Monday, February 13, 2006

So I'm a Saint... Big Deal

That sounds really caustic, but it's not.

Actually, being a saint is a very big deal to me.

I'm not really sure where to start with my thoughts tonight. They're all swirling around inside my head like a million little snowflakes in a blizzard. I don't know how to build a snowman with all these flakes still floating around. I need them to settle down somewhere, and this is that somewhere... for now at least. This may actually turn into the snowman if you're lucky. :D

It all started this morning at church. Our pastor is doing a sermon series called "Who's Your Daddy." It's about our identity as a Child of God. This topic is very close to my heart for several reasons. First -- the discussion last week was about our identity as an adoptive child. Second -- this is something I've been struggling with personally for a while. I've been wanting to become a better daughter to my heavenly father so that I may become a better daughter to my adoptive parents.

Last week Pastor explained that as adoptive children of God, we have a new identity as saints. And one of the guys in our congregation came up after the service and said he didn't believe it, show it to him in the Bible. I remembered memorizing one verse or another that specifically stated that we are saints. In my search for that verse again (I never did memorize references with the verses, for some reason those numbers just wouldn't stick), I found Ephesians 2:18,19. I really like the Amplified Bible on this one.

"18For it is through Him that we both [whether far off or near] now have an introduction (access) by one [Holy] Spirit to the Father [so that we are able to approach Him].
"19Therefore you are no longer outsiders (exiles, migrants, and aliens, excluded from the rights of citizens), but you now share citizenship with the saints (God's own people, consecrated and set apart for Himself); and you belong to God's [own] household."

Our small groups have been going through a six-week series by Rob Bell. I don't know if that's exactly how you spell his name, and I don't remember what church he's from. But Pastor quoted him today. I don't have the exact quote. Rob Bell was comparing our relationship with God to something and he said that it was a poor comparison. A better comparison would be that of a song in which the players are slightly out of tune. As His Children, as saints, we are free to tune our lives to God.

I love the imagery of this description. As a person who loves music of all kinds, especially big orchestral pieces, I know how excruciating it can be if even one instrument is slightly out of tune. I played clarinet in a 172 piece children's orchestra once. It was one of the most amazing events of my childhood. We played alongside a professional orchestra (I can't remember which one) that had played together for two years and had been touring all over the world together. I remember it took us seven hours... yes!! SEVEN HOURS to tune every piece exactly to the conductor's wishes. We started out by playing some warm up pieces. I thought, Wow... we sound pretty good!! And then the conductor would stop us and tune one section at a time, each player at a time. He had professionals show us better position and give little hints. By the time he was done with us (seven hours later), we sounded MAGNIFICENT!! And somewhere during our practice one flautist dropped her flute. No one noticed, not even her sheet partner. But when she picked up her instrument and began again to play, the entire orchestra fell apart. We all knew that someone was off, and it threw us out of balance. Some of us lost the beat, some of us lost our place, and some of us just ceased to play.

My life for so long has been like that flautist. I am playing with the orchestra. I have practiced this piece a thousand times. I know it by heart and yet... when I pick up my instrument to play, I am the tiniest hair flat. And I feel that it stands out like the dark red blossom of a Queen's Anne's Lace.

Pastor said something today that I've noticed a thousand times in my own life. I have been trying so hard to devote ten minutes to praying. Ten straight minutes to conversing with my heavenly Father without straying from the topic or getting distracted. Pastor said, "Have you ever tried to pray in a quiet room? You go into the room, and you shut the door. There is no music, no distractions, nothing but you and God." And when you begin to pray it goes something like this,

"Dear Father, I'm wanting to talk to you today. I feel like I've neglected you recently, like I have so many things in my life. I haven't swept the living room yet, and I still need to clean out the car. But I have to move some things in the garage before I can get the vacuum in there to get the van. But I don't have anywhere to put that stuff. I really should have my husband clean that stuff up. Maybe I should offer to help him. Oh, he asked if he could help with anything, and I forgot to tell him about the laundry. I had better throw in the whites or we won't have underwear for tomorrow.
"Oh, Father! Forgive me! I forgot that I was talking to you. I keep getting distracted by the mundane things of life. I can't even talk to you for ten minutes! I can empty the dishwasher and watch a TV show, but why can't I talk to YOU for ten minutes!"

And before you know it, you're berating yourself, and forgetting that you are in the presence of the Creator of the universe. Pastor said that our brains are like CNN. They have their anchors telling one story, with the little ticker tapes at the top and bottom of our screen, giving us eight levels of news, and we can't possibly focus on it all. "Whatever is in your brain, you tend to focus on it, and then you tend to pursue it." Just like when you're driving... you steer toward whatever you're looking at.

And the thought crossed my mind... What if Christ were at the front of my brain all the time. Then I would focus on Him, and I would pursue Him the way I want to.

Did your parents or teachers ever make you write sentences? "I will not say shut up. I will not say shut up." This was a classic discipline for me as a foster child. The state passed a law that foster children can't be spanked, and so they fell to writing sentences. Did you ever find yourself saying "shut up" more often in the first few hours after you were done with your sentences? I know I did!!

I asked my dad once how he slept at night. He said, "I just stop thinking." So I went to bed that night, and I lay there, thinking. And when I realized that I had a thought, I would say to myself, "stop thinking." This went on for a little while, and then I realized that with all my stopping thinking, I had actually been awake longer than usual!!

The thing is, by resisting a thought, you actually tend to re-enforce it in your brain. You should instead find the opposite. "I will say please be quiet." This will enforce the proper message in your brain. Rick Warren said it beautifully in his book, The Purpose Driven Life. "You defeat bad thoughts by thinking of something better." (pg. 211)

My pastor also included three ways to help us "tune up" to God's standard. "When I focus on who I am becoming, not who I have been, I grow." It is an interesting thought for me. I have focused so much on what my relationship has looked like with parental figures in the past, that I felt overwhelmed and as though the odds were against me. I could never be a proper child because I had never been shown how to be. But when I changed my thinking and thought, "what do I expect my relationship to look like with my parents now that I am grown", our relationship slowly got better!!

Thanks for listening as I blathered on about all this. I hope maybe it will help you. And if you have any thoughts to add or contrast with my thinking... Share them!! I'm very open to exploring this vein of thought.

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