The Persistence of Discipleship

68c6f121d80085251ee6a3da3699b6acThen Peter replied to Him, “Explain this parable to us.”

“Are even you still lacking in understanding?,” (Jesus) asked. (Matthew 15:15-16)

Even Jesus got frustrated and exhausted with discipleship. It’s a persistent process. Of course, Jesus stayed engaged. He worked through the difficult moments, because He knew how important the process was.

How committed are we to discipleship? How often do we walk away because of disinterest, misunderstandings, or frustrations? How ready and willing are we to explain, wrestle with, and listen to people as they grow?

It takes effort, patience, and humility.

And it is necessary and worthwhile.

 

The Pursuit of Rest

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Do you pursue rest as vigilantly as productivity?

We value productivity. We want to be able to observe and measure improvement and results. Rest doesn’t seem very productive. We say we long for it. We say we want more of it. We declare we desperately need it. But do we pursue it?

Look at the patterns of your life. What do you pursue? That’s a clue into what you value.

We approach productivity with intention. We connect causes and effects of productivity. As we understand and experience the results, we continue to hone our productivity skills. But rest seems more like a retreat away from something (often, productivity) instead of into something.

We need to pursue rest. It is an intentional retreat into something, into God’s presence and His pattern for doing life His way. There is purpose in rest. We feel the desperate need for it because we need what God purposes and what we ignore. It is much more productive than we believe it to be. It is tied to the flow of our lives, and it isn’t just for night-time. It’s also not just for Sundays.

When have you experienced the need for rest? Do you notice any patterns across months and years of your life? How can you be more intentional about incorporating rest into your life as God intends?

 

 

Scouring the Hills

I grew up on a beautiful farm, which meant (1) there were always adventures to be had and (2) there was always work to be done.

Despite living in central Illinois, where you can usually look across the plains and see for miles, we could walk about a mile and reach fantastic sledding hills in the winter. The hills overlooked the creek bottom, and the hike to sled was worth the effort. After hiking back up the hills after the sled runs, we began to wonder if our legs would carry us back home before our fingers and toes froze. But the promise of Mom’s homemade hot chocolate was all the motivation we needed to return.

The hills took on a different context in the summer, especially the year we cleared the north hills. The bulldozers came in to knock down every size of tree and pull up root systems. We’d check on the process when they weren’t working, and I was amazed to stand beside many tree trunks large enough for me to walk through with barely a stoop if they had been hollowed. It was quite a process of transformation to watch. The hills of scattered trees I had known became almost unrecognizably bare. I noticed details I had never seen before. And it wasn’t long before I knew those hills more intimately than I ever thought I could.

After the large machinery was done, it was our turn to scour the hills. Since farm machinery would be working the hills, planting and harvesting beans and wheat in the coming years, we had to pick up what the large equipment couldn’t get and the farm machinery shouldn’t get. So, our trekking began.

We walked back and forth across the width of the hills. We worked as a team (most of the time), picking up rocks and broken pieces of root systems and throwing them onto a trailer. It was dirty, exhausting work. Every now and then, we’d find a treasure – Indian arrowhead or a fossil – and we’d gather around to examine each other’s discoveries. We’d soon go back to the monotonous search for rocks. The land was rough, a result of being pulled apart. We weren’t working on level ground. What looked like stone was often a clump of dirt and when kicking a clump of dirt, we often found stones. Walking on uneven ground was tiresome. Repeatedly bending over and picking up debris was exhausting. The adventure of the process quickly wore off as we returned to the hills day after day.

But the process was necessary in order to prepare the fields for the next thing: crops.

We often are in the process of clearing something of the past in order to prepare for the future. It’s essential we do the work. Sure, we’d rather be enjoying the thrill of sledding or consistently finding treasures. The filth and exhaustion isn’t as much fun as the adventures, but it’s a critical part of the process. We can complain and whine. We can sit and pout. Or, we can get to what needs to be done.

What work is God requiring of you today? What’s your attitude about it?

Be obedient, and let him prepare your life for the next season. His purpose might be beyond your wildest imaginations…and memories.

The farmer is like a person who plants God’s message in people. Sometimes the teaching falls on the road. This is like the people who hear the teaching of God, but Satan quickly comes and takes away the teaching that was planted in them. Others are like the seed planted on rocky ground. They hear the teaching and quickly accept it with joy. But since they don’t allow the teaching to go deep into their lives, they keep it only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the teaching they accepted, they quickly give up. Others are like the seed planted among the thorny weeds. They hear the teaching, but the worries of this life, the temptation of wealth, and many other evil desires keep the teaching from growing and producing fruit in their lives. Others are like the seed planted in the good ground. They hear the teaching and accept it. Then they grow and produce fruit—sometimes thirty times more, sometimes sixty times more, and sometimes a hundred times more. (Mark 4:14-20)

Sunday Drive

I think the days of Sunday drives might be obsolete. When I was growing up, “Sunday drivers” referred to slow drivers who seemed to be gawking instead of moving along on the road. I knew the reference well, because I’d been a Sunday driver – well, at least I was a passenger. I wasn’t old enough to drive at the time.

Sunday driving was a common routine. Families would attend church services in the morning, enjoy a dinner together and then drive through the countryside. I remember several Sunday drives with my grandma. She had been a teacher in a one-room country school. She knew the countryside well. My cousin and I sat in the backseat as she pointed out where kids had lived and how far they had to walk, made connections of who was related to whom, and reminisced about many memories and funny stories. Some might have been bored with the Sunday drive. Personally, I like the serenity of it.

Sunday drives are a thing of the past, in my opinion, for two main reasons. First, people are busy and focused. They drive with purpose: to get somewhere in order to do something. (The exception is motorcycles. I know many people who take off on bike rides with no clear idea of where they’re going. They just want to ride, feel the wind, and enjoy the adventure.) Second, higher gas prices have caused us to discriminate between necessary and unecessary drives. If we don’t need to go somewhere, why spend the money? Even teenage “cruising” is down.

I’ve found an alternative: Sunday Walks.

I’m a walker. Even when I’m pushing my pace, walking is relaxing to me. I live in a small town with lightly-travelled roads, so I can walk just about anywhere without worrying about traffic. I often walk into the country, because there’s something about the open air. Walking is energizing and relaxing at the same time. I often end with co-existing feelings of rejuvenation and exhaustion.

When unseasonably moderate temperatures were forecast for a Sunday recently, I knew there was one way I wanted to spend my afternoon: walking. I announced my intentions on the way to church that morning. After lunch, I laced up my walking shoes and set out. I wasn’t sure when I’d return home, but I estimated two hours.

It ended up being a two-and-a-half hour walk…plus an added bonus walk with my husband when I returned home. I covered many miles as the minutes ticked by. I thought about many things, let go of several concerns, let God pour energy into me and encouragement over me, and savored the sights and smells around me. I met very few vehicles, reminding me of the passing trend of Sunday drives.

I thought back to those drives with my grandma and what they had in common with my walks.

  1. It’s a time to relax. Life is busy. We all need time to recharge…with intention. God pours into us when we seek opportunities to meet him in breaks among the bustle of life.
  2. It’s a time to retreat. Life is painful. A retreat doesn’t make the messiness go away, but it helps to orient us to a healthy perspective as we replace our vantage point with God’s.
  3. It’s a time to relinquish. Life isn’t about us. We might be walking the steps or driving the car, but it’s God who is guiding us along the journey.

It’s easy to keep moving, moving, moving without stepping aside long enough to take a Sunday Drive, but I’ll tell you from experience, whether on a Sunday or any other day, the time and effort is most definitely worth the experience.

Keep It Simple

Some days are more complicated than others. There are days when a lot of little irritants join forces to weigh me down. I usually deal with crises well. If I have a roadblock in front of me, I pause for a moment, assess it and then plan my alternate route. It’s the longer stretches of maneuvering around potholes and pylons that usually wear me down. I can deal with being physically tired, but swerving through the frustrations, as if I’m dodging a prize fighter’s jabs, exhausts me emotionally. And when I’m exhausted emotionally, I’m less effective at dodging the jabs.

Life feels complicated, uncertain, and exhausting. And the fact is…life IS complicated, uncertain, and exhausting. Life isn’t perfect. It isn’t intended to be. It’s messy. I’m messy. Humanness is messy. Therefore, life on earth as a human with humans is – yes, messy. Complicated.

And yet it’s simple. Simple because of God. His plan? Simple. His will? Simple. I might not understand everything about God’s plan or his will, but it’s about as uncomplicated as you can get. Reflect on the simplicity of Colossians 1:15-20.

No one can see God, but Jesus Christ is exactly like him. He ranks higher than everything that has been made. Through his power all things were made—things in heaven and on earth, things seen and unseen, all powers, authorities, lords, and rulers. All things were made through Christ and for Christ.  He was there before anything was made, and all things continue because of him. He is the head of the body, which is the church. Everything comes from him. He is the first one who was raised from the dead. So in all things Jesus has first place. God was pleased for all of himself to live in Christ. And through Christ, God has brought all things back to himself again—things on earth and things in heaven. God made peace through the blood of Christ’s death on the cross.

Simple: We can’t see God (so we need to trust and believe), and Jesus is just like him (so we need to trust and believe Jesus).

Simple: God is above all things and he created everything. (We’re the created ones, and we have no power or authority except what we are given by God.)

Simple: Jesus is first. (He’s the center of our lives. He’s the crux of our faith. He’s our connector.)

Simple: God sacrified himself through Jesus so that all of us can be reconciled to him. (Because of Jesus’ sacrifice, you have the choice to live eternally in heaven…or hell.)

Simple.

My daily life or seasons of my life might seem complicated. But when I take off my glasses of this world and glimpse at what I see through God’s perspective, I acknowledge and appreciate the simplicity of life. And I am grateful.

God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but have eternal life. John 3:16