Posts Tagged ‘perseverance’

A prayer and a blessing all rolled up into one. It’s a call for guidance and help along the way. It’s a process prayer in the midst of a situation. It’s acknowledging the present while seeking support in the “next step.” And along with this succor comes the presence of love and perseverance.

II Thessalonians 3:5
May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.

I want this prayer to be part of my daily mindfulness.

Another reason I like this prayer is that it’s direct and promises an answer from within myself, an answer that I am more likely to understand and hear. So often believers are taught to ask God what to do next. But in this short appeal, we acknowledge that all direction comes from God and will manifest in me.

If God directs my heart, I will know what to do. I will recognize the way.

Read Full Post »

I do it all the time. I start a diet, lose weight, and then go back to my old eating habits. I order my space and vow to keep it that way, and before I know it, it’s trashed. I judge someone, ask for forgiveness, and judge again. Am I so weak? I am.

Galatians 4:9
But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?

What is the draw of the old way? I guess if I were an alcoholic or drug addict, I would be drinking and shooting up again. It’s destructive behavior and yet it’s familiar. It’s crazy-making [Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.] It’s the path of least resistance.

I am the Israelites in the desert who complained about the new way and wanted to go back to Egypt and slavery: they thought that would be better than their current struggle in the present time [Exodus 16:1-3].

Is it forgetfulness or is it mindlessness? Or both? When God brings change into my life, I am so happy and full of energy. I am clear headed and I see the big picture. I am focused. I am motivated. But once I reach a certain plateau in the process, it’s like hitting a wall. There is no movement forward. I lose track of those initial feelings and strength. Oh, I might try to climb the wall for a bit, I might even try to walk around it. But my drive to persevere is sucked away and I am left with my old self for company.

I say mindlessness because it feels like the opposite of mindfulness. It takes mindfulness to stay aware of the Christ Spirit within and without. It takes effort. It is a special type of wakefulness.

When I was in acting school I learned how to walk a tightrope in our circus class. The clue to tightrope walking is maintaining a focus on the end of the rope, the junction point. As soon as I would take my eyes off that point, I would lose my balance. As I tried to do more complicated maneuvers, it became harder and harder to maintain that focus. My little life is not much different.

Put me back on the tightrope today, with Christ ahead, my focal point.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me. (St. Patrick)

Read Full Post »

Tortoise and the Hare It’s not that I don’t know how to race; I’m racing all the time but my goal eludes me. Running, running but I forget to take care of myself along the way; I push myself–a little farther, just a little farther. But when I look down, I discover I’ve been on a treadmill the whole time. I’ve been in the wrong kind of race.

I Corinthians 9:24
Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but [only] one receives the prize? So run [your race] that you may lay hold [of the prize] and make it yours.

In biblical times, running and racing were standards in sports. Everyone understood this metaphor and, more than likely, understood the emphasis was on preparation, consistency, and endurance. Certainly, fast was good and winning the prize was good, but just running the race required stamina, desire, and perseverance over the long haul.

I don’t think we’re supposed to be running this race just to be first at the gates of heaven. This race is a marathon. And our desire should be to run the best race that we can run as individuals.

I want to run my race with joy. I want to give myself over to the race, but not in a competitive way. I want to learn how to optimize my movements. I want to see the world around me. I want to invite others to join me. I want form over speed.

The tortoise is in the race by choice. The tortoise is not designed to run fast, just steady. The hare is quick but foolish. Who will I be today?

Read Full Post »

I actually selected this verse on suffering and hope yesterday but couldn’t bring myself to write about it. I don’t go easily into the realm of suffering and pain.

Romans 5:3b-4
. . . we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

I suppose I’m doing better. For years, my mantra was “avoid pain at all cost!” And as a result, I would run away from challenges and opportunities. I was afraid. Primarily, it was emotional pain that kept kept nipping at my trail, trauma from my past. I suspected, if I acknowledged the pain in any way, I would be overwhelmed. At one point, I though my body would explode. I had pushed down so much sorrow, disappointment, resentment, and fear, that the pressure on my soul was severe; it was like a geyser preparing to erupt. That’s chaos. It is not the road to hope.

What is suffering then? We recognize it most easily by example. Surely, the people of Haiti are suffering after the great earthquake. So many have lost everything including loved ones. They are sick, malnourished, exposed to the elements, and grieving all at the same time. And yet, we also know, that recovery from such a horrendous ordeal, can only be done through perseverance and hope.

Perseverance is the human piece of the equation. To get to hope, we must choose to press on. As soon as we decide that we will not give up, then hope can find purchase in the soul.

This is the story of Haiti as well. How else could a young woman survive beneath the rubble for 15 days and come out alive.

Hope, by its very nature, is hope in God to intervene. Since hope is about the unseen, the future, the unknown, only God operates freely there.

Why does God allow so much suffering? I don’t know. It’s a mystery. But God has provided a way out of suffering, step by step. Every time a person can make a choice toward healing, perseverance grows in strength. And as perseverance grows, that person’s character is formed and built on the backbone of faith.

In the past two years, two of my colleagues from work have died of colon cancer. Both walked the journey of suffering and although they died, their struggle was a testimony to the survivors who saw perseverance and character and hope never falter. They are the heroes. They are my teachers.

Read Full Post »

It’s hard to “stay with the ship” when everything seems lost. Like lemmings who follow each other over the cliff, we tend to abandon tough situations if we see other people cut and run. Sometimes, it takes great courage just to stick it out.

Acts 27:31
Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.”

My son is on a swim team in high school and one of the best swimmers was arrested today. Of course, the situation for the boy is grave, but already the team has been rocked as well. What are they saying to each other: We’ll never win another swim meet. What’s the point of staying on the team? It will be embarrassing now. And so on. The kids feel “exposed” since their best swimmer is out of the game. They want a rewind, but life doesn’t work that way.

Oftentimes the loss of a key player in any organization will make the whole group feel unstable and insecure. New leaders must emerge. New strategies must be developed. New challenges must be faced. The loss of one person sets up an environment for “change” which most people resist, at best, or just downright hate.

This same situation can happen in a church. A beloved pastor may depart or a key family, that has been in the church for years, will leave and people start looking around wondering if they should leave too. It’s not always a change in people or personnel that starts the exodus, sometimes it’s a change of venue (a new or refurbished building/sanctuary) or a change in the ubiquitous “order of worship” or different music or different carpeting. Any “change” can be like a glass of cold water thrown on a fainting person. It feels unpleasant.

I have struggled with staying in the same church year after year. Certainly, our church has seen lots of changes already, some good and some not so good. Many of my dear friends have left, there’s a new building which I dislike immensely, there’s a different worship team and style, the sermons are still bible-based but not terribly challenging anymore or speaking to where I am, and there are so many new people I don’t even recognize 4/5 of the congregation. Why am I still here?

And yet, there is a sense that God is not finished yet. Where there have been changes, there will be more changes. Where there has been loss, there will be gains. Where there has been disappointment, there will be encouragement. That’s the message in my heart. Stay… just a little while longer.

And like the men on Paul’s ship who wanted to jump into the lifeboat, he warned them and said it was important that “everyone” remain with the ship so that all could be saved. Then they ate together and were strengthened for the time ahead. The next day, the ship was destroyed, and yet all 276 were saved… prisoners, sailors, and soldiers. Who would imagine that staying with the ship included the ship’s destruction? But, that which was most important was saved: the people.

A church is not the building, it’s the people. In fact, all organizations are really just the people. Staying with the ship requires a simple commitment to one another, a type of trust, a type of support, a love.

When Jesus left the disciples, they must have been devastated. Some teachers give the impression that the survivors were all huddled in the “upper room” being all holy and everything. Personally, I think they were scared to death and at a loss for what to do next. Some of the disciples baled and scattered for sure. How could they go on? What did it all mean? What would tomorrow hold? But enough of them stayed. And in the end, it turned out to be part of a plan, it was the way it had to be in that moment.

Read Full Post »

…if he [Saul] found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.

Saul started out as a great persecutor of the followers of Jesus. He considered them a threat to the traditions and laws of Israel. They were undermining the faith. How were they doing this? How would he recognize these disciples?

Back then, what did a Christian follower look like? How did a Christian follower behave? How would Saul have identified those followers in his time?

The question is no different today. Am I on the Way? For years, it’s been a pop question: “Is there enough evidence to convict you as a Christian?” I think there’s even a song that asks the question. Funny, after 2000 years, we’re still asking who’s on the way.

Certainly, it would not have been an Ichthus symbol on a bumper or Christian music blaring from a car radio or a creche in the front yard. It would not have been a well-worn bible or marching on Washington for some worthy cause or wearing a cross or crucifix.

By the time Saul was on his rampage, the believers had gone underground. They were meeting together in secret. This was one of the foremost clues: they met together often. They chose to be together because of what they had in common. They broke bread together and everyone shared in what was available. None went hungry.

What else did they do when they met together? They shared stories about Jesus. They sang. They worshiped. They waited. They prayed. They encouraged one another. It was a simple life.

Were people healed? Were there miracles? We don’t really know. But the implication is that those on the way, that is living as Jesus lived, were doing the same things He did.

In the end, Saul probably found out about followers because of a snitch. He was told where they would be meeting together. They would be collected and arrested as a group, not so much as individuals.

To be on the way is to be together with others on the same path. I have struggled with this concept my entire Christian life. Going to “church” on Sunday morning isn’t the same thing. That has become a “passive” experience. There is no sense of journey at all. It’s the small group, the cell, that can operate with true mutuality. It’s the place where we can be authentic, transparent, and united on the way. It’s where we can struggle together over the questions of faith, trust, and disappointment.

If I am not in fellowship with a group on the Way, then, no, there is very little evidence that I am a follower of Christ. An isolated follower will elude detection for a long, long time. And so I have done.

God forgive me.

Read Full Post »

I’m really hard on myself. I mean, I can really give myself a pretty brutal lashing for mistakes I’ve made or wrong decisions or bad behavior. It was not until a few years ago that I realized how much of this self-attack is a type of condemnation.

While working through our Having a Mary Heart in Martha World study, we came across this quote which is quite apropos, in which the “enemy” tries to convinces us, before we become followers of Christ, that we don’t need a savior, and then after we commit to Him, the littany changes and the script we hear in our heads is that we do not “deserve” a savior. All, not true!

Instead of spending a lot of time rummaging through our sins, I think it’s more productive to put some energy into reviewing the times that went right. When was God present? When did we respond to His call? When did we stay the course despite obstacles? Let us be encouraged by our own histories. These very stories may help us as we face the next challenge.

The elements we have learned about from II Peter 1:3-11 over these past weeks grow stronger with use and practice: faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control and now perseverance. “…for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” II Tim 1:12b

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: