Are you a one-thing person?

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Psalm 27:4

One thing I ask from the Lord,
    this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
    and to seek him in his temple.

I’ve been distracted on and off this week by various good things.  We spent some delightful days with friends Joe & Mary in the rich, rolling farmlands of southwestern Missouri.

48 - Mary talks to chickens

Before this week I actually thought I had NO relationship with Missouri! Come to find out, not only was one of my daughters-in-law born in St. Louis, but also I had spent a week in St. Louis at a foreign language conference 3 years ago.  And I learned that Ferguson is part of St. Louis.

One topic that pulled away my energy and gaze was the possibility of modifying our eating/exercise routines.  It turned out that Joe cooks and eats ‘paleo’, following a certain gal’s version of food choice/prep. He also introduced us to the ‘Happy Body’ workout routine.  I devoured both books prominently perched in their kitchen.

What I noticed was that for a few days, my mind obsessed and was jazzed more by THOSE topics rather than in the eternal matters of MEGA value.  Listening via podcast to some God-centered talks by John Piper and others brought me back to my senses.

Yesterday, on our last leg of the trip home, I was meditating/reading Matthew 6:33: But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

When you start to look at the significance of EACH word in a verse, fresh insights pop.  Here is what jumped out and sunk in for the first time:

  • SEEK – we don’t spend time hunting for something we don’t value.  So Jesus is saying in effect, “Make my kingdom your treasure”
  • SEEK – the objective is not obvious to the casual observer.  Effort and focus are needed. ‘Duh!‘, you say.  I realized that I can’t see/seek more than one thing at a time.
  • FIRST – heretofore, I thought first was more ‘chronos’-oriented.  But I looked up the Greek word for ‘first’ and it’s PROTOS (Strongs 4413), which means – ‘above all, top priority, chiefly’
  • KINGDOM – hmm, what am I going to do with a kingdom when I find it?  Certainly not conquer it, nor visit it as a tourist. I’m seeking a kingdom in order to find the King. He is what’s important. And if I find the King, I will be submitting to Him.  Lots of implications here!
  • HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS – not mine.  My life is not to be about adding more ‘subtitles’ or beefing up my résumé.  Who am I trying to impress? (if I’m honest, it’s YOU!)  But seriously, if I find this Kingdom and submit to this King, then I’ll be wearing the uniform/the colors of one of His gals, not my own colors.  And compared to those clothes, even my best show-offy threads are but grubby, stinky, fit-only-for-the-bin rags (see Isaiah 64:6)
  • ALL…ADDED – did you notice that there is nothing else we are counseled to seek once we have found His Kingdom? Everything we need (the stuff we angst over and which Jesus gently takes to task both His listeners and us His readers)

Here are some other verses that back up this ONE-THING orientation I sense God is calling me to cling to:

Luke 10: 40 to 42But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

After those verses, I can see that this ONE-THING focus is really about adopting or choosing a ONE-THOUGHT or ONE-TRACK mind.  In fact the Greek word for worried is MERIMNAO  (3309) or ‘thinking about many things’.

My favorite verse in the entire Bible – Psalm 84:11 actually addresses this mental posture as well.  God promises NOT to withhold any good from those who walk/live uprightly.  And wouldn’t you know it, ‘upright’ or TAMIYM (Hebrew 8549) means to be all in one piece, to be integral as opposed to scattered.

All the above to say this:  that when other stuff is front and center in my mind, I give away pieces of my life.  When I’m focused on Jesus, His good news, my status as an adopted child of the King, all that God the Father has given me, including the forever presence of my supernatural Counselor-Comforter, then Life and ‘Shalom’ return to me.

Father – thank you for reminding me each time I’m sucked away by some other compelling, luring, competing possible ‘first thing’.  Thank you for the vivid contrast I feel when you bring me to my senses, once again.  May I not wander off any more THIS day.  And when I awake and it’s a new day, be so kind as to remind me straight away of WHO and WHAT is my ONE THING, so I can live and feel WHOLE.  Amen!

Mag Obsession

Why can’t I feel any peace?

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Why is peace so illusive, so fleeting?

Peace

My husband was asking these questions the other night.  He faces weekly writing deadlines, a new vocation for him here in the mountains of Western North Carolina.  As soon as he hits ‘send’ on his computer, dispatching one assignment to an editor, another one looms.  Writing does not come easily to him, although he writes well.  He rightly throws himself on the mercy of God each time, counting on our Father’s very nature as provider to make it possible to complete each article and radio piece.

He KNOWS that only empowered by Christ, can he do what God has called him to do.  And even though God ALWAYS comes through, that doesn’t seem to provide the sense of security that he associates with a feeling of deep peace.

It was at the tail end of dinner last week, on one of those still evenings when we were savoring supper ‘en plein air’.  The sun had already set in the autumn sky, but the rich crimson and golden colors lingered, dazzled our senses.  He sighed as he posed his existential question about holding on to peace.  Would he never be able to relax?

When I mentioned that life was hard and that I didn’t know ANYone who lived with continual peace, he retorted: “So basically, life sucks, is that what you’re telling me?”

I didn’t do a good job with THAT question and stood up to clear the table.  I knew he wasn’t really asking for an answer, but struggling with anxiety. Worded in that kind of confrontational way, no answer I could have provided would have satisfied him.  But it did cause me to think through peace since Thursday.

Video Game level

I’m reminded of catching past snippets of gaming boys’ conversations when young men still gathered at our house to spend hours sitting cross-legged in front of the TV, controller in hand.  As soon as they had mastered one level, they ‘graduated’ to another one of greater difficulty and danger.  I think life in the School of Faith is like that.  We pass one test and move on to the next class or grade level, all guaranteed to be more challenging than previous ones!  No time to just hang out, coast and enjoy one’s new skills and feel like THIS IS EASY!

When I questioned a more rational Mike later, when he wasn’t feeling so pressured and angst-filled, he acknowledged that he knows there are Christians who have managed to achieve a level of peace.  And he is correct.  But that is ‘in spite of circumstances’ not because of life’s details and arrangements.

Just looking at how the concept of peace is taught in the Bible, it’s obvious that the only lasting peace is that which is a gift from God.  When we KNOW that God is no longer angry with us, but that we actually belong to Him for ever, that we are loved, adopted kids, then we can FEEL peace.

But here’s the trick, at least for me.  That authentic peace is tangible as long as I’m meditating on my relationship and status with God.  As soon as I shift away from God and look at my circumstances, I plunge into SUB-peace, to put it mildly.

So what’s the answer? Are we doomed to this see-saw existence?  A ‘sucky’ life punctuated by moments of stumbling onto a pocket of peace and then the acknowledgement (aka re-remembering) that God alone provides true peace?

No!!!

Here’s where I draw comfort – if Paul can LEARN to be content, then we can LEARN to remember that we already ARE in a state of peace and can run back to it anytime.  Remembering is based on knowledge and it is up to us to direct our thoughts to what we know for a fact.

You ask: “Where does it say THAT in the Bible?”

The mercurial Peter passes on that truth from God:

Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

If you’re like me, I forget easily.  This is why we have to talk to ourselves and to each other, with plentiful reminders of truth we already know.  No shame in that.

I WAS ashamed, however, at how unwilling I was to engage with my precious husband that night of his flailing around looking for firm ground.  What convicted me (and entertained and inspired me) was the teaching of a pastor I heard via a podcast.  THIS IS THE VERY BEST SERMON ON AUTHENTIC CHRISTIANITY THAT I’VE HEARD IN A LONG TIME. If you know someone who has been turned off by the Church or Christians, then listen to this and consider sharing it with them. Link here

Question: So what helps YOU hold onto God’s peace? 

Shalom

 

 

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