Friday, July 6, 2007

Unblocking Writer's Block

Evidently my creativity lies not in my angst, but in my joy. I've been fighting a case of writer's block for nearly a week. I had no answer for it and was quite discouraged. Some undiscussed issues in my home were bugging me too, so I was not having a great week. Last night, right before he went to bed, my dear husband and I spent about 10 minutes discussing and trying to find solutions for those undiscussed issues. I still had a Sunday school lesson to finish writing and was going to stay up a couple more hours to finish. He said, "Why don't you get up when I do and finish it then?" I followed his advice, snuggled into bed next to him and woke up early this morning refreshed with fingers tingling to get on the keyboard. One Sunday school lesson, one magazine article, and two blog entries later, I am unblocked! Hurray for wise husbands!

"Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him." Psalm 37:7a

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Loving God with All Your Mind ~ Conclusion

Matthew 6:34 - "Do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

I've been working on a schedule to keep track of everyone's comings and goings at our house. With two daughters in college, a son in high school (playing soccer, too), my husband working, me working, and a grandson that needs to be taken care of, our lives seem to speed right by. I can't believe that it's already September!

The seemingly hardest part of our busy lives is fitting everything that needs done into each day. It is very easy to forget or leave out the most necessary part of the day-time alone with God. As a mother and wife (and now grandmother), it is very easy to neglect myself, but I try to remember to feed myself each day. Somehow, I am having and always have had trouble setting aside time with God, which is the most important meal of the day. If I don't feed my soul, my life dissolves into a chaotic scramble to find enough time.

I have found that I cannot love God with all my mind if my mind is too busy to include Him in each day. I start off each day worrying about getting everything done that is scheduled for that day and I finish my day worrying about what is scheduled for the next day. I sometimes find it hard to be thankful for the gift of each day: "This is the day that the Lord hath made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it." Psalm 118:24.

This whole worry cycle is what started me searching for a better way to keep track of our days. I have found great help in the book I've been reading by Elizabeth George - Loving God with All Your Mind. She has some great guidelines for managing time and mastering worry.

    Guideline #1: Prepare.
    Prepare in the evening. Do certain tasks the night before. Prepare some of tomorrows tasks tonight. She suggests making as much of the next day's evening meal as possible (brown the chicken, wash and tear the lettuce, chop the vegetables-you get the picture). Do a quick tidy job of the house just before bed. Lay out your clothes for tomorrow. Prepare in the morning. Take a few minutes to spend with God. I have found that I can read a devotion from My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers while I drink a cup of coffee or tea. Then I can pray over the words I receive and my mind can mull the message all day long. Mark 1:35 tells us that Jesus knew the value of meeting early with God. " the early morning, while it was still dark, He arose and went out and departed to a lonely place, and was praying there."
      Guideline #2: Plan Ahead.
      Planning ahead helps us be more effective during the course of our day, and our planning needs to be both long-range and short-range. Long-range planning helps us keep up with birthdays (one of my greatest challenges), parties, vacations, holidays, remodeling, moving, retirement. We break these large tasks into bite-size pieces with long-range planning. Short-range planning helps us meet the days demands: Who's watching the baby while Heather is in class? What's for supper? Wednesday Bible study starts at 7 PM. Whatever is important for your day falls under short-range planning...we incorporate the big tasks into these plans as well.
      Guideline #3: Pray.
      British preacher and writer F.B. Meyer had seven rules to live by every day. Number one on his list was "Make a daily, definite, audible consecration of yourself to God. Say it out loud: Lord, today I give myself anew to you." Elizabeth George says "Giving God everything means giving Him myself, my things, and the people I care about as well as the physical, the practical, and the emotional concerns of my life. All these are His to do with as He likes. This complete commitment to God of all that I am and all that I have is another way I respond to God's love and try to love Him with all my mind-and making this commitment daily is key."
      Guideline #4: Proceed.
      Now we must put into practice all the guidelines each day. Our day has been prepared for, plans are made, and lifted up to God in prayer. Now we are to live this day joyfully as unto the Lord. The focus becomes the task at hand and not the worries for tomorrow. We can obey Jesus' words in Matthew 6:34.

And we can better calm our mind and heart and put into practice our most important goal: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength." Mark 12:30

First printed September 2005 in The Freedom Reader, a publication of Spring Valley Freedom Bapist Church, Huntington, WV.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Loving God with All Your Mind ~ Part 2

2 Corinthians 10:5 - "We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ."

We have a society that spends a great deal of time and money on ourselves, everything from the diet, exercise, and plastic surgery craze to outcome-based education in our schools that emphasizes "self-esteem" over basic learning. Women, in particular, are targeted daily by advertising on TV and magazines...even 'news' stories that focus on what society has been deemed the ideal woman. I have to think that the basis of this focus on self is a scheme of Satan to direct our thoughts away from our Creator and Savior. The sad fact is that most people are completely unaware of the spiritual battle that goes on around us and we become unknowing participants for the enemy when we live in this unawareness.

I myself have spent a good portion of my life worrying over what I thought others must be thinking of me. I have a tendency to talk very fast when I am nervous or uncomfortable in a situation. I suppose the reason for this is if I fill a person's mind with a barrage of words, then he or she doesn't have time to form negative thoughts of me.

Now, is this sin or just the natural response of a person with low self-worth? I have come to believe that they are one and the same for the following reasons:

  1. I am disobedient to the precept of 2 Corinthians 10:5. I am spending my time in speculations and worry.
  2. I am disobedient to Philippians 4:8. My focus is not on loving God with all my mind because I am worrying about what others might be thinking of me, instead of thinking on whatever is true. No idea that includes the word might can be true, because future happenings are not true or real at this moment-the only moment I am guaranteed to have.
  3. I am ignoring Romans 8:35-"Who will separate us from the love of Christ?" God loves me- He sent His Son to die for me. Christ loves me - He died for me. The Holy Spirit dwells within me - He speaks to my soul the love of the Father and the Son.
  4. I am ignoring that I am a daughter of the King. My attitude and self-confidence should be based in that fact alone. 'For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons (and daughters) by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!"' Romans 8:15.

The Bible is full of the evidence of God's love for us. It is our responsibility to find that evidence by daily reading His word.

Elizabeth George gives these tips for training our thoughts:
"Step 1: Recognize the command - Philippians 4:8 is God's command to us to focus our thoughts on the truth of His Word and the things in life that are real.

Step 2: Respond in obedience - By definition, thoughts that are not true or real are mere "speculations." The are "lofty things raised up against the knowledge of God," and they have to be taken "captive to the obedience of Christ."

Step 3: Reap the benefits - When we acknowledge God's command and take steps to obey it, we will find ourselves enjoying greater energy and spending less time in melancholy introspection. Thinking thoughts that are true and real frees up our energy for positive and constructive uses." From LOVING GOD WITH ALL YOUR MIND, Harvest House Publishers © 1994.

Here are some verses to memorize to help you focus on the truth:

  • I John 1:9 - God is faithful.
  • I Corinthians 6:20, I Peter 1:18-19 - You were bought by Christ's blood.
  • I Peter 5:7 - God cares for you.
  • John 1:12 - You are a child of God.
  • Romans 5:8 - God loved you first.
  • Ephesians 2:10 - You are His workmanship.
  • Romans 8:35 - God has always loved you.
  • 2 Timothy 1:9 - God has a plan and purpose for you.
  • Psalm 139:14 - God made you unique.
  • 1 Corinthians 12:7 - God has gifted you with spiritual gifts.

When we understand our image in God's eyes-through the covering of the precious, holy blood of Christ that washes us and makes us pure-what right do we have to fret over what humans might be thinking about us? We have a direct command to "take captive every thought" in obedience to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He deserves no less than our full obedience and complete attention. There is a beautiful chorus that states just what benefit we will get from focusing on Him: "Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace."

Our Most Important Goal: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength." Mark 12:30.

First printed August 2005 in The Freedom Reader, a publication of Spring Valley Freedom Bapist Church, Huntington, WV.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Loving God with All Your Mind ~ Part 1

I wanted to share some of the insights I'm gaining from delving into the Biblical principal of Mark 12:30. "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your heart.

So the question is,
How do I do that? Humans are not naturally God-lovers. We are disgustingly in love with ourselves. Just think of how often your speech or others includes the words I, me, mine...

Elizabeth George, in her book LOVING GOD WITH ALL YOUR MIND, points readers to Philippians 4:8 as the starting point: "
Whatever is true , whatever i honorable, what ever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things."

The word
dwell is translated think in the KJV. The literal translation is ponder on these things. Ponder means to consider, think about, wonder about, brood over, contemplate. It gives the idea of spending time in thought...but thoughts of what?The first thing Philippians 4:8 tells us to think about is "whatever is true". We find absolute truth only in God's word. It is His love letter to us. Now what can I do to dwell on God's truth? Elizabeth George states, "one key to loving God with all our mind is not dwelling on the past or on unpleasant memories." She gives three specific practices to cultivate that will help us dwell on truth:
  1. Memorize Scripture-tape Bible verses to your fridge, above your sink, on your mirror.

  2. Meditate on Scripture-turn the verses over in your mind, this is deliberate concentration.

  3. Master Obedience-as we are committing the verses to our mind, it is of utmost importance that we do what these verses tell us. The ultimate evidence of love is obedience. We should not just know what God's word says, we should do what it says.
We should never allow our thoughts or feelings to override the truths of Scripture.

Disciplining our thought life by focusing on God's true and reliable Word is a giant step toward truly experiencing the love of God so that we can love Him with all our mind."

Next time, "
taking every thought captive", 2 Corinthians 10:5. Meanwhile, how about using Philippians 4:8 as your memory verse goal?

First printed July 2005 in The Freedom Reader, a publication of Spring Valley Freedom Baptist Church, Huntington, WV.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Despair: When Spiritual Anguish Causes Physical Pain

Save me, O God, for the waters have threatened my life. I have sunk in deep mire, and there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and a flood overflows me. I am weary with my crying; my throat is parched; my eyes fail while I wait for my God.” – Psalm 69:1-3 (NASB)

A dear one of mine is, through no event of her own causing, suffering in the dark night of despair. Her pain is so deep she has withdrawn from interacting with us. Yes, she is a Christian, and yes, she knows that God is with her through her suffering. But that knowledge doesn’t lessen the real pain she is enduring.

I admit I am at a loss to know what I am to do to help. My prayers are absolutely necessary. I keep our rare conversations light and neutral. Sweet little homilies about God’s will are the last things she needs to hear. Those who have never really endured this depth of suffering have no perception of how dark the brightest day is in the midst of it.

I am entirely offended by those who would say that if she is “prayed up,” or “in right relationship with God,” she wouldn’t be suffering so. Look at what David, the man after God’s own heart, had to say in Psalm 69. He equated his pain to drowning, his suffering to a sense of approaching death. His description of no foothold is real to anyone who has gotten in water over her head with no solid place to put her foot. The battle to stay afloat is physically and mentally draining. Even the surge of adrenaline caused by the desire to survive leaves one weak and exhausted when it subsides. There is little more frightening than being overwhelmed by the realization of the uselessness of one’s own power in the face of nature’s strength.

David spoke of his exhaustion and physical pain from his crying. His very soul was suffering. He knew that God was aware of his suffering. He realized that God would work in His own time. “But as for me, my prayer is to You, O Lord, at an acceptable time; O God, in the greatness of Your lovingkindness, answer me with Your saving truth.” – Psalm 69:13. That knowledge did not stop David from crying out begging for relief.

He repeatedly asked God to intervene. It is obvious that his prayers were not answered immediately even though he confessed his own faults and sins: “O God, it is You who knows my folly, and my wrongs are not hidden from You.” – Psalm 69:5. He acknowledged God’s sovereignty: “Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden, the God who is our salvation. God is to us a God of deliverances; and to God the Lord belong escapes from death.” – Psalm 69:19-20. This would lead me to believe that he was “prayed up” and in “right relationship” with God. His conversation with God was an ongoing plea for relief with a true yielding to God’s will and timing.

David was also well aware that others were watching him in his suffering. Even in the midst of his pain, he asked God to protect them from doubting Him. “May those who wait for You not be ashamed through me, O Lord God of hosts; may those who seek You not be dishonored through me, O God of Israel.” – Psalm 69:6. David’s suffering was caused by circumstances outside of his own influence and he could do nothing to ease his own pain, yet he was able for this brief moment to look outside the dark tunnel of despair and pray for those who looked to him as an example. How hard it must have been for him to rise up to that point and ask that!

We see David suffering and praying through Psalms 70 and 71 also. Reading these passages would lead one to believe there seemed no end of pain in sight for him. But not so according to his own words: “For You are my hope; O Lord God, You are my confidence from my youth. By You I have been sustained from my birth; You are He who took me from my mother’s womb; my praise is continually of You.” – Psalm 71:5-6. David affirmed his hope in God in these verses.

He still goes on to plead for relief but his pleas are based on what he has seen God do in the past. No matter the intensity of this present pain, God has always been faithful to him. “You who have shown me many troubles and distresses will revive me again, and will bring me up again from the depths of the earth. May you increase my greatness and turn to comfort me.” – Psalm 71:20-21.

My dear one is still deeply immersed in the mire of her despair. The end of her suffering is far away and the pain is intense. But she is a child of God and ultimately He will bring her to the sunshine of His blessedness again. He has promised this and He is the righteous God who keeps His word. Following David’s example, I continually pray for her strength and for those around her that they will see His mighty hand deliver her and come to know Him more fully.

First printed July 2007 in The Freedom Reader, a publication of Spring Valley Freedom Bapist Church, Huntington, WV.