I am reading through the Gospel of Mark during Lent. I was reading Chapter 9 yesterday and some verses caught my attention:
18: “And whenever this spirit seizes him, it throws him violently to the ground. Then he foams at the mouth and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast out the evil spirit, but they couldn’t do it.”
32: They didn’t understand what he was saying, however, and they were afraid to ask him what he meant.
34: But they didn’t answer [Jesus], because they had been arguing about which of them was the greatest.
38: John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons, but we told him to stop because he wasn’t in our group.”
Skeptics and critics of Christianity may say that the Gospels are fictional. If the Gospel writers were merely inventing stories to try and influence people, why would they make themselves look so bad so often?
“The Lord directs our steps, so why try to understand everything along the way?” Proverbs 20:24 NLT
I was reading Proverbs 20 this morning and paused at this verse. As someone who has desperately sought to understand why events in my life have played out in certain ways, I had to wonder how much of that had been wasted mental and emotional energy.
I don’t think God expects us to stumble through life without reflecting on its twists and turns. But I do think He wants us to avoid breaking down every second in agonizing detail, like TV commentators analyzing the instant replay of a fumble at the goal line from 10 different angles. Every moment spent trying to understand the why of the past is a moment lost advancing the how of the present.
How do you maintain a healthy balance of attention paid to reflection (past) and action (present)?
“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”
Philippians 4:8 NLT
Doesn’t get much simpler than that.
Forgiving myself is hard. As I was reflecting this morning on the tough day I had at work yesterday, I imagined all of my mistakes from past projects and assignments piled up like the wooden bricks in a giant Jenga game. Every time I repeat a mistake or suffer from the same lapse in judgment, I feel like I’m carefully removing a brick from within the tower and stacking it on top. Eventually the tower will fall and crush me, all because I can’t let go of the past and allow myself to start fresh each day.
I’m resolving to make today the day I walk away from the tower. Anyone willing to hold me accountable? “Put down that brick and run – don’t walk! – the other way.”
Have you ever felt like your prayer life was the equivalent of the music collection on your phone, with the same songs played over and over in a different order every time you hit the Shuffle button? I love listening to those songs – they wouldn’t be on my phone if I didn’t – but as my prayers become like those songs, I wonder if God would like to hear some new material from me.
How have you broken out of the staleness of prayer in shuffle mode?
Motivation comes and goes. I go through stretches where writing comes easily, and then I go through much longer periods where I don’t have the slightest idea what to say. I just need to write, so that’s what I’m going to do.
My contribution for today – I am grateful to God that, even though I am feeling quite uncertain about the future, I’m not suffering under the weight of anxiety. It’s a blessing to sleep peacefully. Small blessings sustain me, and I need to give thanks for them more often.
Lately it’s all too common for me to start the workday with an elevated degree of anxiety about the uncertainty of what lies ahead. When I feel this way I try extra-hard to pray it away. But you know what always makes that anxiety go away? Working…putting my head down and working. There’s no time to worry about anything when the mind is occupied with the business of getting stuff done.
That doesn’t mean that the prayer isn’t helpful. God knows that what I need is not to be rescued from hard work, but to be equipped to do hard work.