Recalibration

I woke up too early. It was still dark. The longest day of the year was already slipping away into a distant memory, so the light that normally seeped around the edges of the bedroom curtains wasn’t there. I wasn’t sure what time it was, so I looked at my bedside watch. It has a dial that lights up when I push a little button. Aaah – it was late enough that I didn’t have to try to get back to sleep again.

Then I went to the kitchen to brew a pot of coffee. The clock on the kitchen stove was 5 minutes slower than my watch. Which was right? I turned on my smartphone, because it constantly goes to the internet to find the correct time. It proved the stove’s clock was right. I realized it had been too long since I checked the accuracy of the time on my bedside watch.

Our lives are like that. We need to recalibrate by going back to a source we can trust to see what’s right. “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” That’s Psalm 119 verse 105, from the longest chapter in the Bible. And that chapter is about the Bible. The writer shows many values of God’s word. Here are two of my favorites:

  • “Keep me from lying to myself; give me the privilege of knowing your instructions” (verse 29). The more I am reminded of the truth, the harder it is to wander.
  • “I weep with sorrow; encourage me by your word” (verse 28). Using God’s word as a source of encouragement is perfect for those times when I wake up to early to talk with anyone about my sorrows.

Explore the chapter for yourself. Which is your favorite verse?

(Paul Merrill writes here every First Friday.)

Deep breath.

Dear friends.

I’m taking a break. I’m not sure for how long.

I’ve got too many things happening right now to be able to reflect well enough here.

101_1225.JPGNancy’s mom is pretty sick. Nancy’s been there a lot during the past five months. We’re guessing that there isn’t much time left. Her dad is doing well for an 89-year-old with his own health struggles.

My mom’s living with Alzheimer’s. She still knows us. She just doesn’t know when and where very well.

I’m teaching a college class for the first time in twenty years. Online.

I’m getting ready for an overseas trip in March. It involves some preparation now. (If you want to know more, write to me. I’ll tell you off blog.)

I’ve started too many writing and mentoring projects that are going unfinished.

If I were talking to someone else, I would say “What can you take a break from, just to catch your breath?” And the answer is that I need to take a break from a daily deadline. And not setting a return date helps me have that break.

Paul Merrill has a great post for this Friday. And then I’ll be back sometime.

Thank you for your encouragement and prayer and presence.

With deep affection,

Jon

Learning to take counsel.

More on developing practical skills for hearing God better:

Yet I am always with you;
    you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
    and afterward you will take me into glory.

Psalm 73:23-24

If we cannot take counsel in any part of our lives, it will be hard to take counsel from God.  And that’s part of what hearing God involves. We ask questions about what we should do. We want direction. We say that we wish God would just tell us what to do.

So let’s find out how good we are at taking counsel. Here’s an exercise to try this weekend.

I should explain that I separate counsel from counseling. The latter focuses on a process, often requires training, and uses a framework for helping. Counsel focuses on the words, ideas, content that one person offers to another for guidance.

  1. Find a wise person. This is a simple part of the exercise. Find someone you know and that knows you whose opinions you and other people trust. And it should be someone who won’t scold you for being stupid when you ask a serious question. Instead, this wise person should be able to be encouraging and offer clear counsel.
  2. Now that you have identified your wise person, ask them if they will help you find wisdom in a specific situation.
  3. And then pick a question to ask them. It should be a question that involves action. “Should I do this or that? Do I need to respond to this need? Is there a problem in this situation that requires me to do something?” This is not a “What should I do with my life” moment. After all, this is an exercise to practice taking counsel. And starting small is wise.
  4. Ask the question, have the conversation, and then come back next week for some reflection questions.

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Why I write.

writeBecky tagged me. She talked about why she writes and then included me in a list of three people she was challenging to answer the same question.  I’ve talked about it a little before (writing for you and me), but I want to think about it again.

I write because I can’t concentrate very well early in the morning. When I’m sitting in my chair and I am trying to chat with God, I lose focus, I wander. So I will often write my questions, or my part of the conversation, or a list of names.

I write because I want to see what I think. There is, for me, a discovery process in writing. It is a thinking discipline, a conversation with my heart and brain and fingers. I often don’t know what I think until I start to write.

I write because I can’t talk to you face to face. I have a responsibility, I believe, to be about teaching. In fact, while running this week I came up with a new answer to the question, “What is your job?”  My amazing job is to equip the amazing people who are doing the amazing stuff that God built them for. It’s from Ephesians. Sort of.  But if my job is equipping, that includes teaching, which includes, for me, writing.

I write because my passion is to help people emotionally understand the truth of God’s work. For me, the best way I can move understanding from head to heart is with story, with image, with moving inside the Biblical text. And I do that best with writing.

I write because I can’t think fast enough to talk. 

I write because I must.

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I’m asking three other people to consider answering as well.

Rich Dixon

Johanna Fenton

Jill Burton Carr (who writes, really writes, on Instagram.)