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Posts Tagged ‘persistence’

askSo I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. [Luke 11:9-10] 

I think I used to think of these three terms as sequential. But today, as I read this passage, I wonder if it’s not a reminder that any of these will work, depending on the circumstances. Sometimes, it’s best to simply ask for for what is needed, but in other cases, I may need to go looking for the answer, and still another time may require me to face an obstacle with stubborn persistence.

Perhaps, if I thought about it, I would need to confess that I do a lot more asking than seeking or knocking. Asking is the drop back and punt position. I know I am not alone in that kind of prayer life, filling the space with ask after ask after ask.

But, when the answer is elusive, do I seek and search. Do I prowl the scriptures for an answer or a direction? Do I speak with others more knowledgeable than me? Do I go into my prayer closet with an open mind to hear something new?

And knocking, well, I’m quite sure that’s the last of my choices. I’ll simply cave in and say, this must not be for me. If it doesn’t come easily or right away, I don’t really persist like I could.

Just taking this time to study a bit through the Hillsong Ministry School, is a beginning of seeking; getting back into a small group; meeting with other widows through Modern Widows Club; reading and writing again. It’s a start.

My circumstances have made me somewhat weary, I know. It’s been a tough year and a half, so many changes and challenges. But moving to the next level means I must begin to work my spiritual muscles again, to get back to the “gym” of God.

 

 

 

 

 

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Photo by Bill Dickinson

Photo by Bill Dickinson

Joseph had the dream as a young man, his brothers and family bowing down to them. It was a true dream. But never did he imagine the journey that would bring him to the reality of that dream. Isn’t this so often the way? Betrayal and sorrow often bring the dream.

Genesis 42:8-9Although Joseph recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him. Then he remembered his dreams about them and said to them, “You are spies! You have come to see where our land is unprotected.”

If the brothers hadn’t sold Joseph into slavery, then he couldn’t be in Egypt when Pharaoh had his dream to interpret it. If Joseph hadn’t been there, Egypt would not have prepared for famine in the same way that they did. And not only Jacob’s family would have been lost to famine, but scores and scores of people would have died.

Some will say God turned a bad thing into a good thing. And surely, that does happen. But on the grander scale, the big big picture that God sees, it appears, in hindsight, that achieving some goals (or dreams) have an arduous path. Peter Rollins wrote a book, “The Fidelity of Betrayal” which examines and expands on this concept of loss/death/betrayal preceding joy/renewal/transformation.

Some of us are lose the dream when the going gets tough: that would be me. I see myself so clearly now in this loss of confidence and direction. I look around and there is absolutely nothing that appears valuable in my quest for the dream. I am broke or caught up in a band of busyness. How could any of this end up at the dream? And the longer it goes on, the more doubt I have in the dream at all.

Oh sorrow.

I gave so many dreams because they didn’t come to fruition soon enough. I judged the time and found it lacking. So I’d build another dream and another dream and yet another. Looking for hints that one or the other dream was coming true. I was getting there. I was reaching it.

But no, the dream (the picture in my head of what the dream would look like) kept moving further away.

I am sorry now. I ask forgiveness of God for my lack of faith and fortitude. I didn’t trust the Way. I didn’t want to be a Joseph who had to be sold into slavery, wrongly accused, thrown into jail, and languish there until the moment was right. I wanted to create those moments. I wanted to control the timing. I wanted the dream my way or no way.

And so, I got my way after all. I got none of those dreams.

That’s sad except for one truth. There is another dream before me. I am, at the least, that resilient. I am not dreamless. But now, even at this age, after so many years, I can understand the importance of keeping on toward the dream, of trusting God no matter my circumstances, of believing in a future that holds the moments God creates.

I will believe.

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I have always thought of the armor as something from the outside in, as though I pick it up somewhere along the way and put it on like a coat. But now, I think the armor comes from within because it is built on and out of faith and trust.

Ephesians 6:10-11
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.

A visual that comes to mind is passwords. A new trend is to have a little “effectiveness” bar next to my entry and depending on the sequence of letters or numbers I enter, I get a rating. The power of the password is judged as weak, medium, or strong. I create my own choice of password and the company is merely letting me know how effective it will be to withstand the machinations of Internet evil: hackers, identity thieves, and the like.

In life, it is the practice of my faith and trust that will determine my ability to use God’s armor effectively. There are some other words, along with practice, that come to mind: diligence, stubbornness, confidence, knowledge, and self-awareness. These are also needed to hold fast to faith.

Oftentimes the darts that come from the outside are small and annoying, but the accumulation of them can be debilitating. Think of poor Gulliver and Lilliputians when they initially tie him down with ropes and hold him fast, despite the fact they are only 1/12th the size of a regular human. We must give due diligence and engage God in all areas of life, even the little things.

Stubbornness may not be the right word, perhaps it’s determination or persistence, but in any case, it’s holding fast to the faith in the face of “oncoming traffic.” (Just be sure you’re not going the wrong way on a one-way street.) It’s swimming upstream. It’s engaging the paradox. It’s giving room for miracles.

Confidence because faith must be all in. That kind of confidence comes from a full commitment to an idea along with complete understanding. Now, I’m not talking about bravado that looks down on others or puts out a false impression of strength. Authentic confidence does not require loud talk or scare tactics or bullying. Confidence comes from knowing.

Which brings me to knowledge of God. As I build my knowledge of God, of God in Christ, of Christ and the Holy Spirit in me, then all the other things begin to fall into place.

I cannot put my head in the sand if I want to practice slipping into this armor. I have to be aware of who and where I am today and what is immediately ahead of me. I must connect, with an open heart, to the Spirit within. Like sweat that pours out of me on a hot day, to protect me, so does the armor of God emanate from the Spirit storehouse within.

(FD 14)

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Luke 18:7-8
… “And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

In this parable, Jesus clearly states that persistence is rewarded with justice, whether the dispenser of it is just or unjust. God promises to reward those who cry out to him. I am counting on this justice (as well as his mercy) as I pray and fast for my daughter.

But the last line tells me that there is a key element to this 24/7 crying out to God: Faith. My faith must be rooted in His ultimate sovereignty over our situation and circumstances. I pray now because the outcome is unknown. But will I have the same courage and faith if the doctors give a bad report or if she is destined to suffer?

Some years ago, my friend, who is a “white-knuckle flyer,” was very agitated as we flew across the country together. I told her she could rest easy that God would not allow that plane to fall and for us to die. She asked how I could be so sure and I told her that we had just adopted two boys (back in 1997) and I was sure he wouldn’t save them just to take away their mother again.

Today, I seek this same confidence in God’s will for our adopted daughter. There is something in the adoption process that carries a unique sense of destiny. The stories of orphans around the world are heart wrenching. And when one is picked up, like a starfish in the sand, hope is rekindled for his or her future.

This is my prayer.

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Mark 7:28
“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “but even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”

I think it’s amazing that despite the fact that Jesus has basically called this woman a dog (quite the put-down) when she, a gentile, begged Jesus to heal her daughter. And yet, instead of taking offense, she merely persists, calling not on His justice, but His mercy. Her love for her daughter kept her focused on the need. Her heart was pure of motive. She believed in His goodness and His ability to “break” the law. He was ultimately setting the stage for the rest of us to come into the Kingdom. She modeled persistence and He modeled grace.

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