Friday, November 9, 2018

I SWEAR

This technology fast has been awesome and so very hard.  I have been learning a lot, wrestling a lot (metaphorically, not literally) and practicing stillness.  God keeps reaffirming that this is the path He wants me on right now even though He has brought multiple people to ask me to explain myself.  I have been asking Him specially when this fast will be over.  I didn't feel like He gave me a deadline at the beginning.  Have you ever done that?  Felt like God called you to do something and then agonized about how long you were going to have to maintain the commitment?  Because I've been asking God "how long, O Lord", He has answered with some very specific calls to keep my oath.  I swore.  I didn't stand under the firmament with my hands raised and declare in a loud voice "I swear before the Lord that I shall not touch technology except on Friday's and my phone because it is my landline but I further declare I shall not use it for any other purposes than to accept and receive messages."  I did make a commitment though.  I agreed with the Lord that I would do what He asked.

It's been even harder this week.  It's the beginning of November which means it's time for NANOWRIMO!!!!  If you don't know what NANOWRIMO is, it's a challenge to write 50,000 words in the month of November.  The goal being to work on a singular piece without going back to edit with the purpose of practicing the habit of writing on a story every day.  I can see you see the problem here.  How will it be possible for you to participate without technology.  For all you young'uns out there, I am using paper.  I am writing my 1700 words a day in a notebook and my plan is to transcribe them on Fridays.  It will take some of my computer time, writing in that much on one day a week, but I will be completing the challenge and staying true to my oath before the Lord.  

Needless to say, with the 'asking for an end of the technology fast', and the start of a challenge I have participated in since 2008, I was approaching the deadline of Nov 1st with a bit of sorrow.  I wasn't sure if I could participate.  That's why God has been answering my question by bringing me to instances of oaths in His Word.  So I thought I would share what God has been teaching me about why oaths are important.  In today's day and age we look at commitment differently.  People don't formally swear an oath to each other like they did in Biblical times.  We've lost sight of the gravitas of promising.  But God hasn't and doesn't forget.  He had very clear guild lines set up for those who swear before the Lord, those who break their oaths and the consequences, and even what it means under the new covenant of Jesus.  God thinks oaths are important even if it becomes inconvenient for us later.  

The Bible Study I'm in has us studying Joshua.   We got to chapter 9 as I was pondering this question of oaths and it was clear that God holds oaths as very important.  The Gibeonites lie to make a treaty with Israel and the leaders swear an oath that they won't kill them.  When the Jews figure out they have been lied too, they go and confront them but they don't kill them because they swore an oath.  How important to God was that promise?  Well, important enough that when Saul kills some Gibeonites, somewhere around 350 years later, God is mad.

There are rules in the law of the Septuagint, too many to put them all here, that outline everything from being a witness to an oath to inadvertently making an oath.

Lev 5:4
Or if a person swears, speaking thoughtlessly with his lips to do evil or to do good, whatever it is that a man may pronounce by an oath, and he is unaware of it - when he realizes it, then he shall be guilty in any of these matters.  

Numbers 30:2  
If a man make a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by some agreement, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.

Why is this important, you ask?  Well, there is a lot that has changed between the old and new testament and a lot that has changed between the new testament and today.  Because that is true, we sometimes forget the real truth that God doesn't change.  EVER!  While Jesus fulfilled the law and paid the penalty for failing the law, He doesn't abolish the law.  What does Jesus say about oaths?

Mat 5:33-37
Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, 'you shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.' But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God's throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.  Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black.  But let your 'yes' be 'yes', and your 'no,' no.'  For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.

I feel like Jesus knew and knows what little stock we put into a promise.  Whether through intent, ignorance or common saying, we agree to do things to avoid the conflict of saying 'no', all the time.  Our High Priest knows us well and His best advise on how to deal with oaths....don't do it.  Don't swear at all.  If you can't grasp the importance of the oath or the significance of what you are swearing on, then don't bother.  God swears oaths, makes covenants, and carries them out.  His word is always sure.  I think that is definitely something I need to work on.



Friday, November 2, 2018

What Happens When I Rest


  • A lot of inner monologue...A lot of inner monologue happens.
  • God reminding me of important truths that He's already told me but I forgot or didn't do.
  • Scripture memorization
  • Bible Study
  • and apparently, cleaning and organizing
When I'm busy, my house is the first thing that suffers.  
  • mail piles up
  • laundry piles up
  • dishes pile up
  • clutter consumes
Right now, I am a sweep away from being "company ready".  I've organized the office, linen closet and bedroom and will shortly hit the costume closet and craft room.  I'm excited to get home and vacuum!  My mother may be the only one to gasp at this statement so for the rest of you...I don't like cleaning, I like helping other people clean but cleaning my own house...ugh.

I know a huge chunk of that is because I left it til last, to when I was utterly spent but had no choice because there was nothing clean left or the clutter had made me so uptight and feeling trapped that I wanted to leave it all behind and live in a yurt somewhere far away.  

I wonder if I'm loving the cleaning because its something to do or if its because, as I move closer to my God in this time of rest, He is bringing me closer to the Prov 31 woman.  Either way, I am confronted with the fact once again that I was doing too much before.  I worked like I had three jobs and wondered why I wasn't being blessed for my generosity.  I was tired all the time and was constantly in emergency mode.  The funny thing is, I feel just as busy right now.  3 out of 5 evenings are filled with companionable obligations.  If I try and make plans with people, I still have to carefully navigate my schedule.  

So what does that mean.  It means my focus has shifted.  My days are silent.  I'm not distracting my brain with noise and so I can dedicate my time to what I'm doing.  My time with God is wholly His.  My time cleaning is spent working on my memory verses, praying or thinking about solutions.  I don't feel rushed or harried or obligated.  I get to choose.  I feel like for the first time in recent memory I am "choosing the better part" (Lk 10:38-42) and still being the "Martha" God made me to be.  I've given up the worry in exchange for listening to my Savior.

I'm still settling into it.  Still choosing the quiet, still practicing the stillness.  I'm not good at it .  The toughest verse for me to memorize literally starts "be still and wait patiently on the Lord" Ps 37:7-8  I have to sit and seriously concentrate to remember that first sentence.  I know I'm going to have to keep practicing because I will sink all in to service once again when I'm released from this season of rest if I'm not careful.  I want to choose this.  I want this to be my baseline.  This peace.  This quiet.

I'm going to share the verses I'm memorizing with you.  Keep me accountable or use these verses to inspire you to write God's word upon your heart.  Let's guard our hearts and minds with the transcendent peace of God.

Ps 19:14
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

1 Peter 5:6-7
Humble yourselves, therefore, under Gods mighty hand, that He may life you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.

Ps 37:7-8
Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.  Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret - it leads only to evil.

Jer 6:16
This is what the Lord says: Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls but you said "we will not walk in it".

Philippians 4:4-9
Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again; rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable.  If anything is excellent or praise worthy - think about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me - put it into practice.  And the God of peace will be with you.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Being Real vs Being a Doer

I'm going to start this weeks blog with an apology.  When I was writing this I was on day two of a full blown migraine.  I ended up sacrificing the rest of my "computer day" to sit in a dark room.  What it taught me was this.  Oaths are important.  The temptation to run to the computer to "make up" the time I missed was strong.  Instead, I chose to keep my word before the Lord.  What I commit to Him is important and He thinks it's important.  The scripture is clear about keeping our oaths, especially the ones you make to the Lord.  We sometimes fall into the trap of putting the old testament in a category of "not applicable".  For me, it was more important to let my yes be yes on this matter.  So I'm going to post a little late today, I'm going to leave the rest of the post in its original state, and I'm not going to worry about it.  It's not professional, but it is real. 

~


One of the great things about being on "A mission from God" is that He will keep encouraging and reinforcing the message He wants to communicate.  Just like He does in the Word.  If something is important, God keeps saying it.  Have you ever noticed that when you're reading scripture?

God has really been encouraging me about rest.  Sunday, we bumped into a couple God had on my mind all week.  I shared, and she shared, and she encouraged me.  "I was at the place this summer, cutting out social media and releasing, to just be.  Being present in the moment instead of trying to figure out what I can do."

At yoga a few days later, the focus was rest.  Laying down everything and only picking up what God gives you.  Songs, scripture, fellowship...all of it has been pulsing with the message, "Yes, Rest".

So I decided to go back to the Biblical reason why I focus on "do" and figure out what it really says.

James 1:22 NIV
Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says.
 So, what has God told us to do?  In this context (James):

  • Watch your tongue
  • persevere
  • be quick to listen, slow to anger 
  • purge moral filth and evil from your life
  • look intently into the perfect law
  • love your neighbor
The funny thing is that the only part that comes even close to what I self defined as "do" was to care for orphans and widows in distress.  I condenses an entire book of the Bible into one word that threw my life out of balance.  This is part of the reason why it's important to keep reading the Word of God.  In the larger sense, there is a lot that the Word, or Scripture, tells us that we should be doing, not just nodding our heads at.  The above list is from one small book of the Bible and James (inspired by God) repeats them.  If you haven't read James lately, I recommend reading through it.  

Friday, October 19, 2018

Rest you Say?


This weeks blog is going to be...different.  If this is your first time here then you won't notice so ... sorry for when things go back to normal, I guess.  If you read last weeks blog, What is Rest, then you'll know that I am on a break, a sabbatical if you will.
 

I know, you're confused now.  How is there a blog?  Why has there been a post reminding me that this little slice of blogdom has been launched?  All good questions.  When I set off on this adventure last week I asked myself some questions and I had some questions asked of me.  Walking away from technology and noise can be interpreted as throwing the baby out with the bath water. So I wanted to do two things on the blog this week. 
  1. I wanted to share the plan
  2. I wanted to share what I did 

First, the plan

I do not plan on becoming a hermit.  I tend towards being a recluse as it is.  No, my goal was to be open for fellowship.  In my opinion, placing rules on a time of companionship is very counter productive and very hipster christian.  So, I didn't require others to go noise free to be around me or even mention to my friends and family that I was going on a technology and noise fast.  This isn't supposed to be about what I can do.  So I'm trying to stay very un-rigid.  I also decided to give myself one day of computer time and see how I did with that.  This was partly because I meet with a writing group one day a week and partially because I wanted to see if I could treat my time with technology in a healthy way.  It would force me to prioritize what I was going to do on my computer day.  So that was the plan.  In my time alone; no noise, no computer, no TV, no search engines.  I wanted to give myself a little boredom, a lot of quiet and the practice time I need to be still.  If the blog looks a little boring today and lacks the fanfare of social media posts to announce it....well, that's because I had to set some priorities.  I chose companionship over tasks and I practiced letting go of what I thought should be done.

Second, what I did

I wanted to spend a lot of time in God's word.  That's a given.  I started out working on my current studies but one of the questions really drew my attention to the question, what is rest?  What does God mean by rest?  Normally, we would assume it means you don't work but scripture also talks about allowing yourself to take care of what's needful during sabbath (ie rescue your donkey).  So what is rest?  That question led me on an old fashioned word search thanks to the back of my Bible and not any fancy website or search engine.  I didn't even ask *insert random gender non-specific robot voiced assistant*.  So, I thought I would share where that led me and what I learned.
The verses that started it all were Psalm 37: 7-11, 34.
        Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!  Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!  Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.  For the evil doers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the Land.  In just a little while, the wicked will be no more; though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.  But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.  Wait for the Lord and keep his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land; you will look on when he wicked are cut off.
Be still, wait patiently, don't fret or be angry, hope in the Lord, keep His ways.  From here on, I'm going to give you the scripture reference and what I learned.  Like I said, I'm prioritizing my time.  Please look up the verses, or do your own word study on rest.  I think you'll be surprised.

  • Ex 3:12-18  Rest is holy, consecrated, celebrated, a covenant, abstaining from work, a sign
  • Ex 33:14  Rest is given my God, something God gives
  • Josh 14:15  Rest is the cessation of conflict
  • Josh 21:44  Rest is peace
  • Ps 33  Rest is hope & faith in our great God, rejoicing
  • Ps 62:1-2, 5  Rest is only found in God, or security and our hope
  • Ps 90:17  Rest is settled upon us, seeped in, draped over, soaked in
  • Ps 91  Rest is a place of refuge
  • Is 30:15  Rest is quietness and trust, repentance and a guiltless mind
  • Is 32:17-18  Rest is confidence, security, peace and being undisturbed
  • Jer 6:16  Rest is asked for and comes from walking in God's way  
        This one I am going to write out because I want to memorize it myself.
    This is what the Lord says:  Stand at the crossroads and look;  ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will     find rest for your souls.  But you said "We will not walk in it."
  • Mt 11:28  Rest is a release from burden
  • 2 Cor 12:9-10  Rest is weakness, laid down in humility, for the sake of glorifying God's strength
  • Heb 4:9  Rest is belief; utter, absolute belief
  • Heb 4:10  Rest is ceasing from work or industry
  • Rev 14:13  Rest is ceasing from your labors
This is a much richer, broader, and deeper definition of rest.  This is something I can practice.

Friday, October 12, 2018

What is Rest

I am finally going on a real adventure.  If you've been keeping up with my blog, this will sound very strange to you.  I've traveled a lot this year.  I have had tons of new and exciting things happen.  It all started when God gave me a glimpse into what He has for my future.  This doesn't happen to me very often.  God doesn't usually give me a heads up.  I know it's because I am firmly in the "Martha" camp.  When God gives me a nudge, I go into extreme prep mode.  I am so excited to have a plan to follow that I often forget my best resource and guide.  I suspect that is why, after giving me a glimpse into what He has planned, God asked me to rest.  I've talked about it on the blog, so I won't go over it again but I have been struggling this year with the question "What is rest?"  




It's been clear that God is convicting me about my definition of rest.  I fully confess that my definition of rest is "the chance to catch up".  Vacations, weekends away, I think of them as places to hide so I can finish the backlog of tasks that have built up because I couldn't say no to people.  I fear becoming lazy, or resting wrong, more than I have feared the Lord.  Over the last couple of weeks I have been having random encounters with Godly people in my life, and in my Bible study, that have brought this problem up.  

So I'm walking away.  I'm walking away from the need to fulfill any need I come across.  I'm walking away from technology.  I'm walking away from the list of things I have moved too far up on my priority list.  I am walking away from noise.  I have fasted from noise before, you can read about that here, and I expect it is going to be terribly hard.  Giving up the things I have attached my purpose and significance to is going to be hard.  That's the reason why I'm giving up all the things I distract myself with so I haven't had to address these things.  That's the reason why I have to give up these things so I can actually hear my God.

So, I am truly going on an adventure.  A quest into the deepest, darkest wilds.  I am going to leave the beaten path, the familiar trails of my life, and stop trying to make adventure happen.  I am going to dive into aloneness with intention.  To sit in the stillness.  It's going to be full of frustration, tears and sorrow but this adventure is going to teach me how to exchange those things for joy, contentment and the ability to recognize treasures of greater worth.  

Has the Lord been convicting you of something lately?  Is He asking you to do something you don't want to do?  I get it.  Let's do this together.  

Friday, October 5, 2018

Monument vs Standing Stone

Many of us look back at our lives and can pick out the bad decisions, big and small, that have become monuments to our failures. Sometimes we make the monuments so big we can't move past them.  Sometimes we miss the point of the monument altogether.  

One of my big failures was college. I knew what school I was supposed to go to since my freshman year of high school.  My mother will tell you she hated the school I chose because it was so far away.  By the time I graduated high school and headed off, I had no other direction.  I was sure that was where God wanted me to go.  I went for about a semester before I failed out and had to be shipped back to my parents in shame. There were a whole lot of bad decisions during that time but one of them has come to my mind lately because God has made me aware of the fact that I'm doing it again. I decided to go to college to become a nurse. Was I keen about caring for people, good at math and science, and excited about the field of medicine? NOPE! I didn't like most of those things, and I was not good at them. Why did I choose to pursue nursing. Because I wanted to be a medical missionary. I wanted to be ready and willing to go wherever God wanted me to go. The period of failure that followed left me angry and confused. How could God abandon me like that? I was doing all this for Him! I had to come to grips with the fact that God never intended for me to be a missionary to foreign lands, much less a medical one. I looked at the desires of my heart and misinterpreted how it would look and made the very large mistake of thinking that's what God wanted me to do. 

So often we hold onto the verses that tell us God will give us the desires of our hearts, and that's true, but we fail to remember the other parts of those verses and chapters.  We have to ground ourselves in the Lord first.  To delight in Him, then He will bring about giving us the opportunities to fulfill the desires He designed us with.  Not only that, but God is going to bring things about how He wants, no matter what we have planned.  No matter what or how we thought it would happen.  

My mother told me today that she never understood why I went to college to pursue something I hated. I was momentarily stunned as I said to myself "I was pursuing what I thought God wanted me to do" and I realized I can remember three distinct times when I have said that. College, adoption, and writing. Three major turning points. I don't know if I was supposed to go to college but I can tell you I met my lifelong best friend there. Her family practically adopted me and when my hubby was desperate for a job and we had to leave our state and our families, God provided one 30 minutes from her. I don't know if I was supposed to fail and give up college but I can tell you that I found my husband and my talent when I got home. I have no idea if I was supposed to pursue adoption but I know God has a plan. 

Major milestones have been marked by this pattern. Get a nudge from the Lord, create a picture of how I think that will look, and then go to the extreme to fulfill it.  The beautiful part of a God who is always teaching and growing us into who He designed us to be is the fact that He knows us, knows what we need to learn and keeps giving us refresher courses. As I stand on the precipice of pursuing "What I think God wants me to do" I'm grateful for the reminder today that I need to make sure I'm not more focus on what I can do for the Lord.  

All the hesitation, doubt and caveats I have being battling this year were because I was trying to do more than what God wanted me to do when I knew that what God wanted was for me to spend time with Him. He specifically asked me to "do" nothing. To rest. I've been fighting that hard. I don't want to be lazy. I want to be preparing. I don't want to be rushing to the deadline because I didn't give myself adequate prep time. So the little hint, the gift of a redemptive work for the future, I turned into a mission statement for life. I took that one thing and turned it into a college prep course full of requirements, standards of success and work. The whole time moaning like a toddler about when rest time was going to be over already. I know what God has given me. I know that what He is asking of me right now is not a spiritual workout regimen to prepare for the race. He is asking me to spend time with the source of my fuel. 


Life gives us plenty of chances for self reflection if we want them. I am going to use this moment to turn the monument I was building to failure into a standing stone of remembrance. To remind myself that I tend to focus on what I can "do" for God instead of spending time with Him. To remind myself to strip away my expectations of what I think comes next and let God teach me at the pace He intends. To remind myself that my future is in God's loving hands and it will be for my good, one way or another. I  choose to turn those monuments to my failure into standing stones of remembrance of what the Lord has done.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Spiritual Thrill Seeking

Living your adventurous life everyday is hard. If you're anything like me, you want to keep things fresh and in the present so you don't lose the important in the mundane.  Since the focus of my year has been adventure, I've been seeking external experiences to go along with the internal adventure that's happening.  Some friends have questioned this trend because it has brought on some physical reminders of the health challenges I face.  They used the term "spiritual thrill seeking".  I have to admit that I smile a little as I picture myself doing Biblical Parkour.  I love that I have friends and family that don't shy away from keeping me accountable.  Criticism, constructive or otherwise, is a great opportunity to consider the issue before the Lord and determine if you're confident or convicted.  



For me, I haven't felt convicted, I've felt warned.  My quest for adventure is truly a manifestation of the adventure that is happening spiritually.  It is, however, important to consider: how do you know how far is too far?  Can seeking God turn into thrill seeking?  Is it possible to lose sight of God in the midst of an adventure with Him?  I think we all would have to admit that the answer is yes.  Anything, absolutely anything, can become an idol because an idol is anything that takes our focus off of God.    

I don't want you to get the mistaken impression that adventure means hiking up mountains, surfing on an extreme wave or slaloming down a double black diamond.  Thrill seeking is being eager to take part in exciting activities that involve physical risk.  So, lets tweak that definition to being eager to take part in exciting activities that involve spiritual risk.  Spiritual thrill seeking isn't an extreme sport but it is an extreme.

So let's look at some warning signs that your adventure has become more focused on your experience than it is on God.


Warning sign #1


Trying to recreate a spiritual experience based on someone else's experience.  


I have to admit that when I was *cough* slightly younger than I am now I wondered why the great spiritual experiences I was hearing other women have weren't happening to me.  Some had dreams, some spoke in tongues, some heard from the Lord, the list goes on.  I assumed I wasn't spiritual enough or wasn't mature enough.      Any time we shift our eyes away from the One we have a relationship with to someone else's relationship, we are entering dangerous waters.  We think if we can just do the right things, we'll have the spiritual experiences we've heard other people have.  Here is what is important to remember when you catch yourself doing that.  Your relationship with God isn't about producing the right experiences to show off to others.  Your relationship with God is, wait for it, your relationship with God.  


Warning sign #2


Trying to recreate the circumstances of a previous spiritual experience.


If you have had an undeniable encounter with God or a time of closeness that was a balm to your soul, it's hard to sit comfortably in those times when God is silent.  I know I have wondered in the past if those times of silence were a punishment, if I had fallen away from my Savior, and so I frantically try and go back to what "worked" before.  I utterly spent myself in volunteering, giving, trying to be more selfless, and found the silence more condemning than ever.  I have stopped trying to fix the silence.  Trying to recreate a spiritual experience never works because, surprisingly, God is not pet we can train to do tricks on command.  I have learned over the years that the times of silence are just as necessary to my spiritual growth as those times when God feels so very present.  Those moments of silence teach us about our deep need for Him and force us to stretch farther and go deeper to seek Him and abide.


Warning sign #3

Trying to shape your spiritual experience


We often get an idea in our head about what a  "spiritual person" looks like.    I know for me it is an idealized picture of beauty, peace, cleanliness and solitude followed my smiling kindness, wisdom, intelligence and selflessness.  What does your ideal "spiritual person" look like?  Now ask yourself, are you chasing after an ideal or are you chasing after God?  

This picture I have in my head accuses me of how far I am falling short.  It pushes me to "accomplish" a spiritual life like I can achieve it with the right combination of to-do lists and discipline.  It drives me to seek out ways to fix what's wrong with me.  Here's the thing.  God is working on us at exactly the right pace, at exactly the right time, in exactly the right way.  He doesn't have a picture of an ideal spiritual person He's trying to accomplish. He has a picture of YOU perfected by Him.     


1 Corinthians 9:24-25 ESV

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize?  So run that you may obtain it.  Every athlete exercises self-control in all things.  They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.


Spiritual thrill seeking is dangerous because it shifts the focus of why.  Why are you in the race.  It changes what you see as the prize at the end.  Why you run the race will make all the difference in what you are pursuing and how you go about it.  Is it the acclaim?  The fame and notoriety?  Is it the reward?  Is it the emotional or physical high?  Or is it running full out to jump into the arms of a heavenly Father who is waiting with arms outstretched to hold us?  

So what are you running toward?