Incoming artillery barrage from Satan: You’re not doing enough!

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There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For in Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set you free. Romans 8:1-2 Berean Study Bible

Oh, the places we have lived and the friends we have made.  England, Virginia and North Carolina enriched us the most. We now live in Alabama. My former school colleagues, church friends, neighbors with whom I WANT to stay in contact now number in the 20s, I would imagine.  These are people for whom I still pray and feel close, but in different degrees. Deciding who is in my ‘inner circle’ has been challenging.  I have limited emotional energy and time to invest. I imagine that’s the same for you.

Add to those different groups of friends from our past, God has planted us in yet another community with new neighbors, church friends and colleagues at Mike’s office.

How have I organized those in whom I invest? There’s my mother-in-law with whom I spend 30 minutes twice weekly on a Zoom call, keeping up with her. Two grandkids I occasionally (depending on their schedules) teach either French or Spanish by Zoom. Then there are two close friends I’ve chosen to invest in. With one gal, I connect daily through Voxer, an asynchronous audio messaging platform.  My other regular friend and I leave lengthy video messages for each other once a week, using Marco Polo. They are the gals who are closest to my heart. 

Yet, I feel overwhelmed with how to ‘handle’ other friends. ‘Shoulds’ distract me and cause me guilt:  

  • I need to schedule a catch-up call with Jane
  • We should reach out to neighbors and get to know them over a meal
  • Martha is a young mom at church with whom I click, I should schedule a walk and talk.
  • I haven’t talked with my sister-in-law in a while; I should find a time soon to connect.

So, what’s the problem?  There is not enough time to schedule in all these people, given my other responsibilities. Plus, I feel guilty in admitting that these ‘shoulds’ feel like a burden.  The background music in my mind keeps playing the same-ole refrain, “Something is wrong with me that I don’t want to stay in touch with everyone; that’s selfish!”

This morning I woke up heavy with, “I don’t do enough to stay connected to people, past and present.”

Journaling my raw thoughts during my morning time with Jesus and my Bible always help me process what I’m feeling and thinking. The Holy Spirit always helps me sort through the yuk and bring me out into the light.

Here’s how once again, he came to my rescue. 

With relief, I wrote down exactly how I was feeling condemned and distracted.  Having finished reading the appointed scriptures for the day, I then opened up my Oswald Chambers app on my phone. The first whiff of freedom emerged. ‘Don’t worry anymore about yourself….’

Copying Oswald’s exhortation, I then wrote this conclusion: ‘Every time I start to think I’m not enough, recognize that I am focused on the wrong issue. Leave it alone and hop over to the most important issue: ‘Jesus, YOU did enough for me.  I am enough IN you.’

That triggered this idea: ‘What if I focused and meditated on your ‘enufness’, Jesus? Oh! Didn’t I recently read something about being sprung from prison?  Yes!  Here it is, from yesterday’s scripture:  Psalm 116:16 You threw open my prison door.

That truth set me to considering a daring suggestion that seemed to spring up from inside.  ‘What if I DIDN’T initiate contacts with my other old friends and new acquaintances here?  What if I just trusted the Holy Spirit to lead people to contact me if they want to catch up?  Could I DARE give that a try?  That would feel SO freeing!

But what about all the exhortations to ‘one another’ and love brothers and neighbors?’

God encouraged me by bringing Philippians 2:13 to mind. You know that statement Paul makes where he writes that it is God himself who gives us the desire to work for his good pleasure.

I looked up ‘desire’ in the Greek.  Glancing down at the various meanings, I dared to hope that this was the answer.  Desire can also be expressed as:

  • being gladly inclined toward something
  • taking delight and pleasure in doing XYZ

With mounting energy, I asked, ‘What excites me?’ I didn’t have to think.  The answer flooded my heart:

  • Writing! Having time each day to write energizes me.
  • Learning Spanish fills me with joy

You know, that line in Philippians clearly teaches that it is God who plants desires in us that conform to his purposes and good pleasure. ‘Could it be that simple? To follow my God-given desires, especially this urge to write?  Is my craft, my calling to express myself beautifully in order to connect and encourage others? Is that why the Holy Spirit daily brings me fresh ideas that link his word with my life?

And the Spanish, well that’s clear. The absolute joy and pleasure of growing more proficient. For years, I taught French to adolescents. Now, I get to expand my areas of fluency, giving me entrée into a different world with fascinating people. Describing my language acquisition process and what I feel inside as a second-language learner thrills me.’

I put my pen down and closed my journal to get ready for my exercise class. Throughout the day, I have been letting these ideas sink in.  I think I’m on the right track, for not even three weeks ago one of my friends reminded me that the Holy Spirit corrects with gentleness.  He doesn’t condemn.

More than just a solution to ‘what do I do with all the people from my past’, God confirmed what he has called me to do.  Satan apparently likes to suck away our joy and burden us with duties that God maybe hasn’t appointed. I’m quicker to recognize Satan’s ploys, that shame-producing condemnation together with distracting thoughts.

Return to your rest, O my soul, for the LORD has been good to you! Psalm 116:7 Berean Study Bible.

I’ll let you know what happens, as I leave to the Lord my other friends and acquaintances. I believe I can trust him to let me know when I should engage.

2-way Grace – a distinction

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I’ve heard it said that Grace is God’s one-way love.  I don’t intend to take away from that truth. Let’s just call it, “making a distinction.”

I love distinctions.  They help me sort out what I’m thinking; they give me an understanding of a concept.  Then it is mine.

Take the word ‘reasonable’.  It used to be a very good word.  But I didn’t know that until 2 years ago.  I grew up with the newer definition.  For example – if I asked to borrow 2 eggs from you and mentioned that I was going to the store the next day and would pay you back – that was a ‘reasonable’ request.  I wasn’t asking TOO MUCH from you – not like: “I need to borrow your one and only car for 3 days. May I please have the keys?”   Definitely UN-reasonable.

But reasonable doesn’t mean that at all!  Saying “yes” to Michael when he asked me to marry him after five weeks of dating happened to be a very REASONable decision.  He was both a philosopher and a good cook; we enjoyed spending lots of time outdoors together; we liked reading & travel; we worked in the same profession and he was cute!!  There you have it- 5 excellent REASONS and I haven’t even gotten warmed up!  That was a REASONABLE decision. (That ‘reasoning’ process took place 33 years ago, come September.)

Do you see why distinctions matter?

So it is with grace. God showers us with individual gifts called grace.  When we stop and notice them, SEE them and drink them in richly and then thank Him, not only are we pleasing our Father, we are enhancing our enjoyment of the gifts.

I saw this most closely yesterday as I was reading Phil 4: 6-7 in French.  That’s the exhortation not to worry about anything but to take every concern to God in prayer, with thanksgiving.  See if you can figure out what the verse means – there are lots of cognates. “…exposez vos requêtes à Dieu par la prière et la supplication avec des actions de grâces ;…. » Look at how the French translate ‘thanksgiving’ – actions de grâce !!!!!

I got to thinking that in some small human-sized way, I can give grace back to God by thanking Him for what He has given to me – in this case, access to Him for supernatural help!  My thanking Him pleases Him; He grants me more than I can ask or imagine according to His will; I see His hand all around me; I rest in His care; I tell Him how much I love His gifts; I feel close to Him; when something else comes up, it’s only natural that I turn to Him since I’ve been talking to Him.  It’s an X-stroke engine that once purring, it is easy to keep running. (why X?  – I don’t know – just seemed like X would indicate more than a limited number like 2 – besides, I don’t know cars!!!)

This is actually borne out by other scripture:  consider Psalm 116: 17to Thee I shall offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving AND call (try substituting: by calling) upon the name of the Lord (i.e. praying!!! – asking for more help)

Some dear folks mistakenly and pridefully reason, “God has too much to do running the universe to take an interest in my problems…besides doesn’t God help those who help themselves?”

No!  But that’s a topic for another distinction..and another blog – what part God does..and what part do we do.  For now let us be like the psalmist in Psalm 131, verse 2 Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; like a weaned child against his mother, my soul is like a weaned child within me.

Dear Father, help me to see You and to cling to your Goodness like that trusting toddler.  Encourage me to ask for your help when I am in pain, anxiety and confusion.  Cause me to remember to thank you moment by moment.  In sync, in union, in step, in rhythm with your Grace.

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