Tuesday, 10 March 2009

IMPORTANT lessons from life group - from You! Wow! ('cause You were there!)

October 28, 2004

Our life group last night was really different. Hardly anyone came due to sickness and other things. Our leader and ___ came over and we sat around the kitchen table, just the three of us. Our leader went over what God’s been doing with our group in the past month or so. He had a paper and pen, and all the way through he drew pictures and diagrams and mind maps to make his points, and it was so great for ____ because she thinks graphically too, and it was good for me to see things in a different, more graphic way. Anyway, ___ was really excited, and I learned a lot.

But the thing I most want to say about that meeting is that God was there! I heard Him – not just through what the others were saying, but also, I know the Spirit was talking in my heart, because I realized a whole bunch of things in a much clearer way. We did pray at the end, not long prayers at all, but oh, they were from earnest hearts longing for God and His work, His power, His grace – His glory! – and oh, He was there! It wasn’t like a big warm fuzzy, or a big emotional moment, but it was (for me at least, and I do think for the others as well) a deep assurance and reality and truth. Yes! Thank You, Lord God Almighty, Jehovah Jireh my provider, Your grace is real, real, real! if only I open my eyes and my heart to really see and know it. Amen!

So what did God show me?

"Independence From My Husband"

I understood that my husband was right to make me stop doing all those activities at church. It was right because I was out of control, priority-wise; and I was not loving him, my husband, and therefore not loving God. Because God has placed me in submission to my husband, and I was disobeying by making my own choices. Yes, I can point to “becoming independent because he’s been away so much” but it still comes down to the fact of enjoying my independence. I think God had to let me have such an uncontrollable, crazy busy summer so that I would lose even “my” control, and so I would get tired, tired, tired. And then have my husband home from work for weeks and needing me so much because of his injury. Then God was able to get me to the point of stopping me from doing what “I” love, even if I saw myself as “working for God.”

"Ponderings about Spiritual Gifts"

Oh! About working for God: that’s what I’ve been doing. Not God working His work through me. I think maybe there is a problem with the “find your gift and then use it… find things to do with it” approach. Especially taking all those little tests and questionnaires. For example, there’s this “gift of administration” thing. Maybe I have it, maybe I don’t. But that test I took that “highlighted” it was based on my past activities and successes. And yes, I have been very organized and had a knack for planning things and finding efficient ways to do things. But I wonder, does God give incomplete gifts? The reason I ask that, is that a person who really has administrative ability doesn’t just administer “things,” they deal with workers, with a team, they delegate responsibilities, they oversee other peoples’ share of the work but they don’t jump in and do it at the first sign of discouragement or discontent or lack of commitment or laziness. And I do not fit into that kind of administrative ability. I don’t “like” administration. And as for my “organizational” ability, it has always been “me” working. And is that how gifts are supposed to operate? Or do all those things have to be learned? And if they do, where is the “gift” in it?

Also, if God gives a person a gift, won’t the person get some lasting enjoyment out of it, won’t they feel some fairly lasting passion for it? Maybe that’s wrong, but… like learning new things and teaching them, sharing them with others, I don’t lose my passion for that, it’s fulfilling, it’s exciting, I can’t help myself. Even when I’m exhausted, put down, burned out because of surrounding circumstances, I still love the learning and teaching itself.

And it’s the same thing with writing. Take this newsletter I am working on. The editor wants the writing to be short and sweet, accompanied by lots of graphics. Sure, it is frustrating to have my work returned to be changed. But, wow, it is a challenge too! And it is cool to learn to write more concisely and precisely. And even to learn a “new to me” way to communicate with my writing by incorporating those little graphics, silly as they seemed to me at first. (I’ve also enjoyed taking notes at meetings, too, listening and rising to the challenge of putting down what was said in discussion by a lot of different people in a way that covers all the viewpoints, is accurate, is easy to understand… and has to be done on the spot!).

Maybe I have found my “administrative” tasks frustrating because they have been short-term, basically easy and repetitive tasks. Changing the church filing system, setting up the library, filling-in-the-blanks on the church bulletin. I’m not even sure that they are administrative at all. It is pretty boring clerical it seems to me. It was kind of fun to decide how to re-do the filing system, but the doing was pretty routine “been there, done that… many times” and then it was done. The library? The system was pretty much in place. Sure, I did some fine-tuning, put some books in more appropriate sections, added the new books in, but again, it was pretty much clerical. Now, just carding and reshelving and adding a few new books now and then. Anybody could do that with just a tad of training.

I loved running a school library. Sure I did the aforementioned stuff (from time to time; mostly I had a library clerk who liked that stuff, thank goodness). But the only really interesting part in the church library, was checking each book to see if it was in an appropriate section, and if not, to decide under what topic it should go. In the school libraries I got to oversee the whole system, look to see what was there, talk to teachers and students and administrators and look at curriculum guides and consider the budget. And then decide what we should purchase and what we should weed. Then I got to find the best deals from different distributors and publishers, order the books, open the boxes of lovely new books, do the cataloging. I got to plan across-the-curriculum projects, getting a whole group of teachers working together. I got to design library-use lessons and teach them. I got to do book talks. I got to help students and teachers with research. The fact is, I got to administrate! I worked with a team (teachers, principal, students, even parents, plus my clerical aide and library club students). I delegated responsibility, but I truly got to organize, plan, pull it together, keep in on-track, keep fine tuning. It was fun, it was a challenge, it was invigorating. I loved it. I was passionate about it. So maybe the “administration” I’ve been doing at church isn’t administration at all, just delegated little assignments. Yes, I know, “if you are faithful in the small things…” Maybe I’m just impatient. But it seems like there are already so many people in our church body who are truly administrators….

"Need for Approval"

I have always had this huge “need for approval” both from people and from God. with the need for approval from people, I would end up telling lies or at best half-truths (which are of course lies) to make myself look good. I would say “yes” to whatever people would ask me to do, so they would like or love me. If I didn’t meet their expectations, I would accept their put-downs and apologize profusely and try harder. And begin to believe more and more that I was stupid, inept, ugly, hopeless etc. (which totally negated the approval I sought). I would work harder and harder, and do more and more, and end up burning out and not doing a good job on anything, and being really useless. And the amazing thing is that I’ve sought approval from God in the same way. I just try harder and harder and accept more and more assignments of a so-called godly nature. And I come up feeling empty, burned out, frustrated. And farther and farther away from the God I’m seeking to get close to. It’s like I always feel I have to earn love. I have an idea where some of that may have developed when I was young, but at its basic level, it is lack of trust in God, not truly understanding my real position in Christ, and accepting the whisper campaign, the lies, of the devil, the enemy.

"Listening,Trusting, Obeying, Making Godly Decisions In His Will"

The pastor said on Sunday that we have to find and know our assignment and do our task within in. I’m still not clear on that. I had really gotten to the point lately of saying, “I’ll just stop trying to figure it all out; I’ll just walk step by step, and do each thing the Lord sends my way, and it will be His voice because He is in control.” But that is only a half-truth. For one thing, there are 3 voices in my head: God’s, mine, and the enemy’s. And I have to listen really, really carefully, and study God’s word, and pray and get to know Him, so that I can clearly recognize which voice is His (yes, the “still, small voice”… but the enemy loves to imitate, and I don’t listen so well… much as I don’t listen so well to my husband because I’m already busy charging down my own path).

And then, yes, God is in control, yes He does allow bad things to happen and then works them out to His good and His glory… but He has also given me a brain to think, and a heart to know and love Him, and He expects me to grow up and use them to make the right, godly decisions that He wills for me. If I am listening and obeying, even though I am “making the choice,” it is still His will because it came from Him. But if I’m not right there totally loving, and knowing, and obeying, and trusting Him, no matter how good my decisions seem to be, they are still “my” decisions. And even if in that case I happen to choose the same thing God has planned, it is still “my work,” “my way.” And He cannot bless it and use it to His glory and might and power. Oh, He might bring “some good” out of it (or He might have to totally destroy it to try and get my attention), but the result will never be the real power and glory of God I would have experienced if I was truly in His will.

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