Sanctification through novels

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Stepping Heavenward I downloaded the Kindle version of this book a few weeks ago.  It’s the last reading I do before turning out the light.  My bedtime routine is to check Instagram, read John Piper’s Solid Joys on my phone and then close out my waking thoughts with a few minutes in a Christian book.  God increasingly seems to make good use of those final 2 activities.

Twice now, the journal entries of this 19th century fictional gal have chided me gently, as though I were she, a Christian who is growing in fits and starts.   Most recently ‘Katy’ detailed the frustrations of a day filled with unexpected interruptions.

Annoying visitors, an incompetent kitchen maid, boisterous children and fatigue battle for her peace of mind.  Her goal this particular day is to prepare a special dessert for her overworked doctor husband.

Almost abandoning the dessert because distractions have eaten away most of the day, the Holy Spirit gently redirects her thoughts from self-pity and complaining to persevering. A grateful, loving and very tired husband rewards her sweetly when he finally arrives home to enjoy dinner and dessert.  As she reflects on all the frustrations, the Holy Spirit reveals to her just how He uses these precise types of circumstances to grow her more like Jesus.

As I read through this particular journal entry the Holy Spirit immediately opened my eyes to see the same thing in my life. So often I complain à la ‘Martha’ who wanted her sister Mary to relieve the burden of hosting Jesus.  I indulge a feeling of being overwhelmed by all there is to do and the seeming inadequate time to accomplish them (and have some Maria-time left over, truth be told!).

But that night in bed, the yeast of insight began to work its way into my conscious thoughts as I fell asleep. The Holy Spirit continued the process the next morning while listening to a John Piper sermon.

My teaching days that feel so packed are exactly what the Great Physician has prescribed.  I KNOW He desires me to REST in the assurance of His provisioning grace for all the good works He calls me to do.  And if I do them my own way, depending on my own resources, I usually start to tighten up and feel burdened.  It doesn’t have to be that way.

But like Katy in this novel, I sometimes have to learn the hard way.  And because our Father is wise as well as loving, He lets me ‘kick against’ the burdens on my own.  But not for too long.

If you haven’t read this book, I recommend it.  It’s charming AND sanctifying.

The ball and chain of craving results

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How do you measure your day, your work, your life?  If you’re American, chances are you think only about measurable results.

What’s wrong with that?  Why would you do something if you didn’t desire a specific outcome?

This is the month when New Year’s resolutions are grasped with intensity and then discarded with quiet disappointment. Yet hope seems to re-sprout with each new beginning, whether that of a school year, a budget cycle, calendar year or sports season.

Recently I have discarded my lifelong focus on outcomes.  I had become a slave to working for a specific result.

As a professional French teacher, I long to see students achieve skill AND enjoyment in the language.  Nothing inherently wrong with that.  Except my approach has been to hand over far too much power to my students to grant me the ‘success’ or even the ‘peace’ that I crave.

Yes, ‘crave’.  In fact, I now see a pattern that has emerged in my life. As I approach the end of my 6th decade, I find it easier to see themes and responses to life that I, by my actions, have crafted, either consciously or subconsciously.  Finally, I’m gaining the courage to give myself permission to STOP.

Is anyone else like me, in measuring their day by how well people react?  You might be a kindred sister or brother if you are a doer/performer like a musician, stand-up comedian, speech-giver, writer, film maker or even a skill coach.  Or maybe you’re one of the moms at home who teach their own children and are anxious to see growth.  Or among evangelists sharing the Gospel and discipling new Christian believers.

Despair and insecurity probably haunt more people than I realize.  Will it ever end, this never feeling like we measure up?  And I’m not talking about meeting OTHER people’s standards or expectations;I’m talking about the SELF-imposed high bars?  Let’s be real and call them what they are – prison sentences!

Recently, a ray of real hope broke through this burden I pick up every day illuminating a path of escape to a more fragrant and lighter world.

My daughter-in-law, who battles the home-school version of  ‘you’re not enough’, shared a verbal picture of what another mom explained as her daily task with her children. It was SO simple and SO doable.  Boiled down, the advice is this:

  • Each day, your job is to spread an age-appropriate feast before your children of that, which is true, beautiful and good.  In such a way that they can TASTE and SEE that the Lord is GOOD. (from Psalm 34:8)

Period.  That’s it.  She is not responsible for the OUTPUT, just for the INPUT.

Light-bulb explosion.  Isn’t that also my job as a language teacher?  to provide compelling and interesting and appropriate comprehensible input to my French students?

I am NOT responsible for their output.  That is an impossible assignment.  I can’t control them.  But I CAN control what I feed them.

And is this not also applicable to missionaries, both foreign and domestic, wherever God has assigned them (and us)?  We’ve all heard stories of years of labor before even one convert results.  The heart-warming account below is just one of many such examples. Missionary who thought he had failed.

What really convinced me of the sin of prideful expectations for Maria was a quote from CRU’s last print magazine, dated Sep/Oct 2016.  To wit: “We focus excessively on our output, because we want to be judged according to our effort, not our ability to remain dependent on someone else’s finished work.”

I am seeing this new insight transform my responsibilities.  I neither DO nor CAN control results. But I AM accountable in all my relationships for what I do and say and perform per the strength that God gives.

This lessened burden seems almost too good to be true, but I am proceeding as though it is and trusting our God to keep guiding me in all truth.  To Him be the glory for to Him belongs the power.

New Beginnings….. or Repentance aka 180 turnabout

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There’s NO way – I don’t HAVE the time!

No time

Have you ever found yourself going ’round and round’ with the same problem, unable to see a way forward?

Time is always the most stalwart of constraints, or so I thought until a new idea collided with my lifestyle time routine.

Over the years as the internet has exploded with content, I have gradually added to my daily life blog posts in both French and English about logic, French culture, teaching foreign languages, apologetics, Biblical Christianity, word origins, cooking and fitness.  Innocent at first, prideful as time passed, I got used to  beaming inwardly at having grown into a well-read, thinking person.  On top of that I would boast (to myself of course!) how I was not like others who WASTE time with TV and idle chatter, but I was one of those few ‘efficient users of time’.

Truth be told, I had become a slave to all the content, spending up to one and a half hours a day reading, saving and forwarding on to friends and family (I truly apologize for blitzing your inboxes with stuff – all very ‘good for you’, you know!)   I took pride in this self-appointed ‘job’, yet felt constrained as I continually pushed up against the 24 hours that God has allotted to each one of us.

*

Then an offer to audit an on-line seminary course on Biblical Womanhood arrived and I was intrigued.

Info about the course is here

Realistically, I knew that there was NO WAY I could fit the required on-line viewing, reading and study into my soon-to-ramp up teaching life this fall unless I eliminated something.

Here’s where God came in – by His providential timing, my oldest son Graham gifted me with a book he re-reads every year.  Pen in hand, I started working through it this week.  Some of Tim Ferriss’ ideas shattered my self-limiting notions about time!Four Hour Work Week

 

 

 

 

  • Being busy is a form of laziness
  • Lack of time is actually lack of priorities

I have ALWAYS asked God to stretch my time, but never have I asked Him to re-order my activities or even IF what I was doing was what He wanted me to do with my His time. 

If you haven’t guessed already, I like to read.  I REALLY like books and there’s never enough TIME!

So prompted by the impending collision of Tim Ferriss’  new ideas AND the desire to add something to my life, I turned ruthless!

  • Yesterday I unsubscribed from all but 3 email blogs,
  • eliminated ALL my Feedly subscriptions
  • and even dropped off the professional list-serves I have followed for 13 years.

This is good news for ALL of my friends and family.  I won’t be passing on more stuff that you either

-read out of politeness and delete

-or delete and feel guilty about

Change can exercise a snow-ball effect.  Along with freeing up study time by eliminating screen time, I have decided that the amount of sleep I get during the summer when I’m not in school is what I really need to feel good.  So come the start of the new school year, I will do the following: instead of getting up super early in time BOTH to walk AND do my daily Bible study ‘cum’ prayers, I will sleep the 7 and one half hours optimal for me and shift Bible time to the evenings when I’m not rushed.

As David prayed in Psalm 31, verse 15:

My times are in your hand;
    rescue me from the hand of my enemies

My Times are in your hands

 

 

 

I used to ask God to STRETCH ‘my’ time.  How arrogant – as though I knew best how to fill the time allotted to me!

It’s BABY STEPS in this new way of asking Him what He wants me to do with HIS time entrusted to me to steward.

Question: What new idea from God has recently turned YOUR world upside down?

The fallacy of multi-tasking

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I used to take pride in being able to multi-task…

…and  feel smugly superior to those who merely did one task at a time. Of course I never considered the quality of my work; the only purpose of splitting my focus was to move more stuff off my TO-DO list in less time.

Gradually, in the past 3 years, I have come to admit that I can’t multi-task at all! Whether it’s because I”m over 50 or I’m growing spiritually, I am seeing my limits and not railing against them.

Actually, multi-tasking is not the way God calls us to operate.

Eccles 4:6 – Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind. 

So if we aren’t to toil double-fisted, how ARE we to work?  

  • Consciously, with His glory in view,
  • Depending on HIS energy,
  • Remembering that we serve both as an ambassador of Christ’s AND a servant of God.

If people can judge us by our work, then we want it to be representative of the family we belong to! Moreover it is axiomatic that completing or performing a job well takes time. 

My husband’s colleague used to quip, “Why is there  never enough time to do something right the first time, but there is always enough time to do it over?” 

If we’re just fooling ourselves about our ability to do more than one thing at a time, does that mean NO ONE can handle simultaneous activities?

Actually there is someone who can – God!

Here are two illustrations – one from the New City Catechism –  Catechism link  and the other, a quote from John Piper.  First the catechism – this comes from Question 37 – How does the Holy Spirit help us? 

Answer: The Holy Spirit 

  1. convicts us of sin
  2. comforts us
  3. guides us
  4. gives us spiritual gifts
  5. and the desire to obey God
  6. and he enables us to pray
  7. and to understand God’s Word

When I meditated on that, I realized that He is doing that ALL the time, perfectly.  And we aren’t even addressing what God the Father and God the Son are doing at the same time. Our triune God is the ultimate multi-tasker.  And that is how John Piper views him.

His comment below in the picture comforts me.  I can trust God to accomplish far more than I can ask or imagine simply because He IS God and a good one, to boot.

So take heart, dear ones.  We were never meant to do more than one thing at a time.  It’s okay to do a task well, completely, thoroughly and excellently (without striving for perfection).  Let’s resolve to slow down and trust God’s sovereign control over our time.  And leave the multitasking to the Godhead!

What do you have in your hand?

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“Ce qui était en son pouvoir, elle l’a fait » – Marc 14 :8 

What was in her power, she did it.

I love the French version of this little fact about Mary who anointed Jesus’ feet with expensive oil, giving him a foot massage!

In doing a bit of internet research, I found out that this Mary is likely Lazarus’ sister, the one who had a previous foot reputation.  She would gather with the men and listen to Jesus, sitting at his feet while her sister fumed in the kitchen.

What I extract from this verse is that we all have SOMETHING, some kind of ability, gift, talent or goods.  And when we use it in a worshipful and loving way, we receive recognition, but not from men…….

There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. (verses 4, 5)

My friend and I were discussing a Latin phrase yesterday – “Laborare est orare – Orare est laborare” that is “to work is to worship – to worship is to work.”

I find the 2nd part of the motto the more interesting.  When we ascribe worth to God, we are worshipping, doing what we were meant to do.  That IS our work.

“What am I going to do with my life????”  – is the cry of my seniors where I teach.  Tomorrow is the 1st day of March.  They have 3 more months of high school and then off to college they go.  They are angsting over the first significant (so they think) decision of their lives.

But truly, our life is but a collection of moments, one after another.  All we have is:

THIS moment – this SECOND.       

How should we work in this moment?  By doing what is in our hand to do.

–      What has God given you that you can use or do right now in a way that shows the world that –  you love the eternal, infinite, unchanging only true and wise God?

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.  Paul’s inspired advice to the Colossians, 3:17

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