Thursday, November 18, 2010

Drawing Water from a Dry Well

I've recently finished the book "Boundaries" by Cloud/Townsend. Its been on my "want-to"read list for a long time. I was quite familiar with the idea of 'boundaries' before reading the book, but I'm thankful that the book revealed some new areas I had not yet thought of.

I enjoyed the book very much. I will say that often their use of Scripture to support their points was faulty - they took Scripture out of context several times! But nevertheless - the book does contain wisdom and some truth for us to glean and wrestle with....particularly from Proverbs.

Below is a personal realization, inspired partly by the book , and partly by a personal coach/mentor of mine who has been trying to drill this into my head for years: :)

I will begin with an illustration: I'm a mezzo-soprano, meaning that my vocal range is high but richer in the middle and not so lovely in the highest spots. If I was singing for a director who gave me a solo that was written for a first soprano (those skilled in high areas), he would soon discover that I would sing it rather poorly. In the future, most likely that director would be careful to give me solos that would be better suited to my range so that I could perform at a higher level. However, if that director continued to give me solos that I was not suited for, and then was angry at me again and again for singing them poorly, the fault would lie with him and not with me. I am weak in that range, to be sure, but it is not the range that my vocal chords were designed for.

A similar illustration is the following: If I need to fill up my bucket of water and I have several wells to choose from, most likely I will go to the well that has the freshest and largest supply of water. However, if I choose to go to the empty well and try to fill up my bucket - and come up short - I am being foolish. If I continue to try and fill up my bucket from an empty well...well, that's just insanity. :) Getting angry at the empty well wastes a lot of time and emotional energy when I could simply draw from other sources.

There is a wideness and diversity in the Body of Christ. We all have different spiritual gifts, talents, resources, etc. To ask that Person A fill my need for ______ is fine...IF Person A is skilled in ____. But if Person A is not skilled - and I return again and again demanding him/her to fill that need, then the fault lies with me, and not with them. Instead I should be asking, 'who is designed to fill the need of _____?' and choose instead to go to that person.

I Corinthians gives us such a glorious picture of the Body of Christ - each part has its role. How foolish would we be to ask the arm to be an eye, or the ear to be a foot?? But that is just what we do with each other sometimes.

Think of someone who continually disappoints you and hurts you...have you been trying to draw water from a well that is dry? Remember the wideness of the Body of Christ and look for your needs to be met in a variety of sources and people. Choosing this view helps us to be free from anger and resentment...and turn instead to appreciation.

Ironically - demanding that someone meet a need that we have that they are not skilled to meet is only a recipe for making the relationship worse. It creates insecurity and a critical spirit. Instead, when we delight in the goodness of what gifts and help that person has to offer, we find a thankful spirit in our hearts that creates an environment for trust, encouragement, affirmation, and the valuing of one another.

Ultimately, our "WELL" is truly CHRIST Himself. He alone meets our deepest needs. But He often chooses to meet those needs through others in the Body of Christ. If you have a need that is unmet...ask God to direct you to the right person in the Body of Christ to help you to fill it.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Anxiety = Pride

This is a hard one to swallow sometimes, our anxiety is related to PRIDE...a belief that we can or should handle it all and handle it all well. I have noticed a recurring pattern of anxiety in my life that has varied in its intensity or presentation in different seasons of my life. This morning it came again. I started to write in my journal, asking God to specifically answer my request for help in this area of my life.

Then...I read this...

An Excerpt from the book, "Expectations & Burnout: Women Surviving the Great Commission" by Eenigenburg & Bliss.

A friend of the authors, Tina Henry, gives her tips for handling the overwhelming stress of her life:

(1) PRIORITIES- She says, "When I was younger, I always felt that if I just worked harder, faster, and smarter, I could do it ALL. I could take on any new commitment that came my way with God's strength. Now as I am older, and have even less energy than before, I realize that I can't do it all. God never intended for me to. I see now that I must be careful to do the most important things first, because I'll never get to all the good things there are to do. I must leave the undone things in God's hands, praying about those things, but realizing that I cannot do them all myself."

I have often subconsciously believed I could do all things well if I just worked "smarter or harder." I am learning to repent of this belief!

(2) PEOPLE - ask others for help! " is good to get others involved and to have them do some of the things I can't do." This humbles us - to ask for help is to reveal NEED.

(3)& (4) PATIENCE & PERSISTENCE. "Some things take a long time to accomplish like learning a language or developing meaningful relationships. We need to persevere, knowing that these things will not be accomplished in a day. It is good to break such long-range goals into pieces and pray through each one, looking to God to bless our efforts one step at a time."

Sometimes I am greatly passionate about my goals and forget that my own efforts cannot produce results unless God is in them. I need to wait on Him.

(5) MULTIPLICATION - We need to " God to multiply our small efforts, just as He multiplied the boy's small lunch to meet the needs of many thousands." "I pray that God will multiply my feeble efforts in each area of responsibility to meet the needs of others. I look to Him to see what He wants me to be involved in, and as I do all I can in each area, minimal though it might be, I can expect Him to multiply my efforts to the blessing of others. I would find life very overwhelming if I didn't know we serve a powerful and gracious God at work. This relieves a lot of pressure, for He can maximize our minimal efforts for His glory and the blessing of others."

She closes her suggestions by wrapping it ALL in PRAYER. It is through PRAYER that God directs us to know WHAT to take on, WHOM to serve and whom to ask for help, how to have PATIENCE and perseverence, and it is God alone who Multiplies our efforts.

I closed my devotional time this morning by listening to a song by CORRINNE MAY called "FIVE LOAVES & TWO FISHES" - I highly recommend you to download this. It captues the essence of these thoughts.

I can only give my "lunch" but He is the one Who Feeds Thousands. My pride relates to the fact that I think I can do it all...but I can't...humility is a beautiful freedom that surrenders its efforts to God, and then enjoys living in that simple trust.
Praise Him!

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Unseen Ally

Another excerpt from "Behind the Ranges" - the story of missionary J.O. Fraser written by Mrs. Howard Taylor.

In describing Fraser's increasing awareness of the effectiveness of prayer, the author writes, "Recent experiences had deepened his conviction as to the vital part God has assigned to intercessory prayer in the work of His kingdom. Repeatedly he had noticed the difference between people and places that had been much prayed for and those that had not. In the former half the work seemed to be done already, as if an unseen ally had gone ahead to prepare the way. This made him not only persevere in prayer himself, whether he felt like it or not, but also impelled him to induce Christians at home to pray."

I was struck by the phrases "unseen ally" and "half the work already one" - what a powerful force! We have access to the mighty advancing work of God through prayer!

Fraser wrote this in one of his letters: "We often speak of intercessory work as being of vital importance. I want to prove this in actual fact by giving my first and best energies to it, as God may lead. I feel like a businessman who perceives that a certain line of goods pays better than any other in his store, and who purposes making it his chief investment; who, in fact, sees an inexhaustible supply and an almost unlimited demand for a profitable article; and intends to concentrate on this line more than anything else."

I want to see prayer as my "chief investment." As the years go by, ceaseless activity grows old. I long for activity that profits because the "unseen ally" has already gone before me and prepared the ground for His work to be done in people's lives.

God, change me.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Three W's - (title credit given to Belle Yeh...hehe)

I've tried so many times to correct people...I see some character issue or flaw and I take that opportunity to address it head-on. I wonder how many times I will do this in my life until I realize that it rarely works. I sometimes feel exasperated -perhaps because I am hurt by this sin pattern in their life again and again, or I watch this person fall into temptation again and again. How do I address this? What to do about it!??! There is a kind of false burden inherent in this - thinking that its my job to help this person change.

I've been learning about prayer lately, and I am especially thankful for the book by Paul Miller, "A Praying Life." He offers his three-fold pattern: (1) WRITE down your prayer concern for that person, (2) WATCH for God to work while you pray, then (3) watch how God provides an opportunity to "WORK out" that prayer request with an open door into that person's life in that specific area of concern. Paul Miller says, "By 'worked' I mean that God involved me in my own prayers, often in a physical and humbling way."


We usually reverse the process - we try everything on our own and when we fail, in desperation we turn to prayer. Paul Miller is suggesting the opposite approach, which is really an approach of HUMILITY. I can't change people, only God can. My job is to pray and wait.

I've seen this pattern at work in the lives of people close to me. Its amazing the stress that it takes off of my shoulders. For example, I see a discouraging pattern of pride in someone I am working with. Instead of attacking it head on, I pray and ask God's Spirit to work. I wait, I pray, and I watch. Soon, that person comes to me and says, "Val, I've seen this area of pride in my life...what can I do about it?" An open door suddenly exists to point them to Christ - whereas before my words would have been met with defensiveness or dismissal.

The especially humbling thing is that people, I hope, will apply this same pattern in reference to areas of weakness they see in MY life. Well, bring it on!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Behind the Ranges - story of missionary J.O. Fraser

I have been greatly encouraged by the experience and writings of J.O. Fraser, missionary to the Lisu minority people group in the mountains of China, and would like to share some portions with you:

Some quotes and my reactions...

He was concerned that the recent converts to Christian faith would return to demon worship: "I am not anxious, not nervous. If I hugged my care to myself instead of casting it upon Him, I would never have persevered with the work this long - perhaps never even have started it. But if it has begun in Him, it must be continued in Him."
How true - when I "hug my care to myself" and do not cast it on Him, I begin to weaken in purpose and in spiritual strength. The key to continuing is releasing these burdens to Him.
He read II Chronicles 20:15-17, "The battle is not yours, but God's...Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the Lord with you...fear not, nor be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them: for the Lord will be with you." This led him to write the following: "Seem distinctly led to fight against principalities and powers for Middle Village. Have faith for the conversion of that place, and pray as a kind of bugle call for the hosts of heaven to come down and fight for me against the powers of darkness..."
My favorite line: to "pray as a kind of bugle call" - what a powerful picture that is! To call out the forces of the Kingdom of Light to fight - all in response to the prayer of men who are 'but dust.'
"We cannot press souls into the kingdom of Heaven; neither, when they are once converted, can we worry them into maturity; we cannot by taking thought add a cubit to our own spiritual stature or anyone else's. The plants of our heavenly Father's planting will grow better under His open sky than in the hot-houses of our feverish effort. It is for us to water, and to water diligently, but we cannot give the increase, however hard we try. An abnormally rapid growth is often unnatural and unhealthy: the quick growth spoken of in Matthew 13:5 is actually said to be a sign of its being ephemeral."
How silly I am to believe that my earnestness, "feverish efforts" or intensity will be the cause of any spiritual maturity around me in new believers. I am more and more and more and more driven to prayer.
Believers must... "work in the atmosphere of eternity. The rush and the bustle of carnal activity breathe a spirit of restlessness. The Holy Spirit breathes a deep calm. This is the atmosphere in which we may expect a lasting work of God to grow."
"Let us take care first of all that it is a work of God - begun and continued in God - and then let us cast our anxities, our fears, and our impatience to the winds. Let us shake off 'dull sloth' on the one hand and feverishness on the other. A gourd may spring up in a night, but not an oak."
Almighty God, I want to be part of cultivating an Oak tree. Give me your patience and perspective through the lense of eternity.
"When God sends His servants to reap, such a time of special waiting upon Him is all to the good, even if it seems to intrude upon the urgency of the task."
I have been discouraged these past few weeks due to the interuption of my activities for the Gospel by dealing with grief related to the murder of a good friend. My workaholic nature wants to press forward, irritated at the lack of control that I have upon my emotions and my need for rest. But I am reminded by Fraser, whose biographer wrote these words to describe his rest after surgery, that a time of waiting upon Him is more important than any level of activity.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

In The Beginning

Hello -
I LOVE to read...especially books on God, theology, relationships, ministry, outreach, evangelism, philosophy, apologetics, and the Christian life. This blog was created to share my ponderings. Welcome! - BookBloggerNYC