Random Blog Clay Feet: March 27, 2008
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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Tyranny of the Urgent

I was thinking earlier this morning about how much I am learning a new language. For many years I have wanted to learn a couple more languages and I figured that if I knew Spanish and German that I could likely fit in just about most places in the world except in Asia. I even went so far some years ago as to buy a Spanish teaching CD program for my computer which promptly disappointed me so I didn't take any more time with it after the first try.

As much as I wish I could say that I am making progress now on my dream to learn one of these languages, they are not the language that I am currently learning. What I am painfully and slowly learning is the language of the spirit. I suspect that more healthy individuals might grow up with a more natural adeptness to using this language but not myself. I only became even aware that I had a spirit just a few years ago and ever since then I have been trying to listen more carefully to it and encourage the use of my inner equipment necessary for utilizing this most important and universal language.

Another subject that was rolling around in my head this morning was formulas. I have noticed that most of external-based religion relies heavily on the use of formulas and most arguments about religion or philosophy or many other things for that matter revolve around who has the right formula that should be used for interpreting facts and words. Most of this discussion usually generates far more heat than light and I try to avoid getting entangled into them too deeply.

However, it occurred to me that maybe my disdain for formulas was misplaced. Maybe the real problem is not the use of formulas themselves, although using the wrong formula for a given problem will result in faulty answers. But many of our problems may lie in plugging in the wrong “figures” to fill in the various variables in the formulas and thereby coming up with faulty conclusions even though there may not necessarily be anything wrong with the formula itself. I think this may particularly be true when substituting external factors for use in Biblical formulas for things that should properly come from the spirit side of our beings.

There is another question I have in regard to life formulas. How do you know if you have gotten the right answer unless you have something objective to check it against? If you think you know what the answer is going to look like but you are looking at the answer book through human, external-oriented, behavior-based thinking, then quite possibly the answer you create by using a particular formula may be quite wrong according to heaven even though it matches up nicely with what you expect to see and is even confirmed by those who share your world-view and agree with your logic and findings.

A formula may be the same as that used by the Bible and heaven but the outcome may look different because the inner environment, background and deficiencies of the persons using the formula. It is clear that there are different perceptions of reality from one to the next and it is impossible for anyone to be truly objective. It seems to me that the way to truly know if the outcome of the formula is moving toward the right destiny is to measure the aspects if the conclusions as reflected in the spirit with the descriptions given in the objective word of God about what the fruit looks like that is naturally produced by the true Spirit.

When we try to measure a life more by external appearances than by the condition of the spirit it is all too easy to be deceived and misled. When we pay attention to the voice of the true Spirit and are guided continuously by that Spirit and are growing and maturing in that Spirit, then it will be far easier to recognize the same kind of spirit when we see it in another, even though the outward appearances or circumstances may appear very unfamiliar or even shocking at times.

For instance, if I believe that righteousness is defined by having the right doctrines and performing the right actions according to a checklist somewhere and if one is doing the right religious routines on the right days, then it may be very likely that it will be next to impossible for me to discern between similar-looking spirits because deceptive spirits are extremely good at replicating external results to appear the way we expect them to look. When we have a certain lifestyle that we believe is the right one, we will tend to use that model or image in our mind to measure everyone around us to determine if they are following God or not. This method is extremely convincing but is also extremely dangerous.

A person who gives priority credence to the externals of religion will tend to discount the discrepancies of the spirit that serve as warning signs for those using a different standard, even though they may be utilizing the same formula found in Scripture. Even this measure of looking at the spirit can be utilized by some to incriminate the true children of God as others point out their failings and emotional weaknesses as supposed evidence that they have the wrong spirit. The true measure of a right spirit is not determined by the occasional outburst or meltdown or even a spectacular, publicized fall into temptation, but it is discerned by the direction of the movement of their spirit over time.

As humans we are addicted to judging and condemning others. It is inherent in our selfish nature to measure ourselves against others and somehow think that if we can make them out to be worse than us that we will somehow be better by comparison. It is like sitting in a bus and looking out the window when all you can see is another bus next to you backing up – but you don't know the other bus is moving at all. It gives the distinct sensation that you are moving forward that can be overwhelmingly convincing. But the fact is that you may not be moving at all or you may even be backing up yourself but at a much slower speed. The only way to truly know what is really happening is to look elsewhere for a more reliable point of reference to find out what is really happening.

I am convinced today that there very well may be a demon named Urgent. I came to this conclusion after having my wife point out to me yesterday how much news personal on television news channels tend to almost shout most of the time. They have likely been trained to talk with a tone and volume that projects an ongoing sense of urgency that cannot be ignored so as to keep the largest possible audience riveted to their station for as long as possible. The intended effect of this urgency is to overrule our inner structures and conscience that is designed to point us to what is really more important. The urgent demands for attention are calculated to make noticing them more important than anything else and lingers in our minds and imaginations like a strong magnet to draw us back again and again to be reinforced and justified. We become secretly afraid that we are going to miss something important and so we stay in close touch with the news on a regular basis.

Similar kinds of logic and persuasiveness is used in other formats for those not interested in being addicted to news. Music, fashion, social idols, entertainment all clamor for urgent attention and consume most of our waking hours and our discussions with our friends. This is all calculated to subtly influence our spirit in ways that we are largely unaware of and even deny most of the time. But it is a carefully crafted formula designed to prevent us from spending enough time thinking about what is truly important in life or even robbing us of the capacity and desire to do so. This same spirit is clearly seen in most religion as well.

Urgency is not wrong in and of itself, but it is out of place and is employed to promote distorted perceptions of reality when urgency is used to empower things that are not the most important. We use urgency to give weight to what we want to impose on others for varying reasons, but it is often used for our own selfish desires to control or exploit others instead of being used to empower real warnings of danger. Very often we desire others to be afraid of what we are afraid of. These are called fear-brokers. We want to have influence over those around us by convincing them to value what we want to value or fear what we fear. That not only tends to make us feel more justified in our evaluations and fears but gives us a sense of importance in being able to affect others.

Urgency is like crying wolf – when it is used falsely it diminishes its own effectiveness which is precisely what Satan's intention is. We become so used to the urgent not being truly important that we become conditioned to ignore it and then fail to recognize the truly important when it comes with urgency. We are conditioned to disbelieve and doubt which is exactly where Satan wants us to be so that we will discount and reject the warnings of God to our spirit and mind.

All who are under the training of God need the quiet hour for communion with their own hearts, with nature, and with God. In them is to be revealed a life that is not in harmony with the world, its customs, or its practices; and they need to have a personal experience in obtaining a knowledge of the will of God. We must individually hear Him speaking to the heart. When every other voice is hushed, and in quietness we wait before Him, the silence of the soul makes more distinct the voice of God. He bids us, "Be still, and know that I am God." This is the effectual preparation for all labor for God. Amidst the hurrying throng, and the strain of life's intense activities, he who is thus refreshed, will be surrounded with an atmosphere of light and peace. He will receive a new endowment of both physical and mental strength. His life will breathe out a fragrance, and will reveal a divine power that will reach men's hearts. (MH p. 58)

There are two very different ways to relate to this most fascinating quotation. The way I have typically seen it related to is the external oriented way – to feel under compulsion to conform to the details presented here, things like hour, knowledge, quietness, etc. These are all tangible things that can be imposed on myself (or others) and also hold great potential for producing enormous feelings of guilt and shame if I don't perform to the standard I set for myself or others may have set for me. Usually the way we escape from this pressure of guilt is to avoid reading such things at all so that we can forget about what appears to be the source of our condemnation. But the real problem here is that we are viewing things pertaining to the spirit through the lenses of external religion which will always distort, complicate and confuse us at best about words that were not really designed to be used in such a context.

When a person who is learning to live life in relation to the spirit is trying to find effective ways of connecting with God in meaningful dialog, they will instantly recognize in this quotation something that resonates strongly with encouragement and hope for their heart instead of fear and condemnation. They will see a formula of sorts that offers a reliable pattern which they can use to really make progress in their movement toward connecting with and hearing God in their soul. They will not need to view this as yet another obligation to add to their already overcrowded checklist of things that must be done to be a good Christian. They will instead, see in it an invitation into the intimate place with God where He wants to personally share His heart, His thoughts and His real power with them in ways that no one else will ever be able to comprehend. They will see God's invitation to join Him in His passion to develop an intense, mutual intimacy and deep friendship that is closer than that of two lovers enamored with each other.

This also brings to my attention the alternative ways that I can view my current circumstances of not having work to produce income for my family. I can view my situation as others might be doing as a tragedy or even a shame on myself and feel condemnation for not launching into a frenzy of searching for anything to immediately eliminate this problem. But alternatively I can look at it as possibly a time of intense training, rewiring and priority realignment by the Spirit of God while trusting in His promise of provision for us unconditionally. That is not to say that I should not pursue finding work or should reject realistic opportunities for income. But what I am more interested in and feel is even more important is the condition of my spirit during this time of uncertainty and financial pressure. I can either give in to the debilitating effects of fear in my heart or I can fill my mind with resources and ideas and take advantage of this time to learn to listen more accurately to the voice of God as described in the above quotation. The thought has often occurred to me recently that maybe I am so entrenched in the thinking patterns of the world (externals) that God knows I need a lot of time to get my thinking and perceptions shifted and transitioned into patterns that are more in tune with heaven and the ways of the Spirit.

It is becoming more clear to me that until my own spirit is much more in line with the ways that God relates to people, it will be very difficult for Him to use me very effectively in His service. I may have all sorts of knowledge and insights and even much eagerness to share them with anyone willing to listen (or not). But knowledge tends to puff up according to Paul. What I need a lot more of is a right spirit that is humble, loving, caring and balanced. I need a great deal of character training far more than mental training I suspect. And character training comes primarily through the mentoring and rewiring of the way I think and relate to things of the spirit. This is the area of my life that was most neglected for most of my life and is the area in which I personally need the most remedial training. So maybe God is trying to do that right now.

The danger is that I may allow alternative distractions and false spirits that press themselves onto me as being urgent or promising me temporary pleasure to rob me of the extremely valuable time that God is providing for me to receive His training. It is like sitting in a classroom in front of an extremely valuable expert in a field for which I am training who will only be available for a limited time. And while he is trying to teach me important concepts crucial for my training I become distracted by flirting with the pretty girls in the room or reading funny papers hidden inside my textbook. Those things may for the moment be much more fun and interesting than listening to the teacher, but the results will be tragic when the day of testing comes.

I sense that I may be sitting in that classroom right now and that the truly urgent is not the things that insist that they are urgent. I must deliberately and repeatedly remind myself of what is truly important and take firm actions to engage my attention toward what is important and refuse to be side-tracked by what appears to be more pleasing in the moment. It is only in doing so that I can be prepared to enter into the much greater work that is waiting for me after my limited time for training. When that day comes I will only have available the experience and spirit training that I allowed myself to receive during these days of preparation.

If I perceive my present circumstances as a training time just like sitting in school, then I can also reject the pressure to feel guilty about not working presently. A student is not expected to be working full-time when they are taking a full load of classwork and by the same token I need to recognize when I am supposed to be paying attention in class and when I am supposed to be practicing what I learn in the field without feeling ashamed for not working full time. Some may accuse me of using this idea as a cop-out for not wanting to work, but I must listen to what the Spirit of God is revealing to me about my life more than what others say in judgment of me.

I believe that when it is God's time to place me back into active work to receive worldly income or whatever other kind of work He has in mind, that I will again face a different set of pressures. Then I will have the need to jealously protect my intimate time with Him so that I will not loose my spirit's connection with God's Spirit and thus forget my true identity. During this “downtime” I need to avail myself of all the spirit training that I can get while the gettin's good, as the expression goes. I must reject the false guilt that tries to impose itself on me (with or without the help of others) in order to discourage or distract me. I choose to keep my guard up and ask for God's Spirit to protect me from other powerful distractions that are determined to derail my training and waste my precious time that I need to listen to my real Teacher. And I ask my Teacher for His Spirit that includes the gift of self-control, because I know that I cannot produce that myself.