Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Keep Calm and Carry On

My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.
                                                                                                 - Proverbs 2: 1-5 

See, the thing is, if God is working on you, you know it. He's not subtle. Now, not every bit of direction is going to come as a booming voice from Heaven or a burning bush, but the intention is still the same - to get your attention. However, not everyone is going to pay attention. Not everyone recognizes it as God. I didn't.

For some, it's "coincidence." You are stressing and sweating and generally freaking out over, I don't know, how you'll get work done or how you'll pay for something. You stay up nights. You start trying to figure out what you can sell, what you can barter, what you can exclude. You snap at people and forgive yourself because "they don't understand the kind of pressure you are under." BOOM, windfall. Seemingly out of no where, good fortune finds you, and all that anxiety turns out to be needless. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God - Phillipians 4:6. Keep calm; God provides.

For some, it's "bad luck." You're speeding on your way to work. <flashing light> Here's your ticket. You speed on your way home from work. <flashing light> Here's your ticket. You back out of your driveway absentmindedly. <Boom! Crash> Here's your ticket. Eventually, you throw your hands up in supplication and surrender. "Fine!" you say, and your driving habits receive their due correction. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it - Hebrews 12:11. Keep calm; God loves you.

And for others, it's your "conscious." You know that fast food is bad for you, yet it seems that every other day or so, you find yourself in the McDonald's drive-thru. May I take your order, please? A news report comes on the radio citing evidence from a new study that finds people who indulge in fast food more than once a month will die five years earlier than others. You order a double-quarter pounder. A high school classmate of yours dies from a heart attack, leaving his two babies and wife behind. With fries.  Strangers approach you with discount fliers to join the new, local Weight Watchers chapter near your house. And a large Coke. Your jeans no longer button and you can't find a shirt that will cover your belly completely. Add a large chocolate milkshake to that too. And with every one of these events, your mind tugs on your heart - "Don't do it!" it says, "Just put down the waffle fries and no one will get hurt!!!" But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you John 14:26. Keep calm; God will guide you.

I have been all three of these people at some point in my life, and most notably lately, I have been the last one. I have been ignoring what I knew was the tug of God on my heart to get myself back in alignment, to reestablish my relationship with Him.

Now Reader, if you've been paying attention, you may remember that I've been complaining/worrying for some time now about what I felt was a lack of emotional connection with God. I didn't understand - I was attending church and praying and singing and volunteering...I was doing my best to be devoted to Him. But, in the back of my mind, I knew that this was not enough. Not enough, at least, to cement my relationship with God.

I used to read and discuss the Bible every day with my mentor. I used to write poetic song lyrics during sermons as I felt inspired by the message. I used to host a Bible study group at my house. I used to wake up early and study a small passage and pray before getting ready for work. I used to be focused on being a homemaker and a mother more than a teacher and breadwinner. And for some of you, that may seem "extreme." But for me, I guess it was more of a way to keep myself immersed and focused. It wasn't always awesome to wake up at 5am and read the Bible, but I was always glad that I did afterwards.

And then I stopped asking my mentor questions. I stopped writing lyrics. The Bible study crumbled. I slept in. The laundry piled up.

What I've realized is that I used to live for God, but I found that recently, I was spending more time just living Biblically. 

Now, whether it's serendipity, discipline, or the Holy Spirit, the idea is still the same - God wants your attention. He wanted my attention. 

I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you -Job 42:5

To believe that you are good with God just because you have heard 'the good news' is dangerous ground, but keep calm, God provides, God loves, and God directs. It is only when we let our pride step in His way, only when we believe that we are in control of our lives or masters of our circumstances, that our relationship suffers.
So, I start over. I know now what I was neglecting and what I need to begin again. Devotion, humility, self-control - I let those get away from me and replaced them with routine acts rather than living sacrifices.

Keep calm. Carry on. And praise be to God who forgives us our trespasses. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

A Faith Reviewed

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. 
The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 
2 Corinthians 5:17

I don't feel very born again. I was going strong there for a while, and the presence of God in my life, in my mind, in myself was a constant source of energy for me. But lately, there has been this very noticeable lull in my energy and enthusiasm for God. 

This has waxed and waned for a month or two now. At first, it was just for a day or so, and then I would be reinvigorated by some passage or experience or sermon - something would happen to pull me from the funk I was in. And then it became more extended. I would be distracted during service, unable to concentrate or absorb the message. It was frustrating because no matter how much I tried to keep my mind on God, I would always wander off into my own little thought-world. Someone could cough in the back of the sanctuary, and I would start scrolling through my mental rolodex of "things associated with this cough." It would go something like this:

<cough cough cough>

My Brain: Hmmm...sounds like someone is getting sick. I wonder who it is. I hope we don't all get sick. Everyone was getting sick around Christmas. That one guy would only give fist bumps. I wonder why fist bumps got started. Surely not to keep disease from spreading. Hmmm...if they had known to fist bump in the Middle Ages, would the Plague have spread so aggressively? It's funny to think about a virus being aggressive, like "Ha! Puny humans! I will bring you to your knees with phlegm and fevers!!!" Knees..my knees hurt. This pew is uncomfortable. I need more leg room. I don't even have long legs. I have short legs - how do all these tall guys sit here without squirming? Squirm. That's a fun word. Not as fun as "loquacious." Kids never know what that means. Loqua = to talk. I'm such a nerd. Nerds would be tasty...I'm hungry. 

And from there it would continue. Every once in a while, I would stop my inner-voice and remind it to be quiet and let my brain focus on the message or the prayer, but inevitably, someone would sneeze or the air conditioning would turn on, or I'd find a literary device in the passage we were studying and it would all fall apart.

Now, I don't know. It's begun to feel academic...bloodless. I still have moments - I had a huge moment last Sunday - but it seems like, unless I am in the sanctuary actively worshipping, I'm just back to "normal." And I don't want to be normal. I don't like this normal self. I like who I was becoming, but it feels like I've stalled out on a very big hill and I'm holding the brake on for dear life. 

I thought that receiving God's grace of salvation would change me - would make me a "new creation." And it had...but now that seems fleeting, and with it, I have been constantly reviewing the depth of my faith. "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." I hope that I am saved, but I am feeling less and less assured of it. And couple this with the constant reduction in my feelings of conviction, I have to wonder: Am I losing my faith?

So, I need your prayers, though only God can pull me from this. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone, but in the absence of my own strength of conviction, I am hoping God will accept yours on my behalf and renew my faith again.