Random Blog Clay Feet: November 28, 2007
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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Cell Phone Opportunity

My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4 NRSV)

Let it be all joy to you, my brothers, when you undergo tests of every sort; Because you have the knowledge that the testing of your faith gives you the power of going on in hope; But let this power have its full effect, so that you may be made complete, needing nothing. (James 1:2-4 BBE)

I am becoming more and more aware that God allows certain things to take place simply to get my attention and give me opportunity to practice things that maybe are slipping from my mind – like gratitude and total dependence on Him in faith. I have noticed over the past few years that it is not unusual for me to misplace something, say a tool while I am working, and begin to experience the frustration of desperately needing it but being unable to locate it, sometimes even right under my nose.

Now I'm sure many people would find it strange that I would consider that anything unusual at all. Many people lose things and get frustrated, especially when they start getting older. But God almost seems to hide things from me at times because, I am convinced, He wants to remind me of who I want to be in control or priority in my daily living. When I feel that intense impulse to become frustrated and increasingly angry over not being able to have and do what I want, I realize that I am facing a choice as to how I will relate to this situation, really a choice about who is going to be my God.

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, (NIV) speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; singing, and singing praises in your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always concerning all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to God, even the Father. (Ephesians 5:18-20 WEB)

There have been any number of times when I am looking for something and it almost feels like it is being deliberately hidden from me in order to get me to reevaluate the condition of my spirit. What makes me think this is true is because quite often after I submit and cooperate with the gentle prompting of the Spirit in my heart to release my intensity, stop my frantic searching, let go of my anxiety and choose to relax in the care of my Father, that quite often I almost immediately find what I was looking for. That has happened so frequently that it makes me very suspicious that it is not simply a coincidence; Someone is behind these events who has my peace and growth as part of their concern for me.

I am learning to view these events from a different perspective, which is part of the training that I have asked God to do in my life. Of course there is always the temptation to fall into the trap of formula thinking which would lead me to believe that I can somehow manipulate the Almighty into getting me what I want if I just conform to what He wants. But what I try to remember is that He is much more interested in deepening His intimate relationship with me than He is in performing miracles for my convenience or comfort. And real relationships are never based on repeatable, predictable formulas.

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. (Colossians 3:12-17 NAS95)

These little exercises in faith have been helping reshape my perspective of reality, which I am sure there are intended to do. They also have a very helpful role in transforming my inner view of how God feels about me and how dependent I really am on Him for everything. In fact, whenever these opportunities occur I am learning to take them as a word of caution and quickly look inside to see how my unsettled feelings and anxious heart are clouding the truth about God's love for me. It is one thing to go around talking about God's care and concern for even the little things in my life and it is another to actually apply those ideas to real-life problems when my emotions begin clamoring in fear that I have to fix my own problems.

What I am learning is that succumbing to anxiety and fear without turning my emotions over to God while intellectually believing in Him, is a sign of atheism. It is exposing the effects of Satan's big Lie about God that is deeply ingrained in all of our hearts; that God does not really care about me as much as He says and that ultimately it is up to me to take care of myself. When I choose to allow worry to stay in my heart and entertain emotions of anxiety and fretting without challenging them in the light of God's presence, I am in essence denying that I have a loving Father who is interested in even the smallest details of my life. That includes all the little joys and delights that I experience as well as all the little or big problems and irritations. He wants me to share everything with Him and to share back and forth like real friends do.

Well, as you might suspect, I had another one of those opportunities the last couple days. We had the wonderful privilege of having friends and family at our house for Thanksgiving weekend. These were friends that we had barely met and were just getting to know but it was very enjoyable and nurturing for us. Of course we were very sad to see them leave as they could only stay for about a day and a half. The next day our daughters also had to leave and we were left with a big empty house again and feeling rather abandoned and alone. I know that this is normal but it still does not feel good.

The next day as I got ready to go into town I began to look around for my cell phone to take with me. As you can guess, I could not find it anywhere. I remembered placing it on the piano near the front door where I usually keep it so I can notice it on the way out, but it was nowhere to be found. I searched all around my bedroom, the living room, even the cars and the office but to no avail.

I then called our friends and asked them to look through their things to see if they might accidentally have picked it up in their things when they left but they assured me they had not seen it. Now the emotions of fear begin to pick up and the scenarios begin to play in my imagination. The fear about the expense of replacing a phone I have just recently purchased conjured up anxieties over finances and I even wondered if maybe someone might have found it and was running up high phone bills for me. It is amazing how elaborate our fears can fabricate all sorts of potential problems out of so few facts.

Last night after work I stopped by a little cafe´ to download some updates and large files onto my laptop. I ended up staying later than I expected and wished I had my phone to let my wife know why I was late. But there was no phone to use and my anxiety again began to assert itself. It was beginning to permeate all through my mind and heart as I drove home in spite of all my efforts to avoid those fears and discount those scenarios. I realized that I needed to face this issue head-on and deal much more firmly with my increasingly out-of-control emotions. I had a choice to handle this myself, even with a little help from the Supernatural, or I would have to turn it over completely to God to the point where I would let go completely of my ownership of the problem.

Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. (Hebrews 13:15 NAS95)

It was at this point as I discussed this problem with God while I was driving that I remembered what is so easy for me to forget – the power of thankfulness. At first it did not really come to my attention though. I just began focusing on the goodness of God and consciously choosing to thank God for His various characteristics and attributes. Over the past few years I have found this to be the only really effective solution for oppressive fear that threatens to suffocate me emotionally and drive me into despair. It feels almost irrational to just focus my attention on God and the good things about Him when I have enormous problems screaming in my head to be resolved; never mind that I do not have the wherewithal to fix them, they demand to be the center of my attention. Maybe that is one of the symptoms of idol worship – paying attention to what makes me afraid instead of deliberately refocusing on the One who is greater than all my fears.

At any rate, I continued to force my mind to dwell on the various things about God that I could think of and let my mind ponder each one of them and let them sink into my emotions. As I continued to keep myself in this state of mind I could not help but notice a very obvious change in my feelings, both emotionally and physically. I then began to remember how amazingly powerful the spirit of thanksgiving is to effect reality and that participating in this activity, which is the very atmosphere that fills the rest of the universe outside this polluted planet, allows the power of God to transform my spirit and gives Him permission to do things in my life that He has been eager to do all along.

As I filled my mind and heart with continuing praise and gratitude for God's goodness, His grace and mercy, His unfailing love and compassion as well as the blessings that I enjoy, I felt my fears fading away fast and I could release my anxiety in exchange for the peace that passes all understanding. It was no longer my problem to find my phone or pay potential expenses or... I told God these were His problems now and put them on Him completely. I chose to embrace His presence and simply soak in His care and love for me no matter what my circumstances looked like. I once again entered into His rest.

When I got home I told my wife that we needed to ask our daughter if she had seen the phone. She was the only one we had not asked yet who had been at our house. Immediately my wife said the phone had been found. When I asked her who had found it she sheepishly told me that she had found it in her own purse. She had picked it up and taken it with her when she went into town with the girls the last night they stayed here and then of course forgot all about it.

Of course that was good to hear. But it did not have the effect of relieving me of all my fear and anxiety as would be expected, for that had already been fully dealt with just a few minutes before. To me it seemed much more like a smile from God and an affirmation that I was growing in my trust and love for Him and that He knows what He is doing and can be trusted. It was not so much a reward for my trust as it was another lesson that my heart can remember when even bigger fears try to intimidate me and displace my faith which they are certain to attempt.

At times I become intensely aware of how little I indulge in real gratitude. I have written about it before and at times have been very aware that there is unlimited power at my fingertips (or more likely lips) that is just waiting to be unleashed in my life if I would just remember to live in the atmosphere of heaven which is gratitude and continuous praise. But I know how little I remember that and how easy it is to stay in my ruts which are so familiar. I want to live on a higher plane of existence than what is considered average. I want to learn to live in reference to what is considered “normal” in heaven instead of what is considered “normal” here on earth. But God is faithful and He is finishing the work that He started in me, for it is God who is at work in me, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:13)