The War for Independence

independent-woman-3566942_1920“I REFUSE TO BE DEPENDENT,” proclaims an inspirational poster in the physical therapist’s office.

Amen. Why else would I be torturing myself twice a week and committing (more or less)to exercise at home?

Americans have always had a reputation for being fiercely independent. We celebrate the anniversary of our War for Independence from Great Britain every July. Much of our youth revolves around “growing up” and milestones such as getting our first job and our first car, then moving away from home.

That’s normal, right? Even preferable to being dependent on someone else.

We even let this attitude infect our spiritual lives: God helps those who help themselves. If you’re up for following a short rabbit trail, check out the discussion of this saying in Wikipedia. The final section, which covers how many people think this statement is in the Bible, and whether this idea is actually biblical, is fascinating!

In my life, the “War for Independence” is one of my primary spiritual battles. Winning this battle means I must lose my independence. Just as I rely on the Lord for salvation, I must learn to rely on Him for my other needs. Unfortunately, when my sin nature flares, I find that I don’t really like to be dependent on God. I want Him to be there when I need Him, yes, but I’m not wild about needing to need Him!

Does that make sense?

Adam and Eve apparently felt the same way. They opted for trying to become as wise as God. Abraham got tired to waiting for God to make Him the father of a great nation and took matters into his own hands. Satan may have been counting on Jesus to cease being dependent and submitting to His Father’s will when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness.

On my fleshly and feisty days, I dislike being a clay pot in the hands of the Potter. I’m like a terrible two-year-old, stomping my foot and saying, “No!”

But it’s the Potter’s job to make sure I learn to rely on Him and remember the good results when I do. Despite their Ebenezer stones, various festivals, and scriptural records, the Israelites struggled to remember and rely on God’s faithfulness. I journal and rely on scripture to remind me that God is always faithful and utterly reliable. As I review these and listen to fellow believers recount their own stories, the Holy Spirit strengthens me in my battle to depend on God.

I can adopt the posture of dependence more easily when I think of my relationship to God as a child to her Father. He invites us to bring our all anxieties to Him, which requires humbling ourselves under His mighty hand.

Why be dependent?

Only works done by the Spirit will last.

It glorifies God instead of ourselves.

It prevents lapsing into legalism and works-based religion.

We will grow in grace and become more like Jesus.

What better reason do we need?

Preaching to myself again!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dogged Pursuit of Joy

Thanks to an unfortunate mishap last week, Angie has been on a new medication that’s been tough on both of us. Her tummy has been upset and her appetite has been poor. We will soon rate a brass plaque on our exam room at the animal hospital. What a week!

Because I had an early orthodontist appointment this morning, I had to skimp on some of my usual morning routine. Angie had slept with her crate door open overnight so she wouldn’t be trapped if she had GI “issues.” I found her on the gold chair when I came downstairs. The crate was in good shape. She rolled over a bit for a tummy rub but wasn’t overly perky. I carried her into the back yard for a quick potty break, but she came right back inside and plodded upstairs. Reluctantly, I crated her with the door shut and left for my appointment.


I’m grateful that I’d seen an email devotion while I scarfed down a banana and yogurt. Susie Larson urged me to “scoot a little closer to Jesus.” I tried to do that on the way to my appointment. The germ of a plan began to form regarding Angie.

At the orthodontist, they took multitudes of pictures and scans in arcane positions. I have about a month wearing my current aligner only at night, and now I’m celebrating that freedom. At the time, I was in a rotten mood. I think I stopped short of being rude, but I was far from cheerful. I ignored the Holy Spirit’s prompt to compliment the receptionist on her necklace, but at least we exchanged the obligatory wishes for a nice day before I left.

I’ve had to make a dogged attempt to choose joy over the last two or three days. With the exception of Angie’s situation, nothing about my life circumstances has changed. I am well aware that the enemy would be delighted if he could get me to procrastinate on my writing, start dreading my role helping with the new Freedom Group, not invite any of my favorite couples to the Love and Laughter Date Night (they’d be on their own, of course), and panic about Angie. Sometimes choosing joy is counter-intuitive and just a dogged act of obedience. Feelings (may) come later. The enemy wants me to think that depression, which troubled me as a young adult, will come back to stay–that God hasn’t freed me from it. That’s not true–he is guarding my heart and my mind in Christ Jesus.

After eating a Panera breakfast (plus my lunch baguette!) in the car on the way home and washing it down with real iced tea (not herbal), I felt better. I decided it was worth the risk to discontinue the medication. I told the doctor when she checked on Angie later today. We worked out a compromise I’m happy with.

The sun came out while Angie and I took a nice walk. It was a great opportunity to sing as much of “There is Sunshine in My Soul Today” and “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” as I know. It really is true that praise is a powerful spiritual weapon. This time, the feelings of joy came along with the spontaneous (not dogged) praise.

The Prince of Darkness grim– We tremble not for him; His rage we can endure, For lo, his doom is sure, One little word shall fell him.

What do you think is the “one little word” that will fell the enemy?

Wringing out the Old Year

I went to bed before midnight on New Year’s Eve. I’m not into ringing in the New Year.

Lately, though, I “wring out” the old year. (No, I’m not alluding to the unusually wet year we’ve had here in Northern Virginia.)  I don’t evaluate the year as it ends and set perfectionistic goals for improvement. Been there, done that. No more.

Having a word or a scripture verse for the year–or both–is popular now. A writer could get behind that, right? Not when her internal editor transforms one word into three and insists on alliteration to boot. Imposing a verse on myself at the beginning of the year feels too much like a resolution and smacks of legalism.

Over the last three years, though, a wonderful verse has burst onto the scene of my life midway through the year. The concept would pop up in Bible study and in my quiet time, and then again in a book I was reading. What was the Holy Spirit up to?

With His help, the verse and theme of the year took hold of me in the spring or summer and ushered me straight into the New Year.  Whether  “official” or not, they were inescapable. God was working in this area of my life, and He was encouraging me to cooperate with Him so that I could grow in grace and in the knowledge of Him.

So, I am wringing the good stuff out of 2018.

Last year in Bible Study Fellowship we studied Romans. It’s a complex book, but I’d studied it before. Imagine my surprise when I stumbled across this glittering treasure in chapter 6:

We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. (Romans 6:6-7, New Living Translation, emphasis mine)

Wow! As a believer in Christ, sin has lost its power in my life! I don’t have to do what sin tells me to do. Revolutionary.

When Satan says, “You might as well give in. I won’t leave you alone until you do, but then I won’t bother you anymore,” he is lying. I don’t have to give in. Hallelujah! What freedom!

I can’t escape freedom. Sometimes God reminds me I’m free so I can simply enjoy my status, and sometimes He allows me to practice declaring my freedom by choosing to obey Him. There’s a clear purpose to my freedom, as it says in Galatians:

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1 NIV)

We are set free with the intention that we stay free. What grace! How can we not grow in it?

What word and/or verse have you wrung out of 2018? How do you ring in your New Year?

Happy New Year from Pam, Angie the dog, and Mindy the cat!