.

Galatians 6:Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.

God is teaching me lessons about time management and the fruit of perseverance.   This dovetails with the reading I’ve been doing in Deep Work – the book provides some of the discipline, God’s providing me the “why”.

When you’re a housewife, the days all blend together.  I left a comment at Scott’s that the work that I do isn’t Herculean – it’s Sisyphean.  It will *always come back*.  The laundry stone (which I don’t mind too much) the cleaning stone, the dishes, the meals… they roll right back down the hill as soon as you get them to the top.  After a while, Sisyphus stops pushing too fast – why bother?  You’re going to be doing the same thing the next day.  And whoever said that work expands to fit the time allotted was entirely correct.  Look, housework is intrinsically boring.  It just is.  I can get excited about a clean floor.  I cannot get excited about CLEANING a floor – especially the day before yard-work day, when dirty boots are going to tramp over it.  (This is how we know that Hearthie does not have the gift of service.  I will serve.  I will do the work.  But it doesn’t bring me a shred of joy, it’s just something that wants doing).

But there are things that I do love to do.  And I have to fight to make time for those things.  How does that happen?  That happens by just doing the next thing until I get all the things done.  That happens by pushing back against my natural tendency to get in my own way by insisting on huge blocks of time, and taking advantage of the time that I have in front of me.

And that’s mental discipline.   Instead of taking a break, I can choose to take five minutes to correct some papers or write a blog post or sew a section on a shirt.   I can choose to make a phone call.  I can choose to sit quietly, waiting on the Lord.  I can choose to read my Bible – or read anything enlightening.   Instead of letting my mind wander, I can choose to pray for the folks to whom I keep having those imaginary conversations.  Instead of letting myself hit “repeat”, I can sit down and write out my thoughts.  Discipline.  Keeping every thought captive.

After a lot of years not doing that?  It’s tiring!  Really tiring.  “Can I go to bed, it’s 830pm” tiring.  It’s like going back to the gym after a period of inactivity.   Training yourself to mental and spiritual fitness isn’t a joke.

But if we persevere, sometimes we get the “why” for that “what”.   So, this week I had two days where I didn’t have a lot to do.  Monday, I’d been running around “doing the next thing” and I had very little left to do on my weekly chore chart.  I’d *planned* to dig in my garden… but instead, I got a call from a client.  And I got a chance to go out and make some money for my family.   I took the opportunity.

And that was answered prayer.  I’d been praying about “I’d really like to do this insanely long list of things – I  don’t want to give up anything on my list, how can that happen, Lord?”  And this is my answer.  “Do not grow weary of doing good”.  In other words – get up, do the next thing.  Discipline yourself.

This has been a heck of a week for that, my emotions have been all over the place and my stress has been through the roof.  Honestly, I let the discipline I’d just started go slack – do you know what happened?  I missed it.  I missed that clear-headed feeling.  I don’t like the old, sloppy me.  I like the new me, the one who gets things done.  And I like the me who is doing things in faith, not in her own strength. I’m learning things about this discipline business.  I’m learning that it’s very difficult to keep my thoughts captive if I’m letting my brain get soft.

It all works together.

Do the next thing and learn to get stronger in the Lord…. yes, you’ll be tired.  I’m exhausted.  But I didn’t get stronger physically by sitting on my tail, and I’m not going to get stronger mentally by checking FB every five minutes.  I want to make good use of every minute that God has given me, be a good steward of the opportunities that I have.  I can’t do that by being lazy.  So.  Onward!

Celebrating Good Things is Not Wrong

A commenter rolled up on Mychael over at Scott’s place this weekend, saying that she shouldn’t brag on how Scott kicked butt and took names when she was at work, because that public  praise could induce envy in others.   I posted back a sneeze, and then went away and realized I had a lot bigger problem with that sentiment in general…

NO.  You don’t get to say, “don’t tell me about your good things, because it makes me feel bad.”

  1. That’s victim mentality, and it feels into the “submit to the victim’s whims” societal mess we’re all suffering through.  Take that silliness elsewhere.
  2. Taken to its logical conclusion, we end up with a world where no one ever discusses the good stuff, we only discuss the bad stuff.  We end up competitively complaining because we can’t enjoy each other’s happiness.  This means we focus on the bad stuff, even if the bad stuff is microscopic in weight next to the good stuff.  Oh wait.  That’s the world we live in.  Talk about a paradigm in need of destruction….
  3. Envy is a problem.  YOUR problem.  God is pretty clear about how we’re supposed to deal with riches (and make no mistake, having a good family means you’re rich).  The rich are supposed to understand that they’re stewards, and that they’re still only here for a  heartbeat, and to look after the poor.  As for those who are checking out the goods on the other side of the fence, I think, “Thou shalt not covet” probably covers it.
  4. I’ve repeatedly heard the men around these parts thank the women for indulging in public praise of their husbands, because hearing it blesses them.  One grateful heart connected to an open mouth can do a lot of good.  We live in a world that treats husbands like, “your biggest child” and we need more voices pushing back against that infection, not fewer.

Now.  I’m humane.  I’m not going to call my infertile friend up and squee at her when I’m pregnant, and I’m not going to call my single friend who just broke up with her boyfriend to tell her every tiny detail about my engagement.  That’s cruel.  But a general statement of pleasure?  Please.  Not everything is about you – we are to rejoice with the joyful as well as grieve with the bereaved.

Speaking of “general statements of good fortune”… it’s my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary.   And yes, I know that I am rich beyond measure, and far so beyond my deserts.