Archive for the 'Faith Rest' Category



Wordless, Sort of

I seem to have been wordless for the last few days. Not wordless for my journal or my writing logs, but wordless when it comes to writing a blog post, or answering email, or working on Sky. I know I’ve been tired and it may be that is part of the problem. If being wordless is really a problem.

The biggest thing of late seems to have been to stop trying to do it myself, stop trying to figure out what’s wrong with me and focus on Jesus. We’ve been learning about being crucified with Christ. The old man, the old me, the me with limitations and the one that makes all the problems and fusses. The distractable me. The confused me.

I understand crucifixion — that is, I know what it is. I know that Jesus was crucified. I am familiar with Gal 2:20 which says “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 delivered himself up for me.”

But I only sort of understand it. It’s not a literal crucifixion of my body. It’s a spiritual crucifixion. It means the old me has died, even though experientially it still holds sway over me. Which is kind of hard to understand. Usually if something is dead it just lies there doing nothing. But then, everyone born into this world is born spiritually dead and they don’t just lie there…

So it’s a spiritual crucifixion. And while the old me can have power over me, it doesn’t have to. If I don’t want to be under its power, I don’t have to be, though it seems awfully hard a lot of the time not to fall into it anyway. To even recognize it, is sometimes hard, because not all its impulses and suggestions are obviously bad and evil and sinful. Some of them are good, humanly speaking. Some of the things the old nature can do are the same things the new nature does in the power of the Spirit. Outwardly they look the same. Inwardly, they can too, if my inward sight is not clear enough.

Anyway, I’m grappling with how one goes about living in the fact of having been crucified with Christ, and how that relates to my writing problems… if it does, and finally yesterday I just gave up trying to figure out what I need to do better or different or what have you and just took it to the Lord. “You do it,” I said to Him. “You’ve promised to make all grace abound to me, so I’d have all sufficiency in everything, an abundance for every good deed. If you really want me to write this book, You’re going to have to do it, because I am not able to.

And at the end of the day I looked at the work for about an hour and began to gather various notes on scraps and pieces of paper into a document on the computer. Stuff that might happen in Chapter 6. Stuff I know about the situation in Chapter 6 — a dinner party. (That may be most of my problem. A dinner party is not inherently full of conflict and action…) I know many of the people who will attend. I know in general what may be discussed. I know some secrets to reveal…

Today I added to that document, interspersed with continued reading in my book about life in ancient Rome. I’m getting glimpses.  Small interchanges, images, a sense of place… it’s starting, slowly, to come together.

I have no idea what will happen tomorrow but I’d be an idiot not to go to God again and say, again, “You do it. I can’t. Show me the way I should go here, for to you I lift up my soul.”

More and more He’s showing me — it’s to be a moment by moment thing, where I go to Him, ask Him, stop trying to do it myself… I have limits, I have blind spots, I have no idea where we’re going. He does. And He doesn’t have limits and He has no blind spots. Trusting Him for it all, I think, is living by faith in the Son of God… Faith He’s there, faith He will come through.   Because “Faithful is He who has called you and HE will bring it to pass.”

 

 

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Journal Entries – Part 5: Leaving the Details

continuing from 5 November, Saturday 2011

I’ve been taking a bit of a thought trip in my journal, and setting down some elements  of that journey here on the blog. Previously I posed some questions as to what I’m supposed to do, what my attitude is supposed to be. Should I not have a routine? Should I not make and keep self-appointments to write? Or have them, but have flexibility when they’re broken? Give myself grace and keep trying?

God’s been answering those questions largely from the message given by Pastor John Farley of Lighthouse Bible Church on Thursday, 3 November 2011. You can listen to it here.

I’ve noted in the last three posts some of the principles in that message and my thoughts about them. In the course of his teaching, Pastor John noted that we shouldn’t be the same person we were two years ago. So I had the thought to look in my journal from two years ago on this same day, and got down the volume from what I thought was the right time frame, but turned out to be from November 2008 — not two but three years ago. I opened the book to where I thought would be near Nov 5 and hit on Monday, November 10 where, in large letters, centered near the top of the page I read:

Leaving the details may be a huge step of faith!

WHAT?!!!!

 This was from a message taught at Grace Bible Church by Pastor Joe Sugrue back in 2008. I could not believe my eyes. Here is some elaboration:

“I am to leave all the details to Him, claim the life of peace and freedom that IS mine. Leaving the details my be a huge step of faith. Follow Him, draw near to Him andwatch Him fill in the blanks.  He wants to do that. He doesn’t want us out searching for answers.

“Stop being distracted, come follow me. Let go of your life, follow Me and let Me fill in the blanks. Do you really, really trust Me?”

 “When the details are going bad, rough, we get entangled. We think, ‘I’ll use my power to fix them.’ (In fact the world is constantly telling us we must fix them and how to use our power to do so). No. Let Him. There’s a purpose in it all: to train you not to get entangled.”

There were various references to the fact that I have a calling on my life and part of that is to write the book I am now writing (though at the time, three years ago, that book was The Enclave.)

Three years ago, and the same subject. Pretty much the same conclusion, but this time I have a little more experience at trying this and failing, at having been dragged back into the details repeatedly. In fact, even in what I wrote three years ago I saw the seeds of me trying to do stuff again, telling myself how I needed to cut out Internet, this distraction, that one. The thing I’ve learned is, not all the things I think in my planning  are distractions actually are. And me cutting them out, is me doing it, once again. Not trusting Him to fill in the blanks.

It may be that God will cut certain things out, but this time around through this subject I’m realizing that the main calling on my life is not simply to “write this book”, no, it’s to grow in grace and knowledge of Him. It’s to grow ever closer to the True Vine, to abide in Him, and let Him… well, take care of the details.

Journal Entries – Part 4: Busy-ness is not Devotion

5 November Saturday – Continued

[Note: I’ve been writing about a series of messages I listened to a couple of weeks ago, and the journal entries they inspired; 5 November is the longest entry of the lot.]

Continuing on the subject of busy-ness, Pastor John taught that one of the most freeing things in his life was when he finally realized that

“knowing your personal sense of destiny simplifies your life. It narrows your life. It throws away a lot of things that aren’t important. It gets you focused.

“Being single-minded is the key to fantastic success. That’s why we get our own spiritual gift and each  of us have our own unique position in the Body.

“Pruning is suffering, but how about looking at it as getting rid of all the non-essentials, narrowing and simplifying your life so you can see clearly the target ahead of you. You have a great Rule now by which you can determine what’s important to keep and what to toss. Part of growing spiritually is a narrowing of focus: Here’s the thing that matter:  “FOLLOW ME.”

Speaking of Jesus, of course. Pastor John contrasted Martha in the kitchen going nuts with her preps and Mary in the living room sitting as Jesus’s feet, listening to Him. I always took that to mean Bible class, and I believe that in part it does. But what about moment by moment? I always took “Follow me” to mean Bible class,as well, but that must be moment by moment. And that includes the function of my spiritual gift, which I’ve come to believe is not only writing novels, but apparently writing this blog as well.

To do that, things will not be about my schedule, my priorities, but me following His leading at any given moment.

Colonel Thieme said we’re not to be led by our emotions and desires and impulses – that that’s arrogance and self-indulgent. And it can be, especially at the beginning of one’s spiritual life. But later I think to some degree that is how the Spirit leads. Suddenly you get an idea to do something and you do it.

But too often, especially in recent years I’ve wanted to write in the journal to figure out what’s going on, what I should be thinking — like yesterday. I remember being distracted from my intent of going in to work on Sky, and instead going in to lie on the bed and think about a subject I’d just read about on a blog. All these words and verses came flooding into my mind and finally I decided I should just go in and write them down. The result was my recent post The World is Not Christian.

I think that was God the Holy Spirit. That’s how it happens. It’s almost like I’m taken over. I always regard such events with dismay because they’re never what I’d planned, never what I’d intended to do.

It happens with the sudden inspiration of ideas for making cards as well. And for solving problems related to housework, storage, etc.  I think His leading is in those things more than not.

Pastor John’s next tack in his lesson relates:

“There’s an idea that we’re supposed to be busy — that that’s the proof of our devotion…”

(I’ve gotten done all the things I’ve determined to do based on my priorities…which years ago may not actually have been correct. Plus, as I said, this is all about me and my plan.)

“…when in  reality it isn’t busy-ness at all, but single-mindedness.   When we get pruned, we become more single-minded, more devoted to the Father and His Son. And HE will prune. HE’S the one doing it. He’s the one who identifies and will do what’s needed to make these things perfectly obvious to you and even maybe get rid of them for you.”

And in my notes I asked, “What does this MEAN? That I don’t have to figure it out?” Well, yeah, that does seem to be its meaning. I guess my question is, “but if I don’t, if I just keep muddling my way along, I won’t have any control (!).  It’ll be chaos. I’ll go along indulging myself like I’ve done for several months now…

Except… is that true? Have I just been lolling about reading novels, letting the house go, eating at McDonald’s every night? No dishes done, eating off paper plates, no laundry done until every last stitch of clothing has been worn? Leaving the dog to fend for himself, letting the clutter pile and pile? That is not what’s happening. Even my computer time is limited to a few blogs. I’ve not let Bible Class go. The checkbook is not a mess of unentered charges….

I feel afraid. That if I turn it over to Him… what? I’ll be lost? He won’t come through?

PJF continues:

“Many times what seems to us as a suffering and a difficulty, turns out to have been the best thing — God removing an unproductive way of spending your time.”

He used as example a sales position he lost years ago. At the time it seemed like a disaster — how was he going to feed his family?

“But it was a job that was mostly about accounting — how many cold calls did you make? How many hours did you spend? It wasn’t focused at all — it was a horrible job.”

And God removed this unproductive way of spending his time. This ties to my Martha mindset of how many tasks have I completed off my list. How many hours have I spent writing. Ohhh… never enough. Never. There will always be more tasks because every one of them eventually must be done again.

“He removes the unproductive aspects of our lives. Then we can go back and concentrate more fully on the broad and vital part of our lives, the productive part: growing in grace and knowledge of our Lord. Being closer to the Vine.

“We don’t bear more fruit by being busier (getting more done) but by being closer to the Vine. He wants us to see more and more of the Life of Christ. That He’s alive, that He’s real and magnificent. That if we more and more devote ourselves to Him, give our lives to Him, He’ll come through in  amazing ways!

“This time is really short and it’s the only time we have to glorify Him.”

We do that by trusting Him in suffering and difficulty. By believing His word even when we can’t see any results or sign that it’s true. And also by thanking Him when He finally does come through. As He always does.

Fear is a Thief

My Bible Class lessons of late have been on the subject of fear. How it punishes and torments us — even though we do it to ourselves. It is also a thief, stealing the peace that passes all understanding which is ours through our Lord Jesus Christ. A peace that is not as the world gives — through things we can see — but through the things that are invisible. That is, the promises of God and the essence and character of God.

Moreover, not only does fear steal our peace, it steals opportunities for us to glorify God through trusting Him.

These are all familiar concepts, which I learned years ago, and had reinforced countless times since. And still fear gets the best of me far too often. Fear is the province of the sin nature, the weapon of the kingdom of darkness in its quest to pull us out of God’s plan for our lives, and in so doing, to discredit Him and insult Him. Because fear basically says God’s a liar, and impotent.

Fear paralyzes us, cripples us and stifles creativity.  Yes, he said creativity. And yes, I am very much aware of the fact that it chokes off creativity. But… sigh…I tend to forget… (Which is why I need Bible class every day.)

I love the story of the Israelites as they left Egypt in the Exodus, led by the pillar of cloud right up to the waters of the Red Sea, mountains to the right, mountains to the left, nowhere to go and Pharaoh’s army churning up a huge dust cloud as it rumbled toward them. None of the Israelites knew how to fight, none of them had any weapons, there was nowhere for them to go except back the way they’d come and that’s where the soldiers were.

But of course, this is the group of people who had just seen 10 amazing miracles performed by their God in His plan to persuade Pharoah to let them go. They’d just seen the deaths of all the first-born in Egypt, people and cattle, except in the land of Goshen where the Jews lived, where those who believed had marked the sign of the cross in blood on the lintels and door posts of their homes so that when the Lord came to smite the Egyptians he passed over them.

They’d gone out with a high hand after that, and now only a few days later … here was Pharoah’s army. So what did they do?  Forgetting all about the things they’d just learned, they focused on the Egyptians who were marching after them, stared hard at them, maybe trying to figure out how many they were, maybe seeing the glint of armor or spear or chariot wheel through the dust. They thought about them, and all their prowess on the battlefield. Thought about how fast the chariots could go, and imagined how they would plow into the company of Israelites, men, women and children, most of them afoot. They struggled to think of a way of escape and as they looped through all these thoughts, became completely terrified. Soon the sons of Israel were screaming in panic and terror to the Lord.  Then they blamed Moses for having brought them out there just to die, and bitterly longed to have been left alone as slaves in Egypt.

Did I mention that fear also makes us completely stupid?

Moses commanded the people to get a grip.  He told them to stop freaking out and,

“…stand still and see the deliverance of the Lord which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever. The Lord will fight for you, while you keep silent.”

And I think keep silent not only means stop screaming and whining and blaming and moaning, but stop all the frantic thinking as well. Instead of focusing on the problem and trying fifty ways from seven to come up with a solution, STOP. Quiet your brain and relax. Step back and watch Him solve it. Think about who He is, what He’s done, what He’s promised.

“And God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

“If God is for us, who can be 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.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? … For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created things shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  ~ Romans 8:28 – 31

“For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you,” so that we may confidently say, “The Lord is my Helper, I will not be afraid. What shall mere man do to me?”  ~ Heb 13:5-6

“For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for good and not for evil to give you a future and a hope.” ~ Jer 29:11

“Call upon me and I will show you great and mighty things which you do not know.”  ~ Jer 33:3

“The Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord will give grace and glory. No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” ~ Ps 84:11

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” ~ Ps 27:1

“My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from Him.” ~Ps 62:5

“So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.” ~Ro 9:16

I realized, in the midst of Friday’s lesson that I was letting fear stop me on Sky, letting it paralyze me three pages in because I didn’t know where I was going. What if I chose the wrong sequence? What if it led me off on a goose chase? I could spend months writing useless words. I don’t have months to waste like that!

Fear.

Recognizing it was immensely freeing. It’s a first draft, after all. It’s supposed to be provisional, and I was assuming that God was unable to guide me. Further, one of my guiding verses has long been this passage from Hebrews 11:8:

“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.”

To “go out” he had to take steps — had to get up and leave his tent and walk in a direction. And he did so, not knowing where he was going. If he didn’t know where he was going, how did he know which way to go? He didn’t. And yet he went.

The parallel to my situation is almost exact. To go out, I have to write a certain line of action and conflict. How do I know which one to choose? I don’t. I just have to choose one and go forward. Write it out, don’t look back and just keep on keeping on, trusting that God can lead me. Even if it doesn’t look like He is.

After that I returned to Sky and worked through to page 12, but since I cut 2 pages in the process, I’m actually on page 10. That’s 9 pages from where I started out, the biggest jump in pages I’m made in a long, long time. I’m quite pleased. 🙂

 

Quote of the Day: Faith

Faith is not about everything turning out OK; Faith is about being OK no matter how things turn out.”

Wednesday: It’s Never What It Seems

For one thing, my Mother was not discharged today, and we did not go to the oncologist’s office. I did manage to talk to him on the phone, however.  Turns out when they did the ultrasound for the lung tap, the lung doctor asked the technicians to look at the liver for cancer spots and they had found them, larger than they’d been in January, so they know it’s reactivated.  Dr. Schwartz also said the edema in the legs is the result of the liver malfunctioning, but that the disease can be treated.

Meanwhile the hospitalist ordered an official ultrasound of the liver. Those results will not come until tomorrow. But we did get back the results of the test of the fluid that was taken from Mother’s lungs: no tumor cells. Which means there’s no cancer in the lung.  Hooray! Dr. Clements said there can be tiny holes in the diaphragm allowing fluid from the abdomen to enter the chest cavity, and in fact, he thought it did seem like there might be a fair amount of fluid gathering in her abdomen. Turns out they can extract that pretty much like the lung fluid was. In fact, if the ultrasound shows there is in fact fluid there he’ll order what they call a paracentresis — basically the same thing he did with the lung done to the abdomen. It’s possible that could significantly reduce the swelling of her legs which would be awesome. They don’t hurt her, but with the skin splitting and the fluid and blood dribbling everywhere they would be very difficult to deal with at home like that.

It’s probably unrealistic to expect results that dramatic, but still it would be nice to do something to lessen the edema. The primary means of treatment, though, is to go after the source of the problem which is the liver. Right now we’re waiting to see if mother can get back to eating and drinking and sitting up, able to move on her own again. Turns out that the fluid in the abdomen can cause the stomach to feel full and discourage eating, contribute to an acid reflux sort of effect and cause the patient to swallow a lot of air that will in turn be burped up.  So it looks like we might have an explanation for all the burping and so-called indigestion… We’ll know more later. But who woulda thought?

It is sooo cool to see God’s hand in all this, to see the way He’s got things orchestrated. In addition to all that, I got up this morning and went searching for my Thieme booklet, The Faith Rest Life, which  think I first read 35 years ago. It’s amazing to reread it and see things I never saw before, because my perspective has changed. But the coolest thing was that it really is true that I’m to do nothing. I keep fighting that. But if you’re going to give a problem over to God to solve, why would you keep trying to solve it yourself?

There’s more — he talked a lot about patience and how hard it is for us to wait on the Lord. And of course there has been a LOT of waiting these last few days. And the more I have to wait not knowing, the harder it is to stay relaxed. I even was griping to one of my friends about it… what’s the point of all this sitting staring at walls, waiting? I don’t understand. Well, there it was in the Faith Rest book — a very specific answer. And then tonight, live back in Massachusetts, Pastor McLaughlin taught  on … Patience!

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” 

I love it.

Soap-Bubble Problems

This morning I awoke around 6am, fretting in part about my mother’s broken hand. Having looked at the x-ray the other day, and seen that the break was not at all where the doctor in ER had indicated and furthermore that it did not appear very well aligned at all, I was alarmed. As I lay in bed in the morning darkness, thoughts tumbled through my head of our having to see a hand specialist, further surgery, weeks more of incapacitation, etc. Finally aware that once again I’d lost my peace, I made myself stop thinking of all that stuff and focused on the simple fact that God loves me.

At first it almost seemed hard to believe. It’s a truth one can know, can “believe” and yet not really live in. After all, it’s difficult to really get hold of the notion that someone who is invisible loves you. Does that make the love invisible? Well… sort of…

But that’s what Jesus is about, being the one who gives the love shape and substance. Who by His life and death revealed it. Contemplating the fact that He was willing to give up using His deity, step out of heaven and take on the form of a man to go to the cross because He loves me… that’s compelling. If you stop and really consider it.  If God was willing to give up His Son for me, turn His back on Him for me, how shall He not also with Him freely give me all things?

Not whatever I want, but what is good, what will truly bless me and give Him glory. If I’m focused on His love, I don’t need to look at the details of my circumstances. God holds every one of them in His hands. He holds every second of every day, each of them known and chosen for my highest and best. Nothing has happened or will happen in my life that takes Him by surprise, or that He’s not already provided for. Thus, contemplating what-ifs and unpleasant scenarios is a total waste of time. Even blasphemous if you get right down to it.

Anyway, to return to the problem of my mother’s broken hand, I took her to see the orthopedic surgeon today, braced for gloom and doom.

Instead, the surgeon asked her to remove the brace, looked at her hand, looked at the x-ray we’d brought and announced with some amusement that she had what is known as a “Boxer’s fracture” — a break in the neck of the fifth metacarpal, just under the knuckle. It most commonly results from punching someone in the face. We all got a laugh out of that.

In any case, after a month of immobilization, it had entirely healed. He said she doesn’t need the brace any more, just some physical therapy. I told him we had therapists coming to her house already and he said that was perfect and wrote an order for them. ..

So. The Big Problem, all the imagined scenarios of doom that were interrupting my morning sleep vanished in an instant like the popping of a soap-bubble.

I wish I could marvel and say, Wow! How amazing!” As if that had never happened before. But the fact is, that’s been a recurring theme in my life of late, with greater and lesser periods of time allowed to elapse between the moment a problem is introduced and the moment God resolves it.

Note I said GOD is the one doing the resolving, not me. I couldn’t in a million years figure out the ways He’s been resolving things. They seem to come out of left field. All I know is, Elisabeth Elliot was right when she said it often seems He lets us get lost just so He can show us how He can find us.

And upon reflection, I realize that of course it’s going to be like that. That’s the whole point. For without faith it is impossible to please God. He introduces the problems precisely so we can trust Him to handle them, and then after a bit of waiting — restfully — get to watch Him fix them. Which brings the glory to Him entirely, not to us.

For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works just as God also rested from His…

If you haven’t rested from your works, then, you haven’t entered His rest. And you rest for the same reason God did back in Genesis:  because He’s done all the work and made all the provision and there is literally nothing more to be done…


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