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Posts Tagged ‘stand firm’

Drawing by Oldřich Kulhánek

Drawing by Oldřich Kulhánek

Job did. At least, that’s what is written about him in Job 7:16 and then again in chapter 10, verse one.

I despise [loathe, hate] my life; I would not live forever.
    Let me alone; my days have no meaning. [Job 7:16, NIV]
and . . .
I loathe [hate] my very life;
    therefore I will give free rein to my complaint
    and speak out in the bitterness of my soul. [Job 10:1, NIV]

The dictionary defines “despise” as loathing and “loathing” as a feeling of disgust or intense aversion for something. If we switch over to the word “hate,” it is defined as an intense or passionate dislike, an extreme hostility toward something.

In the early weeks or months of Job’s suffering (no one knows for sure how long he suffered, but most scholars count his time in months and weeks and not years), he hated his life. His suffering was so intense, his dismay at the losses, his “why me” lament, caused him such intense feelings, that he abhorred his very existence.

And yet, he did not kill himself. He was, despite it all, somehow surrendered to God’s will.

There is so much I do not understand about Job, but I do see this: he was in terrible pain. He was distraught and hated his circumstances. He wanted it all to end. He wanted to forget, to stop feeling, to stop experiencing all that was horrible in his life. He was attacked by his own friends and he was misunderstood. Nothing new there. Job was fully human. He was no angel in his torture and so he cried out with intensity and even venom. But he remained.

Even his wife said he should “curse god and die!” She too suffered, but ultimately placed the blame fully on Job’s own shoulders. As did his friends.

Apparently, someone has to be to blame. We do it in our modern times too, don’t we? It’s the boss or the President or the Congress or the neighbor. It’s the parents or the children or the Pastor or the car in front of us. It’s the farmer or the industrialist or the millionaires on Wall Street. It’s the Muslims or the Gays or the Polygamists. It’s the Jews or the Christians or the liberals or the conservatives. They did something! Things are bad. Someone did or said something to bring this on. Right?

Or, maybe, just maybe, it’s up to us to simply stand in the midst of the storm.

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” [Ephesians 6:13, NIV]

When my friend, Mary, died on Mother’s Day, 2013, she endured several months of the ravages of pancreatic cancer. Her disease was inoperable and therefore, nothing could be done but to ride it out. When I visited her early in her death pilgrimmage, I will never forget her words: “I did nothing to cause this. I have been healthy all of my life; I ate well, I exercised, I took care of my body and my spirit. This is simply part of my journey and I will to experience it fully, without blame toward anyone, including Spirit.” And so she touched hundreds of lives in her final months and died with no miraculous healing or recuperation.

She did not despise her life or her God.

Hate and disdain, name-calling and blame-shifting, take up a lot of energy. They suck up valuable human resources.

No more. No more.

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Here’s a few questions I find myself pondering: where do I walk? Where do I stand? and Where do I sit? I mean, in my every day life, am I putting myself in harm’s way, despite being unengaged? Am I assuming that my lack of a direct encounter with the “enemy” means I am unaffected by the surround? Does passivity promise protections (forgive the alliteration)? Apparently not.


Psalm 1:1-2

Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night. [NIV]

Funny, I had forgotten about the old Watchman Nee (1957) book called Sit, Walk, Stand, which has a slightly different take on these same words with different order and as a result, a different emphasis: sitting as rest in God (finding strength there), to walk in trust and perseverance, and then to stand in faith to end. All valid points.

But I am taking the psalmists interpretation of these words to heart. This first verse is really a series of 3 “do not’s” and the more active “do” is quite simple: meditate on the Word. That’s prayer, that’s consciousness, that’s intentional.

Our pastor tries to give us “action” steps each week and this is mine for myself:

  • Watch where I am walking; look around; examine the stimuli around me; where am I headed and why; use the time well.
  • Stand on solid surfaces on purpose; be centered and grounded; be aware of the temperature and the environment; use the time well.
  • Sit alertly; notice what I am watching (as in television) or listening to (as in radio); where do my eyes wander and am I judging the others “walking” by? Use the time well.

For example, yesterday, I ran several errands throughout the day and while waiting for my daughter to finish her hair and doctor’s appointments, I wasted the time with Sudoku and Words with Friends. Or, in the evening, I watched a show on television I had already seen, but was too lazy to either change the channel or go to bed. My reasoning? I don’t watch TV that much, so I can afford to just “veg.” I’m not saying I can’t do those things, but in most of those cases, I just did them by default. I didn’t choose, I just allowed. Wasting time is OK as long as it’s intentional. But if it’s not, then really, the time is being stolen from me.

And lastly, I considered this idea of “meditating.” I’ve struggled with this idea before. After all, who hasn’t read Brother Lawrence’s Practice the Presence of God? (If you missed it, go to the library.) I was always a little numb after reading it. That’s impossible. I can’t do it. I can’t pray without ceasing. My life is too full.

And so, with all the “I cannnot’s” rolling around in my head, I can excuse any effort whatsoever.

But a couple of years ago, I challenged myself with praying the Hours and although it was difficult, I had some success. And looking back? It made a difference. And now, I’m thinking, maybe just a single verse in a single day, a popular verse, so that I’m not overwhelmed with memorization or some such, just a thrum, a slight little thing to repeat when I am quiet, before I click on the app.

You won’t believe it, but there’s actually a website called, Top Verses: The Bible, Sorted. Perfect. The top, most referenced verse on the web is no surprise, John 3:16; so that’s my verse for today. And when they sort the Psalms, verse 1:1 is near the top, the same verse that challenged me today as I start my next drive through the Word, through Psalms. I’m digging for God again.

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Who is that devil? Who likes to talk about the “devil,” “Satan” or evil? Culture has morphed the devil into a red-horned little man with a pitch fork at Halloween, or a dark looming evil suction machine ready to drag me into Hell, or the scapegoat for everything wrong with us.

I Peter 5:8
Be well balanced (temperate, sober of mind), be vigilant and cautious at all times; for that enemy of yours, the devil, roams around like a lion roaring [in fierce hunger], seeking someone to seize upon and devour.
[Amplified]

In Peter’s voice, the evil entity takes on a very personal nature: that “enemy of yours.” It’s a specific adversary who is lurking around my world, ready to take advantage of some negligence or self-indulgence, ready to ruin a situation, break apart a plan, or discourage a goal.

The NIV translation is simple, “be self-controlled and alert.” Therefore, in the face of Peter’s recommendations, it means behavior that is out of control, intemperate, or incautious, will be a set up for a fall, a slippery slide at the water park. Interestingly enough, I think these moments of imbalance are specific to each person. They are my battles and my particular challenges. “My” enemy may not be your enemy. My indulgences may not be yours. That means, the other guy or gal over there, may have equally unique hazards or threats that may not look all that difficult to me.

I believe this “personal enemy” works from the inside out, just like everything else. Oh, there may be some global enemy who hates the Earth, let’s say, and brings on tsunami’s and famines. Why not? But right now, I’m considering how this enemy of mine gets a foothold inside me.

It doesn’t take long to figure this out. There are several easy “ins” for that enemy of mine such as my issues of food, weight, exercise, and discipline. Or what about those procrastinations that expand from a few minutes to days, weeks, or even months? And in relationships, what about consistency and honesty? I can see how an imbalance in any of these spheres play heavily on my sense of worth and well-being, my trust in God.

So often the imbalance is not just in “not” doing, it’s also in doing too much. Perfectionism and performance-based choices are equally distracting. I’m like a pendulum, swinging back and forth between the two and that enemy of mine swings right along with me.

And so, I ask myself, how do I achieve true balance? How can I be vigilant without being controlling? How can I be cautious and yet be a risk-taker? How can I find the “de-militarized zone” where there is no condemnation and no fear?

Time away. Prayer. Forgiveness. Each day: manna.

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