“All I have to do is Act Naturally” NOT

“All I have to do is Act Naturally” NOT

“Acting Naturally” for me is, unfortunately, completely contrary to being God’s man. What to do? What to do? Well, “to do” is the key…

“Doing” for me is not – or is no longer – something that comes naturally. I like to sit, to think, to write, to watch, to rest in the sun (like our grown-old dog, Poochie – that’s him above, going for a walk). Featured Image -- 14820I’ve written before about my struggles with following up planning with doing. This morning, I’m contemplating this in a new way. (See? Just pondering…) But I’d like to think that writing this post is, in fact, completing a process. (After all, “to be” a writer is my goal – it is what I want “to be doing.”)

Certainly, I can speculate about why I tend toward inactivity. For most of 2015-2016, I was hospitalized or in physical rehabilitation from severe health conditions. kid-leashI can see, too, a family history, perhaps because my parents grew up during the depression and their parents’ way of not spending was just not doing. (I do have to point out, however, that this led to frequently getting together with extended family, which is and has been a good thing.) Then, there are those stories about me being tied to a tree or kept on one of those kid-leashes. (I shudder at the thought – what could more effectively Pavlovianly limit a person’s desire to go and do?)

The virtue that I think defines the follow-through I’m missing is diligence. So, to start this morning’s topic, I searched BibleGateway.com for it in the AMP translation. The first hit was

Proverbs 4:23
Watch over your heart with all diligence,
for from it flow the springs of life.

At first glance, this didn’t seem of help to me in becoming active. On further thought, though, this watching over my heart is an action at the root of my issue. To me, it infers not closing my eyes to God’s standard, which is not my own, which takes a big effort to follow. (My major addiction, sex, is a perfect example. Keeping to God’s standard for human sexuality continues to be a huge unnatural thing for me, but that’s another post.)

Further down the list of search returns were these verses:

IMG_3765Psalm 119:4
You have ordained your precepts,
That we should follow them
With [careful] diligence.

Proverbs 12:27
The lazy man does not catch and roast his prey,
But the precious possession of a [wise] man is diligence,
[Because he recognizes opportunities and seizes them.]

Now, these get to the heart of the matter! My preference is for the lazy river, but life and growth happen more consistently in the rapids. The noun, precept, is defined as “a general rule intended to regulate behavior or thought.” It derives from the Latin words prae + capere, “before” and “take,” which were combined to form praecipere, meaning “warn, instruct.” If there is anything that should alert us addicts especially, it is a “warning.” (The trouble I find is that I always want to know “why?” and then I feel obligated to put it to the test, guaranteeing my learning it the hard way.)

This is one of those “easier said than done” things, summed up nicely in Ephesians 5:15-17:

 

IMG_3763
me, about to mow for the first time in years!

Therefore see that you walk carefully [living with honor, purpose, and courage, shunning those who tolerate and enable evil], not as the unwise, but as wise [sensible, intelligent, discerning people],
Making the very most of your time [on earth, recognizing and taking advantage of each opportunity and using it with wisdom and diligence], because the days are [filled with] evil.
Therefore, do not be foolish or thoughtless, but understand and firmly grasp what the will of the Lord is (ME: and not your own will). 

Walking carefully and grasping firmly are both very conscious actions. In them, we are advised to be more than normally aware, to check and recheck ourselves, to not be habitual and thoughtless, to not forget because my mind is wandering. (This may be what is meant by “staying in the moment?”)

effortThere’s a fear here: to always be choosing, deciding? Every second of every minute of every hour of every day?! Not only does it sound impossible to do, the very attempt sounds absolutely exhausting. “No rest for the weary?” What a burden it seems!

So I searched on “peace rest.” The answer that was given is the whole point to faith and belief in Christ:

Come to me, all who are weary and heavily burdened [by religious rituals that provide no peace], and I will give you rest [refreshing your souls with salvation].
Matthew 11:28

Life in this world is not easy. It was never meant to be easy or thoughtless. As a follower of Christ, I am constantly tempted by the world’s “easy way,” and, when the effort of following becomes too much, Christ is my refuge. By focusing on him and not on the weight of the world, I can “do this.”

img_3337IMG_3741
First, we walk, then we run. Then we soar on wings like eagles.

Here’s a great song that expresses my feelings today. It’s Worn by Tenth Avenue North.
Buy the digital download here..

If Life Is A River…

If Life Is A River…

waterfallIf life is a river, Christ is my kayak but I’m in the rapids, tipping over.

Flowing water always takes the easiest path. So do I. So do I. Sometimes this means calm, serene, quiet drifting across a gently sloping lazy landscape… so pretty. Other times raging whitewater, steep inclines, big rocks, Niagara Falls even. And slowly I turn.

I’m in one of those latter sections on my life’s stream. So much is going on, inside and out. There’s the direction through this torrent I want to go, then there’s the current – God taking me his own way. In a word, change. Life is transitioning from peaceful to … something else. I have no idea what lies on the other side of this busy, fast-paced stretch. I just know I’m really being challenged to hang on right now, and I’m already soaked.

IMG_3764Where to start? Well, I like routine. Same same. For a long time, at least two years, I’ve been able to stick to it. Morning has been journaling, reading, and coffee, or dialysis. (Actually, AM quiet time has been consistent since recovery began in 2008.) Then there was always napping, as I recovered from various surgeries in 2015. Most nights were early to bed. Very predictable.

whitewaterUnfortunately, my family’s financial ship was sinking. So recently, I began looking for some way, every way, to make extra. Work-from-home online gigs. Selling my stuff. Renegotiating the wireless and cable. Coupons.

I think there’s hope, though. I’ve started driving with Uber and Lyft in the mornings of non-dialysis days. I catch the going-to-work commuters or airport runs. I stay away from the drunken weekend nights. But this has overturned my typical day.

There’s been just as much turmoil spiritually and emotionally. My theme, James 1:8, swings on. Lord, help my unbelief. For the past year or so, I’ve been physically recovered enough to have energy but, without things to do, boredom and idleness and isolation have led to temptation. Old habits have stealthily slipped in. I question my qualifications for worship and words. And I ponder whether God or “reality” is a metaphor for the other. (This sounds complicated, but it’s really just continuing doubt caused by my own “logic.”)

What to do? What to think? Well, for starters, take my own advice. I’ve been through rough waters before – they (eventually) led me to faith. Now, I have to start over.

To navigate change, I need to accept and acknowledge God’s over-riding will on my plans. I can’t go where the river don’t flow. I need a new schedule. Rather than operating on whim, I have to prepare and get organized more than ever.

cronstruction sitePrepare your work outside;
Get everything ready for yourself in the field,
And after that build your house.
(Proverbs 24:27)

Who builds a tower without first counting the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?
(Luke 14:28)

Spiritually, with my faith at a low ebb, I’m desperately repeating to myself James 4:13-15:

(Today, tomorrow we’ll go here and there, and do this and that…)
Yet you do not know [the least thing] about what may happen in your life tomorrow.
[What is secure in your life?]

Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and we will do this or that.”
(AMP translation)

Proverbs 3:5-6 are helping, too:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make straight your paths.

I pray for the ability to “be still and know” (Psalm 46:10). What I need is not to be prepared for the unexpected (if that could be so, it wouldn’t be unexpected.) I need to be prepared to encounter the unexpected, resting in the knowledge and acceptance that God has my good in mind. Relearn, relearn.

img_3666Plan, now do.
Commit, then complete.
Faith, with action.
Patient, yet urgent.

The urgency is the ominousness of James 4:17 – and this is the one thing I hope you, the reader, take away from this post.

So any person who knows what is right to do but does not do it
(ME: or knows what is wrong to do and still does it),
to him it is sin.

Here are a couple of songs that feel appropriate to me:

When I Don’t Know What To Do (Tommy Walker) (YouTube, with lyrics)
Please buy the digital download from my affiliate link:
When I Don’t Know What To Do

Creed (Third Day) (YouTube)
Please buy the digital download from my affiliate link:
Creed (Live in Portland, ME)

Tipping For Hope

“So, what do you do?”

imageDo you dread the question? How do you answer, when asked about what your time on earth is worth? I know what I want to say, but I also know how crazy it sounds in this modern, post-Christian world. “I live for Christ, to tell of the Good News, however I can. I blog. I worship. I teach. I Share God’s Story in my life. But, oh yeah, I gotta work this ‘job’ to pay my bills because I don’t get paid in money to do those things .”

Maybe it’s the question. “How do you earn your living,” is inquiring about one thing I do. “What are you so passionate about you do it for free (but would accept donations for),” asks something completely different.

Let me be perfectly clear. I am not selling hope. I refuse to. How can I determine a price that you should pay for “the life which God has promised?” (James 1:12 GNT) “I want to give a little hope to you.” (Third Day, Tunnel) That’s why I proclaim:

Come and hear, all you who fear God. Let me tell you what he has done for me.
Psalm 66:16

…be doers of the Word.
James 1:22

I alone know the plans I have for you,
plans to bring you to prosperity and not disaster,
plans to bring about the future you hope for.
Jeremiah 29:11

I want to broadcast the evidence of my life that proves to me that God exists and that Jesus Christ is everything the Bible says he is. First, he is life-saving, he’s rescued me from multiple rock-bottoms. He’s life-changing, making new life possible. Then he’s life-giving. I have another chance through and with him. Last, but certainly not least, he’s life-filling. Saved, changed, reborn, I have new purpose and new value (and values).

And I disclose, freely, that he – my faith, my belief in him – is what keeps me alive, what keeps me going, through dialysis three times a week, through endless temptations to think and look and touch lustfully, through days when I want nothing more than to hide under the covers. And, oh yes, through times when I feel like and think seriously about quitting. But, I believe! He helps my unbelief.

Jesus will do this for anyone. Everyone. What can I tell you about him?

Is sharing a two-way street? What is new life worth to you? Would you tip for hope?

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…about not writing, option 1

How do you write about not writing?

One way is to write no matter where you are. Technology has made it possible to “speak and be heard” nearly everywhere we can go. This morning, I’m sitting one-armed in my dialysis chair using my iPhone to post this. (Sorry, no images today.)

1 Peter 3:15 NIV

Always be prepared…!

The important thing I’m focusing on right now is that what I am saying does not change, only how (via technology) I say it.

The “old ways” are best for the what to say and do; the “new” ways merely give options for how we say or do it. 

So, when I am seeking for ways to write about not writing, I can just do it, right now. 

Your turn! What’s the craziest, most unusual place or way you’ve posted?

I’m Published In “Faith Bloggers Christian Haiku Group Writing Project!”

Faithful Bloggers Christian Haiku Group Writing Project PDFAll,

I’m happy to announce that I’ve been published! Sort of…

I submitted work to the Faithful Bloggers Christian Haiku Group Writing Project, which produced a PDF!

You can view all the poems at Haiku Group Writing Project

One day, one moment at a time!

Blessings,
Marshall,
Sharing God’s Story

How Do You Write About Not Writing?

How Do You Write About Not Writing?

This is a post that’s been begging to be written but I, the writer, have been stubborn and obstinate and maybe even a little nonchalant about writing it. Same as it ever was.

A simple comparison of my blogging frequency last April (15 posts) and this April (3 posts, 2 of those reblogs) demonstrates what I mean. (Actually, I was going to say the whole year, so far, but looking back, I actually had more posts in January-March this year than last – but my feeling was quite the opposite! Maybe that’s because my passion for it was burning so bright back then and not so strongly now.)

Still, the question remains: How do you write when you don’t feel like it or can’t seem to set yourself to it?

That I had a negative self-impression of my posting frequency is nothing new. Personal story #1: when I had my own home-based business (a video studio), I loved finding the jobs but not so much completing the technical side of the work. My complaint was the seeming “two-part” requirement: the finding, then the doing. Like I had to do everything twice. Lord, can’t we just go through something once and be done with it?

Of course, I think we all know that that is not how God works – and certainly not how we learn! One of my personal motivation themes, therefore, is:

Plan, now do
Commit, then complete
Faith, with action
Patient, but urgent

holy-grailI’m great at the planning and the starting of things but have a horrible record on finishing them (aka “The Follow Through”): books I’m (still) “reading”; house projects left off in the messy middle; ideas that never got off the paper (and onto the blog).

Yesterday (and today), I sat down for Quiet Time with the goal of figuring this out. I started with a google of “verses follow through”.

The top result?

Ecclesiastes 7:8
(Line 1)
CEV Something completed is better than something just begun
(Line 2)
MSG Sticking to it is better than standing out OR
ERV It is better to be gentle and patient than to be proud and impatient

There’s a lot being said to me in those lines. One of my lifetime mottos has been, “Waiting for something to happen.” That word “something” was an obvious connecting hint. “Gentle and patient vs proud and impatient:” This gave me something more to think about.

Personal story #2: I had a 17-year “career” in IT which ended with down-sizing. The company put us laid-off employees through some programs to help us find new work. One of those included a sort of brainstorming about our perfect day. Mine was after a successful run of published novels. Hmmm. This now strikes me as being good at the planning (and the dreaming), but not so good at the doing. Or having the glory without having to put in the effort. Or having my cake and eating it, too, (which could be another motto).

439Because it’s not like I stopped “writing.” I’ve continued to journal all year, scribbling in my notebook, sometimes for hours. And I more or less wrote in a format that would fit transition to blogging – I just haven’t been taking that next step of typing it up. (I even tried one post consisting of a picture of my journal page, hoping that would resolve my “two-part” angst. The responses I got indicated it was not very legible. Sigh.)

If you’ve been reading along here on Sharing God’s Story, you know that I have an addictive, obsessing personality, but that also means I’m really into “instant gratification.” I want it now – whatever it is – like a movie that jump-cuts to “several years later.” The distinction of ‘being'” lures me in, only to detour me when it comes to “just doing it.”

I want to answer that “so what do you do” question with “Oh, I’m an author.” (See my last post, a reblog of “Being A Writer Is Hard.”)

I’ve come to understand, however, that this is full-blown pride of life at work. I’ve been seeing and saying things in a way which puts me first:

I have been saved (oh, yeah, by God). Listen to me tell about it.”

instead of

God saved and redeemed  me. He can save and redeem you, too.”

This is, after all, the Sharing of God’s Story, not mine. It’s about His work as seen in my life, a small but miraculous chapter in a much bigger book.

Of course, there are a few other, very familiar negative influences: my love of comfort and the easy way (forgetting that it is, in the long run, the hard way), my fears (of change, of success – which is a whole nother topic!)

(Left: May ’15 BEF 5K; Right: April 30 Groton 5K)

So, you see, I don’t always carry on to the finish. However, I do know that “I know I can, I know I can,” and not just think “I think I can, I think I can.” Personal story #3: The past 3 years I’ve started and completed multiple 5k walks. On April 30, I walked the annual Groton 5k – and improved my 2015-post-open-heart surgery-four-months-earlier time by 30 minutes! 57 minutes to walk the 3 miles. (And, I actually jogged for a little bit of it!)

This kind of accomplishment is right up there with me, the daily 6-pack drinker for 3 decades, not having even a drop of alcohol in the last 4-plus years. (Um, I mean God giving me the strength to make this kind of change, of course.)

can do all things through Him who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:13

The Bible story I’m identifying with as I write this is Jonah’s. God spoke to Jonah, who ran the opposite way only to be “convinced” to correct his course. (The one about waiting to plant until perfect weather fits, too.)

The lesson? “Just do it!” “Git’r done!” Don’t find the time; make the time!” And, so, here I am (finally) at the end of my next post.

For whatever was written in former days243
was written for our intruction,
that through endurance
and through the encouragement
of the Scriptures
we might have hope.
Romans 15:4 ESV

I would like to thank Brian Manon and Faithful Bloggers for their Blog Planner worksheets which helped me organize the brainstorm in my journal into an easily fleshed-out outline. I think I’ll make some tweaks and incorporate this into my process for blogging.

Your turn! What do you do when you find it hard to follow through on blogging regularly?