Incidentally, it’s good that whatever inspiration legacy I may be creating is in typewritten form, here on this blog and elsewhere, because nobody could be prevailed upon to decipher my handwritten chicken scratch. Nevertheless, I believe that one’s “gut” and hasty jottings made during a wave of conviction and awareness create a record with some intrinsic value. So, I’m sharing this example:
On again, off again
In at least one previous post this season, I have referenced the Lenten Devotional Guide provided by Dawson Family of Faith and still available here. The April 6 message, “Following at a Distance,” convicted me big time. Like mine, have your daily Bible reading efforts left an on again, off again footprint?
Decades ago a notebook was in circulation, called 2959. The idea was to provide a format for a consistent, daily, 30-minute (minus one second) devotional time divided between Bible reading and prayer. I had a copy of that notebook. It has long since gone by the wayside with perhaps a dozen similar devices, efforts, resources, and good intentions. One of these neglected resources is still around, though. It’s called The ONE YEAR Bible. Published by Tyndall House in 1986, it has a red cover.
Let me run down some of the statements in Mr. Ty Arendall’s Lenten reflection that got me underlining in my copy of this 2020 Lenten resource and then reaching for that red Bible:
A. “We rely on ourselves too much until times get tough.”
B. “We often fail to do many of the things that would protect us in times of trial” – those actions being prayer, Scripture reading, and worship – disciplines that will guard and protect us with spiritual armor, but we don’t make those actions a high-enough priority in our “busy” lives.
C. Peter (the disciple who “followed at a distance” after Jesus’ arrest) “spent every day with Jesus, yet still fell victim to pride and over-confidence.”
D. “If we don’t anchor our hearts and minds…we, like Peter, can be easily swept away and overcome.”
A. Self-reliance. I could write a whole lot on this topic as I have done on other occasions, but I’ll attempt to keep it short. I know a great deal about falling into this particular trap. Who doesn’t? Maybe self-reliance is the true “thorn” in most believers’ sides. If you have time for a side trip, please read about the self-reliance trap in both fact and fiction here.
B. Priority: investing in what will protect us. This is the real entry point of my personal response on today’s topic. I have a responsibility in this, and I have a choice whether and how to fulfill that Christian responsibility. Go again to the first verses of Psalm 119 to review the attitude and actions of one truly committed to God! I think the aspect most of us miss here is the benefit we’re robbing ourselves of in our laziness. “I don’t need that armor; I’ve got this,” is basically what we’re saying by our failure to set aside even 30 minutes a day to obtain spiritual sustenance. We simply don’t understand how essential it is. Because Facebook is more fun. Because retro TV shows are just so good! And on and on. My lastest thought on this is simply, “Do it first, or count on not doing it at all.” P.R.I.O.R.I.T.Y. Period.
C. Pride and over-confidence. From Jane Austen to “the seven deadly sins” to Proverbs 16:18, it’s clear that pride is a real, daily pitfall. Pride can sometimes lead “thinking” folk to decide there is no God. It’s what blinds both unredeemed and “faithing” folk to the sin in their imbedded attitudes about superiority and about probable admittance into heaven. As for over-confidence in general, isn’t it an interesting paradox that many of us develop what air of confidence we portray to others as a compensation for a debilitating lack of personal security and confidence that likely started in our early years? Whose path hasn’t been strewn with experiences of self-consciousness, embarrassment, timidity, and a sense of inferiority over against others’ looks and abilities? From self-reliance to comparison, I have been very intentional as my fictional characters in No Doubt It’s Love exemplify some needed enlightenment!
D. Anchor. The anchor is a frequently-used metaphor for very good reason. It holds in place. It centers. It prevents detachment and resulting loss (loss that’s potentially death). So, why do we refuse to anchor spiritually though so frequently admonished – commanded – to do so? Or, why do we anchor our very souls to the wrong things, building our houses upon sand rather than upon rock? (to mix in another metaphor, one that ought to resonate clearly here in the tornado belt as we’re being warned of severe weather potential even on Easter Sunday, two days from now)
Joshua 1:2 in The ONE YEAR Bible
“Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them.” On April 6 after I read the Lenten reflection “Following at a Distance,” I went to our “one year” Bible on the coffee table and began with a new surge of good intention, admitting for the manyeth time that I had no excuse for neglecting the practice of daily Bible reading. On the same day I began a handwritten record of “Bible Bits & Bites” to capture the words I found to pack particular punch each day. I posted one of those jottings on Facebook on April 7 because it was so relevant to the pandemic in which we’re all currently immersed:
One technology tool I’ve found useful in my renewed Bible reading practice is Bible Gateway’s Audio Bible function. To read the words on the page with my eyes, while also listening to a reader read them in the same version (NIV in this case), makes a double impression, and I admit with sheer human frailty that the audio helps me to push through passages I might otherwise easily get distracted from or find – dare I say it? – boring. #Numbers #Deuteronomy [face emoticon with gritted teeth]
Ready to cross
In summary, shall we neglect what’s so clearly given and available to help us to be ready?
- Ready not to overreact next time the spouse seems to be asking for a snooty retort (that happened to me in the grocery store yesterday and I failed the test).
- Ready to speak with comfort to an e-mail contact who knows someone who has tested positive for coronavirus.
- Ready to advise and to console a child who had an upsetting experience at school or at work.
- Ready, because we could be the one Jesus was speaking to: “tonight your soul will be required of you” (Luke 12:20); “you know not when the master will return” (Mark 13:35).
- Ready to cross over whatever “River Jordan” God has led us to, in order that we may arrive at our next place or season of service.
Ready to cross
over. I will leave it here, succumbing to the trendy jargonizing I don’t naturally prefer. We’ve made verbs of journal (to keep a journal) and of faith (to live as one relying on the Lord).
We already know cross as a transitive verb: cross the street; cross the river. Now, I’m offering it as an intransitive verb. On this Good Friday, am I ready to cross (to embrace His cross; to take up mine)? As the Church, are we “crossing” well in these critical days?