Archive for the 'Faith Rest' Category



Ospreys as I’ve Never Seen Them

 “Do you know know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired… and to him who lacks might, He increases power.

Though youths grow weary and tired and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength;

Tthey will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not grow weary.” ~Isaiah 40:28-31

This passage has long been one of my favorites. Lately, I’ve been reflecting on the imagery of eagle’s wings, and the fact that when eagles hunt they rest, letting the wind carry them along. God’s provided everything for them to do their “job” of finding food: sharp eyes, feathered wings, deadly talons.  So many great analogies there to the Christian Way of Life (in fact I did a blog post on this very subject six years ago called Reflections on Soaring.) mostly about resting and waiting for the Lord and using what God has given us…

So when my husband sent me the following video of an osprey at work, I was enthralled.  Though technically not an eagle, ospreys are in the same Order
(Accipitriformes) as eagles. However, specialized hunting behaviors  and physical characteristics like a reversible rear toe have led taxonimists to give the osprey its own separate family. So I don’t think I”m too off using the osprey as an illustration of the eagle.

In this video, one not only has the opportunity to watch them soar, but spot the prey and when then they find it, dive: that is,  tuck, point the head down and fall. What a metaphor that is.

You see it all in this video, and more. I had no idea the kinds of very large prey an osprey can take. Nor that they could actually go completely underwater.  Watching God’s creatures, I’m continally amazed at His design.

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I Know the Plans That I Have for You

Well, I’m not sure why I haven’t been posting. Off the top of my head I’m not sure what all I’ve been doing. Working some on Sky, doing Morning Routines, making cards (I have a lot of friends and family with events in March), walking Quigley, going to the Y, doing Bible Class, thinking about Bible Class and writing in my journal…

I got my surgery date two days after I saw the GYN oncologist (see last blog post). It was for three weeks off (a little less than two weeks now as I write this), the only spot the doctor had open at my hospital of choice and with my regular gynecologist to assist. Even if I took the latter two out of the picture, the most I could have gained was four days earlier. So I was looking at much longer wait than I was anticipating.

During this time, Pastor John has been teaching about patience. About how patience is part of our calling, and part of our bringing glory to God — when we trust Him and wait patiently, without anxiety, tension or frustration, and then He comes through for us… that brings Him glory.

So it was pretty clear to me the moment the surgery scheduler told me it was going to be three weeks, that this was part of God’s training in developing patience. 

 The next day, after all the carrying on about cancer and talk of how this was going to be resolved quickly, I was a bit unnerved at the prospect that now I was going to have to wait three weeks. But I assured myself that the oncologist had my best interests in mind, and is an expert in this area. He’d looked at my charts and the tests and the ultrasound, and surely if he thought three weeks would lead to a major downturn in my status,  he’d not allow this to go that long. In fact, it’s likely he knew his schedule was full when we met, because when I suggested the possibility of surgery  “next week” he did NOT say it would be then. He said nothing. I started to take comfort in that…

And then realized how ridiculous I was being. Putting my trust in a mere man? What was I thinking? Yes, the doc probably does have my best interests in mind, more or less, but God absolutely and positively does, far more than any man ever could.

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

“I know the plans I have for you, plans for good and not for evil to give you a future and a hope.” ~ Jeremiah 33:3

He sent His Son to die for me. Of course He has my best interests in mind.

“If God is for us, who against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?”  ~ Romans 8:31b-32

What’s more, the doc might be able to make a good guess as to what’s going on in my uterus from the tests… but that’s all it is right now: a guess. He even said as much, adding we won’t really know what’s there until he does the surgery.

God, on the other hand, knows exactly what’s going on in there — now and in three weeks. God’s expertise — Omniscience — buries any paltry insights the doc may have gained over his years in the field.

Moreover, God could have provided a spot in the schedule far earlier, if that was the best thing; He could provide a cancellation, could have popped up a red flag, if there was trouble and we needed to get to the surgery sooner. He did not.

Because this is not about my physical condition. This is about teaching me to trust Him, to know Him, to wait in Him. To be at peace in Him.

Oh! But what if His will for me is to go through (fill in the most horrible outcome possible for the situation)?!

That morning as I had this thought… as this wretched thought wormed its way into my consciousness to torment me… I realized it was an old enemy. One that’s been a peace-killer for me my entire Christian life.

So I decided not to go down the path it was suggesting I take. Instead I told myself, “Why not wait until the event happens and then you can say, ‘This is horrible, but I know God wants me to go through it for my highest and best.’ That way I’d at least gain peace from it instead of giving myself the heebie-jeebies with something that is purely speculative.

It’s an evil arrogant thought, really. I presume to guess God’s will for me and I always malign Him when I do so, because it’s always something horrible. For example, I hear a noise when I’m home alone. And I think, Oh, no! Is that a burglar? And then, being a novelist and well versed in such things, I concoct an entire story wherein the burglar/rapist breaks in, attempts to assault me, I shoot him dead and then have to go to jail for murder where I am tormented by my fellow inmates so I can show the power of God in my strength and peace and joy.

Wow, it looks even more stupid and arrogant when I set it down like that than when I just think it. And how ironic that I’m scaring myself silly with a potential scenario I’m conjuring up as an avenue for me to bring God glory with my great strength and trust in Him. Something is not computing here.

And furthermore,  look how mean I’m making God out to be. Here we’ve been studying the fruit of the Spirit as a manifestation of who God is — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control — yet when I get in these situations the God I conjure up is stern, cruel, tight-lipped, legalistic.

“This is for your own good,” my imaginary God says. “All this stuff you don’t want to do, that’s what I have for you to do. And the things you love, and like to do — none of that. It’s only going to be hardness and sorrow and suffering for you.”

No room in that thinking for God wanting me to have an abundant life full of blessing. Or wanting to fill me with power and joy and peace.

So instead of trying to guess what awful thing this phony God I’ve created may have planned for me, I decided to concentrate instead on His goodness,  His grace and His kindness. On His faithfulness, and gentleness and love.

I’ll concentrate on the fact that He’s my loving Father who has everything under control. He knows exactly what’s going on in my body right now. He could speed it up or slow it down. He could take it all away in an instant. His timing is perfect.

In 2 Timothy 3:10, 11 Paul is talking to Timothy about all the trials and persecutions he’s gone through, and ends with, “and out of them all the Lord delivered me.”

Pastor John has recently spent a number of lessons on this verse. It’s one, says he, that applies to all of us as believers. And that’s to be the focus of my thinking, not my lame what-ifs.

The Long Story of Last Week

Once again, I’ve been lagging in my blogging posts — and just after I’d had a breakthrough of sorts on the matter of what it means to live as if crucified in Christ. This was partly because I needed to think things through a bit more to see where the breakthrough might be going… and mostly because I’ve been having an… adventure. A situation. A test… Pastor John started teaching about waiting a week ago Sunday and sure enough, I soon got an opportunity to apply.

So here’s the long story. It actually starts back on the first Saturday of February, when I had some spotting. Since I’ve not had a period in years, one spot is enough to warrant concern, so on Monday I called my OB/GYN. I got an appointment for Thursday of that same week, but since the office happened to be in the process of transferring their records over to digital I was advised that the wait would be long.

Thursday, when I was about to leave with plenty of time, I went to bring Quigley in and found him completely covered with dust and grass so I had to wipe him off. Then I locked myself out of the house with the car keys inside. When I finally got myself in the car and on the way, it was fifteen minutes later. As I left the house I suddenly wondered if I’d turned the oven off — if the house burned down with Quigley in it, that would be awful! But I was already late, so I gave it over to the Lord and went on.

Traffic was heavy and on the way to the doctor’s office, the car ahead of the car ahead of me ran into the car ahead of it… So everyone stopped. The two drivers got out — it was only a fender bender, if that, but here we were stopped in the inside lane and I”m thinking, “What IS this, Lord?”

Suddenly the lane beside me opened and I pulled out and was on my way. I arrived, found out it was going to be at least an hour’s wait to see the doc, so I asked if I could go home and turn off the oven. Sure. I went a different way home, but when I arrived the oven was off and there was a message from the doctor’s office: Dr. S had stepped out to do a C-sxn and we would all have to reschedule. They tried to reschedule me for almost three weeks later, but I persuaded them to give me a slot the following Monday. That appointment went as planned, and I left with orders to get an ultrasound. I made the appointment  for the following week and then scheduled another appointment over the phone to see the GYN the week after that.

The ultrasound showed some fibroids and a thickened uterine lining, so it was decided I should get an endometrial biopsy. I’ve already had several of those over the years. The day I was supposed to get it, I came in two hours later than I was supposed to because over the phone I thought the woman had said 2:40 when she’d said 12:40. Or maybe she said 2:40 when she meant 12:40. In any case another reschedule, this time for Thursday — and that one actually happened. Dr. S said they’d call when they got the results of the biopsy.

The following Monday, which was a week ago Monday, at 5:30pm the nurse practitioner called to say that the biopsy showed “complex hyperplasia with suspicious cells” that might be cancer and that I was looking at a hysterectomy. That was okay, because I had already decided if the biopsy came back anything but normal I was going to do the hysterectomy anyway. All those organs are useless now and good only to grow cancer in, so better to get them out. The only thing was, my doc was referring me to another doc whose name sounded familiar. I asked if he was an oncologist and the NP said yes. As it turns out, his office is in the same place where I had gone with my mother for the last three years, just across the hall from where she had seen her doctor and gotten her infusions of chemotherapy. Which was kind of unnerving.

The NP was quite exercised on the phone about how I had to get in ASAP, that “tomorrow” (a week ago Tuesday) the other doc’s office would call to schedule the appointment and “we’re talking days here not weeks,” she said. If I didn’t have an appointment by the end of Tuesday, I was to call her on Wednesday morning and she even gave me her special number.

So Tuesday I didn’t talk to anyone on the phone, not wanting to tie up the line, nor did I leave the house for fear of missing the call. Of course no one from the doctor’s office called.

 Wednesday I started calling the special number to tell  the NP I had no appt. No one answered. I tried the “Site Operator.” She transferred me to “Lydia” but I only got her voice mail and left a message. No one called me back. I tried the special number again, but no one answered. I called the site operator again and got a different person who said she’d go down to talk to Lydia and have her call me back. No one called me back.

Finally just before 5pm I called the site operator again and somehow got connected to Lydia. She said she’d talked to the oncologist’s office that afternoon and they said they were just getting ready to call me. But no one had called while I was home and no one had left a message while I was walking Quigley. She called the oncologist’s office again then called me back to say they’d called and left a message — apparently on someone else’s answering machine. She said they’d call me first thing in the morning.

Finally, on Thursday, they called and my appointment was scheduled for Tuesday the following week (which was yesterday at 3pm). Once I had the appointment settled, it was amazing. I just crashed. I didn’t think I was that anxious about it, but there was definitely a thread of tension. Plus, the conversation with the NP was hurried and she was kinda freaked, so later I wondered… was it more dire than it seemed? Why refer me to an oncologist? Did I have cancer? If so, why wasn’t the oncologist’s office calling?

Well, had to put all that in the Lord’s hands and really believe those promises, which mostly I did. But once I got the appointment, as I said I crashed, suddenly very tired and about an hour later, noticed that Quigley’s ears were all thick and hot and heavy with blood. He was getting allergies from the wind we were having, and shaking his ears, which was making them fill up with blood. Bear had the same problems  and one time ended up with a huge blood pocket in his ear flap that required surgery to “quilt” the skin of his ear back together — followed by extended recovery time. One vet even suggested we cut off his ear flap… but we have hounds for a reason — we love those floppy ears.

So here I was facing potentially the same thing with Quigley, in the middle of everything else. Well, put that in the Lord’s hands as well. Certainly I have no control over any of it. Thankfully, over the next few days following our  vet’s counsel over the phone,  that eventually resolved with Wal-itin and some steroid cream for the rash… Finally all was quiet.

Then, this last Monday night, the night before my appointment with the gynecologic oncologist, I suddenly had the thought that maybe I shouldn’t be so relaxed about it all. That maybe it was far worse than I imagined and I really was going to have to have chemo and my hair fall out and feel awful and all that… I surely didn’t want to go in there thinking it would be nothing when I actually had this huge cancer and was going to need chemo, etc. So I Googled endometrial biopsies and endometrial cancer and scared myself silly with all the descriptions of where the cancer could spread from the uterus. To egg me on, I got an email to a Caring Bridge entry from a friend who is going through chemo right now — the other entries have been largely upbeat or just informational. This one was about how it was his worst week ever for chemo treatments… No coincidence on that timing.

Thus, by my own idiocy, I ended up having something of a battle that night during Carnal Hour — the time between 3 and 5 am when I wake up to go the bathroom and suddenly any scary or worrisome things in my life seem incredibly real and imminent and the power of God weak and faint; sometimes the next morning when I wake up and think back on it all, it seems like I went temporarily insane because the things I was concerned about don’t even make any sense.

Anyway, day before yesterday was the appointment. My hubby met me at the office and we were there almost three hours. I really like the doctor. He was very thorough, very knowledgeable and experienced, gave us lots of time to get all our questions answered and was very accommodating as far as the hospital I want to have the surgery done at, which is not his usual one.

 He doesn’t think that my situation is “ominous” but the complex hyperplasia is definitely pre-cancerous, and the suspicious cells are, I guess, basically cancer cells (sometimes he referred to them as such, but other times as cells that were becoming cancer cells). He thought I was at the beginning of a process that would definitely lead to cancer and so we have to remove the whole thing — uterus, cervix and ovaries.

He’ll do the surgery laparoscopically, which is minimally invasive, and he’ll remove the uterus intact through the vagina so as not to spread the cancer around in the abdomen. They’ll send it off to pathology while I’m still on the table, get it examined to see if there is any sort of invasive growth they didn’t anticipate, in which case the doc can take a lymph node sample while he’s in there.

This type of procedure  usually has a recovery time of a day, but requires I stay in the hospital overnight. After that my main source of debilitation will be the muzzy-headedness from the pain meds.

I’m waiting now for them to call me with the surgery date, which hopefully will be next week. He’s going to try to coordinate with my regular GYN, but if that ends up too difficult I told him I’d be fine with just him doing it, as long as I can go to my hospital of choice. All the experiences with my mother have made me quite particular about which hospitals I like and which ones I don’t.

In any case… I’m still waiting… 🙂

Focus on the Promises

I’ve been writing about my attempts to get my head around the notion that the problems I’m having with writing Sky — ie, actually getting myself to go into the office and attend to the book as opposed to any number of other things that are available to do — do not call for me to seek to discipline myself better, but to turn the problem over to the Lord who lives in me and has promised to do the work. Both the work of my calling to write this book, and also the work of conforming me to His image.

The past two posts have been an exploration of thoughts leading up to the ideas in this one, which is an excerpt from a journal entry from last week (this blog is subtitled as my “writing diary,” after all, so I can’t feel too out-of-bounds when I insert sections of my actual diary… 🙂  )

These first two are quotes I selected from Pastor John’s message from Sunday Feb 19, 2012:

“Abraham teaches us there’ll be many tests of our faith. He continued to get up after every defeat (and there were many) and have faith in the Lord who called him….

“There’ll be many times when our faith will come under evaluation. When that happens, it’s really the doctrine we already learned/believed that gets tested.”

So when he says turn it over to Christ and trust Him to do what He says, that means the word and the promises and principles I’m to be believing. Do I really believe He is at work in me? Do I really believe He’ll get the book done through me without my help?

I think that’s the issue for me. Can I believe He will do it — is able to do it — without my schemes and self-condemnation and ‘How can I do it better?’ and ‘I will do better…’ No. See, I do believe He can handle situations over which I have no control. But making myself get down to work — isn’t that my responsibility? Well, how can it be if I’m dead (crucified in Christ) and Christ lives in me? That makes it His responsiblity. So then instead of focusing on me, and what I’m doing or not doing, or hope to be doing, I should be focusing on Him. His character, His work, His purpose, His promises.

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all-sufficiency in everything you may have an abundance for every good deed,.” ~2 Co 9:8

“Faithful is He who calls you and HE will bring it to pass.” ~ I Th 5:24

Even in just writing these two verses I realize if I concentrated on them (rather than self or distractions) why would I want to avoid going to work on the book and seeing Him work?

“For the Lord GOD helps me, therefore I am not disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint. And I know that I will not be ashamed.” ~ Is 50:7

By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance, and he went out NOT KNOWING WHERE HE WAS GOING [!!!]” ~Heb 11:8

Abraham had to get up and go out. But the focus wasn’t to be on what he was going to do, where he was going, but just one step at a time, trusting God to guide his steps.

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” ~Ps 119:105

When that last verse was written, they didn’t have very good lamps: candles, torches, oil lamps. And if you’re carrying any of those as you stand in the darkness, you wouldn’t be able to see very far. But as you walk forward, more is revealed. If you stand still you will never see beyond the present circle of light. No matter how you strain, you must MOVE to see more. So you take a step… into the office, up to the desk. The focus is not to be on the book, or on my lack of ability, or the blankness I have about it but on what I know and believe about HIM. That he’s given me a gift and a calling and a contract for a specific book and promised not just to help but to do it. Why am I afraid? That makes no sense.

Am I more occupied with the Giver or the Gift? The book or the Lord who is giving me the book? Myself and my lack of ability or the Lord who has given and will continue to give me the ability?

Faith is hearing the word and keeping it. Then realizing that we turn more and more of our lives over to Jesus Christ. “I live by faith in the Son of God” (who is the Word of God) and that will be tested. And when it is, and you keep on believing, God reveals Himself to you.

Like how He comes through, no matter what the difficulty every time.

So now in writing this book, He’s right inside me, probably trapping His foot waiting for me to believe Him when He says those things — ie, He will do it, I will NOT be ashamed. I have to go into that office, get in fellowship, trust Him to guide me and show me and get to work. If that is only a nonstop or go over stuff I did before or the notes, let Him guide me.

And that will be tested. Sometimes I’ll have to wait. But wait believing. Wait expecting.

“Unbelief looks at the thing in God’s hand and says, “I wish I had that.”  Belief looks and says, “God has promised me that — I WILL have it.”  ~ Pastor John Farley, paraphrasing Dwight L. Moody,

God’s Thoughts Are Not Our Thoughts

Yesterday I talked about the need for repetition in learning things. Math and reading specifically come to mind. And as it is needed for those skills, it is also needed for learning the word of God.

In fact, I’d say especially for the word of God.  When subjects are deeper, more layered, more complex, and more expansive, we cannot possibly understand with only a few quick lessons. The only way we can really learn them is by cycling over the material, gaining new understanding with each pass. And there is nothing deeper, more layered and complex than the Word of God. He created the laws of physics and the science of neurology, after all. If those subjects are daunting, doesn’t it follow a fortiori that learning about the one who created them would be more so?

Indeed. So much so that the Bible tells us God’s thoughts and ways are not like ours. They are foreign to us. More foreign than the most foreign culture or language could possibly be. And the more foreign and strange a subject is to us, again, there is no way we’re going to “get it” on the first pass or two.  Probably not even the tenth pass, or the twentieth.

The Bible tells us the naturally-minded man cannot understand the things of God at all. They are foolishness to him. Only the spiritual man (ie, born again) who is filled with the Holy Spirit can understand. But even after salvation, all of us are in some respects naturally-minded. We still live in the world where we are barraged, in this present age as never before, with worldly thinking. And even though we’re saved, we still have our flesh, which sets itself against the things of the Spirit, and is a continuing source of wrong and worldly, self-centered thinking.  It will even take doctrinal thoughts and distort them, misapply them (as Job’s three alleged friends were so fond of doing) in order to serve itself. And it’s not always easy for us  to recognize when that is happening because a lot of times it feels “right.”

 Further, in 2 Co 5:16 we’re commanded to “recognize no one according to the flesh.”  A common interpretation of that verse is that we’re not to look at other people on the basis of their sins and failures, but on the basis of their position in Christ. And while it’s certainly true we are to regard other Christians in this way, that can’t be what this particular verse means because the passage goes on to say that we’re not to know Christ after the flesh, either, and He had no sins or failures.

So what does it mean? I believe it’s talking about our own flesh. We’re not to know others or Christ on the basis of our own fleshly thinking — our naturally minded way of interpreting things that are beyond our ken. 

Let’s take self-discipline as an example. As an unbeliever, I knew all about self-discipline and was pretty good at it. After I became saved and read in Galatians that we’re to have the fruit of the Spirit, one part of which is self-discipline, I thought, well, I know what that is. I know I haven’t always been perfect at it, but I know it’s a good thing and now I’m supposed to do that. So I would double my efforts in the self-discipline area.

I’ve read of others who describe their efforts to cultivate and nurture this particular fruit. They deliberately take on tasks that will make their flesh chafe.  The flesh hates service, one person said, but absolutely screams at hidden service. You have to train it to abide this, and you seek out opportunities to do so.

That all seems reasonable and logical and right. Except for three things.

One, that if you keep going with this kind of thinking, you’ll end up like the flagellants I wrote about some months ago.

 Two, the fruit of the Spirit, as I’ve said before, is the fruit of the Spirit, not the fruit of me. If I’ve been crucified with Christ, I’m dead. I can’t produce a thing. It’s the life of Christ that has to produce this fruit, not me. In fact, all my pastors over the last 37 years have repeatedly said, “If the unbeliever can do it, it’s not the Christian way of life, because the Christian way of life is a supernatural way of life.” An unbeliever can discipline himself;  in fact some are better at it than most believers. And everything I described above about seeing some quality the Bible says Believers are to demonstrate, and then setting out to acquire and practice that quality is very much a normal human way of approaching something.

The natural man does it all the time. I want to lose weight. I need to stop eating so much. I want to be a wonderful musician, I need to start playing the piano. I get angry too much, I need to start meditating and visualizing my anger as red smoke and exhale it. (Got that from The Mentalist  😉  )  I am too shy, I need to learn to make eye contact.  I have a bad mental attitude, I will now tell myself affirmations all day… and on and on. That’s a completely natural, in some cases practical way of dealing with something. If I want to learn to sketch, I have to practice. If I want to get good at tennis, I have to practice.  It’s all about I. Nothing really supernatural about it.

Which brings me to number three: God’s thoughts are not our thoughts. His ways are not our ways (Is 55: 8,9) Do we really stop and think what that means when we read it? I know in the past I haven’t. Oh, I agreed with it, but only on some amorphous, vague level. He’s the creator, after all. He’s omniscient, eternal. Of course His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways,  and off I go, agreeing with the concept but not really living in it.

Maybe we need to reverse that verse, and say instead, “man’s thoughts and ways are not God’s ways.” Or even better, “my (natural) thoughts and ways are not God’s ways.

 He considers our “righteous deeds to be as a filthy garment” (Is  64:6) after all. We struggle with that. When Cain brought his wonderful crop of vegetables, the work of his hands, as an offering, God rejected it. He was not interested in Cain’s work. It was gross. Cain was so upset he killed his brother, because his offering of a lamb was accepted.

 Our efforts to please him in our flesh are nauseating to Him. (Rev 3:14-17)  He is pleased with Christ and His work on the Cross. All those who have believed in Christ are subsequently placed in union with Him, and so when the Father looks at us, He sees His son, who paid our debt of sin. It’s because of what Christ did, that He is pleased with us. Paul, on this very subject reminds the Galatians that they came to salvation by grace through faith, not of works, and the same way they received Him is the way they are to walk in Him. By grace through faith, not works.

“Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit are you now being perfected by the flesh?” Gal 3:6

He says the same thing in Colossians:

“Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established by means of your faith…”  Col 2:6 ” 

Faith in who He is and what He’s done, not faith in ourselves. Believing what He’s promised, believing He is who He says He is. It’s faith that pleases Him; in fact, without faith it is impossible to please Him.  (Heb 11:6)

That’s not the way we tend to think. It doesn’t seem right. It doesn’t jibe with what the world says, even what the religious world says. 

When you consider the number of elements arrayed against us learning the thoughts and ways of God it’s hardly surprising we would be a long time finally getting to the core of things.  The complexity of the material, the outlandishness of its claims and promises, the depth and the foreignness of it all is challenge enough. But then we add in the fleshly part of us, thinking it understands when it is only distorting truth, or rejecting it outright because it finds the concepts offensive (eg, “step aside flesh, you’ve been crucified, you have no part in this”)  and all of that occurring in a world that constantly affirms “natural-minded” thinking as reasonable, logical, responsible and rejects “heavenly-minded” thinking as nonsense, ridiculous, and off the wall. How could the learning curve be anything but long and slow?

I know.  I’ve been fighting the battle with all those elements and my flesh is very adamant that some of my conclusions are nutty and “can’t possibly be right” and that my old viewpoint is the only one that really makes sense…

But that’s not what God’s been telling me. And ever so slowly I think I’m starting to believe Him.

The Long Slow Learning Curve

If it seems I’ve been doing a number of posts lately that are somewhat repetitive… it’s true. I have. When the realization first began to dawn on me, I started to fret, especially when I would ask myself what I was going to post on in a given day and here came the same subject AGAIN. So I stopped asking myself, and asked the Lord. And still, my mind returned to the same subject.

Okay. Hard to get away from that. He reminded me that repetition is essential for learning. We do it in Bible class all the time. Some people don’t like that. Maybe a lot of people, since humans as a group tend to always want something new and exciting. When the same old thing shows up, sometimes — often times? — we shut down and pay no attention unless we have to. As in military exercises, for example, where if you don’t pay attention you mis-assemble your weapon, drop the pieces on the floor,  or walk the wrong way in marching drills and snarl up everything. With pride is on the line, the flesh is always eager to do what’s needed to protect it. Even pay attention to something it considers old and dull.

I think that may be one reason God sends various trials, frustrations, difficulties and conundrums into our lives — to keep us paying attention to things we can only learn through repetition. More than that, difficulties may keep us paying attention to things we think we understand until we finally realize we don’t.

Many of the posts I’m talking about have been drawn from my recent journal entries, and I have continued to press on with posting them because I believe they record this process of cycling back over something repeatedly, and in so doing, gaining a clearer understanding of things. Indeed, each time I cycle back it seems I get something new.

So I’m hoping that these entries illustrate this most common way we learn… and the most common way God changes us. Not usually through sudden black and white epiphanies that turn us dramatically in a new direction (though occasionally those do happen), but incrementally, the changes happening so slowly we may not even notice.

I’ve had that feeling about this whole subject of what it means to trust the Lord in everything, to turn more and more areas of my life over to Him. I think in the past I’ve thought that I had already turned my life over to Him. But now we’re getting down to the nitty-gritty. In the past I tended to turn only the big things over — like a health issue, or concern for someone’s safety, or whether the book would be published, and after that whether it would sell, and after that whether readers would buy it and after that whether enough people would buy it to keep it alive enough in the market so that publishers would want my next book…

I turned over the matters of quality of story and meeting the deadline — and He came through, though on my last book, The Enclave, perhaps not in the way I had expected — ie, on my and the publisher’s timeline — nor in other areas either. Still, I know I was supposed to have written it and despite its having been pushed back into the shadows, it’s a book I like and am happy with.

But somehow what’s happening with Sky is different. All the fire and hunger and drive I had while writing previous books seems to have faded. I feel like I’m a different person. I feel like God has taken away all my former means of motivation: the desperate drive for success and approval, the fear of not achieving what I desire, or of losing what I’ve been given, guilt for not getting the work done in the time and manner I’ve decided it should be, for not fulfilling my duty to do what the world says I should when it comes to writing.

At the moment, I’ve been so mired in the early chapters, for so long, with so many life events disrupting concentration and draining energy, I’ve lost touch with the scenes that would normally pull me through the book. I have only the broadest of outlines as to what’s going to happen, and a plethora of possibilities.

All of which leaves me with nothing to rely on but Him to move me through it. And hence I’ve come back to the matter of self-discipline, and if it’s not to be that, then how do I really, practically, detail by detail turn this all over to Him, without falling into the “let go and let God” approach where I more or less drift along?  If I just relax and decide to give it to Him, how so I know He’s leading me, rather than my own lusts and desires? Shouldn’t I at least be trying to exercise self-discipline? Isn’t that only reasonable?

I think the answer’s in the middle, but I still haven’t really figured out how it looks in my particular life. Which is the essence of this long cycle of learning that I’ve been going through and setting down in various posts here on my blog.

Because more and more I’m thinking that maybe all I need to do is just stop thinking about me and my self-discipline and focus on the fact that He’s promised to do it, promised to make all grace abound to me so I’ve have sufficiency in everything and an abundance for every good work… and then just trust Him to do it.

Yes, I’m pretty sure I’ve said that already. But I’m a stupid sheep. I need to hear it again. Write it again. Focus on it again… Daily. Maybe hourly.

Update: I wrote and titled this post this morning, and did most of my editing on it then. This evening, when I turned on Bible Class, live from Deerfield Beach, Florida, Pastor John announced that tonight’s class was titled, Abraham Teaches us the Importance of Time for Personal Growth.”  How cool is that?

Turn it Over to Him

Recently I’ve been writing about my attempts to get my mind around some of the concepts in my pastor’s current teachings on Galatians 2:20. One of them is the following:

“After salvation, faith is the active entrusting of our lives to the One who died for us and lives inside us. And we’re supposed to do it on a daily, moment by moment basis.”

I hear that and agree with it, but when it comes down to application… I’m not sure what that looks like. Pastor Farley has said we should take an area of our life that’s driving us nuts and apply this teaching to that. My failure to consistently work on Sky is just such an area. What has become of my self-discipline? And how do I apply this active entrusting of my life to Him to the matter of my lack of self-discipline in working on the book?

“Step by step, day in and day out,” said Pastor John, “we’re delivered from problems and obstacles by HIS life. By the fact He lives in us. We simply need to believe that.”

Well… I do believe that. I think. Or do I? And if I do, what does that mean I … well, DO? Immediately I begin to think in terms of disciplining myself again.

But then he said it’s not ‘Let go and let God, it’s actively relying on Him to live through me. Because it’s a battle. The flesh doesn’t want to do that. It never wants to entrust itself to another. It wants the spotlight. It wants anything but “Sorry, step aside. Jesus Christ is gonna live His new life in me now.” Anything!

Like, “What if I reform myself and promise to do better?”

Or, “I’ll feel sorry for my sins. I know I was bad. I’ll deny myself in certain areas.”

He didn’t say if “deny myself” referred to “No more chocolate chip cookies for you until you toe the line” as a punishment to atone for infractions, and maybe he did, but my first thought was that it sounded a lot like some of my self talk: “I have to do better. I have to have more self-discipline, more awareness of the distractions. Maybe I should unplug the modem or revise my schedule to be more focused on my calling. After all everyone knows you must deny yourself “a thousand unimportant things and a few hundred important things in order to do the one most important thing.”

Maybe both are covered in his reference. Because the denying of things to self is certainly a function of the self-reform Pastor John mentioned as being part of the flesh’s plan: “I’ll deny myself in certain areas!”

“No!” said Pastor John. “We’re done with you. We don’t want to hear any of that! We’re starting over. What do we do? Believe He’ll come through for us every day.”

So… does this really mean I just step back, stop with all the attempts to fix myself and turn it over to Him? “Here Lord. I’m turning this issue completely over to You. Live your life through me. You handle me and the book. If You want it done. I’m trusting you to take care of it.”

Is that it? But what exactly does that mean in the practical? I don’t think I know what “turning the book over to Him” entails on a moment by moment basis, since obviously I do have to actually write it. Yes, I’ve already done that to some degree with respect to its content. Is it now to be the writing as well? Certainly ny flesh hasn’t been doing much of a job getting with the program. But can it really simply be a matter of not obsessing and just reminding myself over and over that He will do it, if I turn it over to Him?

Show me, Lord. I’m going to do this as best I know how and trust You to see it done.  In Your timing, not mine; according to Your schedule, not mine…

“Faithful is He who calls you and He will bring it to pass.”                       ~I Thessalonians 5:24

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”      ~Galatians 2:20


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