When I work as a computer trainer and consultant, I offer potential or new clients a free “needs analysis.” It didn’t take me long to realize that most of these clients fall into one of three categories:
1. They know exactly what they need, and they are right. They understand their situation and possibilities.
2. They know exactly what they need, and they are wrong. Their perspective is limited and/or skewed.
3. They’re not sure what they need, but they know they need help.
I’ve found a similar pattern with people who believe they are a Christian:
1. They believe they are a Christian and they are right. They have a relationship with Christ.
2. They believe they are a Christian, but they are missing a relationship with Christ.
3. They’re not sure what they believe, but they are seeking.
(And then there are those who are comfortable with where they are and aren’t seeking.)
John Wesley saw that second group of people clearly. Adam Hamilton, in his book Revival, described it this way:
“Wesley said that many who thought they were Christians seemed to be so in name only; they were almost Christians. They did not have the joy, assurance, or peace that comes from being wholly surrendered to God. They lived their lives in compromise with sin, willing to do just enough good but no more. They entertained evil, provided that it wasn’t too extreme. They did little or nothing to grow in love with God.
In what ways did faith in the church of Wesley’s day resemble the faith in our churches today? Some would suggest in a great many ways.
Wesley said there is so much more to being a Christian than simple acceptance; there is a power, love, and joy that come from walking with God. And God expects more of Christians than simply trying to not be so bad as other people.”
To say this quote resonates with me would be an understatement. I can only speak from my experience and understanding, so I’ll say it this way. When I accepted Christ at 15, He became my savior. I lived my life in the context of that relationship with Him until 2007, when He revealed to me that I was holding back. He wanted to be more than my Savior. He wanted to be the Lord of my life. He wanted me to give up my will and trust Him in every aspect of my life, with no limitations. Over the last 7 years, by the grace of God and through the equipping of the Holy Spirit, I’ve taken down the boundaries between the different aspects of my life and I’ve been striving to offer up all of me to Him. I’ve been growing into an intimate, dependent, living relationship with Christ.
While I’ve spent most of my career as a computer trainer and consultant, at my core, I’m an educator. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t have a passion to help people grow. As I myself have grown closer to Christ, the Holy Spirit has taken that passion and set it on fire. I’m determined to encourage and challenge people to intentionally examine what they believe and why they believe it. I’m determined to encourage people to doubt their assumptions, ask questions, search for answers and make informed and intentional decisions about their beliefs.
Notice the language I just used. It’s very specific. I said “decisions about their beliefs” not “decisions about God.”
My goal within any of these conversations is not to change someone’s mind.
My goal is to leave a “spiritual stone” in the shoe of everyone with whom I interact, mostly through asking questions and listening.
I fail often.
But when I have a conversation with someone who wasn’t thinking about God, and the conversation results in them thinking about God – especially long after the conversation is over – I haven’t failed. After the conversation is over, it’s up to the Holy Spirit to soften that person’s heart and open their mind as he draws them closer to Himself.
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” John 6:44a (ESV)
Relating to the three possibilities above, God has specifically planted and grown in me three distinct, compelling and persistent passions:
In addition to my own desire to be discipled, I have a passion to disciple others – to help people who have a relationship with Christ, continuously grow closer to Christ. My prayer is that God would reveal to all who know Him what he revealed to me: That He wants them to give up their will and trust Him in every aspect of their lives. That He doesn’t just want to be their Savior, He wants to be the Lord of their Life. He wants an intimate, dependent, living relationship with them.
2. Relational Evangelism
a) For the people who believe they are Christian but have never entered into a relationship with Christ, my prayer is that they would enter into that relationship. I can’t help but think of this verse:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
b) For the people who know they aren’t Christian, but are willing to share with me what they think and feel about God and, more specifically, Jesus, I’m determined to be a safe person with whom they can voice their doubts, ask hard questions and search for answers. My prayer is that they come to faith in Christ. It’s not my job. It’s my prayer.
For people who are apathetic about God, who don’t believe in Him or flat out hate Him and all His followers, my passion is to help them set aside the baggage that so often comes from religion and help them see that the selfish behavior of some of the people who profess to be Christian is more a reflection of flawed humanity than that of a perfect God. My prayer is that they make their own personal decision about Jesus based on Jesus, and Jesus alone, rather than on their thoughts and feelings about religion and the bad behavior and beliefs of other people.
John 10:10 tells us that Christ came that we may have life, and have it abundantly, in all its fullness. Not abundant blessings or stuff. Abundant LIFE.
That’s what Biblical discipleship leads to.
Abundant Life in Christ.
to be continued…
A few years ago, I was writing a book. The working title was “Pragmatic Practices of an Intentional Christian.” I say “was writing” because about halfway through the first draft, I had a conversation with Charlie, a long time client and friend, about my concept and my title. His immediate response?
“That’s a terrible title. Nobody’s gonna want to read that.”
Charlie does not blow rainbows. But more impactful than that little truth bomb, he said something else a few minutes later that instantly stopped me in my writing tracks.
“I live a good Christian life.”
Such a simple statement. But it hit me like a ton of bricks.
Holy epiphany, Batman! I was writing the wrong book. I had absolutely no business writing a book about my best practices for Christian living before writing about my faith in and relationship with Christ and how that relationship equips me for Christian living.
Every single pragmatic practice I’ve adopted in my life is an extension of my relationship with Christ. HE is the source and strength I depend on to help me with all the Christian living. I don’t do any of these things on my own power. Christ works through me.
This is a crucial distinction.
Christian living in and of itself is a fallacy. It’s one of Satan’s most effective lies: that we can be “good Christians.” Satan is the master of distraction, getting us to focus on to-do lists and never-do lists instead of on discipleship and relationship with Christ. When we allow and follow those distractions, Christian living becomes simultaneously more and less than what a Christ-centered life should be.
More, in the sense that Christian living has a tendency to pile so much superfluous “stuff” on top of a relationship with Christ that you’d be hard-pressed to find Christ in there anywhere.
If I’m not careful, my moments and my days can start to fill up with good moral choices, religious practices, and social service. Add a weekly Bible study and semi-regular prayer and the results can look pious from the outside, but hidden from everyone is my internal two year old, clenching my fists, stubbornly declaring my independence and staking my territory as I determinedly whisper the mantra “I can do it MYSELF!”
In the midst of all that, along with the demands of life, building a relationship with Christ can seem like one more thing I have to do – and don’t have time for. Consider the pie chart below. Each slice of pie represents something in life many of us have to attend to, with “Me” smack in the middle.
But consider this instead:
When I live my days – and my moments – with an awareness of the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life, it changes everything. I see things differently, from a greater – less selfish – perspective. Amazingly, I can experience peace in the middle of chaos because I’m confident that I’m not alone. When I let go of the death grip I have on the handlebars of my life and ask the Holy Spirit to guide me in my choices and equip me for all I need to do, somehow, organizing and prioritizing my responsibilities becomes…easier. Less stressful. When I have an awareness of the Holy Spirit’s presence in my life, I have more patience. Not only with others, but with myself. I find myself giving people grace – and the benefit of doubt – much more easily and more often. I’m more compassionate. More empathetic.
I don’t approach life like this because I’m striving to live as a “good Christian.” I wish I could say that I approach life like this all the time, but I can’t. I can say that when I’m overwhelmingly, undeniably aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life, it transforms me. The doing becomes intuitive, stemming from the Holy Spirit indwelling in me, not from me. Left to myself, I’d still be heard muttering “I can do it myself!”
My problem (and I’m betting I’m not alone) is that I forget He’s with me everywhere I go.
That’s where Christian living is less. It’s not enough. Nowhere near enough.
More and less. It’s a paradox.
I spent so many years settling for living a “good Christian life” because I had never experienced – or even imagined – ABUNDANT life in Christ.
Early in my life, I believed I was a Christian, when in truth, I was deluded by the trappings of a “good Christian life” – a religious, moral, service oriented, social-minded and culturally acceptable life.
I believed Jesus is God incarnate, never really making the connection that Satan also believes it - and his awareness of this fact doesn’t mean he’s going to be hanging around in Heaven for eternity.
I believed Jesus took on all our sins, died and rose again to save us from eternal separation from God, but I didn’t realize that belief was not enough. An intentional decision needed to be made. Call it what you want; being born again, getting saved, or asking Jesus into your heart. I needed to accept this free gift of salvation.
I thought that kind of language was reserved for Jesus freaks, religious zealots and televangelists with helmet hair.
I saw Christianity more as a lifestyle and an affiliation, never as an intimate, living, dependent relationship with Jesus Christ.
At the age of 15, when I actually did make a decision to accept Christ as my Savior, I didn’t ask him to be the Lord of my life. I didn’t enter into an intimate relationship with Him.
I never even knew it was possible to experience abundant life within a never ceasing, no holds barred companionship and surrender, but instead settled for “imitating” Jesus. I saw Him as an example of how I should live, making WWJD the foundation of my decision making process and following the Bible as if it were an instruction manual.
I had a relationship with Christ, but it had boundaries.
I dedicated time, effort and money to serving others in the name of Jesus, but I didn’t understand that everything I do, can be “as unto the Lord” if I depend wholly on Christ to equip me – even when the work at hand wasn’t directly related to Christian service or ministry.
I didn’t understand what it meant to ask the Holy Spirit to equip me or what that looked like in “real” life.
I thought “pray without ceasing” was a lofty and unattainable goal. and would be mind-numbingly tedious and boring.
I thought people who talked about being led by the Holy Spirit were either emotional whackadoodles rationalizing self-gratifying decisions or Christian leaders to be respected and never questioned because they were more spiritually mature and devout than I could ever hope to be.
All in all, I spent over 40 years striving to live a good Christian life. Some of that time was before I became a Christian. Sadly, some of that time was after I became a Christian.
CLICK HERE to read the next post in this series.
This morning, I followed a link in my facebook news feed to an article about a family who was praying for a loved one fighting cancer. It wasn’t the article that hit me. It was the comments. Comment. After comment. After comment. After comment.
Strongly, condescendingly and sarcastically deriding prayer.
And people who pray.
The comments by this collection of seemingly unrelated anti-theists made me genuinely sad. And no, not condescendingly sad for them in a “because they don’t believe in God” kind of way. Sad because they are being so intentionally and aggressively insulting and offensive. To complete strangers. Some of those complete strangers have experienced suffering I can’t imagine. And prayer helped them get through that suffering.
At the time of this writing, there were over 250 comments on that article, a large chunk written by anti-theists.
So much time and effort to go out of their way to attack people who, when it comes right down to it, really aren’t important to them. Regardless of whether that family’s loved one lives or dies, the life of the anti-theist commenter isn’t going to be impacted in the slightest bit.
The question that comes to my mind is this: If prayer really is pointless and people who pray are really mumbling to an “invisible man in the sky,” why do these anti-theists even care? Why are they wasting time with faceless people they perceive to be so ignorant and insufferable?
I’ve intentionally been referring to these commenters as anti-theists, not atheists. There’s a difference between someone who doesn’t believe in God and someone who goes out of their way – again and again and again – to aggressively express their disrespect, and sometimes their disgust, for people who do believe in God.
It makes me sad. As Elle Woods might say, “Happy atheists don’t care if Christians pray. They just don’t.“
I hate derisive sarcasm. I have some pretty strong opinions about it. It’s different from joking sarcasm. Derisive sarcasm reeks of contempt. It shuts down dialog. It erodes relationships. It demoralizes. It poisons trust. In my own personal experience, it’s a weapon often wielded by the cowardly and insecure. People who either avoid assertive conflict resolution or lack the skills to communicate openly and honestly. Do I think all people who consistently rely on derisive sarcasm as a
communication tool weapon are cowardly and insecure?
To be completely honest, yes. yes I do.
Did I mention I had some strong opinions about it? And don’t assume the reason I don’t use derisive sarcasm is because I think I’m above it. I don’t use it because I grew up a bleeding victim of it and I’m vehemently opposed to perpetuating that kind of abuse. It’s by the grace of God that I was able to break free of that destructive behavior.
Some people grow up barraged with sarcasm, develop a resilience to it, adopt it as normal and wear it permanently holstered to their side for easy and instant access when someone doesn’t meet their expectations.
When I witness derisive sarcasm or someone uses it on me, I freely admit that person instantly loses my respect. That’s my knee-jerk reaction. I have to ask God to help me respond instead of react. I have to ask God to help me see them as He sees them. Sometimes I have to ask God to help me want to ask Him to help me see them as He sees them. As just a different kind of broken. Deserving grace. Because He loves them.
I’ve learned that pain can sometimes manifest itself by causing more pain. Sometimes I forget that.
It would appear I’m not the only one.
Many of the professed Christians who commented exhibited the same arrogance and sarcasm as the anti-theists did.
And I said professed Christians, not Christians. Reading these comments, I can’t always tell if someone is a genuine disciple of Christ.
I think that very often, when we stumble upon these kind of comment thread quagmires, both the anti-theists and the professed Christians are so vocal we sometimes forget there are genuine disciples of Christ who respond to sarcastic smack-downs with grace. We forget there are open-minded atheists who support another’s right to believe something even when that belief differs from their own.
If you are a genuine disciple of Christ who personally knows an open-minded atheist or an open-minded atheist who personally knows a genuine disciple of Christ, you know what I mean.
The truth is, I rarely jump in these caustic conversations. Not because I don’t care, but because, from the intensity of the back and forth between the anti-theists and the professed Christians, I know there’s no point. My voice would be ignored and I have no need to hear myself talk. I have no confidence that anyone involved in these conversations is listening for understanding. There’s very little interest in an edifying dialog.
It’s more like a tit for tat. A theological and/or metaphysical urinary olympics. Notice I didn’t say spiritual. There ain’t nothing spiritual about these comment threads. Notice I said comment threads, not conversations. There’s not a lot of communication happening.
When it comes right down to it, I don’t jump in the middle of these mutual smack-downs because I’ve learned that people don’t change their mind as a result of someone berating them.
More often, people’s hearts are softened as a result of someone responding to them with empathy.
More often, minds are opened when they are allowed to doubt and explore without judgement.
More often, people hear better after someone has listened to them.
More often, people can’t see until they’ve been seen.
#seepeople #edify #discipleship #relationalevangelism
Saturday, February 15, 2014
Here’s our latest home project progress report, complete with photos: the living room makeover. during and after
“At the end of the day, direction, not intention, determines destination.”
from The Principle of the Path: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be by Andy Stanley
Sunday, February 16, 2014
Here’s an update on the 2014 Living Room Makeover. Photos included. We’re already onto the next room. More photos to come.
At EPCOT with PinkGirl. Holding her place in the 3 hour line to see Anna & Elsa while she seeks out other less-in-demand characters. Watching the passing parents who need a time out.
#wdw needs to clone Anna and Elsa. 4 hours so far. People in front of us just cancelled their dinner reservations.
PinkGirl is distracting some very tired kids by leading a game of I spy in the line to meet Anna & Elsa.
So look what my hunky, talented, smart, dedicated and funny husband accomplished today. Play room floor sealed and ready for subfloor.
Now if he would only stop hacking my facebook…
PSA: These must be eaten ears first. #ocd #peacelovemickey
So the questions you have to ask yourself are:
1) Is the paint dry?
2) Would my husband really just sit there and take a picture of a cat walking on a floor wet with oil-based paint? and
3) will my husband ever stop hacking my Facebook?
Monday, February 17, 2014
I feel like my house is a construction zone.
a fine layer of dust EVERYwhere from sanding the cement floor smooth, furniture EVERYwhere it’s not supposed to be.
I may be getting carried away with the purging.
There’s only seating for two in the living room.
And the two will have to sit side by side on a loveseat.
and the person on the right side will have to hold their drink because there’s no place to put it down.
unless they sit on the piano stool and put a drink on the piano.
the room is so BIG right now.
Subfloor is down. Fine white powder from sanding has been cleaned off all the walls and ceiling fan, glass light shade are in the dishwasher, paint has been touched up on all the walls. Next. moisture barrier. THEN we start laying the flooring.
Thursday, February 20, 2014
A giant angel vacuum cleaner cover.
or a giant snowman vacuum cleaner cover.
a vacuum cleaner cover.
It’s probably because my house is and has been in complete chaos for so long due to the #homeprojectthatneverends, but I am in a VERY weird place. All this manual labor is giving me an abundance of time to think. You should avoid conversation with me at all costs unless you are extremely bored.
My husband’s plans for the weekend:
(1) cut and install baseboards in the game room.
(2) put all the furniture and stuff back into the game room after putting felt floor protectors on every. piece. of. furniture. and hooking up all the electronics
(3) install the new flooring in the kitchen
(4) put together a 7 foot by 7 foot wall of shelving in the living room so I can load them with the books that are currently sitting in stacks in the family room (I’m getting a LIBRARY in my living room!)
And THEN we have to find the kitchen, family room and back porch, which we have TRASHED in this process.
If you don’t hear from us on Monday, send help.
arrrrg. and again arrrrg. the microwave is dead. again. Do we live in some sort of microwave killing zone? I’m not researching microwaves ANYmore. I’m buyin the cheapest scratch-n-dent from Sears Outlet and getting a 5 year warranty.
I called FirstHusand: “Microwave is dead again. and we’re out of warranty.”
FH: “of course we are.”
Me: “With all we’ve got going on this weekend, we NEED a microwave.”
FH: “With all we’ve got going on this weekend, we NEED take out.”
Me: “What IS it with us and microwaves?”
FH: (pause) “I think we just use it a LOT. (chuckling) We wear them out.”
Me: “shut up. You meeting me at Sears Outlet or what?”
FH, still laughing: “Leaving work now.”
and I cooked dinner on the STOVE last night, I’ll have you know.
Sears Outlet only had 1 black microwave and it was over $700! My husband’s comment was hilarious and completely UNfacebookable. We got a $200 off-the-shelf GE with a $25 three replacement plan from Lowe’s.
With a Tijuana chaser.
FavoriteHusband is installing a shiny new black microwave. It has not escaped my attention that “clean the microwave” has just been pushed down to the bottom of my to-do list.
Friday, February 21, 2014
“If God has the power to act fairly, speak audibly, and appear visibly, why, then, does he seem so reluctant to intervene today? Perhaps the record of the Israelites in the wilderness contained a clue.”
from Disappointment with God by Philip Yancey
If someone invites your voice into their life, share the love, grace & hope of Christ, not childish platitudes.
You may not get a 2nd chance.
My FAVORITEHusband is building me a 7ft x 7ft wall of bookcases right NOW.
They will not go to bed empty.
Maybe it’s the chaos in my house.
or the chaos of the last year and a half.
or the abundance of time I’ve had to think about the chaos of the last year and a half while I’m attending to the mindless task of shoveling the chaos in my house…
maybe I’m just tired.
or hormonal. I’ve had a hysterectomy, so for all I know I’m on my period and don’t even know it.
But, today is one of those days where I’m haunted and grieved by voices.
Condescending voices of marginalization and mediocrity.
The voices that told me I don’t have to work as hard as I do, because less is “just fine.” As if the voices didn’t realize that the unnecessary extra time I took and the unneeded effort I expended led to a result they just described as “fine.” As if it didn’t occur to them that less effort and time would knock “fine” down to…less than fine. And worst of all, by continuing to tell me I don’t have to work so hard the voices continued to let me know time and time again how little they know me or how little respect they have for my determination to give my best.
And now, “fine” saturates the air I breathe.
The voices that told me I shouldn’t work as hard as I do, because it makes other people look bad.
And now I’m gone. And it turns out I wasn’t the reason someone else wasn’t succeeding. I actually wasn’t hogging their opportunities and stealing their affirmation. They are still contributing the minimum and spewing bitterness because they think they are entitled to more opportunities even though they continue to prove they can’t be depended upon.
The voices that politely asked me to step back. Say less. Do less. Give less. and be less. And “respect” the leadership of someone I thought I was collaborating with. Because my unfettered contribution made other people jealous. and angry. and sarcastically hateful.
And now, I’m mired in the mindset that everything I have to offer is too much. Unwanted. The constant monitoring for those boundaries holds me back from offering anything outside of one-on-one conversations. The fear of overloading someone with too much of me keeps my head out of the clouds, my feet planted firmly on the ground and my eyes focused on the 1st mile responsibility of caring for my family. And re-flooring and painting my house, all the while secretly hoping it really IS #thehomeprojectthatneverends.
The voices that flippantly dismissed my interest in returning to school because I don’t “need” any more education. As if ANYone, ever “NEEDS” a formal education. As if the desire to learn isn’t enough reason to seek knowledge and understanding.
And then there’s little voice that can’t help but wonder if pursing another degree might be an excellent two year distraction…
Even so I continue to learn. But share less of the lessons, gauging who actually might LIKE to engage in a discussion about the things that get me thinking by tentatively testing and retreating in conversation, facebook and the rare blog post. Confirmed in my square-pegness again and again by the facebook stats that indicate people view one of my amusing family dialogs or a home project progress report 3 to 4 times more than they ever view anything I post about something I’m learning.
The voices that let me know I read too much (and am out of touch because I don’t watch enough TV). As if someone else’s desire to only read fiction – or not read at all – and quote platitudes or pinterest eCards means that my desire to read non-fiction and quote scripture is evidence that I just need to chill out and “enjoy life” more. Because reading non-fiction couldn’t possibly be enjoyable.
Even so, I continue to read. and learn. and think. Because I love it.
The voices that assure me it’s not necessary to share the hope of Christ at every opportunity because a more acceptable and more comfortable alternative is to “rub off on people.” Because evangelism is a process. of passive osmosis. Because too many people think evangelism is telling someone ELSE how you think they should live instead of telling someone how God is working in the life YOU live.
And yet people are DYING every day. DYING. And we may not get that second or subsequent opportunity to allow our autopilot passing presence or casual words in someone’s life to be the kind of intentional witness for Christ that the most important relationship of our life deserves. We share posts about kids, dogs, kittens and pinterest exponentially more than we ever share something Christ has taught us or how He’s moving in our lives every day, no matter how small.
The voices that explain my writing is too “intellectual,” that I use too many rarely used words like “unfettered” and “mired” or that I tend to “drone on.” (The owners of those voices have already clicked away. If they even started reading at all.)
And now, more often than not, I have the attention span of a gnat when I sit down in front of my brand new computer. With the rare exception of this post – which at this point exceeds the recommended maximum attention keeping word count – I have no inclination to write anything longer than a facebook update or anything that takes more than 30 or 60 seconds to digest. When I think about anything I might have to say, the only word that consistently comes to mind is “meh.”
The voices that suggest I consider the possibility my dream was bigger than God’s will for me. I should be grateful. Compared to all the problems and suffering in the world, the loss of my dream is not a tragedy. There are plenty of other things I could do with my time. “There’s nothing wrong with living a simpler life, you know.” Because dreams devalue anyone living this “simpler life?”
And now I find myself searching for that unselfish place of devotion and delight in Christ that fuels me with passion and a determination to be a good steward of the gifts I’ve been blessed with while at the same time, being held back by the relentless thought that as long as I continue to grieve whenever I think of never leading worship again or of not writing a book or never again speaking about my faith while holding a microphone, it’s evidence that I love the dream more than the dream-giver and I need to climb out of my big britches until a “ministry” of one-on-one every day relational evangelism doesn’t feel like less.
And then there’s the voice that belongs to the person who sifted through every nuance of every other voice, meticulously looking for truth, no matter how hard to face. The voice that wields the sharpest sword and cuts the deepest.
Most days, the Voice of Truth is louder than all of these voices.
The Voice of Truth tells me that these words are meant to oppress me. To feed me the lie that the words spoken by these voices are more powerful than the blood of Christ and the strength available to me through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
The Voice of Truth tells me that Satan is far more effective in derailing me through the casual words of Christians than he ever would be through a direct attack from an anti-theist who thoughtfully planned out a full frontal assault.
The Voice of Truth tells me that these are the voices of flawed humans, not a perfect God. Careless knee-jerk reaction words, spoken without a pause for thoughts of the message they are sending or of long term consequences or – more importantly – especially when it comes to instruction and advice – spoken without a pause for prayer.
Voices of those searching for something or someone to blame, not words of personal responsibility.
If you’re wondering if one of these voices was yours, ask yourself why you’re wondering that, and regardless of whether the answer is yes or no, I pray that you click away from this post with an awareness of the powerful impact of the words you speak, the decisions you make and the reasons behind them.
I don’t blame any of the voices. Not anymore. I’ve come to realize that any influence they had on me, I allowed. Any limitations that were placed on me, I accepted.
Any words spoken, I listened.
Besides, these voices are secondary. I’m still working through much deeper spiritual pruning and growth.
My constant prayer these days is to know God MORE.
and today, I’m praying for wisdom and discernment to recognize and block out any voice opposed to the Voice of Truth.
“It is hard, when difficulties arise to know whether one is meant to overcome them or whether they are signs that one is on the wrong tract. I suppose the deeper one’s own life of prayer and sacraments the more trustworthy one’s judgment will be.”
Yours, Jack by C.S. Lewis
Yet even then, I doubt. For me, the challenge is to take a step instead of standing still while waiting for a sign or a confirmation. Praying like a widow that God won’t allow me to be unintentionally disobedient and that He won’t allow my actions to cause harm to anyone else – or to myself. And not just physical harm, but spiritual or emotional harm. The thought that I might do something or say something that would hurl an obstacle in front of someone seeking Him. That’s the paralyzing fear.
But I have to move. Life isn’t Olive Garden. God does not serve me. I have to get my hands dirty. Sometimes all I end up doing is trashing my kitchen. Sometimes, the results are “meh.” But sometimes? Sometimes I get a God story that blows me away.
So. First, PRAY. Abide. Listen. Seek wise counsel. PRAY again. Abide and listen again. But then, take action (action that’s not out of line with His Word) and keep praying that God will either throw barriers in my way if I start heading the wrong direction or that he would work my latest mistake for His ultimate good and Glory.
But doing nothing? Going through the motions? Playing it safe? Settling for “meh?” How is that abundant life in Christ?
Ran across an old video camera and lost a few hours watching old recordings. I have absolutely no memory of this one, but it’s an excellent reminder to pray for an awareness of God’s prompting in my life. You got an extra six minutes and 16 seconds? I’m praying this encourages you!
PinkGirl: “Mom, Is it okay to like to sing songs from Chicago?” (the musical, not the city)
Me: “yes. why?”
PinkGirl: “Because it has inappropriate things in it. Some of my teachers (from UnnamedChristianSchool) say it’s a sin to watch and listen to things that are inappropriate.”
Me: “hmmm. Does listening to and singing the songs from Chicago make you want to kill someone?”
Me: “Does it make you want to cheat on your husband?”
PinkGirl: “ummm. no.”
Me: “Does it make you want to sing and dance?”
Me: “uh oh.”
PinkGirl, cracking up: “Mo-om!”
Seriously. The music from Chicago is excellent. And we LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Todrick Hall’s Disney Villain version of Cell Block Tango called Spell Block Tango! Check it out below. Cruella Deville from 101 Dalmations, The Snow Queen from Snow White, Ursula from Little Mermaid, The Queen of Hearts from Alice and Wonderland, Scar from the Lion King and Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty. Spots. Six. Fish. Uh-uh. Figaro. Wishes.
If you know your Disney movies, really listen to what the Queen of Hearts is actually SAYING. (she’s the fourth one). LOVE it.
and no. I’m not talking about Holy DARK KNIGHT, Batman.
I had never even heard about the dark night until I started reading about finding joy and delight in God, spiritual dryness, spiritual darkness and the silence of God. I first stumbled upon the term while reading “Prayer” by Philip Yancey. He said:
“I take some comfort in the fact that virtually all the masters of spirituality recount a dark night of the soul. Sometimes it passes quickly and sometimes it persists for months, even years. I have yet to find a single witness, though, who does not tell of going through a dry period.”
Is a “dry period” necessarily this “dark night”? Are these terms interchangeable? Both have been so eclectically described, I can’t lock down a globally accepted definition. People who have attempted to describe their experience have trouble articulating it. I’ve read John of the Cross, who is the originator of the term “dark night.” I’ve read Teresa of Avila and an unknown monk. Those three were not easy or complete reads. Thankfully, Thomas Green wrote extensively about the dark night and interpreted for me. C.S. Lewis, John Piper, R.C. Sproul, Henri Nouwen and a number of others have written about dryness and/or the dark night.
It would appear that one dark night does not fit all.
Here’s the Cliff Notes version, courtesy of Eric Sammons
“Unfortunately, “Dark Night” has become a term used very loosely to designate any difficult or depressing time in life. But this is not the meaning St. John of the Cross gives to “Dark Night.”
…not brought about by external events, such as the loss of a job or the death of a loved one. Instead, they are brought about by God alone, who uses the Dark Nights to purge the soul of attachments to the things of this world….”
“…God becomes the primary initiator of prayer, not man…the soul experiences dryness in prayer. It is a painful state that tests the soul to see if it desires prayer for the consolations or because it desires God Himself. At this stage, the ability to meditate becomes difficult, even painful, as no fruit comes from it and the Holy Spirit wants to move the soul from meditation to contemplation.
I have to ask. Is there scriptural basis for this?
Make no mistake. I’m a strong believer in the “dry spell” of it all. I’m a witness to it. I KNOW it happens. and I know first-hand how devastating it is. How it can rock faith. I’m smack in the thick of it.
and it. SUCKS.
My skepticism is with the surety and scriptural foundation of the dark night as the reason.
I’ve seen a commenter on another blog ask about the scriptural foundation of the explanation of the dark night and he was effectively dismissed. The general assumption expressed by those who responded to him was that he didn’t understand and obviously hadn’t experienced it. It didn’t occur to anyone that the reason he didn’t understand was that their explanations were vague and weak.
and I find myself thinking of an emperor in his underwear.
offended? If the invisible shoe fits, wear it.
It would be so much simpler if I was just smack in the middle of disobedience and I could repent, claim the promise of Romans 8:1 and move forward. Instead, I’m compelled to keep reading….
“Why is this painful stage necessary?…It is necessary so that the soul can be purged of defects that still exist within it, defects which prevent the soul from being passively receptive to God’s grace.”
purged of defects?
I have defects. I reek of defects.
“…a person might flee from the Dark Night and regress into lower levels of prayer. The proper response to this temptation to regress, however, is renewing your trust in God, continuing to utilize acquired recollection in prayer, abstaining from seeking consolation, and seeking counsel from a good spiritual director.”
lower levels of prayer?
lower levels of prayer. like with consolations and meditations?
and the “proper” response is to
(1) renew my trust in God
(2) continue to utilize “acquired” recollection in prayer
(3) don’t seek consolation and
(4) seek counsel from a good spiritual advisor.
(2) I think that means remember what God has done in my life in the past.
(3) Don’t try to pray the way I used to pray. Because those prayers are “lower.”
(4) God, if you want me to have a spiritual mentor who’s experienced this before, you’re gonna have to send me one. Break the silence.
SEND. me. one. PLEASE.
I admit. I’m torn. Between
(1) wanting there to be such a thing as this dark night and
(2) thinking it’s just a scape goat for people who need to rationalize whatever spiritual obstacle they are facing.
Faaaarrrr more likely, I’m grasping at straws to rationalize failing.
I started this journey because I wanted to find joy and delight in the nature of who God is without the crutches of circumstance or experiences. This is the scripture that comes to mind right now:
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:2-4
count it all joy.
[CLICK HERE to see a listing of all the blog posts in this series "the search for Joy."]