Too many of us subsist spiritually throughout the year on little sips of Living Water. Through NEWIM I’ve been blessed to attend the Springs silent retreat many times during the last 13 years, where I get to drink big. Last week I spent 48 hours (minus time for sleep, but that was welcome too) with God. It was glorious to sit at his feet, with no distractions – no phone, computer, TV, household responsibilities, nothing but resting in his presence.
I read a great book during that time: Is Your Lord Large Enough? How C.S. Lewis Expands Our View of God by Peter J. Schakel. Through many of Lewis’ thoughts and writings, he challenges our perceptions of God. In A Grief Observed, Lewis said “we need constantly to smash the images we form of God, so they can expand into new and larger ones. If we do not, our image of God will turn into an idol, that is, into a solidified idea that we worship instead of worshiping the living God. if we allow it, God will begin breaking those images for us. God, says Lewis, is the great iconoclast – the great image breaker. God will show us where our images are limited and inadequate – through our experiences, our thinking and our contacts with new ideas and other people, especially ideas and people different from those with which we are most familiar.” I realized this has been the theme of my life for the last 17 years and I’m thankful for it.
When we take a big drink of Living Water as I did recently, it’s good to know it’s fresh water. It’s not ice – a solidified image to worship. As it flows in and through us, it renews us and helps us grow. Living Water – the Holy Spirit – pushes on the boundaries of our thinking and helps us get to know more of who God really is. The big gulp was great, but I’m thankful for little sips and small drinks too – it’s all refreshing.
When I first started working out to my favorite exercise DVD, I had to practice the moves over and over to get them right. I would watch the leader and adjust my movements if I realized I was doing something incorrectly. Like a lot of people who begin exercise programs, I stopped. Well, you know how it is, I took some trips, went through a bout with bronchitis and just never got back to it. If you’ve read my other posts from this year, you know I started up again. At my age, exercise isn’t an option, it’s a necessity. So when I began that same routine, I had to start slowly and work up to speed. I noticed I had to adjust all over again to certain movements, as I had forgotten exactly what to do.
In our spiritual lives, we sometimes have to do the same thing – adjust our ideas and behavior when we discover we’re doing something wrong. The other day I snapped at someone. I didn’t stop to think before opening my mouth and immediately regretted it. But I realized it was a good thing in that it helped me make some adjustments. Sometimes we have to make adjustments in how we look at verses in the Bible too – we can think we know what they say and/or mean, but we have to be open to new understanding from the Holy Spirit who teaches and leads us into all Truth – to Jesus, who is Truth.
Being a believer doesn’t necessarily mean we have everything figured out. Reading the Bible once or even a hundred times doesn’t make us experts. We are told to grow in grace and knowledge, which makes me think we should be careful not to think we know everything. Learning is an open ended, lifelong process. There are times we must let go of what we think is set-in-stone understanding and be open to the Holy Spirit and how he wants us to grow. There’s no DVD to follow, but there is a Shepherd to follow and he does know everything.
Along with the good comes the bad – side by side in my garden, pretty flowers and weeds. I’m one of those rare California birds who actually does her own yard work so today found me outside mowing, edging, trimming, weeding and spraying even more weeds. It’s amazing how many weeds can grow in one small yard. I did have fun using my weed sprayer, especially on some errant Bermuda grass. I hate that stuff!
When we lived in Arizona, I tried unsuccessfully to keep the Bermuda grass out of my flower beds. I used to have nightmares about what I dubbed “devil grass.” I was told if you covered your whole yard in black plastic, Bermuda grass would grow under it until it found a hole and it would come up and stick out its tongue at you. I can’t help but think of sin when I’m pulling out devil grass. We are never free from it, and even when we think we are, it lies in wait for an opportunity to reach out and grab us.
Paul put it so well in Romans 8 when he said, “When I want to do good, I don’t. And when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyway” (verse 19, NLT). “Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord” (verses 24-25). Thank God for his amazing grace that completely covers our sins. I just hope my weed spray works half as well.
I’ve been wearing progressive lens eyeglasses for a few months. It took a couple of weeks to adjust to seeing through three different areas of focus. If you wear them you understand. Even though I’m pretty comfortable with them now, I still sometimes lose my focus. Every now and then as I look at something I have to move my head and eyes all around to find the clear spot and I wonder what’s up with that?
We can lose our focus spiritually too. We can become sidetracked into areas that really aren’t important and have nothing to do with salvation or living a godly life. Our focus needs to remain solely on Jesus, who brings love and grace to us through the Holy Spirit, as we give our praise to God the Father. Remember, the plain things are the main things and the main things are the plain things.
Let’s keep our focus on Jesus, even if we have to occasionally adjust our line of sight, or rather, let the Holy Spirit adjust our line of sight. It’s best left to him.
One day last week I skipped a workout. This was on a day when I had planned to exercise, but my energy level was low and I just didn’t really want to do it. This week, due to my yearly trek to downtown LA to work at Staples Center during March Madness, I will miss several days. But as I said in an earlier post, I’m not going to feel guilty or beat myself up. I’m also not going to use the few days off as an excuse to stop. I’ve done that before and called it inertia.
When I mess up, I’m usually merciful to myself (and good at rationalizations). When our good intentions go awry or we make a mistake, we quickly justify our action or inaction. We often don’t give others the same latitude. We judge and criticize and wonder what’s wrong with them, and we incorrectly project our attitude onto God. Those who don’t understand much about God think he is always looking for opportunities to punish us. But do we love ourselves more than God? The One who created us is not less merciful than we are; he doesn’t love us less than we love ourselves or our children or friends/family. I can’t remember who said it, but I read somewhere the theology of many doesn’t allow God to love us more than we love our children.
The truth is God loves us more than we love ourselves, our spouses, children, parents and God himself! We love poorly and conditionally – he loves perfectly and unconditionally. I’m going to get back to my workouts next week and while I’m sweating it out, I’ll be praising God for his love that keeps me going.
It’s so nice today I had to get out for a little spring cleaning in the garden. I’m not ready for warm temperatures yet (I know, I’m spoiled living in California) but I love when the flowers start to bloom. Here are the first flowers of the new year: iris, ranunculus, peach and plum trees.
We are two months into the year and most people have already forgotten their New Year’s resolutions, if they even bothered to make any. I made a couple – one to exercise more and the other to be a regular blogger. I’ve done pretty well – so far. But if I’m not as consistent as I would like, I won’t beat myself up or give up. I’m determined to keep going with both, no matter what.
Life is full of distractions and often things happen to derail our good intentions, even when it comes to spiritual matters. It’s frustrating to realize how consistently inconsistent you can be! But the following quotation reassures me God is not a harder taskmaster than I am. He understands our limitations and really only expects one thing of us: to keep going, to keep running the race and cross the finish line (Philippians 3:12-14).
“I would emphasize this one committal, this one great volitional act which establishes the heart’s intention to gaze forever upon Jesus. God takes this intention for our choice and makes what allowances he must for the thousand distractions which beset us in this evil world. He knows that we have set the direction of our hearts toward Jesus, and we can know it too, and comfort ourselves with the knowledge that a habit of soul is forming which will become after a while a sort of spiritual reflex requiring no more conscious effort on our part” (A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God, p. 82).
I’m not sure I completely agree with the “no more conscious effort” part, but I love that God knows the intent of our hearts and makes allowances for distractions. So here’s to pointing ourselves in the the right direction and finishing the race!
When we were little and my sister and I were given candy, knowing we had to share, we would count it out: one for me, one for you, one for me, one for you. We were very careful to divide everything equally, even when pouring orange juice, because we always wanted our fair share.
As an adult, I frequently count my blessings, thanking God for his mercy and generosity. And as a Christian, I don’t need to worry about getting my fair share. God has already blessed me beyond measure in many ways.
It’s wonderful to receive a blessing, but what about being one, by turning around and blessing someone by an act of kindness or service? Some people call this paying it forward, meaning if someone does something good for you, you then do something good for someone else. But we don’t need to wait for someone to start the process, God already did that; all we need to do is keep it going.
It’s something to consider, whatever you want to call it – paying it forward, being a blessing, showing grace or even – one for me, one for you.
My daughter thinks it’s amusing to watch me play with my iTouch. To her 20-something mind, gadgets such as iPods, the iTouch and phones that do more than allow you to make phone calls belong in the domain of her age range. Yes, it took me all day to figure out how to use my iTouch and I am still quite slow at texting, but I’m fine with my long learning curve. You’re never too old to enjoy new technology.
One of my favorite songs on my iTouch is by Josh Groban on the Awake album. You Are Loved (Don’t Give Up) is a love song that always makes me think of Jesus. When we feel the weight of the world, Jesus lifts us up. He hears and understands us; when we feel lost, he finds us and when darkness blinds us, he shines to guide us.
The writer of these lyrics may not have been thinking of Jesus when he wrote it, but when I hear it, I hear Jesus singing to me and I know I’m loved (Zephaniah 3:17). And I love that I can take this reassurance with me everywhere I go, thanks to the iTouch!
The wonderful thing about our relationship with God is that it’s already there! All we have to do is participate in the relationship Jesus has had with the Father from eternity. And how do we participate? Through prayer and in community with other believers. It’s that simple. We don’t have to worry about how to go about getting a relationship with God, or building it, or if we’re doing it right. Just enjoy it!