More peace? Less anxiety?

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Would you like to FEEL at peace more and more each day?

Who wouldn’t!  Personal circumstances and problems as well as complex world situations seem to conspire to keep even the most placid in a state of agitation. Add to the warp and woof of 21st century life the seeming random as well as intentional violence! Just a glance at one’s iPhone in the morning is enough to draw up the covers and stay in bed!

stay in bed cat

Hear the promise of the Lord, however!

You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you: because he trusts in you. Isaiah 26:3

The last 2 days I have whiffed peace.  God has been working in me for years as I grow to understand and love the FACT that He is sovereign and in control of everything that happens to you and me.  Just that knowledge has eased my anxiety about:

  • traffic delays
  • alarm clock malfunctions
  • minor and major wounds from other people
  • accidents or chronic physical conditions (constipation that dogs me!)
  • the pain of my own chosen sin (‘there I go again, blurting out something hurtful’/ ‘there I go again, overeating’/ ‘there I go again, choosing to indulge in self-pity’ / ‘there I go again, lying to look good’ / ‘there I go again, divulging a confidence’ / ‘there I go again, saying something negative about a friend or family member AND enjoying it!’ )

Coupled with a deeper appreciation for what it means for God to ordain/plan/send/prescribe/allow every event has been a growing understanding of God’s will for the lives of His children.

And you know that I’m talking about our growth in holiness, also translated as ‘sanctification’.   1 Thess 4:3a – For it is God’s will that you should be holy:

A very precious friend has played a significant role in my spiritual maturing.  Last October, she mailed me William Gurnall’s 800-page book called The Christian in Complete Armour. Eleven months later I am on page 422 of collected sermons.  It’s so rich that when I dip into it on weekends, I chew slowly, sucking out this English pastor’s exposition of Ephesians 6.  His 17th-century perspective is refreshingly deep.

Across recent pages Gurnall has been talking about the benefits of holiness.  Today, I read this quote:

“….perfect rest depends on perfect holiness….”

Okay – we will NEVER attain to perfect holiness until we SEE Jesus face to face.  But don’t you think it follows from the above premise that:

As we grow in holiness, we grow in rest and peace

What I wrote in my journal this morning was that ‘I should seek holiness and be GRATEFUL for all the circumstances God has planned for me THIS DAY……

  • if it is true that God works all things for the GOOD of those who love Him, who are called according to His purposes  (Romans 8:28)
  • if it is true that NO ‘GOOD’ thing does He withhold from those who are righteous  (Ps 84:11)
  • if it is true that God’s design to do us ‘good’ means to grow and shape us to think, act, react and feel more and more like His beloved Son’

If I take God at His Word, then it follows logically that I should see every event as bearing an opportunity for growth in my holiness or sanctification.  Yes, events can be evil and there is suffering and pain, but each circumstance is packed with holiness-making practical exercises.

And if the more I grow in holiness, the more PEACE I will feel, then why should I fear?  And if God allows/sends/ordains/plans good out of this next event then I SHOULD be able to relax, to rest if I truly trust Him.

Go back to that Isaiah quote and see for yourself.  The taking God at His word lies at the end of that promise…’because he trusts in You.’

Why is this a big deal for me?  Why do I care so much about growing my ability to rest and be at peace and be free from anxiety?  Because I live with fear – a lot of fear!

Some people fear the whole getting old and dying process.

Others fear not having enough money to take them through those final years on earth.

Existentially, I fear something happening to my kids and grandkids.  On a day-to-day basis, I fear not having enough time to get my work done (so I can READ and RELAX).  And in my profession, I fear that I won’t be able to be creative enough to sustain the interest of my students.

So, YES, I AM interested in TRUE and LASTING inner peace that doesn’t depend on circumstances.

And what the Holy Spirit is teaching me through His Word and writers like William Gurnall is that it is in my own personal best interests to see holiness.  I’ll close with a quote of his, taken from page 422:

“There is only perfect rest, because (of) perfect holiness.  Whence those frights and fears which make them a….terror about? (These) make men discontented in every condition.  They neither can relish the sweetness of their enjoyments, nor bear the bitter taste of their afflictions.”

What I am left with is this question:

Maria – why should you fear tomorrow if God promises to use every thing that happens in order to work MORE holiness in you, replacing what is unholy and selfish and destructive?

Just think!  If we could allow this thought to permeate our conscious, waking thoughts, maybe it would begin to seep down into the realm of the unconscious.

What do we have to lose?

Will you be disappointed to know what God’s will is for your life?

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I’m ashamed to admit that in my early years as a Christian I used to brag about my UN-answered very ‘selfless-sounding’ prayer when Mike and I were in a career bind.  We were living in England and he was ‘stuck’ in a commission-only sales job and hated what the stress was doing to his body.  Nurtured by a small group from our church, we began to learn about God from the Bible.  Since we were in a bind about this job crisis, we crafted a spiritual request:

  • Father, just show us your will and we will do it!

No matter how much we pleaded with God, we didn’t receive any nudges or clues from God about what to do job-wise.  In the end, we stumbled our way through several dead ends and moved back to the States.  Even after we were finally settled into a new career path for Mike, I often shared the story of this ‘failed’ prayer request.

It wasn’t until years later that I learned what God’s will for my life was.   It’s the same as for your life, if you are a Christian. And it’s bigger than individual problems or unpleasant life circumstances.

It’s called RADICAL HOLINESS. 

radical

Before you flinch at either word, BREATHE!  We’ll look at each word and find some good news.

Let’s take up first the term, ‘holy’. It should come as no surprise that God wants us to be holy.  He started with Abraham and grew a separated people, the Hebrews, to BE holy. The OT is the story of how they, like us, kept failing at their calling.  Take a look at a few verses:

  • Be holy, as I am holy  (found in the OT, for example in Lev 20:26 as well as in the NT, for example in 1 Peter 1:16)
  • For it is God’s will that you should be holy (or sanctified) 1 Thess 4:3   holiness or sanctification is Hagiosmos in Greek  (we get the word hagiography, referring to stories about the saints, aka believers)

What about the first concept of ‘radical’?  Is that crazy-wild holiness like John the Baptist, complete with eating flying insects and getting stung gathering honey?

john the baptist

Not specifically. I don’t doubt that this forerunner committed his life to growing into God’s holiness.  But the TRUE meaning of radical is ROOT.  We are to be like God down to our very roots, not just LOOK holy to wow each other.

It’s the difference between eye-impressing pietistic outward behaviors and growing in godliness from the surface all the way to your core.

I have to admit that on the surface that might sound boring.  If so, then the fault lies in me and how I think about holiness. There’s also the very real problem that God is committed to transforming me closer to the image of Jesus, whether I find his goal for me exciting or not!  And he does this by…….

organizing one training exercise…… after another trial….. after some practice after..  every single day! (repeat until we graduate, aka go to be with him!)

I was reading a bit last night in John Piper’s book, Future Grace.  His premise is that all of God’s promises in the Bible are units of grace that are future to us. AND they are as sure as God himself is the following:

  • who he says he is (as written in His book, the Bible),
  • and who he has demonstrated himself to be (evidence from the past – both in others’ lives and ours).

Piper connects actually relying and believing God’s promises with growth in holiness.  Here’s his quote,

  • I pledge myself to a holy dissatisfaction until my thoughts and my words and my deeds express the radical holiness that comes from the wonderful, joyful freedom of living by faith in guaranteed future grace. (p. 108 of Chapter 7, original edition)

Piper takes as a key teaching about the assurance of God’s promises to us and for us these verses in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians as recorded in 2 Cor 1:20-22 20 For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. 21 Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, 22 set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

So how I summarized Piper’s thesis was this:

  • God calls/commands me to be holy.
  • I grow more holy as I soak in and move out, trusting the invisible but very real promised provision as detailed in his scripture promises.
  • When I pray to God I ask him to help me trust what he says. I need his help to stake my every-day moments on his word. So in my prayer I say Amen, aka Yes!, to God’s promises which are grounded in Christ and shored up by the permanent deposit of the Holy Spirit in me.

So, do you see?  Becoming more and more holy is actually a joy-producing adventure.  God doesn’t want us to worry and carry the burden of life on our shoulders.  But we won’t believe him that his way is the better and happier way.  So he orchestrates these tests, EVERY day, forcing us to exercise our spiritual muscles.

For me these tests seem to center around my perception of having too many tasks today and too little time AND have some time left over for me to relax by reading.

I’ve been meditating on Piper’s teachings the past few days.  This morning I woke up feeling anxious about ‘all I needed to get done’ today after church.  Then I remembered that I don’t HAVE to worry.  And in fact maybe, just maybe, God has piled all ‘all this stuff’ deliberately to crunch me and force me to take the practical exam of trusting his promised future grace. For that is how he is making me holy, right down to my core.

Question:  What’s your holiness training plan like?

A dangerous question

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“Mike, what would you say is my most precious, cherished sin?”

It took him a moment.  Not to think of the sin, but to be sure I was serious about asking for that level of honesty.

The answer didn’t surprise me, but it still produced an ‘Ouch!’ because it rolled so easily off his tongue:

  • Your obsessive routines of eating, exercise, sleep and reading!

Let me set the scene, so you can see WHY this is such a squirm-producing topic.

My friend Regina gifted me with a weighty tome by puritan William Gurnall  – Here’s the link on Amazon

William Gurnall's book

 

 

 

 

Gurnall wastes no time in getting down to business.  He reminds his readers of Abraham’s ‘Let’s get real about whom and what you love most’ test administered by God as recorded in Genesis 22:2 –

  • Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”

Gurnall modified it to fit us!

  • Then God said, “Take your favorite sin, your most cherished sin, which you love  – X – and sacrifice it on the altar”

I’m aware of how often I sin, but to identify my FAVORITE sin, my go-to sin was hard.  So I asked the person who knows me best.

So there I was, face to face with THE QUESTION:

  •  Do I WANT to give up my routines that bring me such comfort?

Immediately the voice offered some reasonable words…

  • “Eating healthy, sleeping enough, exercising daily, READING….those are all good things!  Don’t be extreme”

The problem was, that wasn’t God’s voice.

Isaac bound on the altar

I read on in Gurnall.  In the very next paragraph he warned me that unlike Isaac who did NOT resist his dad’s securing him to the altar, OUR sacrifices will tend to crawl off the altar.

Satan facilitates the escape of the victim with a one-two soft punch:

  • What you do is not THAT bad…!

and the 2nd blow is….

  • Don’t rush or be too hasty.  Wait awhile.  Maybe you heard wrong.  Maybe your husband is just jealous of your self-discipline!

I talked this subject of idols over with one of my sons and his wife who is a true Christian sister to me. What we came away with was that prioritization is key.

  • Yes, it so happens that my habits of choice are healthy ones
  • But they can also become cherished control mechanisms for my ‘happy’ life now
  • It’s not an either/or situation that requires me to jettison them, but something easier to see but challenging to implement.

Jesus boiled down the Law to the 2-dimensional Law of Love

Love God, Love People

When my food, exercise, sleep and reading habits DON’T take away from concretely loving God and loving others, I can pursue them.  But loving God comes first and loving people is a way of loving God.

 

Practically it looks like this (I think!):

Priorities:

#1 – first part of my day I spend in Bible reading, prayer and medication on God’s truth – to get myself happy in God, which is my duty

  • Ps 32:11 – Be glad in the Lord and rejoice….
  • 1 Thess 5:16 – Rejoice always…
  • Phil 4:4 – Rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice!

#2 – whenever a person comes into my presence or NEEDS to be in my presence, spend time with her or him as appropriate (yes, we all have work to do, but work can become an idol as well!)  For me…..

  • that means remembering that my husband is my covenant partner AND BEST FRIEND
  • that means phone calls to family and close friends are more important than reading
  • that means that neighbors, students, colleagues and people along my daily path at the grocery store, in line at the PO at coffee hour at church are more important than reading something on my iPhone

The leftover time is what I get to invest in God-honoring ways.  If I choose to spend that time cooking or reading or walking or browsing Twitter and Instagram, I am free to do so.

 

Question:  Whom would you ask to help you see your most cherished sin?  And how painful would it be to keep sacrificing it in order to make room for more of God?  If this Gurnall book blasts away within the first 5 pages, I wonder what else is in store for me!

I’ll keep you posted.

 

Lessons in the midst of suffering

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I asked a few of you this past week to pray..

in particular for a growing problem at my new school this year.  I am now under a kind of informal probation, this my 22nd year of teaching.  Parent complaints, along with specific suggestions meant to help me, have been put into writing by my principal.  The assistant principal has scheduled weekly meetings with me to track my progress as he and I discuss my improvement plan.

Since it is God Himself who has permitted these trials, I am very aware that He has stockpiled sufficient grace to get me through hard times.  As much as I would like to be immediately delivered, I expect that there are many riches to be mined as I walk through this  valley.  Already the Holy Spirit has favored me with the following gold nuggets:

1. No matter what is going on in our lives, we are to DO the will of God.  So what is that will? The first instruction that came to mind was out of Paul’s letter to Thessalonican believers (chapter 5, verses 16-18)

So what does THAT mean?  I look at this exhortation as loving encouragement/direction to nurture myself with what I’m calling “Request Sandwiches:

The first slice of bread is the exhortation to REJOICE.  That means I am to find JOY in who God is, what He has done in the past and all that He IS doing currently. As my friend Joanne pointed out, I need to focus on my unchanging identity as a beloved, adopted daughter with a permanent, heavenly inheritance awaiting me.  That is TRUTH and a bedrock on which I can rest.

Then comes my prayer to God – the meat and cheese of this food.  What do I need?  What do others need?  I’m to be talking to my heavenly Father all the time because….well..He’s a dad!  And dads love their kids!

The final slice of bread that keeps this sandwich intact is my continual thankful heart.  There is never a lack of thank-worthy blessings in my life.  All good blessings come from God.

2. Don’t make ANY decisions when tired.  Exhausted Elijah, after defeating and slaying the priests of the pretend god Baal…

…could not think clearly.  He whined to God that he was the only true prophet left and was being hunted down.(1 Kings 19:9-10)

God led him to a safe place to sleep and then by means of ravens, He fed the poor man before enabling him to run away fast from his murderous enemies.

Friday night I was chaperoning the Middle School dance, so I had stayed at school and didn’t get home until 10 pm.  In my end-of-the-week fatigue, standing amidst the pulsating beat of current teen music, I found my outlook on life itself growing dark, to the point of seeing NOTHING worth living for. (I know – that sounds like an overly dramatic pity party of ONE!)

But the next morning, after 8 hours of restorative sleep, I felt like my old self again.  And I woke up with some counsel from a friend, brought unbidden into my mind by the Holy Spirit.

3. Finally, in our daily Bible reading, Mike and I are in Exodus.  After my first tête-à-tête with the Asst Principal on Wednesday, I picked up my Bible after dinner to finish the 3 chapters assigned for the day. Exodus 30:23 was the first verse I read and the Holy Spirit made it seem as though it applied to me personally:

  • Little by little I’ll get them out of there while you have a chance to get your crops going and make the land your own.

I took that comforting promise of God to mean that gradually families will come around to appreciate what I am doing with their children and that I won’t be compared with previous French teachers.  It won’t happen all at once, but bit by bit!

Without trials, we never test out the promises of God.  Crises and problems are opportunities to practice the book learning. It’s hands-on learning.  And the comfort I am getting from dear friends and family is pretty sweet!

So I soldier on, knowing that I am certainly not alone in struggling.  Everyone has problems all the time.  Some are more painful and dire than others.   But Christians are NOT without supernatural resources. It’s stupid not to use them!

Reflections on unplugging and prayer

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I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as a little sin, what my husband used to dismiss as ‘little ole- lady sins’.  His former scoffing about gossip and ‘bad thoughts’ demonstrated the very common dualistic view of sin that society holds.  It goes like this:

What I do is just human and little and easy to overlook, but what the Hitlers and child molesters and ‘greedy capitalists’ do is serious and unpardonable!

That division acutely reveals our cavalier attitude toward our sin and our low regard for God.  Little do we realize that all sin is the sin of unbelief.  All sin attacks and affronts the God of the universe’s sovereignty, holiness and goodness.

Likewise, there is no such thing as a ‘throw away or little prayer’. As Mike and I are unplugging and saying goodbye to friends after 23 ½ years in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia, God is allowing me to see the fruit of some of my prayers.

I have two categories of prayers:  The first involves those conditions & situations which are desperate or needs of friends and family most precious to my heart. For those prayers, I pound on God’s doors like the imprecatory widow unceasingly begging the unjust judge for mercy and justice.  The second group of prayers relate to people more peripheral to my life.  I encounter this group less frequently and consequently much time passes before I can update prayer-need statuses.

We are all relieved when God mercifully grants one of those ‘biggie’ prayers.  But if you are like me, I am often surprised by the results from my ‘little’, less frequent prayers.  Those are the ones that are written down, but I probably cycle through praying for them maybe once every 3 weeks.  (the easiest way Mike and I have found to track all prayer is with Prayer Mate – see link here for details  iTunes app )

In the space of one week, God has gifted me with news of 3 of those latter cases – people whom I see maybe once a month if even that.  I’ve tracked their lives over the years and have been praying for ‘impossible’ situations that God has now unraveled miraculously.

# 1 – My hairdresser’s daughter has been abusing her body with drugs, alcohol, cigarettes and sex. There was NO relationship between mother and adult daughter despite years of mom’s rescues.  But ‘miraculously’ through the kind intervention of a truly caring boyfriend who alerted the mom, healing has come to this young 25-yr-old gal.   She enrolled in a residential de-tox facility for a month and has been ‘clean’ for 60 days.  My friend feels like she has her daughter back. She knows that there are no guarantees, but she is very encouraged and sees this as the marvelous blessing from God that it is.  I’ve been praying for this daughter for 4 years!  So why was I so surprised when God actually answered that prayer?

#2 – A grocery-store cashier who lives in my neighborhood had a husband whose body was wearing out through the abuse of no exercise, no job, poor eating and resentment.  When I asked her how her marriage was going (this gal fumed steadily at the toxic lifestyle of her husband), she responded with the good news that he had lost 20 pounds and was making better food choices.  As a result his attitude and HER attitude had both improved. Again, I almost couldn’t believe it!

#3 – Three days later, I ran into a widow whose grandson in the Navy had been OUT of contact with the family for 2 ½ years.  Each time I would see this fellow walker, I almost hated to ask about the young man for whom I had been praying.   The family had even hired a private investigator to verify that he was still living! When I stopped to catch up and say good bye to Pat, she told me that her grandson was home!  He had apparently called up his dad (Pat’s son) out of the blue, asking for money for a bus ticket.  He was now living with his dad and looking for a job.  He seemed to be ‘normal’ according to my friend, although he hadn’t shared why he had withdrawn from his family.  She did offer that it might be related to PTSD from his time in Iraq.

Drawing away from Pat and continuing to walk the ‘loop’ in my neighborhood, I daubed my eyes as tears flowed over the goodness of God.  He had allowed me to see the fruit of some of these ‘half-hearted/ almost unbelieving’ prayers.  These petitions, although faithful, certainly were not of the ‘robust’ caliber.  But it was a good reminder to pray on, without ceasing, not depending on the strength or fervency of my prayer life, but depending on Him who WANTS to answer our prayers.

Do you remember when your children started to walk?  How you praised them for each tentative step they made.  Perfect balance wasn’t your standard.  You cheered on every feeble attempt to move independently.  In the same way our Heavenly Father boasts of our less-than-perfect prayer life.  He says to the Son and the Spirit, “Look at how my daughter is counting on me to intervene in the life of her friend!” He marvels, “Look at the confidence my son is placing in me to bring peace into his chaotic situation!”

So as Mike and I complete our final days here in Newport News, Virginia, we are encouraged to continue to pray for new friends we meet in Western North Carolina.  Lord, remind us & grant us the desire and impulse to greet You each morning, ‘Rejoicing always, praying continuously and giving thanks to You in all things’.

 

Following my own advice when discouraged

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Rejoice always, pray continuously and in everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for Christ. 1 Thess 5:16-18

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander”, so goes the folk wisdom. Only in my case, what I’m preaching to my gander, I need to follow myself.

My beloved is depressed due to a job he can’t stand and much uncertainty surrounding it.  He feels stuck because he needs to endure 3 more years in this job to qualify for a small pension from the government.  His body reacts with physical symptoms due to his dark gray feelings. His body’s response deepens his depression.  It feels like a vicious circle.

I spend time searching scripture to encourage him with God’s word.  Verses like:

  • Ascribe to the Lord power and strength  (i.e. don’t build up the circumstances and make them seem insurmountable)  (Ps 68:34)
  • But as for me, I will look to the Lord and confident in Him I will keep watch; I will wait with hope and expectancy for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me! (Micah 7:7)
  • Though the fig tree does not blossom….. (my version – though life is REALLY HARD right now)….yet will I rejoice in the Lord.  (Hab 3: 17….19)
  • As a man thinks in his heart, so he becomes (Prov 23:7)
  • I can do ALL things through Him who strengthens me (Phil 4:19)
  • I pray that the eyes of Mike’s heart may be enlightened in order that he may know …….. his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead. (Eph 1: 18-19)

But when my husband doesn’t respond to my encouragement, I can fall into feeling down too!

But wait a second!  I’m being two-faced then.  Who am I to succumb to my feelings?  If I am called to be my husband’s Ezer, his companion to help him, then God has equipped me.   I don’t have to battle his depression on my own!  I don’t have to let it bring me down.

If I’m encouraging Mike to change his self-talk, then I need to listen to my own advice.  I need to talk to myself, tell myself Truth from God’s word and not listen to my feelings which are based on incomplete knowledge.  I need to rejoice that God has given me the power to encourage Mike.  Paraphrasing Paul in 1 Cor. 15 “I worked hard…yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me!”  When I feel weak like I can’t summon up any more encouragement for Mike, I MUST tell myself the truth. I don’t have to succumb to discouragement.   Yes there is trouble in life, but Christ is with me to fight on.  I might not sense that I have the resources or energy to be an encouragement tonight, but I CAN trust God that He will provide manna for the evening, not now, but IN THE MOMENT.  “As is my day, so too is the STRENGTH, the REST and the SECURITY that God provides” (Deut 33:25) I can count on Him to provide manna in the moment.

Putting on my belt of truth and lifting up my shield of faith in Christ to ward off the fears and doubts with which the enemy so delights in barraging me.

Costly Complaining

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Phil 2 : 14, 15 Do everything without complaining or arguing…. That you may show yourselves to be ….. children of God…. in the midst of a crooked and wicked generation ….among whom you are seen as bright lights ….in the [dark] world.

1 Thess 5:19 – Do not quench the spirit.

School started 3 weeks ago and so did my complaining.  I wasn’t aware of it until I read Oswald Chambers on August 30th.  He said that where we are in life is where God has purposefully flung us.  He continued his point by saying that our circumstances don’t matter; it’s our reaction that counts, that we fulfill God’s purpose for us as long as we walk with him in the light and don’t quench or suppress that light.

This startled me in several ways.  First, I hadn’t been aware that I was complaining.   So my first response was to acknowledge how much I had indeed been grumbling, inside.  Second, after some reflection, I did see how the circumstances of our lives are just the background, the scenery.  How we respond is the main action or event.  Finally, I was led to see that EVERYONE is watching to see how I will react to unpleasant circumstances – the spirit world and humans, both other believers and non-believers.  Much is at stake by how I respond to the circumstances.

God kept shining an uncomfortable light on my poor attitude which was turning out to be a spirit of inner discontent, dialogue and criticism of how things are. (It shouldn’t be that I have to ……).  Once God brought this to my attention, I repented of course.  That’s the end of that, I innocently thought.  Wrong!!!  I continued to winge.  For 2 solid weeks.

And my joy evaporated as did my peace, my thankfulness and my love for others.

In fact, today, during Pete’s sermon at church, I realize that when I complain about the present or worry about the future, that ALL my fruit rots. (Galatians 5:22, 23 – …..Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.)  Thank the good Lord for the gift of constant repentance and forgiveness.

While Pete preached, God further showed me that when I’m in a stinky state, I don’t look any different from a pagan.  It’s the NORM to complain when things don’t go our way.  When Christians DON’T gripe, then they stand out as VERY different from the general population.   Our ‘light’ can then be an entrée or opening as a witness to what God enables us to do because we’ve been born anew.

One other costly consequence of rehearsing one’s dissatisfaction and frustration with circumstances is that we cut off the power of the HS in us.  Mike used to have a motorcycle.  When his gas tank would run empty, the bike would shut off.  Technically with the littlest of motorized bikes, one can pedal.  I picture our grumbling like an automatic shutoff valve.  In essence God is saying, “Maria, you don’t like where I have placed you?  You think you should be somewhere else or be doing life a different way?  Have at it, WITHOUT the power of the HS.  Pedal that motorcycle all you want, in your own strength.”

No, Lord, I repent.  Come back HS.  I need you every minute.  Help me catch my thoughts before I start to be negative.  Nothing is happening to me that you haven’t planned for my own good.  So I can relax and trust that I have all I need to walk in your power, in your name, even in circumstances I don’t like.  I can even thank you for what you are doing in me with your power.

Paul stresses this point twice to the Colossians:

3:17 – And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

3:23-24 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

Amen.

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