Moving Toward Critical Obedience

In my last post I talked about -When we are acquaintances with Jesus –

  •  We pray before mealtimes
  •  Say please and thank you
  • Recite prayers
  • Put the empty grocery cart away
  • Replace the empty toilet paper roll

These are all good foundational practices. We just can’t stay there. Staying in the acquaintance stage is like choosing to remain a five-year-old your whole life. Then you stay stuck when it comes to obedience because you can’t hear His voice. You only do what you know which has come through rote memorization.

My Sheep Hear My Voice

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. – John 10:27

The first time I heard the voice of the Lord, I was a teen who needed a miracle. My family had returned from a weekend trip to find our yard covered in snowdrifts. I was half asleep when I stumbled from the VW van to the backdoor mudroom. I took my coat and boots off and went straight to bed. The next morning, I couldn’t find my glasses. I can’t see two feet in front of my face without them. Mom helped me look. They weren’t in the van, my bedroom, the bathroom, or anywhere. I stayed home from school. I sat in a rocking chair and read The Secret Garden for the thousandth time. I had a severe headache all day. I prayed for the Lord to show me where my glasses were. 

Suddenly, in my mind’s eye, I saw them at the bottom of a snowdrift behind a snow shovel. I got up, walked outside, picked up the shovel, stuck my hand into the snowdrift, and pulled out my glasses.

Obedience Bumper Cars

I wish I could tell you from that point forward I walked in complete obedience and relationship with the Lord. I haven’t. It’s been more like a bumper car ride. I have an inkling of what He is saying and I reason myself out of obedience. Then I bump into consequences. 

Just last night, I was feeling super exhausted. I knew I was heading into a CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) crash zone. I asked the Lord why I couldn’t stay in the zone – feeling good physically- instead of piece of pummeled meat. With CFS, I have to keep some pretty wide margins to feel the way most people do on a daily basis. Normalish – not as though they are walking through quicksand. 

A Smaller Yard

It’s as if I have a smaller yard than everyone else. If I stay in the fence, I’m fine. If I leave the yard, I’m not. If you read my article the other day, you know I’ve been overdoing it a lot and bumping into some consequences.

I do hear the still small whisper telling me to slow down, stop, and rest. Then I just want to paint one more wall, watch one more lecture, clean one more room, and guess what happens? I don’t hear the voice as much. I’m too busy praying for God to heal my body and relieve me of the circumstance.

This lesson is one I’m still desperately trying to learn. It’s completely different and even more critical than big obedience. The big obedience will flop if the little ones don’t happen. By that I mean, my relationship with God will stalemate. I’ll be too physically ill to do what I’ve been called to do and that’s so sad – all because I wanted to paint one more wall.

ARE YOU STUCK IN ACQUAINTANCE OBEDIENCE?

During this time of social distancing, I’ve been doing some deep thinking. I’m a thinker, to begin with, so it’s not a huge leap that with more time, I’d think more. The idea of planting seeds, adjusting to a new normal, and stepping back from trying to do it all, I’ve been thinking about obedience in a new light.

Obedience is an interesting concept. In the Christian faith, it is often equated with “being good.” It can mean being kind and not taking the last piece of pie or chocolate. Out in public, it may be letting someone go in front of me in line. You know- walking in the fruit of the spirit – walking in love toward one another – putting the needs of others before yourself. It’s kindergarten Sunday school level obedience. I can imagine myself sitting at a circular table with other kiddos and the teacher leading us in simple recitation – We love because God loves us. I learned important foundational concepts there and acquaintance obedience.

Acquaintance Obedience

The sort of obedience I’m referring to is acquaintance obedience. It’s the kind of niceness we extend towards strangers or someone we just met. I think of it in terms of adoption (I think of everything in these terms). Adoptive families have what we term a “honeymoon” phase when we put our best foot forward and we Moms wear our makeup. Funny story -when we were in Poland living in the orphanage, the morning after we had “moved in,” there was an knock at our door. It was a caregiver with Gregory, who wanted to see his new Mama. I didn’t want Gregory to see me without my hair brushed and my makeup on. What craziness. Times have changed in our relationship, for sure. 

We can get stuck in acquaintance obedience with Christ. It’s like being nice and eating your veggies without complaining. It’s low-level obedience. Children are required to do that. Higher-level obedience means staying after class and asking the teacher (Jesus) exactly what He wants you to do with your gifts and talents. Then doing it, no matter how crazy it sounds. 

Jennifer Lee says it like this in It’s All Under Control:

“Nothing else on our to-do lists matters as much as knowing we were completely obedient to His.” 

I spoke of to-do lists the other day on the blog. They are my jam. I like to get it done. Sometimes, I find myself doing things, being nice, and then asking God to bless the things. 

Ask God what to do first

It’s not the best way to navigate my life. Obedience is asking God what to do first and then expecting Him to show up and guide me. When we are in a close relationship with Jesus, we are in conversation with Him. I think of the day when I die and meet Jesus face to face. I’ll literally be in the middle of a conversation. I won’t need an introduction because we weren’t just acquaintances when I was on earth. Someone won’t have to introduce me like this:

Here’s that freckle face girl who cried a lot and told everyone to adopt kids.

It will be more like:

Picking up a conversation where we left off.

My conversations with Jesus these days

My conversations now are along these lines –

Yep, Jesus, it was super scary when you told me to step out and buy that house in the mountains and then the world kind of went to pieces. You were there with me. We had fun listening to Jennifer Allwood and Joanna Penn podcasts, painting, hanging up pictures, moving furniture, and getting the house ready to be a respite. We did it together. 

And when you asked me to spend money on a course in the middle of our “What if” scenario of financial scariness? Yikes. I did it. Learning a lot. Bundles of scary stuff to do. You’re right here with me, helping me face new challenges creatively. 

More on obedience tomorrow!

In what ways are you moving from acquaintance obedience to close relationship obedience? 

Mistaken Goals for Adults During Quarantine

We’re living in a strange time. There seems to be an emptiness layered with anxiety, it’s a cake we would never order.

Looking for “Normal”

Yesterday when hubby and I got back from the Blackwater River, we did some yard and deck work, arranging furniture, raking the yard, picking up sticks, and it felt so normal.  We like the “normal” feeling so we came inside afterward and hung up some of my book wreaths. We were tempted to keep working after a late dinner. It was nearing 8pm ( my wind-down til bedtime). I think our reason was double fold. We both like to work and we want to get projects finished. Secondly, we like the “normal” feeling. I liked feeling as if all was right with the world as we picked up sticks in our new yard. I like the feeling of finishing a project. The problem? Only working is a mistaken goal. Time is a gift of this season. I’m tempted to squander it on projects instead of people. Squandering time is never satisfying.

Mistaken Goals

I’ve been doing a short series on Facebook and Instagram from How to Have Peace When Your Kids are in Chaos on mistaken goals. It’s easy for kiddos and adults alike to slip into a mistaken goal for this or any season. Since I don’t have anything in our lifetime to compare this COVID 19 season to,  I’m feeling my way through the tunnel. I bump into some walls along the way. I’ve bumped into a few physically, emotionally, and spiritually. 

Give  Choices

A few days ago, I shared the mistaken goal – total control. 

“When a child has had no control over his life and no guarantee that he will be cared for, he will try to exercise control in any war he can. Even as an adult, I often fall into the trap of trying to control my circumstances, so it’s not surprising that kiddos from hard places do the same. 

What can you do to realign this goal? Give choices.”

In the past few days, I gave myself some choices. Are you giving yourself some? Or are you also (raising my hand) working to feel “normal” until you are exhausted and then feeling empty and unsatisfied. Don’t get me wrong. Work is good. Obedience is better. Obedience is gazillion times more satisfying than plain old work. 

I think of a vision of a mama saying, “I sacrificed all my energy and every second of my day so you can have a good meal and a clean home ( worthy of a magazine).”

 Then I hear the scripture echoing in my head:

“Has the Lord as great a delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices

As in obedience to the voice of the Lord?

Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,

And to heed [is better] than the fat of rams.”

I Samuel 15: 22

OUCH. Yep. Why is obedience better than sacrifice? Obedience is about relationship with God and unbroken companionship. Relationship with God without obedience is like saying, “I love you, I’m just not going to do what you ask me to.” Imagine our kiddos saying that to us.

The other day, I was talking to Marcy Holder*, and I shared with her how I keep working way too hard. It’s as if I can’t turn it off. I think I invented my own mistaken goal – I’m not valuable unless I’m working. I’m like a cartoon character who keeps running into a brick wall. Then I stop and say, okay, I’m feeling broken and exhausted. Then I get up and do it again the next day. 

A few weeks ago, I wrote down a to-do list in my Sunday coffee meeting with God. Then I proceeded to work straight through my list until, you guessed it, I hit the wall. I prayed and asked God to show me what was wrong, “God you told me to do all of this? What’s wrong?”

I could hear the whisper of the Holy Spirit say, “Not all in one day.” 

There are no quarantine metals

It’s tempting during this time to think we have to do all the things and do them perfectly. It’s tempting anytime, but more so now. Moms, there’s this invisible pressure to be the most grateful you have ever been, work harder on your home, make the best meals, play all the games, all with the heavy burden of trying to carry it all. We know in our hearts, God is in control. Let’s just be real here. Feelings and truth don’t always agree.  It’s as if I think I’m going to get some sort of prize or medal if I do everything perfectly during the quarantine. Will there be some sort of celebratory ceremony when this all ends? Will I get a medal for most walls painted? Books written? Online workout classes taken? (Asking for myself).

Plant Seeds

I’ve said this several times in the past few weeks, I feel as if this is seed planting time. With that said, we must decide what sorts of seeds we are planting. Obedience? Mistaken goals which will produce mistaken fruit. Pursuing “normal” feelings instead of resting and trusting God is in control? Which seeds are you planting? Apparently, I’m planting a variety pack. 

*Marcy is spiritually-focused personal coach, you can find her here plus she’s a guest on The Whole House Podcast releasing Monday, April 6th.

Faith Without Works (Three Word Wednesday)

My Bible slipped off my lap as I tried to balance it and my journal and write at the same time.

  • His faith cooperated with his works?
  • His believing what accounted to him as righteousness?
  • What are you trying to tell me, Lord?

My mind flashed back to the Jeff Cavin’s teaching CD (The Great Adventure) on Genesis 12-26, Rafal and I had listened to on the way to Frostburg last week. The focus of the teaching was mainly Abraham.

Abraham believed that God would give him the promised son and that belief was put into an account. The account said “righteous”. Later, after Isaac was born:

“[God] said, Take now your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love and go to the region of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering upon the mountains, of which I will tell you. ” Gen. 22:2

And Abraham did what God commanded him. We know the end of the story, but Abraham didn’t. He didn’t have a foreshadowing of the ram in the thicket. The ram was the foreshadowing of the Lamb of God who took our place on the altar.

It reminds me of the words I said in church as a child for so many years (without thinking about what I was saying) “May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands for the praise and glory of His name for your good and the good of all the church.”

I pray that my sacrifice may be acceptable. Do I even know what that means? I am learning. How about you?

God gives us gifts, great and glorious gifts. Every good and perfect gift comes from the Father above. The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross is the ultimate sacrifice, He gave up His seat on the heavenly throne to become to blood sacrifice for us. We are washed clean by the blood of the Lamb. Yet, we are called to participate in His suffering. We are called to sacrifice.

“Was not our forefather Abraham [shown to be] justified (made acceptable to God) by His works when He brought to the altar an offering his [own] son Isaac?

You see [His] faith was cooperating with His works, and [his] faith was completed and reached its supreme expression when he implemented it] by [good] works.”-James 2:21,22

My faith coooperates

My faith cooperates with my works when I am obedient, when I am willing to sacrifice my will for His own, when I am ready to lay down my Isaac for whatever He wills. I am justified through works as well as by what I believe (Tweet That)(James 2:24).Sometimes, God asks me to lay down a gift He has given me.

My word this year is sacrifice. It’s only a month in and it is turning out differently than I imagined. I pictured myself jumping around and singing, “We bring the sacrifice of praise unto the house of the Lord” while wearing a white skirt and twirling in happy circles. Instead, God is calling me to sacrifice time, to sacrifice my way of doing things and my time table. Basically, I am sacrificing my flesh on the altar of His will.

It means not doing some good things. The Lord wants me to lay them down and walk away for some better things. How about you? Have you been given a glorious gift or opportunity that God has asked you to sacrifice? Are you on the other side of it, or like me are you standing at the altar looking for the ram?

The works of obedience God calls me to are mostly in areas of my weakness, with a sprinkling of my strength and a healthy dose of my God-sized dream. Is God stretching you too? Asking you to sacrifice your comfort zone on the altar of obedience so He can be glorified?

Linking up with Kristin Hill Taylor for Three Word Wednesday, join us!

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