Sunday, January 30, 2011

Wisdom Over Worldly Things

It was a beautiful song, now that I'd finally been able to listen to all the words.

Before this, I'd heard only fragments of the lyrics, and I had no idea how it would move me.

The same way, God is speaking to us through many sources, but we may hear only fragments at a time. He may use an inspirational  reading, a stimulating conversation, a perplexing problem or a story in the news...

Then in the quiet, we begin to process and put the pieces together.

Some of it begins to make sense, other things remain a mystery, for now. God shapes our perspective to give us a higher thinking; wisdom over worldly things. Instead of going with the flow of the world around us, our thinking begins to rise above, our perspective takes on a new capacity. We begin to realize things we can do.

The world groans for Godly solutions. Poverty, disease and oppression in the wider world view; as well as misguided pursuits, loneliness and suffering near to us, too.

God has given us what we need to reduce or solve many of these problems. He has given us resources and talents that match the gaps around us. Best of all, God has given us the Holy Spirit to guide us. The Holy Spirit molds and shapes our hearts, and ignites the passions within us. He gives us the courage, the confidence and the cause!
As author Max Lucado says, "There are 145 million orphans worldwide and there are 236 million people in the U.S. that call themselves Christians. From a purely statistical standpoint, American Christians have the wherewithal to house every orphan in the world.
But I am only one person, I think. How can I solve the world's problems? I can't do it all, but I can do something. Why do these injustices remain when there are Christians with big hearts and amazing talents spread all over the earth?

Is it because we lack the quiet times? Maybe we are so busy in our own worlds doing what we think needs to be done, that we don't take enough time to listen for God's voice, to process what He is saying, to let Him fully equip us for what really needs to be done. We want to hear Him. But we often let our good intentions be drowned out by other distractions, all to settle for a lesser satisfaction. (You know, settling for what's good instead of what's best.)

If we miss the quiet, we may miss the wisdom of how the pieces fit together. We may miss out on being a part of the solution. We may miss the lyrics of the beautiful song that could be sung.

Dear Lord, help us to tune our ears to you so we can reach that higher perspective. My heart longs for solutions for hurting people. I will work to preserve that special quiet time with you. I will do what I know now, focus on listening, and trust you for each next step.

Proverbs 8:34 [Wisdom calls...] Blessed are those who listen to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway.

Do you have enough quiet in your life to put together the fragments of what God is telling you? How do you preserve that quiet?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Aroma of Christ

A looming deadline, an orderly environment, the expectations of others... these are a few of the things that distract me daily.

Earlier this week, I was working on a project with an imposing deadline. The taskmaster in me took over, working quickly and methodically to pull all the necessary pieces together. The burden of the details made me ever-cognizant of all that had to be accomplished in a short period of time. I needed to get all these pieces coordinated, so I could move on to other important work. My days were full and time flew as I checked numerous items off my to-do list.

One day, I heard frustration and doubt in the voice of a partner in this project. "It'll never happen. They want what?" He didn't have the same vision I had for completion. He didn't like the pressure of the pace. (And in his other comments, he didn't even treat me with the golden rule.) His glum resistance felt like an obstacle to reaching our goal, seeing results that were already clearly in view in my mind.

Needing his participation, I was forced to slow down and take time to answer more questions, to share my vision, to encourage and provide flexibility in the way he could support this project, while still meeting our deadline.

Duh. Then I suddenly saw this as the important work, in the whole scheme of things, not the end results! If I could remain calm and respectful -- in spite of the way he treated me -- I could be the aroma of Christ in his life.

Each day God calls me to this, and many times I know I miss that opportunity, because my focus is on getting things done... Things others want, need, expect and demand of me. These things are important, too, of course. But I must not miss out on the most important things -- the opportunity for deeper relationships, the eye contact, the soul contact!

It seems this same lesson is repeated again and again for me, in different scenarios, with a variety of distractions and challenges. It's all part of the process God is using to refine me. And His refining I certainly need.

Thank you, Lord, for your patience with me. It's amazing you would trust me at all to be used in your service. I'm so human and I so quickly revert to my human agenda rather than your Godly agenda. Shape me in your image so that I may be that much more useful to you.

2 Cor. 2:14: But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.

Please pass this on to others who may like this message.

Challenge: How can I be the aroma of Christ to those around me today?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Defying Resistance

The wet blanket of resistance soon proved refreshing!
When you set out to do the hard thing, do you notice how resistance suddenly comes about to make it even more difficult?
  • I decided to protect Monday evenings as my time set aside for writing. Then, I got two invitations to do fun things – one I declined, the other I rescheduled. Then, my husband came home early from work. Then, someone dropped in to talk…
  • When I decided to exercise more and eat better after the holidays, a co-worker brought in a beautiful box of chocolates to share. Then, we got coupons in the mail to one of my favorite eat-out places. Then, my walking partners each told me they'd have to miss a few days…
Sound familiar?

In The War of ArtSteven Pressfield labels resistance as the “enemy of creativity.”  He says, “Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands resistance.” He maintains that resistance “is a sure sign that you are supposed to do the thing in the first place. The harder the resistance, the more important the task must be.”

Resistance is very normal. But we can’t let resistance take us down! Doing the hard thing becomes even more rewarding when we defy resistance and persist in doing what needs doing.

When God gives His people purpose, He also equips, defends and supports us – if we look to Him. I love the example in the book of Exodus. God appointed Moses to lead His people out of Egypt. When Pharaoh gave him some serious resistance, God unleashed one plague after another on Egypt until they finally begged the Israelites to go! God then reminded His people of His hand guiding their lives:

“But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Exodus 9:16

What’s a little resistance when we have the God of the Universe backing us!

Dear God, help us fight the wet blanket of resistance. You will provide all that we need (Phil 4:19) as we press on toward the goal (Phil 3:14). The temptations we face are common to mankind, but You will provide endurance! (1 Cor. 10:13)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Doing the Hard Thing

Just finished reading an excellent book, “A Million Miles in  a Thousand Years; What I Learned While Editing My Life.” More than just a wonderful story, it has enhanced my passion for life.

When two Nashville screenwriters began to write a movie about author Donald Miller’s life, they told him they had to change some things in his life story to make it more engaging on the big screen. As he explored the concepts of what makes a great story, it incited him to get off the couch and immerse himself in life… to join in and make the world a better place. (Not that he was a slug, by any means, as he had already written several successful books at a young age.)

Weaving his real life stories with candor, sensitivity and humor, Donald relayed how he began living more intentionally. He forced himself to get out and do the difficult things that up until now, he’d only been thinking about – finding his dad, meeting a particular girl, getting out on his bike. While most of us conveniently choose the elevator rather than the stairs of life, Donald shares his wit and grit, competently illustrating how doing the hard thing pays off – in more ways than one, and how he found greater purpose in life than self-satisfaction. He began "writing a better story with his life."

He persuasively shows how the journey of life – especially the difficult parts – is what builds our character, which is extremely more valuable than immediate accomplishments or results.

The book was especially inspirational to me because he talked about the difficult discipline of being a writer. “You can sit around and wait for inspiration to come, but you’ll never finish your book that way… A writer may never feel like writing any more than a plumber feels like fixing a pipe, but just like him, you make a plan and start in on the messy work of making a story.”

And, so I’m beginning to blog again. It’s not that I’d quit, really. Just slowed to a meager drip. Among the other priorities (of helping my husband through cancer treatments and hip surgery) in the last few months, I also let the forces of resistance fuel my doubts and started believing I didn’t have anything worthwhile to say.

But I know that’s not true; and when I blog I feel such satisfaction! I believe it’s what I need to do right now, if for no other reason than to discipline myself, hone my gift of writing and wait for further direction. And I really hope to stir the minds of a few readers who find these insights helpful!

So, I ask you, “What kind of story are YOU writing with your life? What kind of legacy are you creating? Are you willing to do the hard thing that needs to be done? Is there something you have been wanting to do, but dragging your feet about? This world so desperately needs the good we all have to offer.

Lord God, You give each of us gifts and passions that are meant to be shared. You have encouraged us, telling us we are the light of the world! Instead of hiding it under a bowl, help us to put our light on a stand so that it lights the way for others and gives glory to You (Matt 5:13-16). Help us have courage to do the sometimes difficult things we know we must do.