Archive for the 'Friuit of the Spirit' Category

Love is Patient

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Last week while writing in my journal, it occurred to me — what with all hearts and red ink I was using to decorate its pages and with Valentine’s Day imminent —  that it might be a good time to focus on “love” for a few days.

I started out asking, “What is love, really?” And was nudged to start with the traditional “love passage” in 1 Corinthians 13.

“Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant.”  1 Corinthians 13:4

Only one verse and already five characteristics.

My first thought about them was that since God is love, all these characteristics  describe Him. He is patient, kind, never jealous (what a concept!), and is not arrogant. On the bragging… well, maybe… but then He’s God, so it’s not really bragging, just a statement of fact.

Moreover, “we love because He first loved us.” 1 Jn 4:19

The first and most obvious interpretation of “first loved us” is that He set aside the privileges and independent use of His deity to take on the form of a man and live among us entirely without sin, ultimately going to the cross as a substitute for us all, the perfect sacrificial lamb on our behalf so that “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” Jn 3:16b

But how about looking at it another way? How about considering the fact that these qualities of love are being directed toward us byGod Himself?

He is patient toward us who have believed in Him. He knows my frame, knows how very weak I am, knows my circumstances in every detail. He knows how stupid I am, how headstrong, how very often I blow it. And yet… every day, He’s still here, still with me, still loving me, still providing for me, blessing me, gracing me out, ever day. The same is true for you, as well, if you have believed in His son.

I have always approached this love chapter in terms of me finding out how to love other people, and trying to be patient, kind, etc. with them as a way of doing that.  But that makes it mostly about me, trying to be loving.

What if, instead, we start with God again? We love Him, because He first loved us, yes, but we have to know that He loved us. Key to loving Him then, is knowing Him.

Knowing He is always right, and never lies, that He is all powerful and loves me beyond my ability to comprehend, that He has a perfect plan for me, that He always does what is best and gave His son for me when I was still His enemy, and that my times, my days, are in His hands, and knowing all that… well, how can I not love Him?

Knowing that He has promised never to forsake me, to work all things in my life for good, that nothing in it is an accident, nor out of His control, nor even out of His mind. Out of His mind in that He wasn’t paying attention or didn’t realize that  would happen; no, He not only realized it would happen, but also everything else that could have happened and chose that particular event as the best possible thing to happen at that time in my life). And provided for that happening in every regard as would be consistent with His overall plan

So knowing all that, how can I be impatient with things that happen in my life? His timing in all things is perfect. That traffic light that delays me might be there to keep me out of an accident at the next intersection. Or it might just be training me to relax over the small things in life, because He’s got the big ones covered so why do I have to hurry and rush about all the time?

Jesus was never in a hurry.  Why should I be?

Knowing that He loves all men and gave His son to die for them, and that He especially loves His children, those who have believed in Christ, those who have been declared perfectly righteous in His sight forever at the moment of salvation… that knowledge changes one’s perspective, too. He knows exactly what’s going on in their lives, just as he does in mine — all their failings and faults and faux pas… just as he knows mine. And he’s allowed theirs just as He allows mine. Yes, it grieves Him when they go off on their own, “following a plan but not His.” It grieves Him when I do the same.

And for me to say of another, “Oh that’s AWFUL! How could they do such a thing?!” is certainly NOT love. We think the part of us that says/thinks those things is good. It’s not. In fact, it’s the part of us that Jesus went to the cross for.

He’s patient with them and with me. How can I not also be? Patient with God as He opens and closes doors in my life, even when He holds them closed for what I consider to be a long time. Patient with others when they do not act as I think they ought. Patient with loved ones, friends, neighbors, patient with Quigley, with people in traffic… I am not the queen in charge of all, to whom everyone must defer, after all.

I think one way of looking at patience is of being at rest. Not having to make snap judgments or give quick, off the cuff responses, but taking a breath and giving a slow, considered answer (or maybe none at all), willing to wait in whatever circumstance without agitation or expectation, knowing God is there and has His hand on it all.

It’s interesting how the five qualities mentioned above go together, interlock with one another. In loving God because of who He is, you slow down, you stop demanding, enter His rest and are “patient.” When you are patient with people or self, you are also kinder to both. When you are patient with God’s timing in providing blessing, knowing that timing is the best, you are less inclined to jealousy. When you are patient with people, knowing none of us is perfect, all of us are fallen and struggling because of it, and the only good thing in any of us is courtesy of the grace of God, then you are not so likely to brag, or be arrogant…

And the more you have your eyes on God, the more, you will manifest His love because… how can you not?  We love Him because He first loved us, but we also love Him because we have come to know Him through His word.

Self-Disicipline is a Boxing Match

A couple of weeks ago, on the advice of my agent, I attended an online Webinar by Michael Hyatt, former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, and its present chairman. He’s a “professional blogger, author and speaker whose blog is consistently ranked in the top three for Productivity, Leadership, Publishing and Social Media Marketing.”  This last from the jacket copy of his latest book Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World.

The webinar was very informative, and I took a lot of notes, though I have yet to go back through them. I ordered his book, as well, though I have yet to officially read it. I have sampled here and there, and it looks good.

My lack of reading notes or book, however, is due to one of the first pieces of advice Mr. Hyatt offered during his webinar, which was that if you’re going to blog, commit to doing it regularly. He has himself committed to posting five days a week for some years now (though he invites guest bloggers to present material on Fridays). 

Since I’ve been anything but consistent with my own blogging  for the last few months … years?… I thought maybe I’d make a change. I know I had a schedule of four posts a week for some time, so I’m pretty sure that’s doable. For the last  couple of weeks though, I thought I’d try out five days a week and see if that might work, reserving Fridays for something fun and easy, like pics of Quigley.

And so I have done that. 

In addition to that, using a technique I discovered through Hyatt’s website, I’ve been working steadily on Sky. Well, until last Thursday when I sort of wandered off the track. Sometimes things come into my life that get my flesh going… it can be anything from worry, frustration, self-pity, guilt… and it’s hard to turn that off and get to work.

I also got caught up in the blog posts and the comments and… just never seemed to get around to Sky again. I don’t really know why.

Sometimes at the end of the day I can’t recall how I ended up doing the things that I did. I wonder… am I getting dementia?

Or might it be…

lack of self-discipline?

Oooooh nooooo!  Not THAT again! I thought I’d put all that to bed. I thought I was done wrestling with all that. Self-discipline is a fruit of the Spirit. I’ve learned well and truly that I can’t do much with it apart from Him.

But… have I consistently asked Him to help me in this area? Have I confessed my sin of self-indulgence when I wandered off? Or maybe not self-indulgence, because often  it’s more… mindless distraction. Sometimes I feel like the dog in one of Koontz’s books (I think it was Dragon Tears) who had been given an assignment but on the way kept getting distracted:

“Ooh! An old shoe! What a lovely smell. must stop and investigate this … and what’s this? a puddle of water… and a bee… ooh, chase the bee…. now the smell of cat… there it is!  Off!  After it! “

That was all a paraphrase. I no longer have the book to quote from, but it was something like that. I particularly remember the bee. And the whole portrayal was so spot on….

But I digress. The fact is, this bugaboo of self-discipline has returned for another round. And why not? The last time I wrestled with it, I ended defeated, not really understanding how it was to be implemented.

If it’s a fruit of the Spirit, are we to TRY to have it? But then might we not run the risk of doing it in the flesh? It’s clearly something those who aren’t saved can exercise, like the very athletes that Paul references in 1 Corinthians 9:25 – 27

Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.

Strong’s definition of hupopiazo, which is the Greek word for “discipline,” means “to hit under the eye (buffet or disable an antagonist as a pugilist), that is, (figuratively) to tease or annoy (into compliance), subdue (one’s passions), to keep under, to weary.

That is not at all the notion I had of “disciplining the body”. My notion was of one who ALWAYS ate the right amount of food, got up at dawn to exercise, went down the gym on schedule every day to train… whether you felt like it or not. The above definition gives quite a different image.  One of a battle.

A boxing match where you’re hitting your opponent again and again with a lot of effort while he keeps hitting you back. Paul’s seeking to make his body a slave, and slaves don’t want to be enslaved. They rebel. They fight. They run away. Especially arrogant and willful slaves like our flesh, determined as it is to set itself against the Spirit.

This metaphor implies a lot of effort and tenacity. A lot of sweat and blood and bruising. The opponent is not going to go down easily.  And in fact, the only way it’s going to go down is if you are boxing under the power of the Spirit.

So that would mean confession of sins, so as to be under His control,  and bringing the word of God to bear upon the situation. Not necessarily in recalling this verse where Paul talks about what he’s doing, so much as the part about why he’s doing it. So that he won’t be disqualified for reward — that imperishable crown he mentions first. 

Wow. I never thought of it like this. It definitely warrants further consideration…

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

Waiting Rooms

I started out this last week with a doctor’s appointment at 9am Monday. This was a reschedule, when my appointment the previous week had been cancelled. They warned me then that the wait would be “longer than usual” because they were transferring all their patients’ files over to digital. Well, I figured that with the 9am appointment being among the first of the day the wait wouldn’t be so bad. I figured I’d be home by 9:30, 10 at the latest. So confident of this was I that I didn’t eat breakfast, partly because I didn’t have time and partly because I wasn’t yet hungry.

I was in that office nearly two hours, most of it spent waiting first in the waiting room (an hour) and the exam room (probably another half hour to 45 minutes). I read Everyday Life in Ancient Rome until I got bored with it. Then tried writing in my morning pages journal, but my hand went to sleep. I asked God why He’d set this up. I was just sitting there, doing nothing, my time wasted…

Tonight, in Bible Class I believe He answered. As I think I may have mentioned Pastor Farley has been teaching lately on Galatians 2:20

“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(body) I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and delivered Himself up for me.”

Specifically that the old me, the fleshly me, the one that gets angry and discouraged and fearful and is unloving and unkind and impatient, that me has been crucified with Christ. She’s dead, and her problems and limitations have no place in the life that Christ is wanting me to allow Him to live through me.

We live the Christian life the same way we came into it — by faith in the work of another. Belief in the person and work of Christ on the cross is efficacious for salvation,  yes, but also for everything we do afterward.  Because all the things we’re commanded to do as Christians, loving the brethren, loving our enemies, the fruit we’re supposed to have — we can’t do in ourselves.  Only He can.

I’ve known this in part for some time. What I’ve not understood is how it’s actually implemented. I’m still not sure, though I’ve written posts about letting the Lord have control, and letting Him fill in the details of my days, and take care of the book and the deadline and the audience.  The book and the deadline and the audience I understand better than the first half of that sentence. How exactly do I let Him have control, anyway?

Recently, having determined that I was going to relax and not have a routine and just let the Lord direct me,  and then bungling around and not really making the kind of consistent progress I’d hoped, I came upon an article by a prominent Christian stating that it’s clear that if you want to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile you must deny yourself “a thousand unimportant things and a few hundred important things in order to do the one thing that matters most…” She went on to say specifically that this applies to writing. That writing is, in fact, “entirely a matter of self discipline.” You have to sit yourself down. You have to shut yourself up, you must restrict your enthusiasms, you must control your maunderings.

I immediately thought that that made perfect sense and the Lord had sent it along to remind me that I did need to discipline myself, after all. That all that ‘leave it to the Lord’ stuff was just too lax and this only made sense. And so the pendulum swung back again.

The problem is… I don’t seem to have the ability to do it — discipline myself, I mean. Even when I set myself to it, I fail. Repeatedly. For a myriad of reasons. So now, after that brief regression to the old, temporarily more comfortable, allegedly more “sensible” way, I’ve changed my mind about why He brought that piece to my attention: not to follow its advice but so I could see more clearly the contrast. To show me that it’s not that way. Because that way is not a way of faith in another, but of faith in oneself. I’m the one doing the work — disciplining my self, sitting my self down, shutting my self up, denying my self… I’m the one producing the “fruit” by my determination and my effort, not something the Holy Spirit’s doing in me.

Then there’s the “What Would Jesus Do?” approach, where in a situation you ask yourself what He’d do and then you try to make yourself do that. “Throw that out!” said Pastor Farley tonight. Because that’s not really the life of Christ in you, it’s the life of you attempting to imitate Christ.

No, the answer is faith. “I’m giving the matter of my lack of self-discipline and the whole project of writing this book over to you, Lord. You do it. I have proven myself unable to do it time and again, but I know You can. So I’ll quit trying to scheme and schedule and control and force and demand and reprimand and condemn and deny self and instead, wait for You to come through.”

The only catch is that often when He does come through,  it doesn’t necessarily look the way you think it should. The way you have it planned. It may include long boring waits in a doctor’s waiting and exam rooms where all your plans and expectations for the day are dashed and you have the option of sitting there  mindlessly studying the baby pictures on the wall and wondering when the doctor will come (and he used exactly this kind of situation tonight) or…  you can use the time to recall that the main reason we’re left here after salvation has nothing to do with the natural world, and everything to do with the spiritual world. And you can tap into that, use this alone and “powerless” time… to pray!

Whoa. Never thought of that.

And Pastor Farley didn’t mean that we’re to pray for the doctor to come in and stop wasting our time, or the traffic jam to break up, but really pray… for people, for situations you’re aware of, for your pastor, for unbelievers in your life, for missionaries… for whatever He lays on your heart.

It’s not about me and my schedules and my efforts to make everything work out.  Not that having routines is a bad thing — I don’t think it is — just that when those routines get interrupted, there’s no reason to fuss. It’s just a matter of “not my will, but yours be done, Lord.” And maybe to look for some greater purpose in the situation beyond the one you had in mind.

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.

Journal Entries – Part 3: Affliction

4 – 5  November 2011

6:27pm  I’m in the midst of re-listening to last night’s message. Pastor John’s talking of how we have affliction to bear more fruit and that instead of reaction and resistance, our response to affliction and suffering should be:

“I’m going to allow the Holy Spirit to develop in me those virtues the Bible says He’s developing in me: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

“I won’t resist, react, panic, despair, go to the world’s way to solve these problems. I know what’s happening now. I trust my Father to handle them.”

Can having more things to do than you can get done be affliction? Yes. I think it certainly can. The temptation and too often the result is that I do resist, panic, react and despair and often go to the world’s way to solve the problem — be more organized, follow Flylady, get more discipline.

And yet… our world and the prosperity we enjoy in the United States especially gives us more choices than ever of how we can spend our time. Not only on activities but possessions — for every possession takes a bit of our time in some way, if not in care and maintenance than in the guilt it inflicts on us for not doing the care and maintenance (or simply not being able to find the time to use the possession as we thought we would).

And then there is the barrage —  the tsunami? — of information and social contact we endure, even sitting alone in our homes. It’s greater than at any time in history. Mind-boggling. Perhaps literally.

And as I mentioned yesterday, even Pastor John brought this up with his reference to the article he’d seen in the Wall Street Journal article called “How to Get More Done” which, he said, really means “How to be More Busy!” And then he exclaimed, “God help the people who want to be more busy! Who wake up every day and say, I want to find a way to do more things (get more things done).”

That’s just what I do: wake up every day and wonder how I can get everything done. And it’s not fun. But to even consider I might not  have to get all those things done, starts a panic in my soul: No! If you do that, you’ll never get anything done. You’ll live in chaos and squalor!

Well, not if I trust God the Holy Spirit to move me.

It occurs to me that I haven’t heard any of the pastors teach that Colonel Thieme phrase about the organized believer having a schedule for each day according to his priorities, so that he has a time for everything and uses his self-discipline to carry it out… Haven’t heard that in a long time.

Instead what I’ve heard has been that as fallen creatures we don’t have the self-discipline. Most of us can’t do it. (Yes, I do think there are areas where we can be disciplined… but most of us if we’re honest can pinpoint at least one in which no matter what we do, we just can’t hold the line for very long). And today the phrases that are coming to mind are “you set yourself to do a thing or not do a thing, have a couple days of success and then it all falls apart. We can’t do it!”

That’s pretty much been my experience.

In fact, Pastor Bob has often spoken of the problems and hindrances and people brought into his life to disrupt his plans. Of God the Holy Spirit changing his message at the last minute. Even in the midst of a message he and the others sense the leading of the Spirit and go off on a tangent and often it’s the best, most important part of the message! I’ve experienced times when I was wrestling with something and the pastor went off subject for just a bit to say something tangential that was exactly what I needed to hear at that moment. How can one ever schedule that? And why would one insist on ‘sticking to the notes’ when to deviate might be precisely what someone needs at the time?

Pastor John actually challenged the whole organized life/plan-out-your-day-and execute-it thing with his teaching a few years ago when he said that was actually a function of the flesh. We, in our own souls, from our own standards, make a list of things to do today and then watch ourselves fail and condemn ourselves for it.

Pastor Bob says,”Don’t try to plan too much. Let God the Holy Spirit plan your day and lead you through it.”

I’ve experienced that leading repeatedly, yet it’s still hard to really trust it. That is, to believe that this could actually be the way I’m to live. I like the idea of making plans and then executing those plans and all being in order. It’s safe. It’s known. It requires no faith, no moment by moment guidance from and reliance upon God.

If only the plans would work out as I had … planned.

Next: Part 4 – Busy-ness is Not Devotion


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