Posts Tagged ‘choosing’

 servingThe devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.”  [Luke 4:5-8]

This is a disturbing passage; not because Jesus resists the enemy but the devil’s claim that the earth belongs to him. In essence, until the great coming of the Christ, there was little opposition to the presence of evil. The prophets would warn and encourage the following of God’s laws as a bulwark against the arrows of Satan and his demonic forces. But, this was a losing proposition. The longer evil ruled, the more difficult the light was to find and follow.

And so, God sends the Son to become the ultimate sacrifice for everyone. Grace instead of the law is offered to the people. The presence and indwelling of the Holy Spirit is the new way to fight the good fight against evil.

But still evil is not defeated. The Hitlers (Germany), Mugabes (Zimbabwe), Gadhafis (Libya), Husseins (Iraq), Castros (Cuba), Jong-ils (North Korea), and Stalins (Russia) poured out much bloodshed; the terrorists continue to frighten and murder; people die of hunger [25,000 a day] and disease such as AIDS [1 every 20 seconds] all over the world. Where is hope for victory? Where is the new Ruler of this Earth? How much longer will the earth groan [Romans 8:22]?

I can choose to keep my head in the sand and pretend that my extravagant living makes no difference in the world (one of the techniques expounded in C. S. Lewis’s wonderful book, The Screwtape Letters, or I can stop. I can open the door of my heart to the pain around me and touch it with the truth of the Spirit in me. Do I believe that God within, Christ died and risen, changes every day life or not?

Joshua asked, “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve . . . ” [Joshua 24:15] but really, this is the question I am asked every day.

Perhaps I can’t transform the whole world, but I can metamorphose my use of time and impact my circle of friends, colleagues, and family by being a vessel for Spirit. I can pray with intent and not just lists of names. I can show up. I can be present. I can be open. I can choose life.

This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.”
[Deuteronomy 30:19-20]

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Self-control runs as a theme throughout the first two chapters of Titus. Was it the crowd he was teaching or did he have his own impetuous streak? Self-control requires working knowledge and understanding of oneself in order to initiate change. . . . along with a lot of grace.

Titus 2:11-12
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, . . .

The problem comes when I confuse self-control with controlling others. I know I can be a control freak and unfortunately, I tend to put too much effort into governing my outer environment and not enough energy toward my inner landscape.

I write a great deal about choice and working from the inside out to effect real transformation, and yet, it’s never been clearer to me that self-control is a state of mind and body that must be present as well.

I can’t do it my own. Maybe others can “count to ten” before speaking or take three deep breaths or snap a rubber band on the wrist as a reminder. None of these work for me.

I must depend on wild grace, the kind that covers a multitude of sins, the kind that flourishes in the chaos of my missteps and mistakes, the kind that works like a steady breeze off the ocean.

Sometimes self-control is not about “holding back” the angry shouts or demonic manifestations when my kids continue to put clean laundry on the floor or leave dirty dishes all over the house or go to bed with every light still on downstairs. Sometimes, self-control is about focus. It’s about narrowing the vision, intentionally putting on blinders, and working the moment.

There have been occasions when I have entered true Flow (developed by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi), it’s a single-minded immersion that harnesses complete attention and energy. It is in these times that self-control is moot, it is not some additional requirement or add-on. I don’t have to “reach” for that self-monitoring state because it comes naturally within the Flow.

Is it possible to have Flow in the things of God? Is it possible to combine Flow with Grace? Something to think about.

By the way, I’ve started thinking about “grace” as “wild grace” because I see it capable of taming the worst of situations, of embracing the most unlovely, of breaking down the highest walls. There is an abandon to Grace that gives me hope in every circumstance.

There is nothing I can do that can’t be met by Grace. And so, perhaps that’s all I can do today is wrap myself in it so that control is flow.

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Acts 7:9b-10
But God was with him [Joseph] and rescued him from all his troubles. He gave Joseph wisdom and enabled him to gain the goodwill of Pharaoh king of Egypt; so he made him ruler over Egypt and all his palace.

They go hand in hand, wisdom and opportunity. It is opportunity that gives expression to wisdom.

I have missed so many opportunities to do or say something because of lack of wisdom. I simply did not know or recognize the moment of decision or worse, I recognized it too late.

In college, I was in a sorority and apparently, many of the sisters were active in Campus Crusade for Christ. At the same time that they started having meetings in our rec room, I started dating. I passed up several opportunities to attend one of those meetings in order to go out or hang out with my new boyfriend. Who would I be today if I had met Christ as a young adult?

In Chicago, when I was trying to get “into” the theater scene, I had my choice of small theater companies with which to align. I didn’t really think about it much nor consider my options and as a result, I chose unwisely. I missed out on working at the Steppenwolf Theatre that has since become part of the bedrock of professional theater in Chicago founded by such icons as Gary Sinise and John Malkovich.

The list goes on. We all make choices that redirect our lives. Granted, there is no way to know which road is really best. Hindsight is always easier than foresight.

But wisdom is a gift of God. And today, I have no excuse for missing a God-created opportunity. If I pursue my opportunities with prayer and meditation first, then I will be ready to choose.

O Lord, give me discernment and sensitivity to the circumstances of my life today and may wisdom be my sister-friend, whispering truth into my heart and soul.

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John 18:4-6
Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?”
“Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.
“I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) 6When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.

The gospel of John is the only account of the crowd falling down to the ground when Jesus was arrested. Isn’t that the strangest thing? How could this happen? Why would John include this in the gospel?

I really like creating pictures in my mind as I read. Needless to say, my picture for this scene is quite dramatic. The only thing I can wrap my head around is that Jesus released a great deal of power (a release of power is also recorded in the story of the woman who bled for 12 years and touched his cloak in Mark 5:32). In my mind, Jesus was always having to choose to limit himself to the human side, the human container. But this moment was really a turning point. It was no longer a possible future; it was no longer a mere concept.

Turning points are moments of power in all of our lives. Some years ago I participated in a wonderful conference on “Story” at the Mars Hill Graduate School in Seattle. Before starting the workshop, our homework was to identify the turning points in our lives. This was a very illuminating exercise and I recommend it for everyone.

The power in a turning point comes from the motive or driver that brings the moment before us. Do we take the left or right fork in the road. When we choose a direction that is under girded by the Holy Spirit, then power is released. In Jesus’s case, there was enough power to knock down a crowd of people. If we take the other path, we are on our own.

If a turning point comes today, Lord, guide my decision.

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Luke 1:48-49
[Mary said] “… for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name.”

From now on… those are deep words for anyone who is trying to figure out today. From now on, I will look at the rest of my differently. From now on, I will invite tomorrow into my life. From now on, I will expect God, who is holy, to continue to do great things for me. From now on…

We cannot walk our own future. We can make plans and we can anticipate problems and we can lay a strong foundation, but in the end, the future is a God thing and anything can happen.

The greatest preparation we can make for the future is to accept what the future brings and “work it.” There is richness in the now if we accept it as a gift from our future.

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John 6:28b-29
“…What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.”

Before we can change, we must choose to make the change. Before we can believe, we must choose to believe. Before we can follow, we must choose to go. Before we can “work for God,” we must choose to believe in the plan which has been outlined in the scriptures.

Ultimately, before anything can happen, there is that moment of personal choice: go, stay, believe, reject, yes, no, wait… these are the simple words that are transmitted from our inner self to the mind. The more connected we are within, the more likely we will make authentic choices. Unfortunately, we are so bombarded in our world by opinions, information, media, images, teaching, etc … we often don’t even know what is our idea or the choice we feel compelled by others to make .

So many times, believing people say, “If you don’t know what to do, ask God and you will get your answer.” I don’t doubt this is true, but I do struggle with hearing that answer. My guess is, I don’t know in the first place because I’m disconnected inside. I’m not hearing God. It’s too noisy in there.

Now that graduations are over, guests are gone and life is slowing down a little, I’m going to start looking for the quiet place…. what I used to call the secret place. This is where hearing takes place. This is where choice is born.

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Luke 10:41-42
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed.[a] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Not every decision we make is between good and evil. Sometimes, we must choose between good and better. These decisions are by far the more difficult ones. These decisions take discernment, wisdom, and trust. I know the trap for me has been to “do it all” and now, I realize that is the result of not “choosing the better part.” I don’t want to miss anything. I can see this habit even in the small things of life like packing for a trip and since I can’t decide what I will wear, I take it all, putting off that decision until later. Today, I know, there will be decisions before me and I ask God, right now, guide me, that I might choose well, for choose I must.

For more about Mary and Martha and the better part, see Wisdom Seekers discussions on the book, Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver.

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