Sunday, January 28, 2018

An interlude on the sea

Ah! Lord, I would go through fire and water to sit the last at Thy table in Thy kingdom; but dare I say now I KNOW Thee! —But Thou art the Gospel, for Thou art the Way, the Truth, and the Life; and I have found Thee the Gospel. For I found, as I read, that Thy very presence in my thoughts, not as the theologians show Thee, but as Thou showedst Thyself to them who report Thee to us, smoothed the troubled waters of my spirit, so that, even while the storm lasted, I was able to walk upon them to go to Thee. And when those waters became clear, I most rejoiced in their clearness because they mirrored Thy form —because Thou wert there to my vision —the one Ideal, the perfect man, the God perfected as king of men by working out His Godhood in the work of man; revealing that God and man are one; that to serve God, a man must be partaker of the Divine nature; that for a man’s work to be done thoroughly, God must come and do it first Himself; that to help men, He must be what He is —man in God, God in man —visibly before their eyes, or to the hearing of their ears. So much I saw. And therefore, when I was once more in a position to help my fellows, what could I want to give them but that which was the very bread and water of life to me —the Saviour himself? And how was I to do this? —By trying to represent the man in all the simplicity of His life, of His sayings and doings, of His refusals to say or do. —I took the story from the beginning, and told them about the Baby; trying to make the fathers and mothers, and all whose love for children supplied the lack of fatherhood and motherhood, feel that it was a real baby-boy. And I followed the life on and on, trying to show them how He felt, as far as one might dare to touch such sacred things, when He did so and so, or said so and so; and what His relation to His father and mother and brothers and sisters was, and to the different kinds of people who came about Him. And I tried to show them what His sayings meant, as far as I understood them myself, and where I could not understand them I just told them so, and said I hoped for more light by and by to enable me to understand them; telling them that that hope was a sharp goad to my resolution, driving me on to do my duty, because I knew that only as I did my duty would light go up in my heart, making me wise to understand the precious words of my Lord. And I told them that if they would try to do their duty, they would find more understanding from that than from any explanation I could give them.

Anthony shared this passage from George Macdonald today. I had been letting the "Practice" fall by the wayside because I was somewhat at a loss for how to proceed. The book had already told me repeatedly what I needed to do, but I wasn't getting how to do it. This passage gives me at least the next step to consider. When I was a teenager, it was easy to look to Jesus and have peace in the midst of my life's problems, because the really significant problems were out of my hands anyway. It's been a different story now that my problems are my responsibility. Then it feels like I have to worry about them, that I failed in whatever led up to the problem in the first place, that it's interrupting everything else I was supposed to do ... in other words, a major stress-out. My husband advised me just to let it roll off my back like water, but that's not really what I want to do, either. This quote helps me understand, that I must look to Jesus as present, unchanging, and greater than whatever chaos I'm in, trusting that then when He is where He needs to be in my heart, the problem may be rebuked and the waters become clear, my outer life and inner heart both mirroring His perfect form.

Lord, teach me the lesson You began to teach Peter there on the sea, that though You may not stop the storm right away, You walk unhindered through it, and so may I too, if I keep my gaze on You. Teach me how to maintain responsibility without being overwhelmed with the problems, remembering that the purpose is not the calmness itself, but being united with You.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Practicing our own discipleship: Under attack

I've noticed that ever since I began this undertaking, trying to do what Bother Lawrence said, the enemy has been far more present in my mind. Not the outright assaults I've endured in the past, barraging me with evil statements or dreams to disturb and upset me. This time, I find myself willingly dwelling on dark things, that are acceptable and perhaps even necessary to consider in small doses, but certainly harmful to keep thinking of. Stories of abused children (as the news has been full of lately), "what-if" scenarios of violence, things like that. Or just a frustration, sometimes even from months past, that I find myself "ranting" internally about for an hour.

Lord, if I let this go on, my last state will be worse than the first. Do not let the enemy prevail over me. Show me how to resist the temptations, to discipline my mind, to seek You. Lord, it's so much easier to think on bad things I do understand than on You whom I do not understand. Grow in me such a hunger to understand You that nothing else appeals to me.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Practicing our own discipleship: Tearing down the idol once again

"This made me resolve to give the all for the All. After having given myself wholly to God, to make all the satisfaction I could for my sins, I renounced, for the love of Him, everything that was not He, and I began to live as if there was none but He and I in the world."

I likewise did resolve in my youth to give myself wholly to God, to claim no pursuit or desire of my own, but instead to seek only to please Him. But I then failed miserably to continue to live it, somehow falling again for my old idol of Perfection. I wanted to make my schedule, my hobbies, my house, all perfect. And of course that only leads to frustration.

Lord, let me see again that You are all that is desirable in heaven and earth. Turn me away once again from my own pride and desire for some perfection that is not really You. Let not just my TEN3 work, but also my house cleaning, dog-feeding, and diaper-changing all be that Your glory may be made manifest.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Why don't I really believe it?

"We need only to recognize God intimately present with us and address ourselves to Him every moment. We need to beg His assistance for knowing His will in things doubtful and for rightly performing those which we plainly see He requires of us, offering them to Him before we do them, and giving Him thanks when we have completed them."

It sounds so simple, yet has proved so difficult. I can't even seem to form the habit of giving thanks after a meal (which my husband has told me was once customary in addition to blessing the food beforehand), much less seeking Him every moment. The psalms about seeking God passionately always (like 27 and 63) always spoke so deeply and beautifully to me ... but do I do it? So little.

"Brother Lawrence said we ought, once and for all, heartily put our whole trust in God, and make a total surrender of ourselves to Him, secure that He would not deceive us."

How many times have I tried to do so? Many times in my teens and college years. But not so much lately. Why? How is it I've become a bit spiritually cynical, unconvinced that ever I will be able to claim, "We ought not weary of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed. We should not wonder if, in the beginning, we often failed in our endeavors, but that at last we should gain a habit which will naturally produce its acts in us without our care and to our exceeding great delight"? I act as if I don't believe that. Why? Was it the times I found God not to be who I wanted Him to be, the times He stretched me where I was secure, even tore down my whole box of understanding? Probably not that in itself ... I was grateful to learn, however uncomfortably. But perhaps it is that I have not since been satisfied with way to understand Him, His work in the world, and myself. Finding fault everywhere, do I now find Him nowhere?

Lord, how do I escape this trap, this pride, and learn to look with love instead? Let me consider all as having the advantage over me, seek what of You I may see in all things and all Christians which I have not myself, and delight to love, rather than to find fault.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Practicing our own discipleship: Business and love

"Brother Lawrence often experienced the ready succors of Divine Grace. And because of his experience of grace, when he had business to do, he did not think of it beforehand. When it was time to do it, he found in God, as in a clear mirror, all that was fit for him to do. When outward business diverted him a little from the thought of God a fresh remembrance coming from God invested his soul and so inflamed and transported him that it was difficult for him to contain himself. He said he was more united to God in his outward employments than when he left them for devotion in retirement."

How good it would be to find this grace. I am far more prone to be like Martha, worried and anxious about many things for my pride's sake. I call it responsibility, but if I were doing it out of love, I would see these things as gifts to be seen with gratefulness, opportunities to joyfully express my love. But instead I stress because if I don't get them done, it's a shame. Perhaps this is the good in the scatterbrained state I've been ever since having my baby, to make me realize how much I need to seek this grace to find what I need to do in God ... ha, and maybe the grace in God to do it right the first time, considering how often tasks turn out to be far more difficult than expected!

Perhaps that's even part of the reason I haven't ended up in Africa long-term. Maybe I've come out needing to learn of God more in the ordinary life than overseas where I would put it all in the context of "the mission" rather than a purer love that is content to do the same task in either place. Lord, teach and guide me still, to learn to love You with all my heart and in all I do.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Practicing our own discipleship: The faith to abide

"Knowing only by the light of faith that God was present, he contented himself with directing all his actions to Him. He did everything with a desire to please Him and let what would come of it."

Seriously? Is it just faith that keeps up an awareness of God's presence? I guess it makes sense if we remember that, as Kay Arthur taught me, "Faith is not mere intellectual acknowledgement. It is reliance." I acknowledge that God is ever present with me, but I am not relying on Him. Or, as Jesus put it, I need to abide in Him (John 15).

Lord, all that leaves me with then is to ask You to extend my faith, that I may indeed abide in You not just in spurts, but moment by moment. Show me where my weaknesses are, what hinders me from that kind of faith.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Practicing our own discipleship: Cursed creation made new

Part of our training for anyone serious about long-term work with TEN3, whether as a teacher, administrator, or writer, is to read through Imitation of Christ and The Practice of the Presence of God. I read both soon after I joined TEN3. Imitation of Christ spoke very strongly to me, because I was in a situation (not related to TEN3) in which I was being very frequently rebuked and criticized, and was not used to that at all. Imitation taught me to take the rebukes graciously and learn some meekness through them, which was clearly what God wanted to teach me at the time. But I don't remember The Practice at all. I think it's time I revisit it. It has dawned on me I don't quite know how to live God's joy when life is, well, ordinary, and especially when I'm not excelling. I'm used to meeting whatever challenge is set before me, and doing it all with excellence, and instead I find myself in a messy house, behind on my thank-you cards, forgetting my meetings, and fretting about finances. It's time I learned from this man who found God in dishwashing. So here's my first gleaning. Perhaps you'll join me in this spiritual journey. If so, you can find his book available for free here.

Conversation 1

"During that winter, upon seeing a tree stripped of its leaves and considering that within a little time the leaves would be renewed and after that the flowers and fruit appear, Brother Lawrence received a high view of the Providence and Power of God which has never since been effaced from his soul."

Well, there's plenty to be convicted of right there. When is the last time I looked at God's wonderful works for what they are that they might impact me like that? So I prayed to see God's work in something around me, and had to look no further than on my bosom at my son. A few weeks ago we took the hour's trip to visit my grandmother in the nursing home and introduce him as her first by-blood great-grandchild. I broke down crying silently in her room because, though she did respond a little to my voice, she was too ravaged by dementia to open her eyes. It broke my heart to think that she started her life as healthy, hopeful, and nurtured as my little Nathanael, and is reduced to this, immobile, every breath a groan, scarcely able to put four words together. But today, looking down at my baby reminded me that God is making all things new. My grandmother will rise again, and with Christ's life she may be as vibrant and hopeful as a laughing baby. What a gift indeed Christ has given us to hope for, life so new and vibrant, never to fade again, but retaining also our hard-won maturity! What a beautiful victory Christ has won for us, that all the curse of sin--aging, death, want, strife--will be undone, and all that remains will be life full of both exuberance and wisdom, love both childlike and purified, joy both fresh and adamantine.