Thursday, February 28, 2013

30 Days with Wesley: You Know It's Gonna Happen, So...

Today begins 30 days of investing my time with one of my favorite people ever, John Wesley.  And yes, you can have "favorite people ever" who have been dead for over 200 years (and therefore you have obviously never met in person...unless you are over 200 years old!).

I hope you'll join me on this journey of "30 Days with Wesley":



Buy the book, or the Kindle edition.  Or just follow along on Facebook and here at philmichaels.org - but in any case, if you're reading this, pray for me, for my family, and that God will continue to lead and guide us, opening our hearts to all that God has for us at this time in our lives as we continue to live and minister and work and do our best to know, do, be and become the people God has called us to be.  

I am doing this, at this particular time, for a number of reasons.  I expect most of those to come to light as we  travel through the next 30 days.  By beginning today, the last day of February, we will be ending with day 30 on Friday, March 29th, which this year is Good Friday (it also happens to be my youngest daughter's third birthday).

Anytime you embark on a spiritual journey or attempt to do something that is meant to be an intentional way of being spiritually formed and transformed, especially through prayer and the Scriptures, you should expect things to go wrong.  Now, Phil, you might ask, what sort of encouragement is that?  So let me clarify:  I don't mean you should expect the spiritual journey to go wrong...but that, things that will attempt to hinder your spiritual journey will happen - and that you need to be aware of this, and able to deal with those things when (not if) they happen.  

If you are going to be a Jesus-disciple, or if you are even thinking about being a Jesus-disciple, you need to understand the truth you will be faced with:  Jesus' "burden is light" (Matthew 11:30) and He will provide us with everything we need for our journey - but at the same time there is a cost to discipleship:  “Whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple...those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples" (Luke 14:27, 33).

Without delving too deep theologically, the point I am making here is this:  When you become a disciple of Jesus, you should expect trouble, because neither the "powers of this dark world" nor "the spiritual forces of evil" (see Ephesians 6) are going to be very happy about it when a person finds new life in Christ and attempts to live their life to honor and glorify Jesus. Jesus Himself made this dual new reality for Jesus disciples quite clear: "In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).

So this morning I was ready to roll pretty early, knowing I wanted to start this journey out right.  For me, starting out right in the morning usually means some *quiet* time and space in which I can be in *solitude* (partially this is good advice and partially this is because I'm very much introverted and need more time alone than other people often do in order to recharge and be ready to do what needs to be done).  
Yet before I could get out of the bathroom, I heard voices in the hallway.  After I was ready for the day, I went downstairs to find not one, not two, but all three of my boys already awake.  I said to Caleb, my eight year old, "what are you doing up?"  To which he replied, "me and Ian always get up at this time to get ready for school on school days."  

Really?  Because, this was the first I had ever heard of this, and they've never been up when I have been up at this time of the morning before...

I was then greeted, rather loudly, by Ian (my six year old), in the living room.  After numerous "shhh!" moments I managed to get myself out of the house, trying to stay focused, to get to my destination to begin 30 Days with Wesley and then to get to work on my other tasks for the day.

I have a hobby - I like trains.  Call me crazy, but, you know, they are enjoyable to me and to others as well.  You have a crazy hobby too, so we'll just leave it at that.  We have a reasonably well trafficked rail line and a small yard in our town.  I made a last second decision to see if there was anything in the yard before heading to my destination (partially to put a little more distance between me and my house-full-of-what-in-the-world-are-you-doing-up-at-this-hour-boys).  So I took the left turn lane and headed towards the yard.  

For about 3 seconds.  That's when the flashing lights were all over me.

Sigh.

Apparently my last second decision meant I missed the turn signal.  Yes, the officer pulled me over.  For a turn signal.  Out of a designated left turn lane.  With no other traffic in sight.

Sigh.

While awaiting the verdict, the possible train I was looking for went by me, on the other side of a parking lot, in the dark, but with a locomotive in the middle I could tell I would have wanted to see.  And all I could do was watch the shadow roll by.  After what seemed like an awfully long time ('surely he is writing a ticket!'), the officer returned with a warning and I was on my way (interestingly, I am now 3-for-3 in the last 5 years in getting warnings and not tickets when pulled over.  I would have loved such a success rate earlier on in my life.  This is severely challenging my mantra of "age has nothing to do with it").

In the big picture, these are little things.  But they were a big challenge to getting started right in this particular part of my journey.  And I don't believe they were coincidences.  When you are trying to take important steps in your spiritual journey, you know it's gonna happen.  But what do you do when it does?

The opening Scripture for day 1 of "30 Days with Wesley" was this:

Psalm 51:15 - "O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare Your praise."

Do you see it?  It begins with God's action, not mine.  I am compelled (am I?) to give God praise, but it can't be my own independent action, but a response that is dependent upon God's initial action.  If the Lord opens my lips, then my mouth will declare God's praise.

And so this morning I couldn't depend upon my circumstances (noisy boys at a ridiculous hour, bored State Police with apparently nothing else to do), and I couldn't even depend upon myself (distracted by small things, *always use your turn signal*).  But you can always depend upon God, if you are willing to forego your independence long enough to let God open your lips so that you can declare God's praise.

I'm happy to report God did just that this morning.  Which is really good, because I needed some time where Holy Spirit spoke and I listened and praise broke out.  In these days, I'm under a lot of what those who know about such things like to call "stress."  I don't like to call it that.  But there I go being all independent again.  God is at work.  Always is.  Are we listening?

I have posted a song, Scripture passage, and prayer for the morning of Day 1 of "30 Days with Wesley" on my Facebook page.  Tonight I will make posts for the evening, there, as well.  Be sure to follow along, and maybe, just maybe, God will begin to engage, form, and transform your own heart and mind as you do.

Pray for me.  I'm praying for you, the reader, as well.  Blessings!

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