Archive for the 'Friuit of the Spirit' Category



Journal Entries – Part 2: Pruning

 1 November 2011 Tuesday

 1:15 pm   Another morning lost. I finally, just a bit ago, admitted I was out of line. I had not focused on my calling, but indulged my whims. Then I tried to guilt myself over having wasted the morning and now I have to PAY. But I reminded myself: He gives to His beloved even in her sleep (Psalm 127:2). So yes, I might have to reap what I’ve sown this morning. Or God might give me some progress anyway…

11pm   And so He did. I moved to page 7 of chapter 4.  Tomorrow I want to get up and get immediately to work…

3 November Thursday

~ 8:00am  I’m feeling anxiety and something like being beaten down. Another day to fail, basically. Another day to have everything go wrong, or all these little things that I’d hoped would be one way, or get done or whatever, not happen. It’s frustrating. And I guess I’ve known that for a time. That part of the feeling I have is frustration, anxiety, discouragement because I can’t seem to get out from under the load of things I have to do.

Just keeping the house on the minimum maintenance and writing and dealing with all the other stuff takes all my time. Except for the time I spend writing about it. Or whatever other weird things suddenly consume me.

11am   Last night in Bible Class Pastor John talked about all the trials being for our benefit. They produce endurance, and we’re to let that endurance have its perfect effect. We’re told to consider and know Him and let endurance work. Or Him work – clearly I am not clear on this matter. What I know is the struggle is familiar and long-standing.

“Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.” ~ James 1:2-4

I know I’m not supposed to be anxious. And the testing of my faith means “Do you believe what God’s word says? It’s not enough to know the promises and doctrines. Do you believe them?”

So what is all this chaos supposed to lead me to believe? That God’s got it all under control and I don’t have to change my self or fix everything? I don’t even know what to fix! Have I gotten distracted? Or am I being hindered in ways that are not my fault?

I’ve lately recalled that when I’m at peace and relaxed I work at the writing better. And yet I have all these other things to do just to keep the house, laundry, etc, on track.

So on the one hand – “You must get X, Y and Z done so you can cross it off your list and not have to think about it, free to focus on the book, free to be relaxed, to let it come…”

And on the other, “Just get in there and write before you get too tired or distracted!”

I guess I’ve always thought my problem was just simple failure to have self-discipline, but now I’m not so sure. Maybe I just have a kooky idea of what life’s about.

Pastor John talked of God using afflictions to get us to move beyond our simplistic, humanistic and very small ideas of who He is. Some people have a Vending Machine god — you put in your money (prayer) and out comes what you want. Others have the Tit for Tat god — I do this for You, You do that for me. There’s the Short Order Cook god, where you step up to the counter, put in your order and voila! There is is. Or the Mechanical God, where you wind Him up, or plug in the formulas and He does the same thing every time.

I think that’s involved here. I think my idea of god is the Organization Guru god. Or maybe the Drill Sergeant god.  I have an idea of what He want my life to be like: Colonel Thieme’s little outline where you decide your priorities and schedule out your day accordingly, then proceed to execute your plan. That assumes you have the power to control your day…and it also doesn’t need God. It’s me doing it.

If only I could muster the self-discipline to follow my plan.

Except self-discipline is a fruit of the Spirit. So… it can’t be the same as an unbeliever’s self-discipline. I had a lot of self-discipline as an unbeliever. My mother was fantastic at it. But it came out of apprehension and guilt. Whatever you’re to do hangs over you, making you uncomfortable until you do it. Which is not a proper motivation for someone who is in union with Christ.

11:00pm  From today’s Bible Class Pastor John said,  “We don’t want to learn how to get more things done!” How to be more busy.

YES!!

We’re in John 15:1 now and he’s teaching on the True Vine, which is Jesus and the Vinedresser, which is God the Father. We are the branches, and sometimes He has to prune the branches so we will bear more fruit — cutting things out of our lives, challenging misconceptions, molding us day by day into the likeness of His Son.

“Pruning gets rid of non-essentials, narrowing and simplifying life so you can see clearly the target ahead of you. You have a great rule now as far as what’s important, how you decide what stays and what goes. In the past you didn’t know what you were going to be doing, so you kept all kinds of things you might need. But now you know.”

He talked of how we hear about this idea of “the unnecessary things in our lives and then give ourselves another project: to figure out what’s unnecessary and get rid of it. No! God’s the one who prunes and who identifies and will do what’s needed to make these things perfectly obvious to you and maybe even get rid of them for you.”

This has so much application to my life! I’m just not quite sure how. I keep coming back to the notion of RELAX and let Him do it. Stop trying to be “responsible” and work, work, work, get so many things done. I know I have too many things to do – more than I can do. But I don’t know what to do about it. Let some things go? What things? Declutter my life of areas of responsibility. He’s supposed to do that.

Well… maybe I’ll let Him…

Next: Part 3 – Affliction

Conference Quote

“You have impact when people you impact impact others and you don’t even know — that’s fruit.”   ~  ???

Pastor Bob quoted someone as having said this at the conference — it might have been Pastor Rory. Or Deacon Elliott. Or someone else. Does anyone reading this who was at the conference know who it was? I –obviously — appreciated the words, but in my frantic scribbling lost the attribution.

Is Self-Discipline Overrated?

This exploration of self-discipline I’ve undertaken lately is a work in progress. I used to think understanding is straightforward — that you suddenly understand, all confusion is removed, you’ve finally found THE answer, and can apply with ease and confidence.

It’s more like going over and over and over a subject, grasping a new bit of it, trying to apply it, seeing that it doesn’t quite work, going over it some more, dropping it altogether, coming back for another Eureka! moment only to fall flat on your face and conclude that you have no idea what it’s about and never will… then getting hold of a new tidbit that shifts the whole picture again… There is much doublemindedness and blundering about.

So it would probably be better not to make such things the subject of blog posts until you’ve finished with all the blundering and have some solid conclusions. Or at least have some idea that the conclusions you’ve come to seem to be working out as correct. But that would mean I’d write a blog post only about every two years, so I’ll stick with this.

So what is the difference between the self-control produced by the Spirit and the self-control produced by the flesh? Because there are definitely two categories. My dilemma springs out of the fact that if it’s supernatural, if it’s a fruit of the Spirit and the Spirit produces it, then I must not do anything to produce it. Like trying to be “self-disciplined.” On the other hand, we’re commanded to do things that do require forcing oneself to do things one may not desire to do…

Like sit in Bible class, be quiet and pay attention to the pastor as he teaches, for one.

So… which is it? Or is it both?

And what exactly do I mean by self-control anyway? In my last post on this subject I mentioned the blog post by Aaron Swartz about being more productive, from which I followed a link to an article on “Why Self-Discipline is Overrated: The (Troubling) Theory and Practice of Control from Within.” It’s written by Alfie Kohn, who is an educator, something of an academic and a liberal. A fair amount of what he had to say I disagreed with, but some of what he brought out was quite illuminating.

First was a picture of what human self-discipline looks like — and how it can be a system of bondage. This is not helped by the fact that our culture lauds self-control and treats it as invariably wonderful. Self-control is good and admirable and virtuous, whereas impulsivity is not. This dichotomy is communicated especiallyclearly in schools . Good students are well-mannered, do their work right away and pay attention and are thus admired; bad students throw spit balls, distract everyone with their antics and drive the teacher batty, and are problems that need to be solved.

Part of Kohn’s intent in his article was to challenge this unquestioned value system and to do so he used the findings of research psychologist Jack Block. Block defined “ego control” as

“the extent to which impulses and feelings are expressed or suppressed. ‘Those who are undercontrolled are impulsive and distractible; those who are overcontrolled are compulsive and joyless…’ It’s not just that self-control isn’t always good; it’s that a lack of self-control isn’t always bad because it may ‘provide the basis for spontaneity, flexibility, expressions of interpersonal warmth, openness to experienced and creative recognitions.'”

I think that was the first time I ever read something in support of “lack of self-control,” but again, I saw the truth in that statement as soon as I read it. I experience those impulses — to give someone a hug, to go look in a book, to call someone, to do something other than what I’d planned — and often they turn out to be the guidance of the Spirit. So clearly there is an element of self-control that has to do with the flesh trying to control things, and that’s not the kind we want, though that is the kind that most people in this world have (being unbelievers; or believers not operating under the power of the Spirit) and laud.

“Overcontrollers tend to be complete abstainers from drug use, but they are less well-adjusted than individuals who have lower ego control and may have experimented briefly with drugs, [while] a tendency toward overcontrol puts young women (but not young men) at risk for development of depression.”

He goes on to illustrate the point with the example of a student who always gets her work done right away. Superficially this seems laudable, but inside, what is her motivation? He points out that it may be the reason she isn’t doing the things she’d prefer to do over homework is because the intense discomfort that comes from having an unfinished task hanging over her drives her to do it. “She wants — or more accurately, needs — to get the assignment out of the way in order to stave off anxiety.”

A clear, clear picture of the sin nature producing what appears to be self-discipline but in reality is just the knee-jerk function of a slave hopping to. Until she gets the work done the master inside her is going to flog her with guilt and anxiety. I can totally relate to this illustration.

Kohn suggests that in many cases self-discipline may actually be a sign not of health but of vulnerability, reflecting the “fear of being overwhelmed by external forces or by one’s own desires that must be suppressed through continual effort.” This is the poor person who is relying upon self and not upon the power of the Spirit and the word…

Then he said this, and it blew me away:

“In his classic work, Neurotic Styles, David Shapiro described how someone might function as ‘his own overseer, issuing commands, directives, reminders, warnings, and admonitions concerning not only what is to be done and what is not to be done, but also what is to be wanted, felt and even thought.”

We can do this with God’s plan for our lives, again, not in the power of the Spirit but solely through the function of our flesh. It’s yet another example of legalism. From reading the Bible we see all these things we should do and be and want, and how easy to just take it upon ourselves to see that we carry out those demands. Of course, the end is going to be failure, because we’re fallen and it’s not going to work. And even if it appears to work externally, inside there is no peace, no joy, no capacity to love…

He goes on to point out that an extremely disciplined person often sees everything as a means to an endand can’t “feel comfortable with any activity that lacks an aim or purpose beyond its own pleasure and usually do not recognize the possibility of finding life satisfying without a continuous sense of purpose and effort.”

Here, of course, we stray into some of the stuff I take issue with. I’m not sure anyone is truly comfortable living a life without purpose, and that’s one of the wonderful things a relationship with God gives us. But all these descriptions I’m setting down refer to the function of man in the flesh. And the flesh can base all its worth and satisfaction on achieving stuff. (One of Solomon’s eight experiments, written about in Ecclesiastes; and not one of those experiments produced the desired result of happiness) The purpose in the above quote refers to a purpose you can see, not something you must take on faith. The control freak has to see the purpose in what he’s doing or it’s not any good. “I’ve wasted the whole day dinking around with cards,” she wails, “and didn’t get anything accomplished! I’m a BAD girl.”

A few years ago when he was standing in for Pastor Bob who was ill, Pastor John Farley taught this:

“Guilt can arise from perfectionism. This is an unbelievable insult to God: I’m going to live by my standards and everything that’s good or bad is going to be decreed from the court of my soul. If I said I did a good job, I did. If I said I did a rotten job, I did. I don’t care what God says, it’s rotten. Everything is you and your standards. You’re living in the old man, letting the old man say what’s good and bad. Instead of saying, “I know I’m rotten. I’m going to let God change me. I’m going to live in His freedom and let Him be the arbiter of what’s good and bad, let Him take me away from that old man and let me live the way He wants me to live and… I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THAT IS!!! There is no standard, no expectation about your future destiny in Jesus Christ. You haven’t gotten there yet!”

And with that, I’ll leave off with this for now. There’s more, but once again my post has grown way too long.


Categories

My Online Church

Visit my Old Blog Here:

Music I’m Writing To

Transformers (Revenge of the Fallen) Soundtrack - Steve Jablonsky


%d bloggers like this: