Wednesday, March 5, 2014
By Micky Wolf
Most of us desire to make good choices, to act in ways befitting a Christian. And yet, we can find ourselves floundering at times, wondering what our next step might be. It seems there are occasions (too many?) when the more we struggle to understand what God is calling is to, the more uncertain we become. The seriousness of this muddling is addressed in James 1:5-8:
But if any of you lacks, wisdom, he should ask God who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and he will be given it. But he should ask in faith, not doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed about by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord, since he is a man of two minds, unstable in all his ways.
In listening to well-intentioned folks over the years, I have discovered one question in particular, if thoughtfully reflected upon, will provide the seeker with invaluable insight to living in God’s will: “Why am I choosing or doing A, B, or C?”
Seem too simple or obvious? Surprisingly enough, those truly desiring God’s will find this to be much more challenging than they initially anticipated. However, for those willing to delve deeper, the revelation can prove to be well worth the time spent in prayer or reflection.
We know being honest about what we are thinking and feeling regarding any person or situation is a good thing. At the same time and on any given day, we can be pretty effective at deceiving ourselves—about ourselves. Who wants to look at the yuckier stuff? The pride? The impatience? The self-centeredness of my way is the best way?
If we hope to ask God for wisdom for direction (who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly) we have to prepare our hearts to receive that wisdom. Which means, the more forthright we are, the better.
An easy ‘out’ on this one is to exclaim, “But God knows what’s going on, so it’s not like I need to point this stuff out to him.” True. But, that’s not why He wants to hear it from our own lips. Giving voice to what we are thinking and feeling about our strengths and weaknesses, informs us—about us.
Whether we actually speak out loud, or simply form our thoughts into words which we whisper from our hearts, the result is what is important.
This was brought home to me in a very personal way in recent months.
I recently rejoined a group I had been a (welcomed) member of for a number of years, but had stepped away from for a number of ‘honest’ reasons: I needed the time for writing, for meeting with directees, for being a good wife, for this…and for that…Well, you get the idea.
The truly honest reason I discovered when I allowed God to search my heart with the “Why was I staying away question?” Fear. Fear of being misunderstood or rejected for being me, warts and all. Fear of not having it all together. Fear of making a fool of myself.
Did that mean I had not been me earlier? No. It simply meant that in passing through several deeply life-changing experiences, (the death of my mother, returning to school, a painful relationship issue), I was now much more comfortable being me. It had nothing to do with them. They had been accepting of me all along.
I don’t know about you, but my requests to the Lord asking for wisdom are too often shrouded in a veil of unbelief. For all that I know about God, especially through Scripture, there can be the tiniest bit of d-o-u-b-t. “Really, God? Are you really going to give me insight that I can apply to daily life? I mean the specifics, God?”
I used to get really impatient with myself for doubting God. Yep, one of those aforementioned fears of appearing to not have it all together. My attitude these days? So what? Maybe the first and foremost reason we have the story of ‘doubting’ Thomas is to assure us that even the most faith-filled and believing saint is going to have one-of-those-days now and then.
Getting honest about our tendency to doubt is to find the courage to wield the key called faith—and that most assuredly opens the door to hearing and receiving the wisdom of the Lord.
Spirit and flesh…
Being brave enough to ask the “Why” question takes us to the root of our motivations, which is probably one of the more powerful incentives to dodge this process.
When the Lord pointed out my fear, it became obvious that if I hoped to behave as a Christ-follower, I had to accept I was, in effect, cooperating with the motivation behind the fear—self-protection rather than trusting God in all things.
The unsettling truth is that anytime an examination of our motivations shows us we are more interested in playing it safe or looking or sounding good than we are in being real and authentic, we have made the choice to move from the flesh rather than the Spirit. Had Jesus made that choice, he would have passed on the cup and walked away from the Cross.
In the end…
If we’re being honest, it’s no fun and gets mighty wearisome trying to cover or disguise our yucky places rather than surrender to God’s Truth in Love and be the unique person He has created each of us to be.
If we’re cavorting with doubt, our double-mindedness will effectively serve as a barrier in preventing us from moving forward in faith.
And if we are more interested in making choices that assuage and massage our ideas of self rather than embracing the promises of God, we will be tossed about in a sea of discontent, unsure and unstable.
“Why am I about to make this choice and take this action?”
Ask. From the heart. Wisdom awaits.
Do I find it difficult to get honest with myself, about myself?
Am I more inclined to dance with doubt or embrace God’s Truth?
How do I feel about going before the Lord with my “Why(s)?”
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
By Micky Wolf
Okay, now that I may have ruffled the nape hairs of nearly all the females reading this blog, let us venture forth in courage for some understanding as to why this statement has meaning for today’s women—and men as well.
Several days ago I participated in an all-female meeting where several comments were shared about how able and capable women are with managing and accomplishing numerous tasks at the same time. The clear implication being, men cannot and do not even attempt such endeavors for various reasons, ranging from ‘that’s the way God designed them’ to ‘what do you expect with the present cultural and social norms’. And truth be told?—I have, on numerous occasions down through the years, been equally eager to espouse this philosophy.
Ladies, maybe it’s time to change our tune? Why? Well, for one reason, maybe we are really missing the mark with regard to God’s hopes and desires for us as (female) human beings created in His image and likeness. And secondly, maybe it is also time for us to let go of our need—real or perceived—to behave as if multitasking is an honor badge of distinction with regard to our worth and value as wives, mothers, or career women.
For Jesus, it was about the need and experience of the moment…undivided attention and presence.
When we think of being busy or trying to do what needs doing, Jesus’ experience with Martha usually comes to mind. While affirming her for her efforts, he is firm and gentle in reminding her 0f the importance of focusing on ‘the better part’. (Luke 10:38-42) In his own way, he wanted to engage her in the moment. Not only would their time together refresh both of them, it would deepen their relationship with one another.
Apart from this familiar story, Jesus is all about quality rather than quantity. Surely, one of the things about his demeanor which drew people the most was the manner in which he made each person or gathering of people feel loved, valued, and appreciated.
The reality is, when we try to do too many things at one time, something—or someone—is going to suffer. If I’m trying to shop for groceries, talk on the phone with a spouse, restrain a tired and hungry toddler and check my calendar app for my doctor appointment, the stuff—and me—is eventually going to unravel into certain chaos. Maybe not today, but tomorrow or next week.
If we hope to be the humble servants Jesus calls us to be, we have to recognize our limitations—physically, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. By the same token, our wherewithal to accomplish a task well (not the same as perfectly) is contingent upon our resources of time, treasure, and talent, all of which are gifted to us by God.
We can trust God to give us everything we need. Yet as the saying goes, He is not required to finish anything He does not begin. Knowing the difference may spare us feverishly spinning our wheels and ending up in a pile, or being at peace as we serve, savor and enjoy the present moment, the only one of which we are assured.
Jesus served many, in many different ways…which is not the same thing as trying to do many things at the same time.
Jesus preached. He taught. He healed. And more. And, notably, he did all in the name of Love. He was, is, and forever will be—the wonderfully human personification of Divine Love.
The extent of our responsibilities as women may seem never-ending, however, we are and remain daughters of our Most High God, the One whom we desire to love, serve and please. In that light, what greater calling could we ask or hope for?
Jesus was most concerned with ‘being about my Father’s business’. When we make that our priority, all the other stuff is less likely to pull at our thoughts and emotions and distract us from those people and tasks we need—and in our hearts really desire—to be giving our undivided attention.
Sure, I can do that and more…
When we consider the larger picture of being Christ-like and other centered, we need to accept as well as embrace the design of God’s handiwork; He has created man and woman to be complementary to each other in ways designed to bring out the best in both of us.
Sadly, much of what is happening in our culture right now is tearing away—and in some cases totally dismantling—everything good about what it means to be created in the image and likeness of God as male and female, especially within the vocation of marriage.
Prevailing attitudes and behaviors have made it more confusing and frustrating than ever to have a clear sense of how to manage everything that comes at us in a day. Regardless of gender, we struggle to keep up. And before we know it? We collapse, exhausted, irritated, and in some instances, downright mean-spirited and angry as those plates come crashing down around us.
This is not rocket science or inaccessible mysticism—a good place to begin is by learning when to say yes, and when to say no.
How do we do that?—we make an intentional choice to follow Jesus’ example by spending time in prayer with Our Father and discovering His will, His desires, His hopes and dreams for our lives. When we make that our top priority, all the other stuff will fall in line—or disappear from the list entirely. And that, fellow sojourner, will open the door to living and experiencing to the fullest, this one life we have been given.
Being honest, do I enjoy being viewed as one who multitasks? Why?
Is it hard for me to focus on one person or task at time? Why?
If I were to name the spinning plates, what would they be?
How do I feel about going to God first in organizing my to do list?