Posted in Christian Living, Faith

Faith-Challenged

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Last week, I talked about starting the journey of emptying myself to make room for God in my thoughts, choices, and way of life. I also noted that this is a process of growing that I will have to begin again each day. So, what practical steps can I take to make my mission a reality?

My first step has to be paying more attention to my thoughts. Do you ever really listen to yourself? My brain is going all the time, and most of that time does not involve thoughts one would call “God-worthy.” In fact, many times, my thoughts are busy being critical of myself and others. If I can do a better job of listening to my inner dialogue, I will immediately improve what my tongue actually says as well.

One of my current reads is the book on the Sermon on the Mount, Invitation to a Spiritual Revolution, by Paul Earnhart. This morning, I read his thoughts about Christ’s teachings on faith. Like the emptying of the self, faith is also a daily practice. Earnhart defines faith as “an active, practical force which affects the whole of life,” and little faith as that “which has not been carefully thought out and applied.”

When I allow myself to get worried about anything, I am practicing little faith, or actually no faith at all. But, as Earnhart points out, I am not alone. He uses the example of the episode when the disciples were in the boat with Jesus in the storm and got so nervous. They had seen Jesus perform so many miracles, but they still didn’t fully understand the truth of Christ. If you understood and had faith that the One who had created all things was in the rocking boat with you, would you have any reason to worry about the storm swirling around you?

Like the man who came to Jesus for healing for his son, but at the same time plead with Jesus to “help me with my unbelief,” I spend my days tottering between facing the world with open, peaceful arms and worrying over the smallest of issues. But, what Earnhart had to say this morning was worth applying to my life:

It will help us if we realize that the freedom from fear to which Jesus calls us is a lesson we master over time, by long practice–by reminding ourselves again and again of what the cross says about the unchanging faithfulness of our Father’s love and by prayerfully taking our burdened thoughts to Him (Phil 4.6).

By watching my inner thoughts, I now have an ever better saying than just “Stop!” to turn my negative thoughts toward the positive thoughts that bring us closer to God:

I will not be anxious!
I will have faith that grows!

When my mind is empty of the critical thoughts and anxiety, then I can hear God. I can fill my head with the Bible verses I am working to memorize. I can fill my head with images of the wonders of nature that are often as close to God as we can get. I can go from faith-challenged to faith-warrior.

Posted in Christian Living, Christianity, Living, Love

Tiny Steps Make Great Feats

I have a friend who shares my proclivity to demand perfection of ourselves and the grand ability to beat ourselves up when we fall far short of the over-reaching goals we have set for ourselves. Lately, our conversations have circled around the concept of “magnificence.” In other words, we are trying to make it OK for ourselves that we are not going to be “magnificent.”
Then, I have to stop us. Whenever we make statements like this, we are shortchanging ourselves in so many ways. First, we are denying the truth behind what we define as magnificent. Of course, our definition is much too tied to the ways of this world. Because we haven’t made millions or written the country’s greatest novel, we are failures in our own eyes. That definition, in itself, though, is a failure in the eyes of God, who even when He came to earth in the form of man, did not seek stardom, even shunning the crowds that thronged toward Him as much as possible at times, asking those He had healed to keep the event to themselves.
This is when we are better served to remind ourselves that God’s version of magnificence is a tiny mustard seed, which, once planted, can be nurtured by the Spirit into a truly wonderful plant. Our actions aren’t the thing that make the end result, however. God is interested in the mustard seed size actions we take that, culminating together, create the final, magnificent result.
Maybe our small actions are simple things like holding open a door, smiling to those we meet, or stopping to help someone change a flat tire. Perhaps they are actions that are a little more involved like making a meal for someone who is ill, or cleaning house for someone who cannot do the job him/herself. Maybe the action is being privileged enough to be the first person to share her gospel experience with a person who has never had the opportunity to know Jesus.
When I look out my back window and watch the robins and cardinals and squirrels scampering in my backyard, a plethora of color and motion that reminds me what it means to be peacefully human, I sometimes think about the ways that God speaks to us in just as tiny a motion as the mustard seed He also requires. Hasn’t He more often been a whisper in the wind than earth-shattering thunder?
It’s hard to re-define success in a world surrounded by capitalistic ideals, but my friend and I keep on trying, holding each other accountable for the moments when we berate our mustard seed actions and long for superhero status. The prideful will be humbled, God warns us. We do our best each day to humble ourselves before we need to be humbled. Paying attention to our mustard seed actions is a good way to stay on the right side of humility. I’m getting older, and my knees can’t take another fall.

Posted in Christianity, Faith

God is not restrained

The last time you read about the adventures and perils of David and his good friend, Jonathan, the son of David’s enemy, King Saul, did you happen to linger for any time at 1 Samuel 14:6?
I didn’t, but I’m glad today that the preacher at church did, for in that verse, Jonathan, who is about to face down 20 Phillistines with only the aid of his armor-bearer, proclaims his faith in the Lord by stating that God is not restrained by many or by few when it comes to accomplishing His will.
As the preacher asked this morning of the congregation how many of us had let ourselves give up because we were too few, I was struck anew at the concept of the mustard seed and God’s ability to do more than we can ever imagine with even the smallest gesture on our part that is in keeping with His will and accomplished through faith.
God cannot be restrained. God will not be restrained. I find that comforting in the wake of so many crazy things that seem to be happening in our world. I also find that comforting as a struggling writer who feels that God gave her an ability to write for a reason. I, of course, am often thinking that reason should be something much more grand and glorious than I have heretofore accomplished, but Jonathan’s example reminds me that the smallest thing I do with my writing might just be what God had in mind when He handed that talent to me.
So, ask yourself today, where in my life am I forgetting that God cannot be restrained by many or by few? Go ahead. Prayerfully and with faith, take that tiny step you’ve held yourself back from when you were thinking, as I was, that it would not be enough.