Thursday, May 27, 2010

I'm Putting My Foot Down

A couple of days ago I was on a morning walk when a dachshund came running out from between two cars, barking up a storm. I saw right away that he didn't have a leash, so I assumed he must have gotten out of his owner's yard. My first impulse was to simply ignore the little guy -- I mean, it was just a weener dog, after all. I walked on a few steps, meticulously avoiding eye contact, but that dog only got louder as he advanced further into the street.

I thought about kneeling down to see if the crazy canine wanted to make friends. I'm usually pretty good at that, having learned long ago that you just put out your down-turned hand and wait for them to come and sniff at their leisure. But by then he was growling like a surly teenager and didn't look at all like he cared to make my acquaintance. I could just see myself in an emergency room trying to explain how I got bit in the hand by someone's precious little pet.

It occurred to me to just keep walking and talk nicely with a calm voice, so I said something to the effect that I knew he was a good dog and his owner was going to miss him, so he needed to go home now. Apparently he didn't agree, because he came within a couple of feet, his whole body shaking as he barked angrily away.

Now all this happened in less than a minute's time, but I knew I had to do something quick or I wasn't going to win against this ferocious animal, so without even thinking I stopped in my tracks, looked him straight in the eye, stomped my foot and yelled at the top of my lungs: "You go home NOW."

Would you believe that dog immediately turned tail and ran like the dickens back into his own yard? Now I know where they got that saying, "all bark and no bite."

So this morning as I was praying about an area of struggle in my life, the memory of that dog came to mind. (God has always seemed to enjoy teaching me deep spiritual truths from my most inane life adventures and this was no exception.) As I waited before the Lord, it occurred to me that when it comes to certain besetting sins or strongholds, I will try everything under the sun to rid myself of them. I'll ignore them as long as I can, and when that doesn't work, I'll befriend them, trying to see their insidious effects in a more positive light. I'll hem and haw and justify and reason with myself until I'm blue in the face, but in the end, of course, none of this works.

Worst of all, I am clueless to the fact that this thing, whatever it might be, is at best slowing me down, and at worst stopping me completely from going forward in my spiritual journey. If truth be told, when it comes to dealing with my stuff -- whether sin or simply weakness -- there is always going to be a time when I'll have to get good and mad, put my foot down, and say 'enough is enough!' Anything else simply won't get me where I need to go.

So that's what I'm doing today--I'm looking at an area of weakness, as well as the evil one who capitalizes on it, and I'm stomping my feet and saying, "It's over", with all the authority I can muster in the power of God's Spirit! I'm not foolish enough to think the battle will be won quite as easily as my encounter with that dachshund, but I really do believe that greater victory is within reach as I continue to stand my ground.

Stay tuned -- I'll keep you posted on my progress. Meanwhile, watch out for menacing muts, who think they're 'all that'.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Grace is a River

Growing up in the church, I heard a lot about grace but to be honest, I never really got it.  I knew that it meant 'unmerited favor', which basically reminded me that Jesus had saved me out of the goodness of His own heart and not because of anything in me.  This is true.  But what I didn't understand for years was that grace is not only the favor of God in redeeming me, but also His kindness in giving me the ability -- the power and strength and motivation -- to live out my life as a Christ follower.  Once I really saw this, grace became my lifeline and took on a beauty in my heart that I am hard pressed to even explain.

So yesterday I was re-reading Brother Lawrence's The Practice of the Presence of God and something he wrote literally upended my day.  It read:
But when He finds a soul penetrated with a lively faith, He pours into it His grace and favors plentifully.  There they flow like a torrent, which, after being forcibly stopped against its ordinary course, when it has found a passage, spreads itself with impetuosity and abundance.
Suddenly I envisioned grace as a river, flooding into my soul, looking for places to run.  I was overcome with that image of an impetuous force, determined to break down every barrier so that it can go where it wants to go.  I know that there is debris in my heart that can hinder the flow -- things like indifference or unbelief or worldliness or sinful practices -- but still this torrent presses relentlessly and I feel the weight of it.   Grace, it seems, will find a way.

Grace is a river, a mighty rushing river looking for places to run in me.  I feel as if I ought to be able to burst out in song here!  Do you see?  Instead of God's favor or enabling power being something He waits on high to pour out until I ask, or get my ducks in a row, His grace is just there, pulsing through my heart, pressing against every obstacle.  And the simplest of acts -- things like a word of faith, a small turning, a moment of worship, a whisper of love, or a cry for help -- will release the flow into yet another tributary.

Amazing grace!  May we bow in wonder as it surges through our souls.