Posts Tagged ‘confidence’

keep walkingAnd yet, there are times–in fact, many times, when our hearts are full of hope, our spirits are at rest, and our eyes are looking forward, but the way does not clear. And despite these words:

Surely the righteous will never be shaken;
    they will be remembered forever.
They will have no fear of bad news;
    their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear; . . .

[Psalm 112:6-8, NIV]

We are shaken and we fear and we hesitate. That’s right. It happens.

I know these things for I lived them. I have walked with confidence and I have seen the glory of the Lord, like a true Shekhinah. I have shaken in the Presence and I have heard the voice of God. I have trusted when there was nothing to trust and I have known steadfastness. My faith is strong.

But that doesn’t mean I am not human. Nor does it mean that I do not fall in my faith. I weep and I call out to God, who has seemed to forsake me. I have walked the lonely corridor where no door is open and no light shines ahead.

Why do I write this? Because I was reminded yesterday in service, to keep going. Just keep going. There is something in the going that eventually reveals the underlying truth. Only when I have stopped, even briefly, have I seen the effects of fear grow roots. And to move, after stopping, gets harder and harder, the longer I delay.

I walk. I go. And my confidence in the Presence of Christ Jesus returns. First as a whisper, but eventually as a song.

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Waiting is hard enough; now I understand I must wait with an attitude . . . a good one.

I remain confident of this:
    I will see the goodness of the Lord
    in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord;
    be strong and take heart
    and wait for the Lord. [Psalm 27:13-14, NIV]

I’m thinking it’s really not about the waiting at all. I’m thinking the message is about faith, and once I am secure in the goodness and Presence of God, waiting becomes a by-product. I don’t need to be concerned about time or results then.

Confidence is built on a foundation of belief. This reality is not just in the spiritual realm but in anything I tackle. Of course, misplaced beliefs can morph into obsessions. Not good. In fact, the more I think about it, the only safe place for faith is in God alone. Despite their best efforts (including my own), people will disappoint, things will break, circumstances will change, colors will fade.

Photo by Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1956

Photo by Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1956

One other requirement: I must look (really look) to see the goodness of God in this world. My eyes are too often blinded; my brain so much in high gear, that I miss the moment. I miss the “yes” of life.

“But as for me, I enjoy shooting a picture. Being present. It’s a way of saying, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” It’s like the last three words of Joyce’s “Ulysses,” which is one of the most tremendous works which have ever been written. It’s “Yes, yes, yes.” And photography is like that. It’s yes, yes, yes. And there are no maybes. All the maybes should go to the trash, because it’s an instant, it’s a moment, it’s there! And it’s respect of it and tremendous enjoyment to say, “Yes!” Even if it’s something you hate. Yes! It’s an affirmation.” [Henri Cartier-Bresson]


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Don’t worry, I’m not interested in the “blab it & grab it” prayers or the prosperity gospel, and yet, John’s statements must be addressed on one level or another. Key words here for me are “confidence,” “according to his will,” and “we know we have.”

I John 5:14-15
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

Confidence in approaching God implies a consistent and strong faith. It is a wholehearted acceptance that God is God, Christ is Christ, and the Holy Spirit is a gift, a living entity who shares my soul space, by invitation. As our pastor puts it, once we enter this new covenant, we are “under new management” full of grace and mercy.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you [me] free from the law of sin and death. [Romans 8:1-2]

To ask, however, according to God’s will is a little trickier, at least, in my experience. In some areas, biblical text is clear and identifies God’s will (the ten commandments are a strong example). But, unfortunately, the Bible, glorious and complete, beautiful in both poetry and truth, may not be so easily interpreted when it comes to the questions of post-modern society. Oh, there are lots of folks who believe they have the inside certainty of God’s will, but not me. Just parenting three teenagers has been enough to show me how little I know. There are no assurances about learning issues, mood disorders, private vs. public education, and so forth. Instead, my confidence must rest in the more general promises that God makes about his care and love for the children . . .

All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well. [Julian of Norwich]

But for me, the true key to John’s letter about God’s Will and asking (in prayer), is the timelessness of God. For God, there is no yesterday, today, or tomorrow: it’s all now. And it is in this context that all prayers and answers must be understood.

If I am a believer (and I am), then God hears me and if, in confidence, I have sought and believe my requests are within the realm of God’s loving will, then it is done. . . . not it “will” be done, but it is done. The answer has been given.

We, and no, not just we in general, but “me,” … I get caught up in looking for the manifestation of God’s answers. I believe in a healing God, so I am too often crushed by the continued illness of others. I believe in a saving God, and yet I am sorrowed when Christ is rejected by those in need. I believe in a loving God, but I am caught off guard by the cruelties of human to human, or worse, believer to believer.

But today, I am reminded: what I can see with my human eyes and understanding does not change the facts: God is, God hears, and God answers.

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Wouldn’t it be great if I could get a reading on a “faith meter?” Or, maybe not. After all, if it only takes faith the size of a mustard seed to move a mountain, my gauge would have to be in the millimeters.

James 2:22, 26
You see that his [Abraham’s] faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. . . . As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

Abraham and Rahab are the two stories James recounts in chapter two as examples of the best partnership between faith and action. One for hearing God so clearly that Abraham journeyed up a mountain with the intention of sacrificing is son Isaac and the second, of a prostitute who paradoxically harbored and aided enemies of her city because she felt compelled by God to do so. These two acts registered hot on the faith meter.

As I was reading and contemplating these stories, I realized it wasn’t the acts themselves that threw the meter into the red zone, it was their willingness to act and follow through by hearing God. It was trust. Acts of faith are an outgrowth of the faith itself, the love of God, a relationship with depth and authenticity.

I’ve never been very fond of the Abraham/Isaac story. As a parent, I shudder at the very idea or contemplation of a blood sacrifice of my own child. How could Abraham be willing to do this? Human sacrifice was not even the norm of the One God believers. Wasn’t it a pagan practice of neighboring tribes and faiths? Or, maybe he never really believed that God wanted an actual sacrifice?

I remember having a similar attitude some years ago when my husband and I had recently adopted our two boys from Latvia and a few months later I had to travel to a library conference. My friend and colleague was a white knuckle flyer and I tried to calm her by proclamation.

“It’s not my time to die.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“Simple, I don’t believe God would orphan my children twice.”

Perhaps Abraham had locked his faith into that earlier promise that would be fulfilled through Isaac. Perhaps.

But here’s the point: the actions, the deeds, the works of love and self-sacrifice, the expressions of kindness, and the selfless sharing of worldly goods . . . these are the measuring sticks of faith.

Faith without expression is a mere concept.

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Here’s the little truth that came to me through this verse about doubt: no one forces us to pray, there is no mandate, we pray by choice. And if that is so, why pray if we don’t believe God hears, receives, responds?

James 1:6-7
But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.

We are living today, the result of our prayers of faith. Whoa! you say, but honestly, could it be any other way? Did you pray? Didn’t I? Or, am I living the life of a doubtful prayer?

I don’t think it’s a bad thing to question things we hear or read; it’s reasonable to challenge ideas that don’t line up with our understanding. Without questions, we cannot learn and grow. Without examination, we become dull and follow blindly, sometimes to our own detriment.

But prayer is different because it’s personal. If I choose to pray, to engage with the Holy Spirit, to enter into the realm outside of time and space, then I should do this with the force of conviction that prayer is real, meaningful, and effective.

I think I have been expecting the Christ to cherry-pick through my requests: this one is valid, this one makes sense, this one isn’t a good idea, this one is beyond reason and so forth.

The important factor here is giving up my interpretation of the results as well as my time table. This is essential reasoning behind the classic phrase, “give thanks for all things” [I Thessalonians 5:18] because whatever is happening in the now is part of the answer of a prayer. I’m speaking in broad strokes now. I understand how devastating that would be in the face of a horrible illness, loss of life, or unexpected tragedy. How could these things be part of an answered prayer? I don’t know. It simply could be that one thing had to happen before something else could.

But let me go back to the start of this idea, the moment of prayer and the decision to ask. I saw it so clearly in my quiet time. (And yet I don’t pretend to know all the ins and outs of the meaning.) Yesterday, I had an epiphany about wisdom being part of a daily dose, through prayer. This is a given. I ask, God gives: wisdom for the day. As a result, I can choose better, understand better, and answer better.

But wisdom is not alone in this package, as a brother articulated, much of these requests lie within a prayer we say all the time: the Lord’s prayer. We have simply lost its depth of power and meaning through familiarity.

And what about those people we have held up in the light of prayer? Isn’t God moving and working there? Is God waiting for a finite number of prayers before moving? I don’t think so. We just can’t see the results so we doubt. It’s a human soul with free will. God will not run hilter skilter over that person’s own choices and desires. As my pastor said in services, “God is working both ends of every situation.” And I would add, God is working the middle too.

For me, the point of this discovery is to pray with care, with consciousness, with confidence [Hebrews 10:19-23], with intention. If I doubt God’s ability to move in a situation, then I should save those prayers for another day.

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Julian of Norwich

I had a personal epiphany this evening about Julian of Norwich’s famous line, “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”

Hebrews 11:1
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

It’s faith, simple faith, as written here in Hebrews 11, the famous “faith” chapter. But before the long list of examples begin, there is the basic definition of faith as this confidence in what we hope for coming to pass, no matter what or how things may appear now.

It’s a trajectory that I can begin each morning, before anything has happened in my day, I can speak this Norwich phrase with a deep sense of understanding that I do have this faith, I can have it today, I can enter my day with confidence . . . if I choose.

It’s when I head off the path of faith/wellness, that other prayers are needed. When I stumble be cause the way is hard, I can ask for help and when I err and hurt others because I’m trying to “make things well” on my own, I can ask forgiveness. When my confidence diminishes throughout a day, I can ask for assurance. When I am afraid of what is in my path, I can ask for revelation and wisdom. When I am angry or resentful about my relationships or my situation, I can ask for renewal and Spirit companionship.

This way of faith, this way of confidence in what I hope and believe in, the ever present God who promises that all things in my life will come out well in the end, this is “the” Way.

And for this reason, He can say, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” [Revelation 22:13] and I can say, I believe.

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Really, aren’t there a lot of things that any one of us would do if we knew we would be safe?

Acts 18:9a
And one night the Lord said to Paul in a vision, “Have no fear… ”

Paul stayed in Corinth over a year and a half because of his vision. He held onto the promise of safety and moved forward with it. He had total confidence in God and in the words he heard spoken in the night.

I base so many of my choices on the fear/safety ratio, and not just physical harm but emotional harm as well. Will I be embarrassed? Will I fail? Will there be someone here who is smarter, stronger, quicker than me? Will I be exposed? Are there people here who look like they might hurt me? Is this place too dark… too loud… too chaotic? Is this situation similar to another situation where I was hurt before? Is there too much change? Is this happening differently than I expected? What if … what if… what if…?

Of course, there are times that everyone should be vigilant. I am not suggesting that we should walk blindly into truly dangerous circumstances or situations without wisdom and common sense. And yet, is it possible that we judge the level of danger too quickly? Is it possible we allow fear to drive us away from someone or something important?

Hundreds of times, scripture tells us not to be afraid, that God is with us. Isn’t this where confidence starts?

What is stronger…. my fear or my trust in God’s safety promise?

Lots of questions today. The key to all of the answers is our confidence in God… “If God is for us, who can be against us?” [Romans 8:31] That means all of my circumstances are in God’s hands… the ones that feel or seem dangerous as well as those that are completely benign.

It is my interpretation of people, places and things that gives them power to make me feel unsafe. If I put all things through the filter of the Holy Spirit, the picture changes. I can actually choose to feel safe.

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