Monthly Archives: May 2013

Hard Work and Humility

“But Naaman went away angry and said, “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy.”  II Kings 5:11

“One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, ‘Do you want to get well?'”  John 5

Jameson did a lesson last night on these passage and talked about how we all, like Naaman, want God to answer our needs and desires in an instant magical way.  We don’t want to put in the hard work ourselves to bring about change.  Did the man who was an invalid for 38 years really endeavor to put in the hard work to get to the water?  Probably not.  And like him, we put forth a little effort, and then we want someone to help us, we want God to swoop in and do a miracle and fix things for us.   It really got me to thinking.

I have things I have been praying about for a long time.  Yet how hard am I working on bringing about the change I want?  I am in a holding pattern, making some efforts, but also tolerating my situation.  I keep thinking that at some point God will change my circumstances to an environment where change is more possible.  Every day, I procrastinate putting in a concerted sustained effort, or even planning to put in a concerted sustained effort.

About 5 years ago I was in a spiritual swamp.  I wanted to be sharing my faith more and studying the Bible with people more, but I couldn’t seem to really change.  Finally, once day I said, “I am going to make this the most important thing I’m doing.  I am not going to do anything else until I share with one person a day.”  And when I did that, I met someone who wanted to study the Bible!  And then, from places I didn’t expect, three more people started studying the Bible.  God was working, but I needed to start putting in the intentional effort.

Continuing with this blog entry, I am combining these thoughts with my study of Ezekiel.  I have been sporadically reading through the prophets in chronological order, and I am up to Ezekiel 21.  The people Ezekiel prophesied about were complacent.  They knew they were doing wrong, but they thought God didn’t care much.  They tolerated their current situation.  They procrastinated on changing.

But God’s wrath was coming.  And for all time, there is absolutely nothing as powerfully terrifying as God’s wrath.

Yes, I will cut off both the righteous and the wicked! I will draw my sword against everyone in the land from south to north. Everyone in the world will know that I am the Lord. ”  (v. 4)

I groan because of the terrifying news I have heard. When it comes true, the boldest heart will melt with fear; all strength will disappear. Every spirit will faint; strong knees will become as weak as water.”

Although Jesus averted God’s wrath for us, it’s good to remember that there is still the threat of wrath today:

How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?  For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.”  It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”  (Heb 10:30-32)

I’m not fearful of suffering God’s wrath because of my procrastination.  But the point is, my choices DO matter.  How the Israelites lived their lives mattered, and how I live my life matters.

It takes a lot of energy and motivation to change.  I think that is why I put it off.  It seems overwhelming.  And I don’t want to get busier, I just want to be able to identify and focus more on what is important.  This is something I CAN do:  take some time to prioritize.

Yesterday I was reading Joshua Becker’s blog on “Becoming Minimalist.”  He says, “busy has become the default state for too many of our lives.  But is the state of busy really improving our lives? Certainly not. . . Busy, in and of itself, is not a badge of honor. In fact, directed at the wrong pursuits, it is actually a limiting factor to our full potential. It is okay to not be busy.”

Becker’s advice is to, “Become more intentional with your priorities and pursuits in life. Determine again what are the most significant contributions you can offer this world. And schedule your time around those first. Busyness is, at its core, about misplaced priorities.”

What a great way of saying it! Business can be a type of laziness.  I fill my life with things to do, because I don’t want to have to put forth the effort it would take to do the really important things.

Although it is finite, time is a commodity given by God. He allows me the hours I have in the day.  I need to budget my time and use it wisely, just as I would my money.  And every day I need to pray about it and invest some time in the most important goals.

And then I need to trust the process.  God will help me change, but He probably will not bring about the changes in the way I want him to bring about the changes.

Take off your jeweled crown,

for the old order changes.

Now the lowly will be exalted,

and the mighty will be brought down.”

God works through humility. His plan has been brought about with weakness, so that people would see that it is Him working, and not them.  God chose people like Gideon to carry out his work, and won battles with reduced armies.  He revealed his word to little children.

It’s always a balance.  I need to make myself think seriously about life, pray, and have a concrete plan of action I commit to.  But then I need to relax and trust God, knowing my efforts may not seem to pay off as I expect, but that He is always working in His way to bring about the answer to my prayers.

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A New Rhythm

It’s very strange

There is a new rhythm to life now

A slower one

A contemplative one

And I keep fighting it

Feeling guilty for not getting as much done.

I make lists

I try to dream dreams

I try to be the person I was

I want so badly to run around

Sparking with new ideas

Inspired, excited

Bouncing from one endeavor to another

But I’m not happy when I do that anymore

Instead I listen

And I hear a slower beat

And it fills my soul

And every hop of the bird on the fence has meaning

Every flower bloom is bright

Is right and good

And I don’t see the dust in the corners

And the weeds that scream at me

That life is a chaos which will never be tamed.

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Patience

Whew!  It is so hard to be patient with people!  At least it is for me sometimes.  I am self righteous.  I am selfish.

So I have found all of these verses on patience.  They remind me that God is by nature patient.  And that he has been, and is, very patient with me.  So I must be patient with others.

“And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness”  Ex 34:6

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”  II Peter 3:9

“As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.”  James 5:11

“The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.”  Ps 103:8

“Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?” Romans 2:4

“I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary.” Rev 2:3

“And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.”  I Thes. 5:14

For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.” I Thes 2:11-12

“You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.”  James 5:8

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.  Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.  At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.  But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.  His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’  But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.  Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’  In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.  This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.’”

Here is the thing:  Jesus died for this person that I am impatient with.  He thought they were worth giving time to, worth loving, worth believing in.  Remember, the first description of love in I Corinthians 13 is:  “Love is patient…”


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Water for the Birds

IMG_3468

There are so many things to be done

They press on me

They nag my conscience

And I feel empty inside

Like a suitcase after vacation

Everything is put away and I don’t want to pack again

Every day I change

My agenda changes

The summer weighs on me

Waves of humidity and laziness resonate in me

The sun slows me down

Even though I am inside

So I go outside

And I pour water in the birdbath

And succumb to the quiet

I sit in the swing

And watch the wasp circle and land on a leaf

I see the fly in crisp detail on a spike of pine straw

The pill bug crawling

The cat folded on the lawn chair

A red and grey bird dips into the birdbath

And gradually it all makes sense

I see what I need to do today

And I am at peace, looking forward to the day.

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Meaningful Moments

IMG_3578

Usually, those moments don’t last long; they come and go like ocean breezes.  But sometimes, they stretch out forever.”  From “The Last Song,” by Nicholas Sparks

I just had an incredible weekend, and it has left me with deep conflicting emotions.  It was over too quickly.   I feel impotent.  Did I do as I should have done?  No, I want to get rid of the word “should.”  Was I in sync with God?  Was I effective?  Did I leave a footprint?

What remains is the memory of moments.  And I just hope that I invested myself in these moments enough to make them meaningful.  Because if they are meaningful, they will somehow last.  The weekend will have been worthwhile.

So I recall the moments to impress them on my memory.  And if I articulate them, they take shape as not just phantom impressions , but as landmarks —

*Relaxing outdoors with the family while the kids play, the colors so bright, the breeze blowing.

*The incredible encouragement of young disciples who are enthusiastic and passionate.

*Small moments of connection to new and old friends.  Talking one-on-one on the porch.  Putting my hand on someone’s shoulder.  Bill smiling proudly over his Brunswick Stew.  Tia so happy.

*Ken playing the guitar while we loaded up the table with a bounty of fresh grilled chicken, corn and vegetables.

*Talking a prayer walk with my daughter, a sacred miracle of being together with God.

*That last song at church, where we were all dreamers, members and visitors alike, mature disciples and young ones, yearning to bring more people to the inexpressible goodness that is Him.

*Eating dessert at the Crepe Myrtle, and it seemed like everything came together and we enjoyed life’s sweetness.

Life can deplete me, but meaningful moments restore me, especially moments with God, when I am outdoors, away from everything, surrounded by green foliage, the sound of birds and a stillness of the wide open sky that always speaks of hope.  In that spiritual quietness I can heal and hear whispers of the Spirit that inspire me.  “Your compassions never fail.  They are new every morning.”  (Lamentations 3)

It is the best time of the day, the time we take to pray.

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”  Mark 1:35

I believe Jesus also relished his private moments with God.  In addition, I believe he was strengthened as well by meaningful moments in his ministry.  After he talked with the woman at the well in John 4, Jesus said, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.”  It was sustaining to him.  He treasured the spiritual awakening of this woman, and of the Samaritan town.

I must commemorate the moments of spiritual awakening that I see in others.  A night ago I heard some incredible statements by someone who is coming to know God and see Him more and more.  I can’t take this for granted.  It is sacred, a miracle I participate in.

Here are some other scriptures I’ve thought of —

“And he said to them, ‘I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.”  Luke 22:15  Jesus needed to have meaningful moments with his disciples.

“Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.’”  We can destroy the moments God wants us to have by being distracted.

I think why I get the deep conflicting emotions is because it is so hard to hold onto the moments.  They slide so quickly through my fingers, and though I try to drink them in, I am worried and distracted and I only catch a glimpse of them before they move on.  I am left with a jumble of impressions and unresolved feelings.

So I look back over the pictures, the physical ones I have taken, and the ones in my heart.  I catalog them, enhance their meaning.

And I resolve to prioritize and try to focus on the most important things, that I will sit at Jesus’ feet and soak in the moments.

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

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Competence

lazy eye

“Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God”  II Cor 3:5

Competent:  sufficient, to attain.  In this use it means that our inner resources are not sufficient.  No matter how talented we are,   we’re not smart enough, wise enough, powerful enough, etc. to attain true effectiveness in life.

Claim:  I reckon, count, decide.  We can’t add up our strengths and conclude that we have the resources we need.

Competence:  ability, power.  The things that make us effective as a Christian come from God.  It is all Spirit, and thus we need infusions from the Spirit to be competent.

He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant–not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”  II Cor 3:6

My job as a minister of the new covenant is to work with the Spirit to give life to others.  My tools will be the tools of the Spirit:  the Word, prayer, love, and Godly wisdom.  I will need to rely on divine guidance — His plan, not mine.  The only way to get this is to pray for it daily and often.

Thus, I cannot live in myself and be effective.  I must die to self daily in order that the Spirit can work.  That is how His life is at work in me, and how I can have His life to share with others.

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair ...For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body.”  II Cor 4:8, 11

It is also why I must go through trials, to remind me to rely on Him, and not on myself.  It is so my spiritual muscles can be strengthened.  It’s kind of like having a lazy eye.  It will always rely on the good eye to see unless you put a patch over the good eye.  God allows our “competencies” to be hampered so we have nowhere to turn but Him, and we must be strengthened in Him.

Lately I am seeing so much how I need this spiritual strength.  I need it to invite people to the block party I want to have.  I need it to be outward focused when I am running errands today.  I need it to have the talks with others I need to have.  I need it to set the right agenda for today.

I am listening right now to a message about the prophesies about Jesus.  One point the speaker makes is that Solomon thought that he would be the one who fulfilled some of these prophesies.  He thought they were written about him.

But he was not the one because of his worldly orientation.  He had riches, his wives caused him to stumble.  We think of him as the most wise man who ever lived, but his wisdom did not help him in the end.

In the same way, if I seek to build my competence, my wisdom, and rely on that, no matter how great it is, it will not help me.  What I really need, what we all really need, is to die to self and rely on God for each breath, for making each plan, for guiding every act.

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Prayer

sprouts

Prayer

Is standing in the

rich, fertile soil

that is God

And knowing it is the

only place

That your dreams can grow

 

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