1:30AM: When you wake up and… you’re awake

1:30AM: When you wake up and… you’re awake

lampHaving faith is like waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to go back to sleep. I know this from experience. I often find myself in the “wee hours,” wide-eyed, and no matter how I try, I simply can not drift away.

adventureAnd so, sooner or later, out comes the coffee and the journal, and I begin scribbling another blogging adventure. There’s usually some main idea that’s stirred me, maybe based on something that has happened recently (in this case, waking up and not going back to sleep, and wondering how (or if) that relates to my spiritual and tangible life).

…you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep.
For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.
Romans 13:11 ESV

281This verse states the obvious. Of course, every second I live brings me closer to that time when “He returns or calls me home” (In Christ Alone). But what actually gave me the idea that “believing is like being awake” is that, once I wake up (like this morning), I know I can not fall back asleep, which is just like knowing that, having become a believer, I can never “unbelieve” again. This can be a good or not-so-good feeling, like the memory of something seen that can never be “unseen.” It can be pleasant or gruesome.

Part of me does not want to forget. Part of me knows I should not ever forget.

Therefore let us not sleep as others do.
But let us be alert and sober.
1 Thessalonians 5:6 MEV

IMG_3338It’s both the knowledge of God’s grace for me (now) and the promise (or threat?) of what is to come (in the future) that’s behind this need to stay awake. I know because I’ve read God’s Word; I believe because I’ve had personal experience that proves His Word.

The only debate, I suppose, is whether this belief (God’s forgiveness of sin) is a constant completely conscious choice (based on my knowledge), or whether it is fully a divine gift, an uninstallable “system-upgrade” to fix some behavioral bugs.

IMG_3346Patient endurance (something we choose) is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will.
Hebrews 10:36 NLT

Those who have been born from God (something we’re given) don’t live sinful lives.
What God has said lives in them. So they can’t live sinful lives.
1 John 3:9 GW

The only thing which causes me to lean toward the former is the fact that I eventually, consistently slip and fall (and want to, in the heat of that moment). I really do worry about it all being up to me. You might say the thought is what “keeps me up at night.”

IMG_3352For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once and for all.
Dear friends, if we deliberately continue sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins.
There is only the terrible expectation of God’s judgement…
Hebrews 10:10,26-27 NLT

On the other hand, this certainty I feel (about never again being ignorant) is a comfort. I was given something, a gift that cannot be returned or put aside or ever misplaced.

IMG_3303The two combine for a very practical effect. I wake up. I get up and begin the new day. (Don’t worry, I take a nap around noon and repeat the whole process – 2 days for the price of one!) Likewise, I fall. I get up again and keep moving forward. Once was for all. I have received the knowledge of the truth.

Til on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied;
For ev’ry sin on Him was laid-
Here in the death of Christ I live.

(In Christ Alone)

For songs to go with this post, I simply must include In Christ Alone (the Getty version).
Please download the digital track here.

But here’s a great hymn in a contemporary style that fits the theme of waking and rising, Arise, My Soul, Arise (the Indelible Grace Unplugged version).
Please download it here.

 

This Is Not Your Father’s “Adulting”

This Is Not Your Father’s “Adulting”

This is a post about tradition, and the benefits of … if not heeding it, then at the least taking it into all account.

64034B60-A4E5-43A8-A338-8F509E98A266-5198-000005BEE76EB9DAI love acronyms. I use them all the time to help me remember stuff. I’ve heard one for the Bible: Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. This is very, very true about that particular book. Trust me on this, as someone who has done life the hardest way – completely on my own and by listening to those who were in the same situation as me: just starting out (aka my friends). But there is something – quite a lot, actually – to be learned from those who have gone before (aka my elders). They got that way by picking up a thing or two. Listen to them.

Now, I’ll keep this general (iow non-faith specific) by stating that in every corner of the world mankind has collected the “wisdom of its ages” into one place, freely available to all. Unfortunately, the primary audience – those who would benefit the most – are the ones most likely to ignore. The question for every culture has always been how to convince the young to trust and adhere to this knowledge. For a long time, describing it as “sacred” was the best answer. But today we live and grow up in a post-spiritual world. The unseen has become unheard.

terrifiedFor youth is ever rebellious, thinking it knows better, wanting its own way, so sure it knows all the “whys” and “hows”. Wisdom, however, comes only with age. (There are a couple of apt sayings: ‘Youth is wasted on the young.” “Life’s tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late.”) Youth does not seek to understand the “whys” embedded in traditions but instead steamrolls right over them.

Quite simply, life’s goal(s) have never changed. We each want to live, love, and prosper. What changes are the tools (the technology, the “hows”) available to us. Life is like a game and not like a game, at the same time. It’s not a game because it’s deadly serious. We get one chance to go through it.  We don’t get to go back to “go” and collect $200 on the way. It’s like a game because it does have “rules” and we do get a “do-over” of sorts each morning. The challenge is that when we start out, we have no idea what the rules are, and we must take that do-over together with whatever foundation we’ve already built. (What’s the best way to get out of a hole? First, stop digging.)

How is one supposed to discover life’s rules? Quite simply, from those who have been in the game for some time already. From tradition, from others, from examples good and bad. And after these sources, from one’s own experiences and growing wisdom.

img_3295We have parents and/or family, those with whom we “belong” in a direct way. We have community, our “village” of those to whom we’re not directly related but who do have good intentions and common values. (“It takes a village to raise a child.”) The church used to be that community. It’s lessening influence (and the world’s attempts to “kill” the Creator), has had a sad effect on society. (But I don’t want to get into all that right now.)

It’s also true that one can follow good ways yet still not “get it,” like the prodigal’s older brother. It’s not better to be entirely prodigal or entirely older brother, but to have a cautious little of both, and to never stop being open to understanding the theory of a thing before putting into practice. It’s better to hear the prodigal story (both sons’ parts) in the first place.

Here’s one of those “there are only two of kinds of people” declarations for you: those who start with/from blind faith (aka trust) and live to see it verified, and those who question everything only to arrive right back where they began because they’ve experienced exactly what they refused to accept. (Funny, though, I’m proud to be one of the latter. I wouldn’t be who I am without having made the journey that way. But sometimes, I wonder if I would’ve been happier believing it the first time.)

The one takeaway for today’s post: Proverbs 1:2-7. Wisdom. Respect for tradition – the way things have been done. Curiosity about why things have been done that way. Willingness to trust those who have gone before to know – maybe not always what to do but certainly what not to do.

And here are some very, very good songs that express some of these ideas.

Dear Younger Me by MercyMe (YouTube). Buy it here (from my affiliate link).

Listen by Josh Wilson. Buy it here.

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?