To Get Better at Listening, Listen

According to Oswald Chambers, chastening is an invitation to listen.

Has the voice of God come to you directly? If it has, you cannot mistake the intimate insistence with which it has spoken to you in the language you know best, not through your ears, but through your circumstances.

In small and ginormous ways I have interfered with God’s purpose in and for my life by doing some fuzzy ‘simultaneous translation’. It happens like this: I hear, “Follow Me”, and I immediately translate that into action – the phone call or comment or purchase I’ve been longing to make. Inevitably, disaster on one scale or another results. The impulse may have been benign but the end of the thing was bitter – not better, because I did not wait on God to reveal the exact context or precise steps He intended for my following.

Making New Choices

“Before we choose to follow God’s will, a crisis must develop in our lives,” writes Oswald Chambers in today’s devotional. Why should that be necessary?

Answer: Christ Jesus’ death and resurrection would likewise be pointless were we not THAT messed up by original sin – the false notion that we have life and purpose apart from the One Who created us all. Making the same mistake over and over again is not too original after all.

One Master Must Die, One Already Has

We cannot serve two masters – God and self. (See My Utmost For His Highest December 14th.) Difficulty and confusion result. True repentance is not wishing you’d done otherwise because of the difficulties you encountered walking in the wrong direction. Godly sorrow,(See 2 Corinthians 7:10 and My Utmost For His Highest December 7th.) sincere repentance, comes with the realization that we have grieved the very Son of God who gave His life to reconnect us with One for whom the sin of self makes us utterly unworthy. True repentance acknowledges and turns from self-will and self-justification with a heart broken in a thousand pieces that will never fit together again in the same way. The only sacrifice worthy of Jesus’ blood is that of self and is made hourly. Living sacrifices make the journey through to identification with bleeding steps until there is only one blood remains.

NaNoWriMo 7

After a particularly fertile conversation with Jesus this morning and after jotting notes on the new title He suggested, it becomes obvious that sections of my notes from the third chapter of the Gospel according to John and Oswald Chambers can do triple duty today serving by turns as blog, NaNoWriMo and catalyst for today’s lesson plan. Writing now, after class, I determine to post (instead of the paragraphs I received as my students worked their freewriting on a fitting tribute to veterans into five paragraphs using a particular rhetorical pattern) the steps I took to get us all writing in the vacuum created by the missing team of teachers due to present today.

Still feeling hopeful at 7 minutes into the hour with only five students present, I post the freewriting topic, set a 10-minute alarm on my phone, and head downstairs to collect and cut the feedback forms I printed in the English Department office in case any of the team members decide to attend and present. Due to budget cuts (right) I am asked to print downstairs instead of at the communal printer in the suite of offices I share with Health Sciences faculty.

By the time I return, no additional students have joined the class. The following paragraph is what write in the remaining few minutes.

I think the only fitting tribute to veterans would be an end to war of all kinds. But how can we end such aggressions when we can’t even stop self-sabotage. The truest phrase in this circumstance is hurting people hurt people and that’s exactly what we see on the playground, in the classroom, in congress and on the battlefield. Is the hurt real or imagined and either way is it worth killing for? The best revolution is one that makes life worth living. Quality of life matters.

When students have submitted their word counts (180/236/110/223/?) I ask them what they wrote about. They answer variously:
They are not really taken seriously.
You see a lot of homeless veterans which is pretty upsetting.
I think we should have a parade. (2)
I think we should appreciate what we have more. They’d probably like it.

Then I ask what they know about arguments and college writing. When the first response is, “you don’t always win arguments”, I decide to try another tack. What do you know or remember about rhetorical patterns or types of arguments. Again, I draw a blank or five. I start again by saying perhaps they’re no longer teaching patterns in high school but maybe you’ve heard of Comparison / Contrast. As soon as the words leave my mouth I am full of regret. If nothing else, that’s one mode I’m sure they would have guessed successfully had I left it on the tree as low-hanging fruit. Wincing internally, I continue soliciting responses and working with whatever comes my way.
Evaluation? Well, yes, evaluation is part of each type of writing but most present in a pattern called Division and Classification. I give discuss types of engines or footwear by way of example. One student, usually silent and hooded in the last row, stops texting and says I’d win if the essay were on shoes. I forge ahead, encouraging even this one.
When the next and following students suggest tentatively, freewriting and revising, as patterns, I say, these are parts of any writing process but not the patterns we use when developing paragraphs. Noting the abstract grows more abstract by the minute, I list a few more rhetorical modes and ask each student to select one the better to make things concrete. We are going to get as close to five paragraphs using the selected pattern as we can in five minutes. By way of encouragement, I give an infomercial for NaNoWriMo so I can share the Leonard Bernstein quote: To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan, and not quite enough time.”
Two students select Comparison and Contrast. Another two select Cause and Effect. One chooses Division and Classification and I choose Narration, set the timer for five minutes and begin typing with the picture muted so as not to disturb them.

Consequences of Unconfessed Sin

Women’s Ministry, led by Sister Dr. Mary L. House, met before Bible Study last night and gave us homework. We were invited to study Hagar’s story, respond to the questions on a handout regarding past hurts, confess and pray. As I took a first pass at the exercise this morning, I was shaken by my answers to the question regarding consequences of unconfessed sins. Feel free to add to this list.

  • Repeat offenses
  • Stalled growth
  • Restlessness
  • Depression
  • Failure to thrive and prosper
  • Barreness
  • Limited thinking
  • Unharvested fruit
  • Fear
  • Loss
  • Bad choices
  • Distance in relationship to Jesus

But thanks to His grace and mercy, all such things can lead to brokenheartedness that leads to new relationship with Jesus! Oswald Chambers reminds us that while obeying Jesus is our spiritual destiny fulfilling it is our choice. Mind the gap between the “If…” of Luke 9:23 and John 14:15.

The Lord does not give me rules, He makes His standard very clear, and if my relationship to Him is that of love, I will do what He says without any hesitation. If I hesitate, it is because I love some one else in competition with Him, viz., myself. Jesus Christ will not help me to obey Him, I must obey Him; and when I do obey Him, I fulfil my spiritual destiny. Oswald Chambers


Matthew 9:28: Mission Possible – Believe

Hosea 12:6 in the King James Version reads:

Therefore turn thou to thy God: keep mercy and judgment, and wait on thy God continually.

Matthew Henry’s Concise commentary on the Bible about the surrounding verses enjoins us, “Let us wrestle with Him for promised blessings, determined not to give up until we prevail; and let us seek Him in His ordinances” (MHC 12:1-6). This a wake up call to be sure and requires ‘limitless confidence’.

It is also confirmation of Pastor House’s message regarding Deuteronomy 2:3 at last night’s Bible Study. 

How else are we to go and disciple nations if we are not similarly disciplined? Right relationship, not successful service is, says Oswald Chambers in the devotional for October 27th, “the great secret joy” that comes of right ‘being’. Right being is the service we render daily or not at all as partial obedience is disobedience.

Turning this corner, and the next, going up higher with new expectation each day, will require courage. Yet God’s Word is true: Hope maketh not ashamed. We can walk in such authority, waiting patiently for His favor to open doors for us, allowing Him to bless ‘all the works of our hands’ (Deut 2:7).

Experiencing God

It is an awesome thing to have an encounter with God. Foundations shake. Emotional and psychological furniture is permanently rearranged and we are forever changed. The G.L.O.W. conference this weekend focused on experiencing the faith, hope, love, joy and peace of God. It’s aftermath rocked my world and the blessings are pouring forth faster than I can record them. Everything seems so much clearer, simpler and elemental now. I was sorely tried and purified by The Refiner’s fire. I am a living witness of what Oswald Chambers writes in today’s devotional:

Obey God in the thing He shows you, and instantly the next thing is opened up. One reads tomes on the work of the Holy Spirit, when one five minutes of drastic obedience would make things as clear as a sunbeam. “I suppose I shall understand these things some day!” You can understand them now. It is not study that does it, but obedience.

I pray that I can remain mindful of this lesson and pause, wait on God, to make every little and big decision for the rest of my life. The resulting clarity spilled over into my home life and college classroom. Today’s discussant invited us to select one of Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits and write about its influence on our lives. Highlights from what students said are recorded below.

Habit three: Put 1st things 1st I get distracted.
It’s my best and worst one.
I have to leave my house to get work done.
Fifth Habit: Seek to Understand, then 2B Understood It’s the one I’m good at except when I’m at home. They [my kids] have to understand me first.
Habit 3 I wait to the last minute to do things like my homework.
Habit 6: Synergize The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I like that quote. I put that on my FB.
Habit 3 Once I do it, I’m in the zone until I take a break or get distracted again.
Getting started and staying focused is most of our challenge.
Motivation is needed. We don’t always see how things are going to come together the way we hope.
I’m going to let my friend(s) know that my schoolwork comes first before anything.

What I wrote about the 3rd Habit: Put First Things First will no doubt form the foundation of the teaching philosophy I was asked to summarize by a publisher’s representative last week. Below is an excerpt of the day’s freewriting.

In my classes, I try to embody the priorities that I think most effective so each class we begin with the individual (freewriting allows us to connect with ourselves and, if the topic lends itself, to the subject and class experience we endeavor to share). Then we move to community – and have a group discussion led by a peer. It’s not led the instructor because it’s OUR class and I am the guide unleashing initiative and imagination so others make take increasing charge of their thoughts and lives and succeed here and in whatever situation life presents. As  guide, I am charged with thinking about the whole until each member of the class can take turns thinking effectively about the whole. Then we move to action. This is where we measure how successful we have been in our attempts to apply the content of our lessons in homework, assignments and in class exercises. Having invited ourselves to enter the moment authentically through freewriting, and used the thinking of others to polish our own during class discussion, we enter the realm of application and move from theory to practice. On a good day this is what happens. Today was a good day.

When You Carom Off the Learning Curve

I have grown increasingly grateful for the dips and turns of the steep learning curve I’ve been on for the past few years. It does seem however, this weekend, that the culmination (okay, this particular bend in the road) has been more painful than all the previous ones combined. Or, as I imagined just moments ago, it appears that the perfect storm of finding a new home for my puppy, the change in address, and hubby’s medical and work-related events have made it possible me to feel all the great losses of the recent past, all at once.

Yesterday, when capsize seemed imminent, prayer partner to the rescue, we righted the wreck and like Paul, got to shore, by whatever means available. Praying like your life depends on it has its benefits. First, one realizes how true the need to pray without ceasing is and how powerful the prayer to be more real is when the answer comes rolling in like a flood. Second, facing the death not only of loved ones and cherished perspectives, but of the person you understood yourself to be leaves one free of earth-weights that no longer serve. Third, Oswald Chambers sums up the ultimate benefit thus:

“All God’s revelations are sealed until they are opened to us by obedience.”

Built To Outlast The Drama

Pastor House brought a word from Psalms 34:18-19 and Acts 17:6 this morning after Senior Eagles ministered in psalm and dance. He mentioned Paul Tillich‘s writings on the necessary balance between courage and fear. Courage, Pastor said, is after all the readiness to take on the challenge our fear has identified. 
He then offered the following talents possessed by all great leaders.

  • forward thinking
  • self-motivation
  • creativity

The Adult Sunday School lesson was also on God’s Call to New Levels of Leadership. In it we were reminded that “we bear the responsibility to discover and fulfill God’s purpose in our lives” through listening that comes only through intimate relationship with Jesus.

Faithfulness is another essential quality of a good leader. In which area of your life are you going to be more faithful this week?

After exaltation on the mountaintop comes the valley of humiliation, writes Oswald Chambers, it is there, in the valley, “where our faithfulness is revealed.

To Conquer Spiritual Selfishness

Abandon that craving for mountaintop experiences. Oswald Chambers’ devotional for today reminds us we were built for the valley.

We are built for the valley, for the ordinary stuff we are in, and that is where we have to prove our mettle. Spiritual selfishness always wants repeated moments on the mount.

Once we reconcile ourselves to the reality that we are called to witness and to live in the valley as living epistles, all becomes clear: Each life circumstance is designed to make, not teach, us something essential – how to be the embodiment of the Christ we say we love.