Cease striving to get, just receive

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I was in a very unusual spot the other night when into my mind jumped this thought:  “You have nothing to get, just receive.”

I knew exactly what that meant. Getting implies effort.  Receiving is passive, just opening oneself up to be gifted.

God is softly but continually teaching me how to maintain peace by making me aware when I lose my peace.

Roy Hessian, an English evangelist in the 20th century, wrote a book called, We Would See Jesus.  Link to buy the book  A good friend of mine, Regina, gave me this book right at the start of school in August.  I absolutely LOVE it when friends give me books.  (Hint, hint!!!)

This book is changing how I think.  Hessian’s premise is that when we start to notice our lack of peace, we need immediately to repent.

How do we notice that our peace has flown off?

-anxiety

-worry

-tenseness

-fear

-anger……. to name a few negative feelings.  And at the bottom of each of these is the sin of unbelief – unbelief in Jesus’ sufficiency and willingness to provide what we need.  We need to repent.  The blood of Jesus is sufficient to cover each of these sins.  We then can step back onto the Road of Light (Jesus is the Way or path that is Truth, hence light) and travel with Him.

Colossians 2:6-7 reminds us to use logic, to remember something that has already happened and to continue based on that fact. “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”

We were born again or regenerated, transferred out of the dead state of darkness through faith that was from outside of us and transmitted to us by God.  Likewise, we have to live on that gifted faith that comes to us through the Word.  When we read a promise of God, those divinely inspired words have real power to infuse us with living faith.  We believe what He says and step out accordingly.  Supernatural power comes in the same way that the Red Sea parted when it felt Moses’ staff and feet enter its waters.

Back to worry and the absolute fact that anxiety, stress, annoyance and frustration are ALL sins, because Jesus IS.  Because He is present, Jesus commands us NOT to worry, but to pray and be content knowing that we have nothing to fear.

That day before I got the divine message NOT to strive for what I thought I wanted, but to relax, to rest and to receive, I had been anxious.  I had nursed an expectation of what I SHOULD get and when I didn’t manage to secure it for myself; I was tense and started imagining, “What if….”

I knew what I was doing…and for about 2 hours I had this conversation with God:

Me:  God, I know that I need to repent of my anxiety.  I’m sorry.  I repent.  Help me!!!!!  I can’t get this out of my mind

God:   (nothing)

Me:   (I repeated my statements as above)

God:  (nothing)


Finally and thankfully, I was distracted.  Dinner and a movie with my husband changed my thoughts.  And then unbidden, not at all preceded by prayerful and desperate pleas floated down softly into my consciousness His thought/ His directive/ His consoling, soft reassurance:

 Maria, you have nothing to get, just relax and let go of your expectations, of your maneuverings.  I am in control.  I am sovereign.  I will send you what I want you to have.  What you have is what I am sending you.  I know all about your desires, your expectations.  Be at peace.

And I was at peace.

I woke up the next day, having surrendered what I wanted the day before, knowing that God was up to something.

Later, yesterday, I received the desired thing and it was better and more perfectly arranged.  Lesson learned…for now!  I’m a slow learner.  But I have a patient Father.

 

Entitled to what?

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Entitlements are a hot potato in today’s political climate.  You want someone’s vote?  Promise that you will fight to increase what is their ‘due’.  But what sounds like a benefit is actually poisonous and harmful to one’s wellbeing.

The feeling of entitlement sets us up for:

  • Anger
  • Bitterness
  • Resentment
  • Anxiety
  • Fear

You can recognize the seed of entitlement within when you start to say, “I deserve…..”

Truthfully, there is only one thing we deserve:  DEATH!!!

God says, “The wages of sin are death.” (Romans 6:23)

Starting back in Eden’s paradise, sin required the death of someone.  When Adam & Eve turned from trusting in God, animals died:

Satan:  “You DESERVE unlimited access to all the trees in Eden. Is it fair that God should withhold from you that tree over there – the ‘Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil’?”

Adam & Eve:  “Hmm…no that ISN’T fair.  We deserve……”

**

Closer to our day, consider these common scenarios. Think of the feelings they might engender:

  • I deserved that promotion, not Joe!
  • When I get on the scale and I’ve deprived myself for a week, I should weigh……
  • My husband should know that I need adult conversation after 12 hours at home dealing with toddlers!
  • Who does that idiot driver think he is, cutting me off like that! He should know how to drive before he gets behind the wheel!
  • My time is valuable- Walmart should hire more clerks!
  • No one ever notices the work I do.  I try to make a difference here at the office.  But I never get any credit.  They don’t appreciate me at all!
  • After my long commute and the hours I put in at the office, I need some chill time to myself.  The kids ought to know better and leave me in peace.
  • He knows my hot buttons.  He shouldn’t have said that!
  • I deserve the A, not him!  I did my research the correct way, wrote a rough draft first before my final copy.  All Sam did was pull it out of the air during an all-nighter.  Why can’t our prof see that!!!

My friend and I are reading a book that is changing how I see my life.  It’s called  Calm My Anxious Heart – A Woman’s Guide to Finding Contentment

The author’s premise is that when we COMPLAIN or COMPARE or WONDER how the past might have been different or FANTASIZE about the future or DWELL on tomorrow – We are destroying our contentment.

I am actually beginning to catch my internal complaints.  I have come to realize that my normal sinful bent to be impatient is a form of complaining.  When someone is taking up MORE of my time than I want to give, I am actually saying, “This should not be happening!”

Not only does contentment evaporate like rain on a hot Tampa afternoon, I am actually lying.  Who says that THIS should NOT be happening?  Who says that I SHOULD have designer-life?   After all, I deserve death.

Let’s get honest, though.

The above examples are actually not the ones that try my soul.  It is my fears that pose a greater challenge.

  • When I start to fear the death of a loved one in a car accident…….
  • When I start to fear not being able to find another job teaching French…..
  • When I start to fear a family member never being saved by Christ…..

I think what I am really saying to God is this:

I have a vision of the future that I think is best.  I’m afraid that it is not going to work out the way I want because I know that I am not in control.  I actually NEED you, God, to make it like I want!

A more precise translation would be:  I should be guaranteed the exact unfolding of my vision of the future as it concerns me.

**

The antidote to my misplaced, misinformed sense of entitlement? – Repentance and trust in Jesus

This is why the Gospel has to be my life, every breath of the day.  Exhale-repent/ inhale-trust.  This is the only way to walk in Christ, to live by means of Christ, by means of His light, by means of His love.  When I detour off HIS path toward MY entitlements, the raucous WARNING-WARNING-WARNING of fear, anger, resentment, bitterness, impatience alerts me.

Once again, it’s back to:    Breathe out my sin – breathe in His Grace – feel His joy and presence.

Painful start to summer vacation

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Thank God for Christian girlfriends and a Godly husband who have been holding me up recently.

School is out and I have frittered away 2 of my 11 weeks with not much to show for them.  I have been anxious and depressed.  (Does this come from too much time on my hands?)  Or am I being confronted with one of my many idols?

My worth consists in my productivity.  Here is what I did today!  Just call me superwoman.

My other idol that has me bowing and scraping as a willing slave is a fit body.  As a recovering bulimic I think constantly about food and exercise and how my body feels and looks.

Time for the training wheels to go, Maria!”  Suddenly, I have been confronted with the hollowness of my props.  But not alone.

In divine preparation, one friend gave me a book that has had me meditating on living in the present moment. I’m learning to construct a new reflex of gratitude, while trying to remember that all I do and think should glorify God.  That I can thank God FOR the previous moment that brought me HERE and live in that particular HERE, dependent on Him honors Him. That sacramental attentiveness in lieu of my customary rushed oblivion actually slows down T-I-M-E because it makes me aware of how the eternal I AM (Yahweh) is the God of the present moment.

Last Saturday in one of my rare ‘Ecclesiastes’ moments, I couldn’t think straight.  I kept saying over and over, “J’ai perdu mes repères!!! – I’ve lost my bearings.  I don’t know where I am and where I’m going.  I don’t how to frame my life!”  I finally thought, ‘I should share with my husband, after all, he needs to know what is going on and be a priest to me.’  I was in the bathroom cleaning the floor when he came up to change clothes to mow the lawn.  We sat down on the floor, leaning against the bed.  I told him what I was feeling (same ole, same ole).  As I teared up, he held my hand, listening to me.  When I didn’t know what else to add, I glanced up at him, embarrassed and spent with my emotion.  I saw that he was silently crying, entering into my pain.  Then he prayed for me.  Didn’t offer any advice.  Just sat WITH me and LOVED me.  Never have I felt so tenderly understood and accepted.

A few days later over coffee, another friend opened up about her anxiety in a way that gave me freedom to share my pain about being a slave to fitness. Then and now via email she has been listening to me and my customary thoughts (kept private up until NOW) and reflecting back to me how irrational they are.  (Anything that doesn’t align with God’s Truth needs to be ditched!)

Thursday,  I picnicked with another dear friend who is a classics expert and Godly woman as well.  I got up the courage to share with her what was going on with me and how these first 2 weeks of summer vacation have been painful, fleeting and have felt wasted.  (She teaches at my school and is on the same schedule.  One of the differences between us is that she knows how to rest without guilt.)

She reminded me that we live in wartime.  She pointed me to Revelation 12 where I read how the Accuser pursues us.  Sensing his time is short and driven in his Satanic Smear Campaign he boldly marches right up to the very throne of God bringing stinging condemnation.  Not bothering to address him, the Holy Father just points to the Son sitting next to Him, as if to say, ‘Why bother, these children of mine are clothed in my Son’s purifying blood, you can’t smear them!’ But Satan doesn’t give up:

17 Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring —those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus.

So dressing in gospel armor with my helmet of Salvation is a daily necessity!  (There is now NO condemnation for those who are in Christ)

Finally yesterday, I was catching up with one of my favorite young friends who inherited ME when she married our son.  She shared what she was learning about anxiety – that it is fear about the future.  As such, it is SIN.  And God has provided us with the gift of repentance.  We can experience FREEDOM from guilt, as much as need. Her anxiety is not a condition that God has given her and that He will remove if she prays fervently enough.  In hearing how she is processing anxiety, I was drawn to applying how I live with condemnation which drives me to live by law.  But that TOO is SIN.  And I can repent and move back into the realm of Grace where I am welcome.

Have I enjoyed my first two weeks of summer vacation?  NO!  But I think this is a gift whose time has come.  It’s time for me to unwrap the present and learn the lesson.

Thank you, Lord, for your gift of pain that is preceded by and accompanied with Godly friends and family.

‘How blessed, blissful, to be envied – i.e. ASHER, is the woman (having her sins covered because SHE repented) who now trusts and relies on the unfailing love of the Lord’  Psalm 32: 1 & 10

 

One size fits all –the Belt of Truth

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As I get dressed each morning with my Gospel armor (Eph 6: 11-17), I’ve been trying to translate the different items of clothing into words that calm my anxious soul.  Since the first item God calls us to put on is the Belt of Truth, I’ve been examining how I feel about belts in general.

Belts make me feel fat. I hardly ever wear a belt.

But I don’t think God has chosen this protection to point out a flaw in my natural self. (Thank you, Pop, for passing on not only your bone structure but your appetite for food!)

Au contraire, if the cinching up of His Heavenly belt causes any discomfort, it’s because I have needless layers covering my naked body.

What might some of those coverings be?  I’ll show you my 2 closets.  Closet A offers the good things I’ve done.   Closet B holds all the bad things I’ve done or the bad thoughts that dominate my thinking.

A stuff:

  • I weighed under 125 this morning; I’m on my way back to 122!
  • My students responded enthusiastically yesterday to my well-delivered instruction
  • I knocked out a good number of items on my To-Do list
  • I did something yesterday to qualify as a ‘good’ wife, daughter-in-law, mom, grandmother, friend, neighbor
  • I served at Church this week

B stuff:

  • I’m up a pound and I am probably never going to get back down to 122
  • Those ‘good chores’ I should do in various relationships are hanging over me
  • I was a boring teacher yesterday and it’s all my fault
  • I’m not doing enough at Church
  • I should be out sharing the Gospel with neighbors on my street.  And I should ask Ann over for dinner.  What kind of caring Christian am I that I ignore the widow 2 doors down??!!!
  • I should be doing stuff to fix up my house
  • I’m just a selfish person whose idol and chief passion is MY COMFORT and MY TIME
  • I wish I didn’t have to go to work today and could stay home and putter around on the computer and read.
  • I’m not earning enough money, thereby putting pressure on my husband to stay in a job he hates

This is just a sample of how I dress each morning.  No wonder God’s belt of truth is tight!

Thinking about what the Bible means, however, has been a blessing.  The truth is, God’s belt will fit comfortably and actually console and bless me if I let myself be unadorned, exposed in front of God.

There is no need to hide our true self, since He actually bids us to come ‘au naturel’:

  • Just as we are
  • Naked and unashamed (He knows all about us, anyway!)
  • Transparent and unafraid
  • Trusting Him to dress us with Christ’s righteousness

The belt of truth is actually the ideal size for each one of us.  But it only fits comfortably; it only blesses us, if we have the courage to drop the cover-ups of accomplishments as well as the scarlet layers of supposed guilty consciences.

Think of the time saved in the morning, if we dress only in God’s clothing!

PS:  there is actually another layer that I must shed if the belt of truth is to fit easily…the extra baggage of unconfessed sin.  This belt is, after all, God’s belt of TRUTH!  Why cling to my fig leaf when I can be free!  And He adds a little pressure for our own good.  In the end, facing Him honestly, coming clean and being released from the weighty sentence of guilt liberates us   If we don’t… that belt gets harder to wear.

Psalm 32: 3-5  When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.  I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin.

An Antidote to Worry

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I’m pushing back to next week, my part 2 of Gospel blessings because a besetting sin has been demanding my attention.

I confess, I have fallen back into worry and self-recriminations about how much I weigh and how hard it is to get and stay slim.  What has prompted this reoccurring grief I give myself?  We’re back from vacation!!!   Mike and I explored the Appalachian hills of Tennessee and visited our kids in Kentucky for almost two weeks.  But we were NOT lumps who let ourselves ‘go’.  We walked/ hiked between ONE and FOUR hours a day. And our meals were relatively routine in quality and quantity.  Yet I gained weight; hence, my misery.  But every problem from God is also a doorway into spiritual growth and ultimately a gift.

God’s word is first a mirror to our error and then a light to the correct path.  Last week while worshiping with Wes and Anne at their Baptist church, the minister read a verse I had never seen before:  But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.

This word ‘simplicity’ is HAPLOTES (SG 572) in the Greek.  It means being single-minded, mentally honest, free from hypocrisy (espousing one way to live, living another way).  All of a sudden, I FELT free.  The fragrant and freeing idea of ‘all I have to do, is be devoted to Christ – no other cause, agenda, goal, purpose, plan’ settled gently into my spirit.  I realized that I had heard this before.  God is amazingly consistent in His instruction to us.  Consider other verses about the one thing:

  • There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her. – Luke 10:42 (NLT)
  • Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness…..- Matt 6:33
  • No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and will love the other….Math 6:24

Then the other day, back at home in my routine, stewing in the 3 pound gain, the Holy Spirit reminded me about the sin of worry.  I was moseying around in Matthew 6 again and came across the very familiar command in verse 31:  “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?

My first thought was, is it that simple?  Just don’t worry?  How can that be?  What will I do?  What will I eat?  What if I cannot get off these 3 vacation pounds and then the OTHER 3 pounds I still need to lose (I know, I’m pathetic – but God uses ALL of our junk). How can I just NOT think about all this?  Who will think about it if I don’t?  My riposte to God echoed some atheists’ responses to the Gospel offer of grace, “It’s too good to be true” or, “It can’t be that simple”   My protestations were stopped.

So I did what I always do when I want to know more, I looked up the specific Greek words for ‘worry’.  The verb is MERIMNAO (SG 3308) which means to have one’s thoughts or interests divided.  When we think about a situation beyond the requisite time it takes to cast that little bugger into God’s big lap, we are dividing our thoughts, our minds, and our energies.  In sum, we are sinning. That brought me right back to HAPLOTES – the simplicity of being devoted just to Jesus!

So how am I applying these two verbs to my life?  I’m helping myself to the tool/gift of repentance.  I realize that I am NOT to stew about what I am to eat or do about my body.  In Philippians Paul uses this verb – MERINMNO – in the familiar ‘Don’t be anxious..but pray…’(Phil 4:6) command.  So I am allowing myself to pray once in the morning and to think about my concern ONLY then, as I hand it over to God.  Then when my mind starts to go THERE again, during the day, I repent of my disobedient, wayward thought and ask the Holy Spirit to help me return to being single-mindedly devoted to the ONE THING, Christ, my Lord.

I know you might not identify with my double-minded exhausting mental gymnastics about food and bodies, but this need to train and subdue our minds is basic for any Christian who desires to obey God and have his or her mind renovated. It seems that we all need LOTS of repetition of the same lessons, different flavors.  Thank you, Lord, that you are a patient teacher.

 

 

 

 

 

Daily C-Rations and Getting the CAR in gear – a metaphor

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I like to simplify doctrine down to mnemonic devices I can easily recall.

The other day I was thinking about what I need to remember, to feed on each morning to reorient myself for the day.  There is something perverse about a night’s sleep.  I tend to lose a correct theology somewhere in the wee hours of the night. I can go to bed being thankful to God and conscious of Him and then wake up in the morning a ‘worldling’ again, living as a functional atheist.  So each morning, I have to RECALL deliberately what is true about God and about me.

The other day, as I was walking and reflecting about how to be more automatic in God-thoughts, the picture of C-rations sprang to mind.  These days, the prepared meals for an Army in the field are called something else, but you know what I mean. I thought about how a soldier might draw his daily C-rats, enough calories and nutrition to provide him with energy for his 24 hour duty period.  Jacob prayed for spiritual C-Rats for his son Asher:

As your days — so shall your strength be.” Deuteronomy 33:26

Being consistent with Moses, I imagined what spiritual C-rations we should draw.  For fun, I came up with lots of C-words to illustrate God’s gifts.  As I ran through some of these God-given daily provisions, I was reminded of what Paul says.

The apostle emphasizes in his letter to the Ephesians that we have been given every spiritual blessing in Christ.  What are some of these daily spiritual ‘C-rats’ issued to us and available for our sustenance?   As His covenantal children, we are entitled to help ourselves to gifts such as Charity, Compassion, Courage, Character, Control over self, Companionship of Christ….you get the idea…think of your own C words.  What is key is that God provides what we will need for the trials and tasks of the day, not more, not less, but just what is necessary.  (Remember how the Hebrews tried to stash some away, “just in case”, but it rotted?)

But life is more than drawing food or getting equipped for the day.  As I was ruminating about my C-rats plan, it dawned on me that there were some daily actions I could embark on first thing in the morning and then with God’s help sustain.  I came up with three and they too begin with the letter C J.  Here’s an acronym – CAR.  C stands for CASTING all my CARES on Jesus, not only as an act of humility (so Peter exhorts us) but also so I don’t have to carry them around.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due     time.  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Pet 5: 6-7

If I heave them onto Jesus, He can handle them, fix them, and imbue them with grace.

The A stands for ABIDE.

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.  John 15: 4-5

Now I must admit, the How-To of abiding is a challenge.  But I heard Andrée Seu (columnist from World magazine) give a simple tip on how to abide.  She recommends thanking God as a method for keeping one’s mind on Christ.  Now that makes sense.  If all of a sudden I ‘wake up’ and realize I haven’t been abiding in Christ, I can look around and thank Him for something right at hand.

Today, I caught myself not even aware of God while on a walk with my husband.  It was Mike’s birthday AND Memorial Day, so we were out enjoying a 5-mile wooded trail.  When I startled and it dawned on me that I wasn’t abiding in (i.e. thinking about) Christ, I looked at the textured bark on the trees and thanked God for His design and creativity (another C word!)   That one observation led to other delights and all of a sudden I was abiding.  My momentary appreciation and love for God grew.

What about guilt for the hours that had passed without thinking of God?  The 3rd letter of CAR reminds us that we get to REPENT each time we catch ourselves distracted about worldly concerns with no thought toward God.  I’m so grateful for the gift of frequent repentance:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

Now applying the CAR metaphor a bit further, I imagine an engine with pistons that operates on a continuous 3 stroke cycle (we have to S-T-R-E-T-C-H the analogy a bit, I know! My husband has explained that cars have either 2 or 4 cycles).  I cast my cares on Christ, I abide in Him and when I FORGET about Him I come to my senses. Then I get to repent and thank Him for gently bringing me back to my senses. And so it goes.  The car engine won’t function unless the pistons are moving up and down.  Neither will I function well as a Christian unless I am continually Casting, Abiding, and Repenting.

So what’s the plan when you wake up tomorrow morning? We’ll draw our C-Rats for the day and put the CAR in gear.  Let me know what other C blessings make a difference in your day.

Dead on arrival – blessings of being made alive!

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Ephesians 2:5 – God made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved.

You know that when you were born, you were born dead.  DOA.  It is only by God’s grace that he brought you to life.

So..Now that we are alive, we are aware of two main bodily needs – the need for food and the need to be clean. And this is not just a one-time deal.  I beg your pardon for my assumption, but I would wager my husband’s retirement on my assumption that you eat every day and that you bathe somehow – whether face, hands or whole body at least once a day.  Dead people don’t do that.

But now that you are alive, you are aware that you get hungry and that you get dirty.

Here is the absolute best news.  We have access to ALL the food we want/need/ could ever desire – in the Word of God.  And……we can get washed up continuously.  OCD?  No problem. You can STAY clean.  Okay…pretty obvious about feeding on God’s word so that we can survive another day.  But how do we get cleaned up?  By confessing our continual sins…i.e. repenting!!!!

  • 1 John 1:9 – If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Did you see that?  We get not only clean, but super clean – each time we dirty ourselves by robbing God of his glory (i.e SIN!)

I heard Pastor Rayburn (Faith Presbyterian Church, Tacoma) say that it pleases God the most when we come to him asking for forgiveness.  What a deal!!!  So not only can I come to God, the Father, and confess my sins – all the time…immediately…but I please him as well.  (and bless my soul – I have the Holy Spirit as my constant companion to remind me of when I do sin….should I pretend I didn’t just sin)

So, be encouraged. Our sinning is NOT an indication that we are not born-again believers, children of the Father, siblings of Christ and co-sharers of the inheritance.  The fact that we are hungry and that we notice we are dirty MEANS the opposite. And we don’t have to go hungry, go dirty.  God WANTS us to feed/ get cleaned up.  Now that is GOOD news!

**

If you have read this far, then here is an announcement.  My husband as spiritual head of our family and of me rightfully pointed out that I was displaying a fair amount of pride in shooting out daily emails and forwards of ‘good stuff you should know’.  It amounts to me thinking that I know what is best for you.  He is right.  His loving observation and correction struck home. I believe that the HS is working through him to tell me that I need to fast from that ego-enhancing behavior.  My prayful plan is that I will just post a blog and no more.  For those who find it, subscribe to it, seek it out ( via the Holy Spirit) I will trust that it is meant for you all.  I resign, at least today, from pretending to play the role of Holy Spirit to you.  God help me to mean it!

 

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