Know Now No

toddler-no
No! or Know! ?

One of the first words a growing baby learns to say is, “No!” This is because ‘no’ is a word they hear a lot from caregivers. If you are a parent, like me, you know I speak with authority on this subject.

 

However, I like to think we are instead telling our dear ones, “Know!” We are, after all, aiming to teach them how to live. We are trying to convey danger, or the secrets of playing well with others, and especially the meaning of being nice to ourselves.

…’Love your neighbor the same as you love yourself.’
Mark 12:31 ERV

I know from my own experience as a child and a parent, that this instruction is one we are not always fully qualified to give. We misunderstand the “as you love yourself” part. We aim but miss the mark. Our sin is the result of not knowing the true meaning of ‘no’.

I declare we can “know now no”.

One of the biggest revelations in growing up is the beneficial intent of “no”. The ‘hot stove’ is perhaps the best-known example of physical benefit. When we yell, “No!” at the toddler, we are, in short, exclaiming “Know that you will be burned by the flame!” “Don’t touch!” quickly becomes obvious to us. It takes only one painful burn.

But mental, emotional, and spiritual “no’s” are much harder to absorb. I dare say that some of us never figure them out, as we keep making the same mistakes. In fact, it is our difficulty in accepting these  “no’s” that leads us into trouble in all areas of life, because to ‘love ourselves’ is understanding that we need to stay far away from what is harmful to us. I know that some things are good. But too much of a good thing is bad.

… So we, too, should run the race that is before us and never quit. We should remove from our lives (say ‘no’ to) anything (everything) that would slow us down and (especially say ‘never’ to) the sin that so often (so easily) makes us fall.
Hebrews 12:1 ERV

Here’s my version of this verse:

Know now no.
‘Know’ that less is ‘now’ and leads to ‘no’.
‘Know’ that (one letter) less is ‘now’ and leads to (one less letter,) ‘no’.

Now I know what ‘no’ means.

What we hear is “you can’t have such and such a thing. You’re not allowed to have it.” We infer that someone else is permitted, or that we are being denied out of spite. But that is the lie. What we are really being told is, “that thing (or too much of it) is not good for you; you don’t need that, so don’t even ever want it; besides there is something else that is just and only for you.” In the Garden, the serpent began the deception, “Did God really say you can’t have anything/everything you want?” What we forget is that we actually don’t want everything.

I have a grandson who is eight months old. I enjoy watching him when he’s at his most alert and wakeful. Everything he sees is exciting and of greatest interest. But I see his head spinning this way and that. He is completely distracted. The world is full. It’s shiny. It quickly becomes eye-rolling-ly overwhelming. Soon he must be picked up and held tightly, with only a gentle hug as his focus.

jack-palance-just-one-thing
Jack Palance in City Slickers

Eventually, some will see that there is just one thing that is most important for us. This can take a long, long time. I’m fifty-four and am just now discovering what that thing is for me: writing.

My Brothers and Sisters, God chose you to be free. But don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do what pleases your sinful selves. Instead, serve each other with love.
Galatians 5:13

Before now, I thought I wanted so many things. But I got so lost, I ended up doing and accomplishing nothing. Nothing good, anyway. I wasted so much of the most priceless gift I was given: my lifetime.

We know that we belong to God,
but the evil one controls the whole world.
And we know that the Son of God has come and given us understanding…
And He is eternal life.
1  John 5:19-20 ERV

This is the path to discerning The Maker’s purpose. My life has led me – finally – to the point of accepting what we are all created for (to ‘love others’; to ‘serve others with love’), and how I specifically am meant to go about that, (by Sharing God’s Story in my life).

First, I had to learn to say ‘yes’ to:

We must never stop looking to Jesus. He is the leader of our faith, and He is the one who makes our faith complete. He suffered death on a cross. But he accepted (everything about) the cross as if it were nothing because of the joy he could see waiting for Him. And now, he is sitting at the right side of God’s throne.
This about Jesus. He patiently endured the (worst people can do). Think about Jesus so that you won’t get discouraged and stop trying.
Hebrews 12:2-3 ERV

Know God and Christ. Learn to follow Christ’s example about knowing no now.

A Break From My Morning Coffee

Dear Reader,

First, an apology for my absence over the last week or so. I’ve been on a forced hiatus (IOW, hospitalized. Again. I’ll post about my many stays at Central Massachusetts’ wonderful medical facilities soon. For now, lets just say my points earned me a room with a gorgeous view of Lake Quinsigamond.)

I’m writing about the lessons in this recent turn of events. As you know, The Lord is always teaching through circumstances, building perseverance, patience, endurance, character, and hope (Romans 5:3-4). It is active perseverance, patience, and endurance that I’m focused on today, and these are embodied in two very spiritual things: routine and rest.

On Routine.
I think we all have our routines. We almost make them sacred rituals, never to be broken. My most precious one revolves around my morning time with God, reading the Word and devotionals, praying, and journaling before moving on to plan the day. But there is something that He has shown me about this… habit.

Almost without fail, when I wake up (no matter the time), I will go out to the kitchen (to not disturb my wife), get the coffee going, tidy up the table, if necessary, then get a cup of Joe and sit down. Here, in the hospital, this custom is broken. I have to wait upon the kitchen staff to reach my floor, which is sometimes not until they deliver breakfast. This can be hours. And I would wait. As if I could not proceed to my quiet time without the coffee. I see that coffee had become equally important with the connection I make with my Maker.

What is truth is that there will always be interruptions in life. Sometimes, it’s illness. Sometimes, it’s being out of sorts because I’m out of my comfort zone or familiar/favorite setting. And sometimes, it’s simply lacking desire – I “don’t feel like it”. The test is in whether or not my day-to-day situation dictates whether or not I inwardly seek to be with Him.

What I need to make unbreakable is not the standard coffee plus being still and knowing, but the purpose of the time itself. No matter where. No matter when. No matter what. Even in busiest, most bustling places – places like the well-lit, noisy floor of a hospital (with a roommate of similar description) – I can be still, center myself on my Creator, tune out the background, and experience peace and quiet to read, meditate, pray, and discern. Granted, this is much easier at my kitchen table in the early morning, but it is possible.

On Rest.
Men of Integrity
‘s book this week is about the Sabbath. About rest. A. J. Swoboda writes in The Dusty Ones,

“The first thing in the Bible that God makes holy is a day, the Sabbath day… God invented rest that we might live and enjoy living… Sabbath is a dimension of holy living that we are invited to enter into… one can only ‘enter [God’s] rest’… rest is a place that is made, created for us, [not one] that we create for ourselves.

“Sabbath, for a Christian, is a way of life. All of life is one big period of rest – not rest from the day job or rest from responsibilities, but rest from striving, from saving ourselves.”

Hebrews 4:10-11

For anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from His. Let us, therefore, make every attempt to enter that rest.

I almost entitled this post “Enter rest Interest”. “Rest” is not literal. It is a virtual place God invites me to as often as needed, removing myself – even momentarily – mentally and spiritually from my locale, from the constant thoughts swirling through my head, from the distractions of this world. Intentionally. This gives me pause, to consider if I am feeling like the prodigal or the elder son, or acting like the father.

Because, as E. K. Marshall writes in Mornings With Jesus about a pastor’s insight on those thoughts,

All my thoughts? …even the judgemental ones about (ME: hospital roommates)?”

“…We shouldn’t be shocked or defeated by every thought passing through our head. Many of those are temptations; all are evidence of our need for the Savior. But what we do with them matters… Every word that crosses my mind may not be pleasing to the Lord, but I have the choice to feed it and let it reign, or commit my character to Jesus.”

I see how the persevering, patient, enduring practice of remembering what the routine is for, and stepping out in rest anywhere, anytime, is what leads to the character others will see in me. And this has helped me today in how I interact with (and judge) my new (and old) friend(s) Joe.

Time for another sip.