Friday, June 20, 2008

Day Nineteen: To get over the bar, we can't sneak under it...

"I ain't settling for just getting by
I've had enough so-so for the rest of my life
Tired of shooting to low, so raise the bar high
Cause enough ain't enough this time."
--Sugarland

I want to start today by saying how proud I am of you guys! This is hard, what we're doing, and I love the fact that you're not only hanging in and pushing through, but you're also cheering each other on in the comments section, offering encouragement and saying, "Don't settle! We can do this!"

Amen to that.

THIS is, I think, why God wants us to pursue him together, why following Jesus is a team sport. We're not alone in seeking him for big things that feel impossibly far away; we're not the only ones out on this precarious ledge of hope, wondering if we'll fall or fly. Somehow, it helps to know this.

Today's reading is a doozey. Acts 5 kicks off with two people lying to God because they want to look good to the people around them, and the consequences are pretty high. It's tempting to look at this story as a threat that we have to give up everything that matters to us to be okay with God, but I think that's a red herring. What I actually think this suggests is much simpler: don't lie. Don't say you're "fine" when you're struggling; don't say you're sponsoring 14 kids at an orphanage in Brazil if you're not; don't say you own your house if you rent. Jesus' friend John warned that we'd be tempted to boast of what we have and what we do, but that this urge is not from God; it leads us off the path of his best for us.

But after this warning, it's back to the miracles: the apostles are put in jail, but set free by an angel. That's a pretty cool reminder that God has ways of getting us out of bad situations that go beyond what we can dream up. It's around this time, seeing all of these things happen, that a guy named Gamaliel makes a wise observation: "If their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourself fighting against God."

Have you noticed how things of human origin fail? I'm thinking of diet fads, self-help suggestions, even the some of the things I read in the latest issue of my favorite women's magazine that make me cringe and think, "Actually, that's terrible advice..."

I feel like a point I keep coming back to in my life is how important it is for us to look at the lives of the people we're following. Not just their bank accounts, or that they have the power to attract media attention (although both of those are fun things to have). God keeps telling me: Look at the structure. Look at the life they come home to at the end of the day: their relationships, their sense of themselves. Are they miserable, always casting about in the hope things might be different, or they do they have that peace and grace that shines through when someone is connected with God's Holy Spirit?

This is, I suspect, part of not settling. We don't have to run down every path that presents itself. We can stop and ask God for direction and discernment, saying specifically, "Don't let me settle, God...I want your best..."

Here's to not settling. I'm pretty sure this is where the exceeded expectations hang out :)

14 comments:

Accidental Admin. said...

I'm with you on not settling.

Though it's no surprise--given the nature of my comments--I wouldn't know if it was God talking to me last night or what. However, I was at work late finishing up some stuff that's tedious and frustrating, and I was getting ready to go home for the evening. I was talking the only way I can imagine talking to God, just rambling and informally and as honestly as if I were talking to one of my best friends. I asked what he really wants from me, what he wants *for* me in my life, how I would recognize it.

As I was coming out of the bathroom, an understanding came to me--the little voice in my head (me? God? I don't know)--that said something along the lines of this: just trust the idea that all of the things that have come together in your life in the last year are above and beyond "coincidence" or something you can easily and poetically wrap into words. Trust that it all has a purpose, that it all has a direction. And never let your frantic desire come above and beyond that trust. Because that direction you are headed in--that trajectory of Things Actually Working Out Despite The Odds--will lead you on the path of your TRUE desire.

There were more specifics than that, more details, but whatever. You get the idea. I don't know how to assign that voice, how to name it. But I do think that I have to trust that I shouldn't frantically seek out a name for it. I should just be patient and see how thigns unfold.

And for the first time, I am beginning to think that having faith and trusting--both the tangible presences (other people) and the intangible (God?)--are linked somehow to finding a peacefulness inside myself that I don't quite know how to articulate, other than saying that it's something pretty big and that has been lacking.

Natasha said...

Yes I shall not settle for anything less than God's best!

ForstRose said...

Admin,

I applaud you for being open to that nudge even though you don't know if it is God.

I've been around religion for a long time and had a relationship with God for several years and I still don't always know when what I sense is His direction and worse sometimes don't even "hear" it at all. One thing I do if I am not sure is to go back to His Word (the Bible) if something is not from Him chances are it either twists scripture so it sounds like it is accurate or it directly contradicts the scripture. If it is from Him whatever form it takes He will not contradict Himself in any fashion.

As to my checking in for today:
I started out rather slow and didn't really make much effort to keep up to date with the entries though I did come back when I had the time to play catch up. Some things are starting to manifest and move that I never expected or included in my requests I posted at the beginning, however I am realizing that these things are stepping stones to where I want to be and are equipping me to deepen my relationship with the Lord in a way that it has never been in all my years as His child. I have been stagnating because I allowed myself to and it is time to stop digging in and let Him move things forward even if it feels like I am not ready when the steps are presented.

While I hate the not knowing what will eventually happen or how things will turn out in the long run I should know by now that I would likely run the other way if I knew where he was taking me beyond what is directly in front of me at the moment and as such I should be grateful that He only gives me the steps for now so that I don't run and miss out (well at least not for too long anyway - as I do still have my Jonah moments even for the little stuff sometimes).

Melissa

Kim said...

I'm with you. Not settling, not sneaking under the bar, and trying not to lie (even to myself).

Patti said...

since i have accepted this challenge, i have struggled. yesterday was a full out war. but, as with all the events in my life that have led to significant and blessed change, struggle is to be expected. and embraced.

there are forces that wish us harm, that want us to believe we aren't good enough or strong enough to be in God's light, to accept what He wants for us. i know my struggle will fade once i am within that light fully, and i walk in faith when i want to say more, or be more, that God is hearing the cries of my heart and He cares more than i can hope to imagine.

all is well...

Lisa said...

Everyone, you are all so amazing. I'm finding myself relating to so many of the things you are going through. My struggle is to consistently pray and give God a chance to respond. I struggle to believe he wants to bless me in the areas of my desires. I long to be able to "hear" God readily, but at the same time fear it because of my own Jonah nature. I struggle with disappointment and frustration when I can't "connect" with God.

I received prayer recently and the person who prayed said that frustration, fear, & anger was a block to connection. But I don't know how not to be frustrated. I want God and I feel like he's so remote, that's frustrating. The pray-er also said that the blessing will come in the waiting on God. I'm hoping I can learn to wait on God well.

Larramie said...

Why lie? Isn't it the TRUTH that sets us free?

the teacher said...

i figured something out. i keep a prayer journal, but i haven't been using it to the fullest. i have been using it like a journal and i write prayers in it so i don't forget. last night i starting writing in it like i was talking to God. (thanks for the idea from your talk Trish). i wrote something about needing a little bit of a boost and support. i closed my eyes and it just came to my mind "it's coming". i sat there for a little bit and i felt these words "be patient". it was an amazing feeling. i feel like i have just been doing the minimal in my new prayer life (which seemed okay because it was more than before)...but it can be even better!

i completely agree and know i was NEVER settle, but i just need some help until that time comes. the reading today really got to me when it said that things from humans don't work and don't fight against God. i need to stop using others as examples. i expect a lot out of myself and i only want it to it God's way. i refuse to take the short cut. :) thanks for the reminder!!!

Liza said...

I'm with you on not settling too! I will wait for what is best from God!

heiress said...
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heiress said...

It is easy to shrug this 40 days of Faith off and say never mind its day nineteen and nothing big has happened yet. But, I do know that God wants to see us persevere and make it to the end, and I live everyday with expectancy and I believe great things are definitely in the making. I will not settle because I do want to receive God's best for my life and for all of us here showing up and sticking through this together.

Sarakastic said...

I love reading all of the comments here. My 19 days of faith has been filled with various struggles " & then I come here & read everything & am inspired to keep going.

Mary said...

Amen to that!

leisel16 said...

i feel a little alone and behind as i am working my way through the 40 days. i wish i had read trish's book sooner and known about this adventure sooner. i have to keep reminding myself that God's timing is perfect and there is a reason even in this. i am hoping forward that you all came to some amazing places in the second half. i know i will need the encouragement of your comments as i continue.