"Daily frame me more and more into the likeness of Thy Son, Jesus Christ." - George Washington

Monday, September 26, 2011

Not Perfect

   I did it again, killed my contentment. It's an act of murder that I occasionally pull off very well, naturally aided by my human sense of self-pity.

   For the sake of avoiding complaining, I won't tell you what I did, but I'm sure you could name it in less than two guesses. My thorn bothers me a lot more frequently than I let on. But I shouldn't have said that... unless it makes you feel better to know that I am fully human too.

   God bless my mother, I should know better than to complain to her. She instantly shot down all of my complaints, cutting me to the quick with truth that I can't avoid. I know that I'm not as bad off as I tell myself, and she knows it too. And every time, she has a new nugget of truth for me to add to my treasure. Last night, she told me that my state is a blessing. She has been praying for me to see that what I so quickly label as "suffering" is really a gift.

   Even now, it's difficult for me to fathom. My mind can't so readily believe something that doesn't make sense. But I know that she is right, and I ought to live by it. I can't live my life on the fence, wanting what I don't have. I'd be ignoring all the wonderful things that I already possess! I have been given many wonderful blessings that I couldn't possibly pursue under different circumstances.

   During my time with the Lord this morning, I spent all of my prayer time wrestling with resigning myself to the Lord. I want to believe His promises, I want to trust Him. I want to believe that this is good. Even more than the desire to wallow in pity, I want to be content, and to be satisfied in the Lord.

   Then I found a note I had written several weeks ago, in an odd place no less.

   Thus will He bring our spirits down,
And draw our ebbing comforts low;
   That saved by grace, but not our own,
We may not claim the praise we owe.

-- John Newton

   The Lord has put this thorn in my side to cause me to lean on Him. To depend on Him. To let go of the things I am clinging so tightly to. He suffered greater, unfathomable misery and abandonment on the cross so that sin would have no power over me. I ought not struggle with doubt and discontentment.

   Instead of bemoaning my state, I ought to be sending praise to the Father for giving me such grace. It's not what I don't have that I should be dwelling on. It pales in comparison to what I DO have.

   As I pondered and meditated, God brought several promises to mind -- to prove to me that He is sufficient, and I don't need anything else to make me happy.

-- God chose me, He loves me. I am His beloved.
-- I tend to reject Him, just like Gomer. I am prone to wander, I raise up idols and commit adultery. But the Lord is faithful! He always draws me back to Himself, He always forgives.
-- I am His bride, He purifies me and presents me spotless. Ephesians 5:25-27
-- He is the High Priest - the sacrifice for my sin, and the mediator of my prayers. He speaks to God on my behalf.
-- He is my refuge and stronghold. I run to Him for safety and rest.
-- He knows every trial I suffer, He knows every feeling. Like a best friend who has gone through the same troubles I have, and gives good advice and comfort.
-- Christ has my anchor within the veil, He keeps me securely in His presence and always draws me nearer. I know that I can't stray far.
-- He is the strength of my life.
-- I dwell in His presence, He hides me in His tabernacle -- His dwelling place. Psalm 27

   And so, once again, I remember Philippians 4:6-7. That is my formula for contentment. I will be anxious for nothing, I will not allow myself to be worried or unhappy over things that I can't control. Instead, I open my hands and let go. I lay it before God and leave it there. I thank Him for His grace, and his promises. I ask Him to be my sufficiency. I ask Him to make me satisfied in Him. And I wait for His incomprehensible peace to protect me. To guard me, and to leave me filled with joy and trust.

   I need nothing else. The Lord is enough for me.

Lamentations 3:22-26  |  Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. “ The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “ Therefore I hope in Him!” The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, To the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly For the salvation of the LORD.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10  |  And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Psalm 43:5  |  Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

No Right or Reason... complain.

   We all do it. And much, much more than we even realise. Have you ever tried to go an entire day without saying anything negative? That includes spilling your difficult day to your best-girl-friend, or texting someone to whine about how bored you are, or how long the line is, or that those pants aren't in your size. It includes groaning especially loud so that someone will maybe hear you and ask what's wrong. It includes sarcastic remarks and off-hand jokes that you really did mean. It includes muttering distasteful words under your breath when someone cuts you off in traffic, or when the dog wakes you up at 3am to go outside. It is thoroughly ingrained into our flesh and humanity, we want to spill it all, and we want people to react; to cater to us, to soothe us, to make us feel better.

   It is a gargantuan task to attempt to hold our tongues and bring our thoughts into subjection. After all, the tongue is the most untamable part of the body. And the mind can run "out of control", it's not a realm that we can physically manage, such as tying it down or exercising it. But we still aren't given license to let our tongues and minds run away, just because perfection is unattainable.

   I've collected a few pieces of prose and poetry that touch the subject of complaining, and they are very convicting. John Newton in his Olney Hymns (yes, I am still reading his works) wrote about prayer and he said:
Have you no words? Ah, think again,
Words flow apace when you complain,
   And fill your fellow creatures ear
   With the sad tale of all your care. 
Were half the breath thus vainly spent,
To Heaven in supplication sent;
   Your cheerful song would oftener be,
   "Hear what the Lord has done for me."
   You know it. It's all too easy to talk someone into a puddle on the floor, complaining about your boyfriend and how he is so very egotistical, and then the dress that got spoiled by some moron at the laundromat who wasn't careful with the bleach, and the dreadful headache you've had for the past few days -- oh allergies are just evil! -- and you know that funny noise the car has been making every time you turn on the air?...     Words flow apace when you complain.

   You know your friend isn't truly thrilled to be the captive audience, and when it all boils down, the long and short of it is simply:  Nothing improves when you complain. Your friend may be able to offer a bit of advice, but I know deep down, you weren't really looking for advice. And you won't use it...
Psalm 142:1-2
I cry out to the LORD with my voice;
         With my voice to the LORD I make my supplication.
I pour out my complaint before Him;
         I declare before Him my trouble.
   There's only one person who will handle all your problems, and that is the Lord. He even tells us to "cast all our cares upon Him" because He cares for us. Send up your worries to God and let them go; move on. He will hear them, and He is the most reasonable and capable person to take care of them.

  Nobody wants to hear you complain, that's a good point to remember. You will have happier friends to be sure. But have you ever thought that you have nothing worth complaining about?

   Your 17-year-old pet died? Your special date night ended badly? The tire went flat again? That's nothing compared to the pain and suffering that someone else went through. For you.
A Lamb goes uncomplaining forth,
   The guilt of all men bearing;
And laden with the sins of earth,
   None else the burden sharing! 
Goes patient on, grows weak and faint,
To slaughter led without complaint,
   That spotless life to offer;
Bears shame, and stripes, and wounds and death,
Anguish and mockery, and saith,
   "Willing all this I suffer." 
-- Paul Gerhardt
   Jesus Christ suffered ultimately for you, even bearing the reproach of His own Holy Father. And He did not gripe and bemoan His heavy task.

   The next time you want to open your mouth and wail, meditate upon what Christ went through silently. We have nothing worth complaining about, when we think of our trials in comparison to what Christ endured.

Lastly, John Newton also says in Cardiphonia:
"...the Christian submits to God's providential will; he yields to His sovereignty, acquiesces in His wisdom; he knows he has no right to complain of anything because he is a sinner; and he has no reason, because he is sure the Lord does all things well."
   Clearly, complaining is a bold declaration of a lack of faith in God. We are proving that we don't approve the circumstances that He ordained, and that we must have things our way. True faith understands that "all things work together for the good of those that love God, who are the called according to His purpose", and that if all things are good, our response should be deep gratitude. (Yes, I am even deeply grateful for our president, Obama. I know that he is there for a sovereign reason.)

   There's a large amount of evidence here, presented in opposition of complaining. We have no right to complain, as sinners who deserve far worse, who have an example of a Saviour who suffered silently. And if we truly believe that all that God does is good, we have no reason to complain.

   The more you practice avoiding complaining, the more your "cheerful song would oftener be, 'Hear what the Lord has done for me.'" No, your circumstances may not change. But your perspective will. You may find yourself more willing to see the grander things God has for you.

Philippians 2:14-18 -- Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.
   Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. For the same reason you also be glad and rejoice with me.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

La vingt-neuvième journée {Day twenty-nine} 9.2.11

   Well, this is the last picture folks. Not because we are done house-sitting - we still have a few weeks to go - but I need to keep blogging. I have built up a large amount of notes for more blog posts and I need to write them while they are still here in my mind, ready to use.

   It has been a pleasure to keep this up, truly. I need to try it again sometime, when I have a shorter series to publish. Keep on reading my blog, I love having followers and feedback. =) To God be the glory.

La vingt-huitième journée {Day twenty-eight} 9.1.11

   Thursday was actually quite the interesting busy day! This is from our typical Thursday night swing social, and while I was there, I got a phone call from the mom I nanny for. She was on her way to the hospital, possibly to deliver the twins she was expecting. I kept on high alert for the next few hours, and finally at 11:11, she called one more time to ask me to be at the house and take care of Evan- it was the night!

   I have never spent an overnight baby-sitting. It was weird to not have to do anything but sleep. Evan woke around 4am, wanting to know why his parents had left. He was a little traumatized. =( But he went back to bed eventually.

   The next morning, we got a phone call! Jameson Andrew and Jillian Josephine were born around 12:30am, weighing 7.7 lbs and 7.1 lbs! They are so big and healthy, and honestly they are the cutest newborns I have EVER seen. =) No bias.