Spirit wisdom

Sometimes God’s voice is misunderstood.

And from your stories, I know you know the other half of this truth.

Sometimes God’s voice is unmistakable.

Confession: I am crying now because this is the part that feels too big for my small fingers to type. The Lord Jesus has given us His Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is perhaps one of the most abused, most misunderstood, most desired, most sidelined parts of our theology. I cannot teach you on him; but I ask you to open yourself to his teaching of himself. From the stories you told me here, I can tell that you already are doing so; they are beautiful.

If you belong to Jesus, you have access to the wisdom of the Holy Spirit.

1 John 5:6-10 He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself. – It is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.

Romans 8:9, 14-16 Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.

The Holy Spirit empowers.

Hebrews 10:14-17 For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for… This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.

The Holy Spirit purifies.

John 16:7-15 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment… I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.

The Holy Spirit speaks: reproving, guiding, and revealing.

John 14:25-26 These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

The Holy Spirit comforts and teaches.

1 Corinthians 2:9-12 As it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? Even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.

The Holy Spirit enables us to know and to speak the hidden wisdom of God.

The Holy Spirit moves within the mind of God,

and within the heart of his people:

a divine intercourse.

I John 2:20, 27 But ye [an Old English plural pronoun] have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things… But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.

The Holy Spirit is given not only to an individual,

but to a collected body in which he dwells.

2 Peter 1:2-4 His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature.

Together, we are given by him everything we need. Everything!

Sometimes God’s voice is unmistakable.

*****

So why don’t we hear Him always? More next time.

Further reading: The Forgotten God: Reversing our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit, by Francis Chan

Uncertainty

“To this man will I look,

even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit,

and trembleth at my word.” Isaiah 66:2

I remember being a little girl, wondering when I would hear God speak. Would he speak out loud? What if I missed him? What if he asked me to do something really weird and embarrassing as a test of faith—stand up and prophesy Quite Suddenly in the middle of church or something?

My dad said that it took time to learn to recognize his voice.

Learning to hear God is a journey.

As I grew older, I found that people “hear God say things” that don’t come true. I had one single friend tell me that she knew how many children she’d have and what their names were going to be, because God had told her. I had another friend tell me she had felt quite certain God told her something wasn’t going to happen; when it did, she confessed her faith took a serious hit.

I couldn’t understand this, and it worried me. What were they hearing?

Did people understand the words of Jesus when he walked here? I ask you.

He spoke them out loud, with an audible voice and clear pronunciation in the language they knew well. He spoke to crowds of people who could have corroborated the account, and to a few close friends who could have understood him in context. Over and over and over, they got it wrong.

–They thought he was going to set up an immediate kingdom on earth (Acts 1:6-8)–

–They thought he was talking about not bringing any bread (Matt 16:5-12)–

–They thought he said he’d destroy Herod’s Temple and rebuild it in three days (John 2:18-22)–

–They took him to mean that Lazarus was sleeping, not dead (John 11:11-14)–

–They were offended at his talk of eating his flesh and drinking his blood (John 6:51-66)–

–And sometimes he wrapped truth in parables to mix things up, so that only those would understand who were supposed to understand (Mark 4:9-12).

His parents didn’t get him (Luke 2:49-50); the Jews didn’t get him (John 8:21-27); his closest friends had enormous blind spots.

“The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about.” (Luke 18:34)

Sometimes God’s voice is misunderstood.

Especially when it tangles with our longings.

*

How in the world? I thought. How in this world of godly predecessors setting broken track records am I ever going to be sure I hear Him right?

Green beans and good deeds

Did you know that I can hear what plants are saying?

This is one reason why I hate weeding (besides the fact that it is hard work): it feels cruel and unfair. I hate the sight of all those babies gasping and shriveling in the sun. When I prune I have to steel myself against the protest. Once when Ryan chopped off a big wild grapevine, the sight of that gaping, dripping stump was dreadful to me, like someone bleeding.

The other day I was out in my garden picking green beans. As I pulled the long straight pods, I was sure (quite sure) I heard the plants sighing with relief.

green beans 2013

Left alone, the beans would turn fat and woody, aging idly, sapping strength, corking the usefulness and life span of the plant. Removed, they cleared the way for fresh energy to surge into the blossoms and new beans coming on. The plant found it was still young. Productivity endured.

They were delighted to give; I was delighted to receive.

I thought to myself—this is how I should think of good deeds.

Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love… not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. (Romans 12:10-13)

Sometimes I get exhausted with my works, as though I have to produce enough of them to stretch around to the needs of all. Instead, I should be producing them because that is what I do—fueled by internal design, not external pressure. I am a bean plant. I make beans. And when someone comes along and picks them to enjoy, I can release them with a sigh of relief.

Whew. Thanks for taking that. I needed to cook a good meal for someone.

Ahh. Lovely. Thanks for giving me an opportunity to babysit. I’ve been growing that one quite a while.

Mmmmm. It feels good to stop in and visit you. I hope you are feeling better soon…

Thank you for letting me throw you a party! Now I can start cooking up the next one.

If you’re feeling useless and stuffed up, clear out some of the overripe projects, the things you’ve been meaning to do for others for a long time—or you’ll soon find you have stopped concocting the fresh.

And a little nontraditional advice, if I may–

Don’t get too bogged down examining your motives: you usually have several. If you can get them about 80% pure, just go with it, trusting to Jesus to iron out the rest. “Am I just doing it to make myself look good?” is not the end of the road you may think. For women who claim to be devoted to God should make themselves attractive by the good things they do. (I Timothy 2:10 NLT. Context here.)

For women who claim to be devoted to God should make themselves attractive by the good things they do. For women who claim to be devoted to God should make themselves attractive by the good things they do. For women who claim to be devoted to God should make themselves attractive by the good things they do.

*****

What do you think?

A case for glory

Hmm. Now some of you are talking about me being “up to” something… or coming to a “conclusion.” Don’t deceive yourselves. I am good at questions, not answers. Have I ever concluded anything before?

Also I feel frustrated in my attempts to keep from bringing in two subjects I wish to avoid: Complaining about My History and Campaigning for the Head Covering. When they sneak into this post, please know at least that I am aware they are there, and will shuttle them out again in due course.

*****

Confession: Sometimes I don’t think my long hair is a glory. Sometimes I think it’s a pain.

I wanted to know if I was alone, and I wasn’t. Not all of you said “frustrating” but many of you hinted at it, though the causes of your frustration may be different than mine. You said

coming and going—thin—wayward—dry—indecisive—falling out—coarse—unpredictable—frustrating—slippery—flat—straightened!—graying—frizzy—fluffy—fickle—work—pet peeve

I had a hunch I wasn’t alone.

Not that we’re all terribly frustrated with our hair! Quite the contrary. You also said

numbered by Him—glorious—long—beautiful—stretching to my fingertips—LOVE—fun to work with—highlighted—always liked—wavy—shiny—straight

Like me, you love your hair and are proud of it. For the most part. If only it weren’t so ___!!

We could say that about any part of our bodies, I suspect. We usually want them very much, just a little slimmer, or curvier, or longer, or bluer. But especially our hair. This thing that’s actually called our “glory” in the Bible… supposed to be glorious, one of you said, one who fought through to some answers on the other side of the frustration.

I have a feeling that most of you long-hair girls have long hair not only because you like long hair and think it’s pretty, but also because you were taught that this is what a woman should have. You grew up knowing that, and you would sooner whack off your arm than your mane.

But long hair comes at a cost. The men say it’s glorious and mysterious. (Paul was a man too, howbeit a single one.) They don’t have to deal with trying to find a decent way of arranging it that is simple and efficient and attractive (but not too attractive), brushing out the tangles, taking ten minutes for a good shampoo, and picking up strands all over the house. Correction: sometimes they do the latter—and they don’t think it’s glorious, do they?

You see we have this split: Theoretically, we know it’s glorious. The Bible says so. Our parents said so. Our husbands said so. And instinctively, we know it’s glorious. It’s lustrous and colorful and supple. But practically…!!

It takes time and effort to care for long hair well, and sometimes we are not sure if the effort is worth the results we are getting.

I will confess to you that I that I wash my hair as seldom as possible, I don’t brush it 100 strokes a day, I leave it pinned up almost 24/7, I feel frivolous and vain when I experiment with it, and I remove the straggly ends only with misgivings because when I was little my preacher said that “long” could only mean “as long as possible.”

I doubt nonparticipation is what Paul had in mind.

I suspect that one camp of us were taught to value the cover on our hair, and one camp of us were taught to value the glory of it, and very few of us know how to balance both. Speaking only for myself now—As soon as it’s covered, I lose interest in it. As soon as it’s glorious, I want to show it off.

I think we could care a little more about the glory.

I’m always amazed at Scripture’s way of placing value, and how what’s inside is of equal or greater importance than what’s outside. I’m not talking about radiant character, girls—stay with me. I’m talking about physical things covering physical things.

Like in the tabernacle, the richest of red cloths and embroidered cloths and linen cloths, covered all over by a dull, scruffy badgers’ skin. What was the point of all that beauty? Like in Solomon’s temple—a great throne of the purest ivory, completely overlaid with gold. Why didn’t he just build the base of plastic or somethin if he was going to hide it? That’s what we would do in the West, but the East was onto something, knew something true about the world–

Again, I’m not trying to preach a covering. I cover my long hair because I think it is too glorious to share with casual onlookers—as I cover the other most beautiful parts of me. It’s my refusal to wield power. But women who love Jesus have come out at many different places on this, and I respect them. I see in the text reason to differ—to read that her hair IS her covering, or that her covering was for that time or place… Bien. All I want to say is that

Covering my hair does not warrant disrespecting it.

Covering it does not give me license to wash it as little as possible, to ignore its stress, to laugh off its straggly ends, to keep it pinned up and veiled night and day. What does glory mean?

I suspect that many of us were taught about the cover, and not enough about the glory. We know how to put it up, by gum, but do we have any idea how to take it down?

Do we know how to care for it? How to treasure it? When you teach your daughter about pinning it up, do you also teach her how to arrange it prettily down? Or do you assume that when she gets to places of intimacy she’ll just know how to bring it out, how to display her glory and wield her power in the right place?

Teach her about the glory!

*****

The sayings of Shari on this topic are ended for now, but I hope to do a little learning in the coming month. I want to visit my library, chat with a few of you, experiment privately with some ideas for care and management… and tell you what I learn. You too?

All the work is through

Confession: After several years of profound deliberation, I have come to believe that the best approach to life is, after all, play.

When I was a mother of two, one a high energy two-year-old with incessant questions, the other a baby requiring nighttime feedings, endless diaper changes, and infinite patience, I came across a song that baffled me.

Based on Psalm 20:7, it sang

Some trust in horses
We trust in the Name of the Lord our God.
Some trust in chariots
We trust in the Name of the Lord our God…

His love never fails, His name will always prevail…

Some trust in the work they do
We trust in the Name of the Lord our God
‘Cause by His grace all the work is through
We trust in the Name of the Lord our God.

Huh? I thought. My eyes were bleary from interrupted nights. My body was stretched and exhausted. My sink was full of dishes. There were toys all over the floor. There was supper to prepare, and three phone calls to make, and a neighbor to invite over for supper—never forgetting the big day of laundry coming up tomorrow. If all the work is through, what in the henry do they think I am filling up my days with??

I didn’t know the answer until several years later.

Play.

I want to talk about this carefully, because I know some of you are in a bleary-eyed stage. Some of you are breaking your backs and your hearts on jobs too big for you, praying your way through every day, collapsing into bed at night with water leaking out of your eyes. I’ve been there.

I’m not trying to make light of what is deathly serious. But play has never been for the faint of heart. We’ve all seen kids so absorbed in play they forgot food and family, lost all sense of time and place. We’ve seen them afterwards, so weary they’re nodding and drooping on their feet. We’ve seen the complicated mess that play entails, the three pages of plans necessary to pull off its intricate production strategies, the dramatic mayhem when it goes awry. Every healthy child knows how to play—and knows good and well it’s NOT EASY.

The more we think of our work as play, the better able we are to offer it to Jesus—to toss it up to Him with a smile and a prayer, to throw our hearts into it and then let it go. When it’s work (hard work) (never ending work) (work somebody ought to be helping us with) (and why did He saddle us with it anyway?), we are soon grinding our hearts out earning His favor, feeling all adult and sidelined and melodramatic, presenting our product to Him with bent shoulders and downcast faces. Or else being so deeply serious and intentional about everything (about this Important Work To Which We Are Called) that we forget the other half of our birthright: creativity, silliness, laughter, and joy. It’s amazing how much nonsense you can sandwich between layers of laundry.

We were born to play for Him. The most severe criticism I ever offer to anyone is that she takes herself too seriously.

(I offer it to myself very often.)

By His grace all the work is through means that no matter what we’re engaged in, He’s doing the heavy lifting. If He drops His end, we goin down, sister. He’s the one who changed the world with a shake of His mane and a roar: we call it the Resurrection. We are children: our best work mere child’s play to His, and mere child’s play often our best work to Him.

So.

If you’re stressing over the Big Work you’re supposed to do, feeling Singled Out and Called and Why Me?–laugh at yourself a little, and lay down the burden of singlehandedly changing the world. Only one Man can do that, and He said if you wanted to help Him you had to become like the littles, the kind that run around in diapers and prattle nonsense and smile at strangers. The work He wants from you is the kind you throw your heart into and then let go.

And if you’re caught in the middle of a desperately busy time–a weeping-at-night-panicky-with-exhaustion gauntlet of endless demands, your days stretching like elastic to hold the impossible task lists, your body spent…

Light a candle or brew some iced tea.

Pray for grace to stay on your feet.

Catch hold of that dishcloth or fussy baby, and open your heart to play.