"We need to compare any idea, prompting, or thought that comes to us with God's Word. If we don't know the Word, we won't have anything to measure theories and arguments that rise up in our thoughts. The enemy can present wild ideas that make sense to us.
The fact that thoughts are logical doesn't mean they are from God. We may like what we hear, but the fact that something appeals to us doesn't mean it's from God. We may hear something that feels good to our emotions, but if it fails to give us peace it is not from God.
God's advice to us is to always follow peace and let it be an umpire in our lives." -- Joyce Meyer, Hearing From God Each Morning (February 11 entry)
Some people have impressive memory banks.
My sister could probably tell you what shirt I was wearing that time in high school my Volkswagen Superbeetle broke down in the mall parking lot.
My husband likely could recall every vacation we’ve taken since we got married, in what year and month the vacation occurred, and how many restaurants we dined in while we were out and about. “Did we go on vacation last summer, honey?” “You mean that one to Yellowstone that cost us thousands of dollars? Yes. Yes we did.”
Ok, that was a slight exaggeration, but not huge.
I recently asked my mom, as we were planning our post-Christmas holiday visit to her area of Tennessee, “Have we been to Nashville? I’d like to see Nashville.” She reminded me we spent a few days there only two winters ago. But of course we did! Good times. Such a great place.
These lovely people are my walking memory keepers. They have great long-term memories, and I do not. It’s not that I forget everything from the distant past (more than two weeks is distant, right?), it’s just…kinda like Swiss cheese. There’s a whole lot of yummy content in there, but also a good number of holes.
While I don’t have access to a lot of different kinds memories that “should” be stored in my mind, this tendency also grants me the opportunity to not hold grievances or grudges. I like that about my memory, actually. Having a lackluster long-term memory helps me forget when someone has done me a modest injustice. Not being a grudge-holder helps me feel very Christian sometimes.
Not so fast, Vickie (writer says to herself). There’s a passage in Isaiah (43:25) that reads, “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” God's “remembering no more” is vastly different than my version of “remembering no more,” in some obvious ways, not least of which is that our God is omniscient.
But God doesn’t really forget, does He? When God “doesn’t remember” our sins, it means they’ll be forgiven. We ask forgiveness and He forgives. Through forgiveness He demonstrates time and again his endless, deep mercy and love for us.
Have you ever waited for someone to realize they wronged you, and then waited longer for them to ask for your forgiveness? I have.
Have you ever created suffering in yourself by not forgiving someone as quickly as you could have? I have. Is it possible that all the time you thought this meanie should ask your forgiveness, they in fact didn't know they wronged you at all? Oh yes, it's possible.
Friends, I’m not talking about significant punishments others have inflicted upon you; forgiving someone who's created pain in you/your life can require spiritual counsel, prayer and often, lots of time. I’m referring to those annoying and inconsiderate things people do in a Tuesday night PTA meeting that we carry around for years. (Ok, maybe that one's just me.)
"Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." (Colossians 3:13)
May we always remember He forgave us first, and that He taught us how to forgive. May we remember how important forgiveness is, and how it blesses us as much as it blesses Him. May we be grateful we have the forgiveness option at all! Forgiveness is pretty much Job One. And that’s really, really, really worth remembering.
"In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace." (Ephesians 1:7)
Luke 10:38-42 -- As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” 41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one.[a] Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Oh Martha, I can so relate. On more days than I can count, I've looked at a clock around 8 a.m. and thought to myself, "I've accomplished more this morning than most people do in a full Thursday. I. Am. Awesome!" I've swelled with pride at all the tasks I've completed: early jogs, packed lunches, checked homework, clean school uniforms, walked dog, prepped crock pot, economical shower, modest makeup, 10 Facebook likes, 7 Facebook comments, 5 emails, 2 coffees, 1 bowl of oatmeal, and a partridge in a pear tree.
My ego feeds off productivity. If I can get more done than you, I'm superior to you. Or, at least that's the way I've been acting and thinking. I've been so misguided. How quickly my busyness turns to resenting others, too. I've thought, "Why am I the one who has to do all this stuff? Where's that personal assistant I never hired? Those lazy (family members, friends, clients, you-name-its) are such slackers!"
Martha said, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” Just as I've said, "Lord, don't you care that I have this huge to-do list and I'm doing it all alone? Tell them to help me!" But then, I started to notice how crazy that is. I noticed because the to-do lists make me happy for no more than a minute, an hour, a day. I always fall back into worry and frustration. Tasks never satisfy me.
So, almost every day for a while now, I've been telling my task-hungry ego and chatter-heavy mind to take a breather and let me just be. Amazingly, it works. My mind calms and I find more enjoyment in the now. I am starting to enjoy leaning into the discomfort of stillness. I pray the discomfort I feel eventually disappears completely...every time and at every degree.
Even at a vibrant 40 (something) years old, I can feel my world-fed desire to be doing and planning being slowly replaced by the deeper contentment that arises from living in the peace of the present. Not only do I tire quicker than I did even five years ago, but my desire to tick off tasks -- though still thrilling at times -- does not trip my trigger nearly as much as it did. It's a little scary, but mostly exhilarating.
When I walk by windows in my den, I peek at the squirrels a little longer. When I go on a walk, I notice the shape of the flower on that weed over there. When I meet up with friends, I listen more and talk less. This new practice I've learned is diffusing into every facet of my life.
When I feel my mind wander from the present, I usually notice. In response, I focus on my breath, feel my hands from the inside, pause, and return to center. Not in every instance, but most of them. And, the more I recognize the runaway train of my mind, the quicker I can feel the tracks reverberating straight toward my soul.
Thankfully, these days on most days, I don't need to hear the train's blaring whistle or run for my life before I get the message. That's a huge blessing. Mary, with her interest to spend time with Jesus, to sit contently and to listen intently, chose what was better -- a word that also means "higher quality, more useful, worthier, and more valuable (thanks, Thesaurus.com). Martha's to-do list consumed her, and look at what she missed! Mary, on the other hand, was present with the Lord. Being present with the Lord was more valuable. Being present with the Lord is more valuable.
I understand that to-do lists are necessary in life. Not only do they help ensure we can pay our bills (gotta go to work) and care for our families (gotta feed the kids), they can be pretty darn fun sometimes (gotta make the party costume!). But, when we are busy, busy, busy with thoughts and ideas and tasks and appointments and accomplishments and preparations and future-casting and remembering...we are not going to hear Him. He's flat-out shut out of the conversation.
But, when we slow our chattering minds and put the list away from time to time, we give God a chance to speak to us through the Holy Spirit. The Christ within us has a chance to get a word in.
When we engage in getting quiet, we can later return to our lists and proceed to chip away at them, but bring God with us into the process. We can invite Him in at the start of a task, and offer our work to Him through every step. Only then can your to-do list reflect higher purpose and deeper meaning.
Less doing and more being. With that at the top of my to-do list, I'm not as concerned with what's on the rest of it.
I decided to retreat from my busy day after dinner tonight. I laid on the floor in the living room and my Bassett-mix hound, Greta, quickly took to my side. Her big paw tapped my face, urging me to pet her.
I scratched her neck, scratched her belly, and noticed how saggy her gut is now that she's 11. My perspective is so different from down here, I thought.
She knew I needed to relax tonight after a busy day, or did she? More likely, she needed me to relax for her.
So, I decided to be fully present with her for 10 minutes...rub her, watch her, talk to her and tell her how much I love her. (I tell her how much I love her quite a bit; her best days are behind her). I reflect upon how she told me she needed me to pay attention to her before I agreed to rest on the floor by her side: She followed me around the kitchen for about 15 minutes as I was cleaning up the dinner dishes; and as I checked my phone, she stood at my feet and whined.
And now as I lay here, she contently snuggles her head next to mine and tucks her head into her chest. I feel like we are two puppies in a blanket-lined basket.
It occurred to me that the Holy Spirit nudges me in similar ways. First, He will make his presence known as I go through my day. As I think of other things to do, other things to think about, He reminds me of what I should be thinking about, shouldbe doing. Ignore those nudges, those subtle thoughts, and the next thing I know it's more of holy whine. It's only when I fully attend to Him and only Him is he satisfied. Our God deserves so much more than my reluctance.
When I arose from my snuggle time with Greta, being fully present with her, my mind had fewer thoughts, my chest felt more relaxed, a thought about how I was grateful for her need tonight, though I needed her more in that moment than she needed me.
How often it is that when our minds are too busy and we are caught up in doing, we do not have our mind set on God. We miss out on peace. May we desire Him more than he desires us. May we always seek what He seeks. May we forever be in this alignment. Amen.
Romans 8:5 -- Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.
"Do you think I am an automaton? — a machine without feelings? and can bear to have my morsel of bread snatched from my lips, and my drop of living water dashed from my cup? Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! — I have as much soul as you — and full as much heart!
And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you. I am not talking to you now through the medium of custom, conventionalities, nor even of mortal flesh: it is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave, and we stood at God's feet, equal — as we are!" — Charlotte Brontë (Jane Eyre)