Searching for a new paradigm

A reflection out of my reading in Call to Joy & Pain and work with Live a Praying Life

This year has confronted me about how much I have grown up with clearly drawn lines around where God’s turf was in my life and that there has been terrain where He was not to tread because, after all, it’s my life.

But it isn’t really; it’s His.

As I aim to grow in Him, this season has surfaced a great many ‘I wants’ that have been severely disappointed. I realize that I was raised to have a plan and move towards it, but the more my plans fall through, the less I believe that paradigm works. To complicate things further, God tells us that He has plans for us, yet we don’t constantly walk in the knowledge of what those plans entail. He hasn’t exactly sat me down with a timeline and told me word for word what I need to do to arrive there…wherever ‘there’ is. Sometimes, we have to walk purely by faith that God does, indeed have a plan, one that we cannot see.

I don’t like the idea of relinquishing my whole future to God, wholly undefined from my own vantage point. What might He fill that life with? Still, is there anyone else who would be better to give that blank check to? My prayer life is being disrupted in these thoughts of what it means to pray…that it is more about being transformed into persons with His heart and His desires. Suffering and pain can be part of the means God uses to produce the character He needs to see His work accomplished.

Even in the face of knowing enough about God to know that He is good and His ways are perfect, it’s difficult to say with each instance or circumstance of life, ‘This is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.” I have these what ifs and what abouts that choke out joy and highlight pain or failure.

Somehow, in a way that I cannot see, God will supply all that I ever needed. I don’t yet grasp what it means to live with anticipation of what God will do, without being tempted to define what I think that should be or keep my heart on the fringes so I don’t risk more brokenness.

All of the misshapen pieces I have examined this year, the places I wish I could hide or fix, struggles that I could not mask, I know that God has a use for those things. On what might seem desolate terrain, He will amaze me with what harvest He can grow, in His time and in His way. The purification process will one day yield fine metal for Him to use. In the meantime, He helps me take down my fences and tills the ground for a work that has yet to come.

Follow up to spiritual growth talk

muffin

On Saturday, I spoke to some of the women at my church about spiritual growth in trials. I was happy with the results. We had a good group considering that our summer gatherings are usually small. There were enough muffins to go around. Women were eager to connect with one another and they seemed to resonate with the material I had prepared.

It was affirming to hear from a few women that there was something particular in the message the Lord gave me that was intended for them. That’s what I hoped for and prayed for, and yet somehow I still wondered if it might fall flat or if I wouldn’t convey what I’d hoped to.

True confessions: as much as I delight in doing the research and preparation that leads up to sharing/teaching scripture and Biblical principles, when the day comes and I’m actually talking to the ladies, I know that I can’t pull off verbally what I could (and did) write quite cohesively. Writing flows naturally, but speaking is another story.

The silver lining is that the Lord enables me to speak at all because for many (many) years, I was seriously afflicted with such great anxiety about saying anything or reading out loud in a group. Given that history, I can look at where I am now and say, well, there is progress and there is work still yet to do, but it will come with a lot of practice! If the Lord sees fit to keep me teaching, He’ll provide repeated opportunities for me to improve my speaking.

Another thing that I was reminded of when I drove home from the church was what great pleasure it brings me to perform some kind of ‘work’ that doesn’t feel like work at all. Several women noted how much preparation it must have taken for me to prepare my message, but to me, that was nothing extraordinary. I delight in it and often wish I had even more time to invest in studies or lessons. It is work, but it is joy, too, and so much so that I don’t perceive it as work until someone else points it out.

Eric Liddell indicated that when he ran, he felt God’s pleasure. Running was a talent God provided and when Eric put forth effort, God blessed it, multiplied it, and allowed it to minister to others.

I have a similar sentiment about researching and writing in women’s ministry. The skills I need have been gifted to me by the Lord. I do spend the time and attempt to use them well, but ultimately, God is the one producing the fruit and I know it.

Spiritual growth through trials

This Saturday, I’m presenting a short message to one of theĀ  women’s ministry gatherings at my church.

Here is the gist of it: In times of trials, don’t walk away from your relationship with the Lord.

It was challenging to narrow down my texts. I had several more than I ended up incorporating specifically, but the ones that have been included are a good representation of what I hope to impart.

These are the specific recommendations I make:

Hold fast to Him. Hold fast to the Word. Hold fast to your faith. (Lk. 8:15, Mt. 13:23)

Remember our example in Christ. He can use the broken places, disappointments, and failures in a mighty way. Stay connected and involved in the body of Christ. (Jn. 12:24)

Recognize that spiritual growth is a process. (Ro. 5:1-5, Jas. 1:2-4, 12)

Choose life in the path that you take. This involves what we do with our minds, bodies, and hearts. (Isa. 26:3, 1 Cor. 13:7, Col. 1:10)

Look for God’s character, commands, and promises as you delve into scripture. (We’re collectively reading through the Bible in a year at my church.)

Keep in mind that our time is not truly ours, but His. Yet, maintain this balance with a sense of urgency to obey. (Ps. 90:12, Rev. 3:11)

Keep on praying; He changes us in these efforts. (Ro. 12:12)

Agree to wait on the Lord for His reply. Ask for discernment about what steps to take and what issues to surrender. (Hab. 2:1)

Live out the principles you already know. Start small and aim to become consistent. (2 Pet. 1:5-8, 10)

Look to Him with expectation/anticipation. (Lk. 11:9-10, Jas. 5:7-8)