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Posts Tagged ‘parables’

I have delayed this entry far too long. I kept waiting to be inspired to write something uplifting, encouraging, amazing. It could be months. My life contains aggravatingly long stretches of completely uninspired days. The question is, whose fault is that, and if it’s mine (which it probably is), how do I make it stop?

Logophile that I am, I have to pause a bit here and examine the word “uninspired,” because I believe that language (diction) often chooses me more than I choose it, in a way. What I mean is, I could have chosen any number of synonyms to describe this stretch of days (“unexciting,” “unremarkable,” “commonplace”…), but what came off my fingertips is “uninspired,” and I believe that word moved from my unconscious onto my computer screen for a reason that bears examination. (Word choices often do bear examination, particularly for people who think as metaphorically as I tend to do.) Here’s the significance: I know consciously that “inspire” means breathe in, and I certainly connect that image (and etymology) to the Holy Spirit (spirare – to breathe), but I wasn’t consciously thinking about the relation of my creative doldrums to my spiritual doldrums until I saw the word on the screen. See now, this is why writing matters: to write is to think.

Given that rabbit trails–such as this one I just took–are the stuff of life, or at least the stuff of writing, what can I learn from that little rabbit trail? Simply that it reminds me of why I started this blog in the first place, and subtitled it “Weekly musings on life in Christ.” I need the discipline. To have musings to write requires reflection, and God knows I need to be doing more reflecting. And to do more reflecting requires taking time to be still. Which is exactly why I’ve had several uninspired weeks: no stillness.

Why? Because when a family of five takes a memorable, adventurous vacation in August, someone spent hours in April planning it (mom). Because once you start arranging flights and lodgings for Maine-Boston-NYC, big money is on the line, so you better be sure of your plans and book quickly while affordable things are available. Because Skybus pretends that all is well just two days before it declares bankruptcy and announces that your tickets are worthless (but of course you have already booked rooms for the cities you now have no way to get to, unless you re-book tickets with another airline, which will completely bust your budget). Because retrieving your money is your responsibility, not the bankrupt airlines’. Because our puppy hasn’t quite learned proper respect for the invisible fence yet. And because, at the end of a solid week of all this time of pretty much full-time travel-planning on the internet (and puppy chasing), my mood and my mind defaulted to black scribble, which is the best way I know to describe that foulness of outlook, that ticked-off funk I get into from time to time. It looks like Lucy in the cartoon here. Words are just inadequate. Everything is a mess of ugly knots. Oh, and I pretty much resent everybody I know.

Remember that comment I made on the last entry about knowing that in the parable of the sower, I am the “good soil?” Well I’m still claiming that by faith, but these are the days when the Savior has to remind me of it, if I would give him just half an hour: 29 minutes to calm myself down and stop being petulant, and a minute to listen to him call me his child. But for days on end, I gave him no such time. No, I was too busy stewing about whether the owner of that awesome apartment in Brooklyn with the rooftop view of the bridge was going to e-mail me back, or if I should just go ahead and book the one in East Village, which is $100 more per night. Tick tock. Things are booking up. Better not lose this one. Maybe check one more website…

Good soil, but thorns sometimes. The seed still grows, but the fruit is limited, choked by the “worries of this life” (Matt. 13:22). Deep inspiration stops, replaced by shallow panting. Mercifully, God does not forsake us then. But equally mercifully, he also does not usually reward us with his peace until we stop bolting like a frantic deer, realize that we are short of breath for no good reason, and lie down in those green pastures where He will restore our souls, every time.

How timely that the Tozer Daily Devotional (you HAVE to sign up for this one!) yesterday said this:

“Prayer: Take Time to Listen”

The entrance of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple. I opened my mouth and panted, for I longed for Your commandments. -Psalm 119:130-131

The Quakers had many fine ideas about life, and there is a story from them that illustrates the point I am trying to make. It concerns a conversation between Samuel Taylor Coleridge and a Quaker woman he had met. Maybe Coleridge was boasting a bit, but he told the woman how he had arranged the use of time so he would have no wasted hours. He said he memorized Greek while dressing and during breakfast. He went on with his list of other mental activities–making notes, reading, writing, formulating thoughts and ideas–until bedtime.The Quaker listened unimpressed. When Coleridge was finished with his explanation, she asked him a simple, searching question: “My friend, when dost thee think?”

God is having a hard time getting through to us because we are a fast-paced generation. We seem to have no time for contemplation. We have no time to answer God when He calls. – Jesus, Author of our Faith, p. 46.

Tozer knew it and I know it:  when there is a dearth of inspiration, it has nothing to do with lack of available air.

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Everything I read and hear these days, Kingdom-wise, seems to point me back to the same thing: I am always on the receiving end; He is always the source. Most recently, I have been thinking in terms of tables.

I have wanted a new kitchen table for quite a while now. Our old set was one of those Amish-built (truly — we got it in Virginia from a Mennonite vendor) round/oval pedestal tables and sturdy windsor-back chairs. I remember being so grateful for it when we were able to buy it, and it held up well to toddler seats and school projects and a cook who isn’t very careful to use hot pads under the chicken casserole (that would be me). But for various reasons, it was time for that set to go. So I listed it on Craig’s List, and it left yesterday for the home of a young couple with a toddler and a baby on the way. It stirred a little wave of sentimentality, I have to admit.

This morning I was looking — for the third day in a row because it intrigues me — at the parable of the sower. I’ve moved on in my reading to some of the other parables that follow it in Matthew: the six “the kingdom is like…” parables. But I keep returning to that first one, and thinking about what kind of soil I am. And why. By Christ’s words, I am good soil. The good soil represents those who hear and understand, those who have ears to hear. I know I am one of those. Most days I know it right down to my toes, and other days I need him to remind me. But I know it. And I know that makes me blessed, because I get to see and hear what the prophets and righteous men of old longed to see but did not, as Jesus tells his disciples. I live in the time of the law written on hearts and minds. Hallelujah!

But why did I get to be good soil?

I don’t have an answer other than “because God ordained it so.” But I do know that the question is one that I started asking way too late in life. I think many of us who grew up in homes where Jesus was loved, “where children early lisp his fame,” who were cherished and well fed and handed every opportunity to know Christ that this world can afford — we can easily be underwhelmed by the gospel. He weaves himself so gently and so faithfully into our life story that it takes a knock on the head for us to see how amazing that grace has been. We may even begin to take some of the credit for his being there. (We were pretty good kids, after all.)

So we do what well fed children often do: we come to the table without a word of thanks to the father who provided the food, and we retire to the couch without asking how we might help with the work of the family, and we assume that meal will always be there. And it is.

I did that as a kid at home, and so did my kids. I think sowing gratefulness in a child’s heart must be one of the greatest challenges in a parent’s job. The “starving children in India” line ought to work, but it just doesn’t. And no matter how ungrateful your children’s hearts may be, you always feed them anyway, because they are your children. Generally, they develop gratitude later, when they have to pay for their own food, or feed their own children.

So how does God work gratefulness into the heart of a son or daughter who has been fed grace from infancy? He works it slowly and faithfully, by the word and by prayer, just as He works the other marks of maturity into us. With the word open in my lap and his Spirit in my ear, I hear him say “blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. 17For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it” (Matt. 13:16-17). And by his grace, I hear, I see, I understand what He means. And by his grace, I am grateful.

This week, this Holy Week, as I have the privilege of being at my Father’s table again, I know that He paid everything He had for this meal, and He did it out of his great love for me.

By his grace, may that knowing keep me off the couch.

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