Archive for the ‘Spiritual Warfare’ Category

I was just looking back at what a disaster this blog has been since I created it to replace my non-anonymous blog a year or so ago. I’ve never been able to quite nail it down and be consistent. I’ve started and stopped various weekly posts; I’ve tried out fiction, shared non-fiction, and copied from my journal. Even though I still haven’t figured out what to do with this blog, I’m glad it’s here. I’m glad I have a place to write whatever I want, and I’m glad I have a place to look back on what I’ve learned. I found the post below, and I really liked it, so I’m posting it again.

Last October, when I wrote this, I was really struggling with life. I’ve been kind of up and down since then spiritually and emotionally as I try to juggle writing, my day job, and my home life, (not in that order!), but I still relate to what I said about ten months ago. While I presently am experiencing more joy, and succeeding in seeing God at work in my life, I still wrestle with hearing Him and continuing with the work He gave me to do, even when I don’t want to. So, here’s what I wrote about Jeremiah:

My journal entry for the day started out with how frustrating my day at work had been. It’s the same old complaints, I reported; no reason to re-complain about all the things I just haven’t learned how to deal with yet. I further explained that my day was so frustrating, I simply left a million things undone on my desk — really, really unlike me — to go to yoga.

Ah. Yoga. The pain, the relaxation, the weird suggestions to smile with our livers and to send out gratitude to the universe. I just breathe deeply and try not to fall over.

After yoga, I reported, I was rather productive. Nothing that would be of much interest to you, dear reader, but I surely did enumerate my accomplishments. Accomplishments of any sort these days need to be recognized and rejoiced over, because even the slightest failure can send me into total despair. It’s just where I am right now.

Ending portion one by confessing that I simply didn’t much want to read the Word or to try to talk to a God who doesn’t seem to talk much to me, I quoted what I think is a Psalm, but what I know from a song:

Cast me not away from Your presence;
Take not Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore unto me the joy of Your salvation,
And renew a right spirit within me.

Then I picked up Augustine’s Confessions instead of God’s Word. One more maneuver around God so that I might readabout Him. Augustine is battling with the difference between the art of human conversation and the art of divine conversation… or so the footnote reported. That struck a nerve with me, so I journaled about it. YES it’s completely different! All these songs and books act like you can just waltz right up to God like you do your best buddy and shoot the breeze. Well, that does not describe any encounter, real or imagined, I have ever had with God. It’s just not like that, and it’s incredibly difficult to hear Him. For me. Right now. Here’s what I wrote:

There’s a certain sincerity of heart and settling of the spirit that must precede, or at least coincide with, meeting the Maker of the universe [the seriousness of which is not generally necessary for your random, “Hey, what’s up?” to Joe Blow]. And what of hearing Him? That is wholly lost on me.

Then I finally read Nehemiah. The whole thing. You see, I’m about ten days behind on my Bible schedule, so I need to speed things up. (Now I’m only SIX days behind!) I like Nehemiah. I learned some stuff from him. Check it:

  1. When things suck, when you’re scared, when you’re surrounded by enemies (real or imagined, physical or spiritual), do three things: pray, keep your weapon at the ready, and keep working on what God gave you to do. Just keep going, but don’t forget about the praying and the fighting. (Nehemiah 4:9, 17)
  2. Stand up and show some respect for the Word of God. Don’t act like it’s a freaking chore; you are dang well blessed to be in its hearing. (Nehemiah 8:3, 5)
  3. Weeping is a natural response to God’s Word. (Thank you… I’ve been doing a lot of that lately!)  But, don’t be grieved; the joy of the LORD is our strength. He doesn’t ask us or want us to stay in that weepy, I-suck-at-everything mode. He wants us to be joyful in His grace. Now to get there…  (Nehemiah 8:9-12)

I closed my journal entry echoing the Psalm/song above. I really need God to restore my joy.  Really, really, really. Really badly. I know He can.

~LG

Advertisements

You know, unexpected because I don’t write anymore. But, I have lots to say. Do we still do those random, Cheeto Thursdays? It’s not Thursday, I know, and I don’t have a picture of Cheetos… (though I do have a bag of them right next to me — really!) But, I’m still going to write a bunch of unrelated, though actually pretty related, things. For all 0.7 of you who still have me on your Reader. 😀

  1. I miss blogging, but I don’t. I miss having something external — ie: readers — that keeps me accountable. I knew you expected me to write, so I wrote. No one expects it now, so I don’t. At all. (Except in my journal.) I don’t miss blogging, though, because NOT being a slave to my blog reader really has opened up life for me exactly the way I hoped it would when I made the sacrifice. I’ve been able to live more fully and with less stress, because I had time to live and the ability to let my brain fully engage in whatever I was doing. Before, I’d hurry through life while trying to pick up on quick ideas to write about and then get to writing. That’s no way to live, even for a writer.
  2. At the same time, a writer needs to write. Not being able to, or — since it’s now fully summer and I should be honest — not having the discipline or strength of mind to make myself, presents stressors of its own. I feel all bottled up, like I’m missing out on something I should be doing.
  3. I don’t know how to have balance.
  4. I am on the edge of depression, and I really think it’s a spiritual warfare thing. God is good, and He has me reading the Psalms. His Spirit comforts me and reminds me to Whom I need to be listening. While David was probably describing his trials with physical enemies with guns (well, bows and spears or whatever), I read his writings and recognize my spiritual enemies. These spiritual forces are whispering lies to me all the time, and it’s really, really, really hard not to believe them. I have a few reasons:
  5. It is true that money is very tight. It is true that if I could get a job (we just moved to a new city for my husband’s job), then money wouldn’t be so tight. It is true that if I don’t get a job for this upcoming school year, things might be even more tough. But is it true that this is my fault? I teeter between yes and no, but I believe that the enemy is telling me yes, calling me worthless, but the Father is telling me no, calling me His.
  6. It is true that my family needs Jesus. It is true that I, for the most part, have done a horrible job of being Jesus to them. Is it true that there is no hope and I’m a miserable failure who should just give up? I teeter between yes and no, but… you get the picture.
  7. It is true that I am a little lonely. It is true that I miss my friends, and that I want to regularly see people I know and know that they love me and are praying for me. That I want to see their faces and hug their necks, but they are too far away. I feel so alone, and I can’t stand being alone right now… it’s just too lonely and sad, but I can’t do a whole lot about it right now. Is it true that because of this, I am unfriendable and that no one likes me? It seems silly to teeter between yes and no on that one, but I do.
  8. It is true, although it seems odd coming just after #7, that I really need some alone time. My husband’s first day of work is not until August 1. We’re here all day together, and I have a very hard time creating alone time for myself (though DH totally supports me in this — don’t misread) because I can’t seem to focus on anything if anyone’s in the house. I am distracted by things that need to be done and the reality that he’s waiting for me to finish up so that I can go live life. If no one is home, I can ignore those things and focus on the fact that I need the alone time to refuel, which will in turn help me to live life. If people are home, I struggle to have meaningful alone time; it’s like I’m rushing through.  While all of this is true, is it true that wanting alone time is selfish? Shouldn’t I enjoy this time with my husband–this time that we haven’t had because of med school and then residency? Well, I do. I am actually really eating it all up — I adore him, and spending time with him is still my favorite thing, even after nearly a decade together. So, maybe this is selfish (and perhaps a bit psychotic)? Yes…no…maybe…
  9. It is true that my mind is wonky and that I can’t get my life straight and that I’m really not any better at the balancing act than I was when I quit the blog. Does that make me a worthless failure whom God is aggravated at for being so stupid? NO. (But sometimes I’m afraid yes.)
  10. How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will You hide Your face from me? How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart all the day? How long will my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O LORD, my God; enlighten my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, “I have overcome him,” lest my adversaries rejoice when I am shaken. But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, because He has dealt bountifully with me. (Psalm 13)
~LG

(What? It’s been over a month? Whatever. I hadn’t noticed. I was busy crying out to Jesus.)

In Screwtape’s 3rd letter to Wormwood, he offers the following disturbing advice about the former’s human patient:

Keep his mind on the inner life. (p.11)

This immediately made me think of what many mystics, saints, and disciples have referred to as “the contemplative life.” I’ve always wanted to be a thinker, a pray-er, a deep and spiritual person. Though I’ve never been very good at it, it would be fair to call it a sort of goal in my life to be “deeper.” I want to be one of those people who can just sit up and pray all night, or meditate over Scriptures for hours. My brain is tired, and my flesh is weak, so this has never been me.

Screwtape’s suggestion to use this very pursuit against a human was curious to me, but only momentarily. It reminds me of being “so heavenly minded, you’re of no earthly good.” Screwtape elaborates:

Keep his mind off the most elementary duties by directing it to the most advanced and spiritual ones. Aggravate that most useful human characteristic, the horror and neglect of the obvious. You must bring him to a condition in which he can practise self-examination for an hour without discovering any of those facts about himself which are perfectly clear to anyone who has ever lived in the same house with him or worked in the same office. (pp. 11-12)

How crafty! To pervert something so well-intentioned and God focused at the beginning into something that, instead, swells one’s pride and eclipses the work of the Holy Spirit.

Have you ever experienced anything like this? How do you guard against it?

My journal entry for the day started out with how frustrating my day at work had been. It’s the same old complaints, I reported; no reason to re-complain about all the things I just haven’t learned how to deal with yet. I further explained that my day was so frustrating, I simply left a million things undone on my desk — really, really unlike me — to go to yoga.

Ah. Yoga. The pain, the relaxation, the weird suggestions to smile with our livers and to send out gratitude to the universe. I just breathe deeply and try not to fall over.

After yoga, I reported, I was rather productive. Nothing that would be of much interest to you, dear reader, but I surely did enumerate my accomplishments. Accomplishments of any sort these days need to be recognized and rejoiced over, because even the slightest failure can send me into total despair. It’s just where I am right now.

Ending portion one by confessing that I simply didn’t much want to read the Word or to try to talk to a God who doesn’t seem to talk much to me, I quoted what I think is a Psalm, but what I know from a song:

Cast me not away from Your presence;
Take not Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore unto me the joy of Your salvation,
And renew a right spirit within me.

Then I picked up Augustine’s Confessions instead of God’s Word. One more maneuver around God so that I might read about Him. Augustine is battling with the difference between the art of human conversation and the art of divine conversation… or so the footnote reported. That struck a nerve with me, so I journaled about it. YES it’s completely different! All these songs and books act like you can just waltz right up to God like you do your best buddy and shoot the breeze. Well, that does not describe any encounter, real or imagined, I have ever had with God. It’s just not like that, and it’s incredibly difficult to hear Him. For me. Right now. Here’s what I wrote:

There’s a certain sincerity of heart and settling of the spirit that must precede, or at least coincide with, meeting the Maker of the universe [the seriousness of which is not generally necessary for your random, “Hey, what’s up?” to Joe Blow]. And what of hearing Him? That is wholly lost on me.

Then I finally read Nehemiah. The whole thing. You see, I’m about ten days behind on my Bible schedule, so I need to speed things up. (Now I’m only SIX days behind!) I like Nehemiah. I learned some stuff from him. Check it:

  1. When things suck, when you’re scared, when you’re surrounded by enemies (real or imagined, physical or spiritual), do three things: pray, keep your weapon at the ready, and keep working on what God gave you to do. Just keep going, but don’t forget about the praying and the fighting. (Nehemiah 4:9, 17)
  2. Stand up and show some respect for the Word of God. Don’t act like it’s a freaking chore; you are dang well blessed to be in its hearing. (Nehemiah 8:3, 5)
  3. Weeping is a natural response to God’s Word. (Thank you… I’ve been doing a lot of that lately!)  But, don’t be grieved; the joy of the LORD is our strength. He doesn’t ask us or want us to stay in that weepy, I-suck-at-everything mode. He wants us to be joyful in His grace. Now to get there…  (Nehemiah 8:9-12)

I closed my journal entry echoing the Psalm/song above. I really need God to restore my joy.  Really, really, really. Really badly. I know He can.

~LG

I don’t know whether you read blogs on Saturdays, but you’re missing out if you don’t! I’ve started a series on C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, and I’d love to hear your thoughts! You can join the discussion whether you’ve read the book or not.

Here’s my last post: Screwtape Saturday Vol. 2

If you’re interested, you can follow the embedded links back to previous entries. Otherwise, just jump right in! The book is getting good! Hope to read your thoughts this Saturday. 😀

Hi! Welcome to Volume 2 of my Screwtape series! I am commenting on the second letter of The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis.

The first letter brought up the idea of whether or not satan and the demons can read human thoughts; C.S. Lewis seems to have believed it so. That’s a troubling state of affairs in my estimation, and you can read my thoughts and weigh in here. In this second letter, Lewis touches on yet another point of doctrine — this one much more terrifying and much more widely discussed and fretted over than the first. In the Baptist world, the doctrine goes like this: Once saved, always saved. This means that a true conversion is an eternal one; you cannot “lose” your salvation. Does C.S. Lewis support this view? Screwtape writes to Wormwood:

I note with grave displeasure that your patient has become a Christian… There is no need to despair; hundreds of these adult converts have been reclaimed after a brief sojourn in the *Enemy’s camp and are now with us. (p.5)

Keep everything hazy in his mind now, and you will have all eternity wherein to amuse yourself by producing in him the particular kind of clarity which Hell affords. (p.7)

*The “Enemy” here is Creator God. This is a demon talking.

It seems clear that C.S. Lewis is stating that people, after conversion to Christianity, can (and often do) wind up in Hell. I cannot tell whether he’s referring to real or false conversions, but he does not indicate the possibility of this one being false. I believe if you do assume this patient’s conversion is false, the rest of the letter can easily fit right in. You can assume it was an emotional conversion — seeds falling on rocky soil, if you will. He was excited, and accepted the Gospel idea quickly, but there was no root and no true conversion. He did not actually accept Christ.

But that would be an assumption. The wording does not suggest any variation; the patient became a Christian. Is it possible the demons don’t know for sure whether it was a true conversion? That they’re not privy to that knowledge? Perhaps that’s the issue. Remember that this is a letter from one demon to another, so no insight is offered beyond what Screwtape himself lets on. Or, perhaps, C.S. Lewis is warning the reader that people can honestly become Christians, and then honestly lose their salvation later. I don’t know.

I must leave that idea, because I have no resolution, and move to the main point of the letter. I would argue that Lewis presents the thesis of this letter in the second paragraph:

One of our greatest allies at present is the Church itself. (p.5)

Ouch! It hurts, but I don’t think there’s much of a debate about that one. Hypocrisy in the church is old news; the church is afflicted with sinners, and satan uses them to their fullest potential whenever possible. Sometimes, however, satan is much more subtle. In this letter, Screwtape recommends occupying the patient’s mind with things like squeaky shoes and off-key pew-mates. Things like that can easily be overemphasized and render the congregant’s time wholly useless. I found this particular point very convicting, as I am very, very easily distracted in church during the praise and worship time. The fact of the matter is, the musical selections of my church are unfortunate. (Sure, in my opinion. My opinion is correct.) It irritates me every Sunday, and I simply haven’t been able to get past it.

That, dear friends, is sin. That is satan winning. (Do you think it’s okay to tell my music minister that he’s being used as a tool of satan? No? Bummer.) In all seriousness, satan is using my personal taste to keep me prideful about my superior taste and, more alarmingly, to keep me from worshiping God. Es no bueno.

This letter was crucial to the entire book. Here, the patient becomes a Christian. The book is no longer about “some guy” the devil’s messing with; it’s now about me. It’s about how the devil messes with ME and MY head. From here on out, I’m kinda pissed off — at him and at me.

Three questions for you:

  1. What do you believe about the doctrine of “once saved, always saved”? What Scriptures can you offer to support your view?
  2. How is the devil using church to work against you?
  3. Have you ever stopped to evaluate specific ways the devil messes with your head? What did you learn?

You came back! I’m all smiles inside. 🙂 If you don’t know what I’m talking about, this post is about The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis.

I read letter one about three or four times. I have much to say, but I must prioritize and minimize. (You’re welcome!) The biggest thing was the idea that satan can read our minds:

…I saw a train of thought in his mind beginning to go the wrong way. ~p. 2

This does not please me at all. A few years back, a sudden, pressing question popped into my head: Can satan read my thoughts? I searched the internet, asked a few friends, searched through the Bible, and found absolutely no conclusive answer. The best answer I received — whether because it was the most logical or the most pleasing, I can’t say — was that only God is omniscient. Satan is a created being without the powers of God to know all things.  He only knows what God has revealed to him. Thus, while satan is cunning and crafty and may seem to read our thoughts, he’s actually just working off of excellent perceptive skills honed by (at least) thousands of years of experience. Bueno. Now I can confess secret struggles to Jesus in my head without satan knowing.

Enter C.S. Lewis, about sixty years before I came to this conclusion. He seemed to think that demons can read our thoughts. He’s not around to ask, but I generally respect his thoughts and opinions. Taking the idea that satan only knows what God has revealed, who are we to say we know what God has revealed to him? We don’t! We also don’t know the extent of the powers God has allowed. So now I’m all topsy-turvy on this. I feel kinda invaded, but I don’t really know if I should, since I don’t know if it’s true. Gah. I can’t even tell secrets to Jesus. You know, maybe.

Second, I found C.S. Lewis’ observations on human philosophical tendencies to be surprisingly post-modern.  Or, perhaps we just think we’ve figured out something new…

Your man has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to have a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside his head.  He doesn’t think of doctrines as primarily “true” or “false”, but as “academic” or “practical”, “outworn” or “contemporary”, “conventional” or “ruthless”.  ~p.1

Compare:

…young adults resist simplistic answers. [They] relish mystery, uncertainty, and ambiguity.  They are not bothered by contradictions or incongruities. ~unChristian, by David Kinnaman, p. 125

Since I was not alive in 1941, nor even was my mother, I have no way of really offering an opinion on the psyche of your average ’40s bloke. Still, I thought it interesting that what seemed to be the latest research on the youngest generations might not be that ground-breaking at all. Maybe it’s just part of the human condition.

The point of Lewis’ observation, however, is that the devil doesn’t plan to teach us false doctrines, but to “muddle” us with all sorts of indistinct jargon.  Thusly, he aims to keep us from being wholly devoted to the God of the Bible. This makes me think of the modern corruption of the concept of “tolerance.”

I’ve said too much! So, I leave you with three questions:

  1. What do you think about the possibility of the devil reading your thoughts?
  2. Do you think post-modern young adults/youth are vastly different from their counterparts from years past?
  3. Are you reading/have you read The Screwtape Letters?