What are you dreading?

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Dreading I have to admit that when I think about a very busy week ahead with what ‘looks like’ too much, given the time available, I start to dread the days ahead.

My version of dreading events is probably mild compared to those who at the other end of the spectrum fall prey to panic attacks and other anxiety symptoms.  But my projected unhappiness feels heavy and it does sap the joy and energy right out of me – ahead of time!

Since January, however, I have begun to reject the ‘automatic dread response‘ that has accompanied me since high school days.

What happened to cause this unexpected change in mindset?  Walking through a dark valley with Mike from November through the New Year, that’s what!

This flavor of suffering focused my theology like nothing else since our marriage floundered and almost broke up on the rocky shoals of individual selfishness in 2000.

Trials tend to focus one’s attention on what is important.  As Mike and I dealt with his heart-related sleep and anxiety issues, I came to trust God’s promise in Psalm 84:11:

No good thing does He withhold from him whose way is blameless*

Jesus also taught me through the onslaught of what I call ‘pop quizzes’ or opportunities to put His Word to the test, that His presence truly was my one and only good.

So when that first Sunday in January landed and I thought about school resuming the next day after 2 weeks off for Christmas, I started to dread the constricted daily schedule.

But all of a sudden the Holy Spirit applied Psalm 84:11 to this new situation, reduced time and increased tasks.  Another way to phrase ‘no good thing withheld’ is ‘all good things provided‘.  Logically then, if God’s provision of X hours and Y minutes is what He deems good, and if I only get done 5 of 8 tasks for the day in the time He provides, then THAT is exactly what He deems ‘good’ for me this day.

That may seem like a small change, but that incremental adjustment has produced an out-of-proportion effect on my outlook.

Zech 4:10a – Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin….

I think I had begun to make a move in that direction last fall with my evening reading. Some nights Mike and I catch up with each other and dine later than other nights. After tidying up the kitchen 20 minutes might remain to read.  Other nights during the school week I relax with 45 minutes.  After fighting resentment the previous 2 years, the Holy Spirit had already begun to help me accept that whatever God gave me was ‘good’.

The ‘health issues’ sped up the process.

And let me tell you, this unforeseen silver lining of the suffering is a gift.  If I START to dread tomorrow’s schedule, which might include an anticipated burden like:

  • shepherding a group of 7th graders during an outing to cook lunch for 60 women at a shelter
  • missing a planning period due to an assembly
  • an evaluative observation by my principal
  • having to make sub plans AND do my regular planning and fearing not enough time for either
  • a meeting at night  which will interfere with relaxing with Mike
  • a difficult phone call with a parent or about a large bill
  • a doctor’s appointment whose outcome is uncertain

It doesn’t take long, now, to recall one or all of these FACTS:

  • I’m only looking at the anticipated circumstances as I see them from my vantage point and I could be mistaken
  • I have NO idea of God’s planned provision
  • I might actually find something surprisingly delightful and of great worth in what ‘looks’ like an unpleasant event

VERY recently, the HS has also reminded me that it’s pretty arrogant (i.e. sinful) of me to THINK I know what is best for me.

So now, when I do indeed ONLY accomplish 5 of the 8 tasks I had for the day I can say with a light freedom:

  • I guess it was God’s will for me ONLY to complete the 5 items on my ‘to do’ list. 

After all, am I in charge?  Am I the Creator of the entire universe, the Creator of time itself?

Actually, I’m very glad I’m not in charge!  I just want to report for duty with a joyous sense of anticipation about the day and leave the results to my Master.  If I please Him in the HOW and the WHAT I accomplish in HIS empowerment and resources, then it’s a good day.

One last encouragement.  Not only have I ‘lost’ the dreading, but I am finding out that the events that I call my ‘mighta dreaded‘ ones sometimes actually provide unexpected nuggets of unforeseen joy.  Isn’t that in keeping with a loving and good God and Father!

I resign!

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Jesus…the blessed (happy, blissful) controller, King of Kings, Lord of Lords (1 Tim 6:15)

You’d think I would have learned by now that I am not in charge!

After all, the book my friend Kris and I are studying  together Calm My Anxious Heart – A Woman’s Guide to Finding Contentment presses us week by week, reminding us just WHO the Blessed Controller of the universe is.  And it’s not me, or the President or luck!

So yesterday I handed my life back over to Him – again.  Whew!  Maybe that is what Jesus meant when He offered rest and an easier yoke. We were not meant to run things or people besides ourselves.  And even managing ME is a joke sometimes.  I have hidden recesses of evil sin lurking under my seemingly nice veneer.  I even fool myself!

It’s like my friend Sue shared with me yesterday.  We had both read Tim Keller’s book, The Prodigal God.  Sue said that coming to the end, she thought, “Well, I certainly don’t have to struggle with legalism like the Elder Brother!” and boom – God’s poke was sudden.  The next morning at the Y for her ritual swim, feet dangling in the water, Sue waited with the other swimmers for the 6:30 am ‘tweet’.  They sat there for about 5 minutes, watching a rule-breaker calmly swim laps, waiting to see what the lifeguard would do. Sue confessed to her secret enjoyment of watching the lifeguard gently chastise the errant swimmer. But as soon as she savored the look of embarrassed horror on the woman’s face as she suddenly noticed all the other swimmers waiting and watching, Sue felt God say with a touch of humor, “ So, you don’t think you have any ‘elder brother’ tendencies!?”

I’ve been trying to pre-manage some events in my life and I was gently reminded by two good Christian friends whom I admire, that I am not in charge.  And that actually it is a sin to worry.  I am definitely not a Happy Controller, but a miserable and misguided controller-wanna-be. Besides, what makes me think that I know best?  There’s ANOTHER sin to confess – presumption.  What a blessing that Jesus’ blood covers all my sins in the future, too!

I was reminded by God’s word to the prophet Zechariah that God really is the only resource we need and the only effective one.  God tells Zechariah to tell Zerubbabel who is rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem the following: 

“This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty. Zech 4:6

And then God goes on to instruct Zerubbabel on how he actually IS to do what seems almost impossible – getting rock from the surrounding mountains into the city for the construction.  He’s to pray out loud to the mountain in faith, in full hearing of his work crew, and then, confidently relying on and resting in God’s abilities, he is to continue to manage the rebuilding:

 “What are you, mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground. Then he will bring out the capstone to shouts of ‘Grace! Grace!’”Zech 4:7

So I am resting this day, fully happy to hand over the reins to my Blessed Controller.

Lord, help me to trust You that no matter what happens, (even if outcomes don’t match my idea of ‘good’), You are using IT for my good. And what is ‘my good’?  –  Your plan to conform me, a daughter adopted into your ‘forever family’, into the likeness of the BEST elder brother there ever could be.

 

Seeing is not believing…… or the need to renovate your mind.

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Ps 63:2   I have contemplated you with pleasure in the sanctuary IN ORDER to see your power and glory.

If ‘seeing were believing’, then all those who witnessed Jesus’ miracles would have become followers.  And no one would have crucified Jesus, because they would have all believed Jesus.

Actually the above conclusion is false. Observing actions or hearing words does not necessarily cause new knowledge. Faith must be mixed in with raw data.  Some bystanders in 33 AD were powerless to arrive at truth even with eyes wide open. Then there is the category, one far worse, in which people are blinded by a motive hostile to truth.  Into this group fell some Romans, some Jews and most of the Jewish leadership.  These people could actually see and believe that Jesus was who he says he was.  Yet they were not believers.   This should not surprise us.  After all, even the demons believe that Jesus is the son of God.  When a person unequivocally acknowledges the truth of Christianity, he has gotten as far as Satan!  A crucial successive step requires a grateful reliance on this truth.

Yet, no one is off the hook for their lack of saving faith. Everyone SEES evidence for God, even if they don’t draw the right conclusions.   Paul, as well as the psalmists, tells us that.  Natural theology connects the many signs, the major clues all around us in nature, to the existence of God.  But what Christ has done for us, however, cannot be deduced from the natural world.  For that we need the spirit-empowered Gospel preached to us.  We need the ‘grammar’ or facts of this news but packaged in a way by the Holy Spirit that pierces our cold hearts to awaken us.  Once we are awakened and with new baby spiritual eyes we actually see Jesus’ rescue plan for us, the news becomes glorious.  The saving step of sinking into this truth, of grabbing hold of the rescue line thrown to us is a ‘no-brainer’ at this point.

But, this kind of seeing doesn’t end with the new birth.  Every day, we must follow Paul’s exhortation to renovate or renew our minds and thus strengthen our transformation from dead worldling to living child of God.   The verb ‘renew’ sounds like extending one’s subscription to a news magazine or paying for another year of a Barnes & Noble membership.  That’s why I like the translation ‘renovate’ for the Greek word – anakainōsis  ….be transformed by the renovating of your mind. # 342 (Romans 12:2)

It’s the same word in Titus 3:5“He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal (making new, renovation of our whole self )of the Holy Spirit.

God has transplanted us OUT of the Kingdom of Darkness (Col 1:13) and into the Kingdom (or Garden) of Light and set us growing in new dirt. He is the master gardener and we need to feed on Holy Spirit Sap (no disrespect intended).  Here is how we can do this, daily. ‘ “Not by might, nor by (our own) power, but by my spirit” says  the Lord’ Zechariah 4:6

Think of a sunflower.  It lifts its yellow blooming head toward the power source and grows strong, exulting in the glorious rays.  So too we must look to Jesus, to gain (in)sight and thus power.   Then we can be like the psalmist who returns to God often to align his priorities with Truth and be infused with inner strength not his own.  This is the first and constant work of being a believer.

 

 

 

 

 

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