Friday, June 7, 2013

Listening to what you already know

I was listening to a teaching on Joshua this morning, called 'Rotate Your Gifting.' And I was thinking, groan. I already KNOW all this stuff. Why do I have to listen through this? Why not just skip this one, and go on to the next teaching?
And I found reasons.
Of course, I first had to find a reason before I even began to listen to the teaching, even before I realized I already knew what the teaching was about. That's a pretty simple reason. It's so simple, it's an embarrassment to say. I did it for the same reason I breathe: because that's what you do to keep alive. Not a whole lot of need to explain that one, is there? Except to say this: if I were to choose to hold my breath, at some point I'd either give up, or pass out, and if I passed out, my body would start breathing again whether I wanted to or not. Can't really say the same thing for my spiritual life; I suppose that if I refused to do the things I need to do to stay alive spiritually, I would just wither away. SO FAR THOUGH!!!!! .every.single. time. I've done that, I give this great big gasp and start living again. So I guess there is some sort of survival mechanism at work. And it makes me wonder what I must look like to those who can see with spiritual eyes: "Look, the moron is holding his breath again. When is he going to stop doing that? Idiot."
So, anyway, that's reason number one, and it's good enough to get me started. Reason number two: It's a good example. How am I going to tell my offspring to listen to things they already know, to repeat them over and over, if I don't do the same thing? Maybe there ARE some people or animals somewhere who learn something after the first time. I don't think I ever met one. This morning, I trained my obstinate cat to rear up, put a front paw on my chair, and take a yummy treat from my fingers. But that was based on first training her to come when she heard the package rattle. And it took the LONGEST time to get her to take the treat from my fingers. And so forth. The point is, repetition matters, and unless I'M willing to do it, hard to require it of others.
Reason #1, reason # 2, and now for reason #3: I don't know as much as I think I know. Sure, the first part was basic; repeated lessons I'd learned not only in church but in my professional training and in years of recovery from alcoholism. But then: I learned something about Joshua I never knew: while Moses was up on the mountain, Joshua was waiting for him in a cave. The whole time. Not so the elders; just Joshua. And that's pretty huge. And because of time constraints, I'm not going to talk any more about that point.
But the FINAL (I think it's the final) reason for listening to what I already know is: rabbit trails. There are some AMAZING ways that new thoughts, new plans develop. I think it's because once you start stirring up, you just get momentum going, and it's entirely lovely. I have about, I don't know, four or five new things that are pretty much unrelated to Joshua cooking right now. 
I think I love it when I'm wrong.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Lessons from a donkey

In Numbers, there's the story of Balaam, a sorceror-type, and his donkey. I won't go into the rest of it, but Balaam sets out on a journey the LORD doesn't want him to, and an angel stands in front of him with a sword to kill him. Balaam doesn't see thee angel, but the donkey does, and twice turns aside, then lies down in the road. Balaam beats the donkey fiercely, and then God opens the donkey's mouth.
"Why are you beating me ? Haven't I always been a good donkey? Have I ever acted like this before?" 
And then Balaam sees the angel, and the angel explains everything to him, and he goes about his business.

Have I ever acted like this before?

Pretty important question.
How HAVE you acted before? Because that's pretty much going to determine the response you get today, for good or for bad.

I wonder what my father said that day that I missed hearing him speak. I didn't hear him speak because it was in a Sunday School class of his age group, the 60+, and I was low 30s. He had brought me to hear him speak, and I knew that; but as I looked around, I saw I was the only 30s guy there, and I commented on that. He gave me a funny look, and asked me if I wanted to go to a class my age; and then he took me there.
So I don't know what he said that day. 
But I wonder: even if I had heard him speak that day: Could I have heard it? I just don't think i could have gotten the message. See, my father was a mean old man. And yes, in his old age, he was working on finding peace with God, and by the time he died twenty years later, I could talk to him about spiritual things, because he was dying and we all knew it. And the worst part of the meanness just wasn't showing up at that point. But on that day, now thirty years ago, there was no way I was going to be able to hear a spiritual message from a mean old man. So I played the youth card, and got out of there. I know it disappointed him, but I just didn't care. I wasn't gonna listen to spiritual words coming from a man who had made fun of my pants that morning, who had been a tyrant to me his entire life.
Now, I can play the donkey scene over in my head; sometimes I'm the donkey, sometimes he is; depends on how I want to cast the story. It works both ways.
I'm NOT, definitely NOT, arguing against a late-in-life conversion. All I'm saying is, if you wanna be treated like a good donkey, you better have been a good donkey all your life. And there's more to that, but all I'm gonna write now.