Post-birthday Personal Musing: On not shrinking back and moving ahead

On Wednesday June 1st, I turned 46.  For me, this day was one following and extended vacation and rest. Now usually the time before my birthday is spent in personal evaluation and examination.  This year it was simply just disconnecting and recharging. 

This was something definitely needed. Since last September I have been in a place of feeling stuck and trouble getting going again. There have been Blog posts about re-engaging, setting goals, and the like. Usually those efforts have been followed by a brief restart and then a sputter back into silence.

 Thinking things over there have been some key areas leading to the silence and retreat. One area is the ongoing concerns for those around me and the burdens for others.  I have faced my mother losing her vision, the death of step-mom to cancer, and the varied struggles the wife encountered including a period of intense hives. 

 The other aspect is the varied responsibilities. There are things and goals have set for professional development.  Yet, in those goals there is only so much time and energy I can put into things.  There are certainly also areas of fear and other elements that help facilitate reluctance and withdrawal. 

 Upon returning back, there is a realization that at some level all that is rationalization and an empowering self not to move ahead.  Each day is an important day to be moving toward that which God calls. Either I am being obedient in moving forward or looking after self and engaging in withdrawal.

 I know that there is a lot of responsibility ahead of me. God has specific things for me to engage in.  I can either shrink back and falter or move ahead.  These are the only choices, advancing or shrinking back which results in retreat. What is a head results in a lot of felt weight that was evident upon return.  There is also some real felt pain some of which is of self, and some in the weight of what others are going through.  My call is always to come along side and step in amidst the pain and encourage growth and change.  It all starts though with me.  And with that being said, the words God has for me is that I need to be engaged in moving forward each day in submission to God and attending to and meeting up to my responsibilities.

 A verse that kind of fits with what God is stirring in me is:

Hebrews 10: 32- 39 (ESV) 32 But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, “Yet a little while,and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith,and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.

Just even know looking at those words and thinking about endurance the realization strikes me of there being at least two types on endurance. One of which is enduring the difficulties and hardships. Standing up in the midst and not giving in.  The other is that of perseverance. The moving a head in spite of weight, difficulties, or any perceived progress. Taking steps in faith to endure with what God leads until such time as God brings forth the fruit.  So it is clear God is pleased when we stand up under struggle and continue to move ahead. Pulling back, disengaging, and shrinking back does not please God.  It is response to fear and self then depending on God and acting in faith.  Sobering and challenging thoughts for me personally.

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The elemental dynamics of superstitions

Well another Friday the Thirteenth has come and gone. The day is a day superstitiously considered to be “bad luck” or a day when bad things can happen. The Friday the 13th superstition is apparently one of the most widespread. Now certainly it is interesting to examine the origins of superstitions and one such article can be found here: http://www.womansday.com/Articles/Family-Lifestyle/Origins-of-13-Common-Superstitions.html.

If you look at the origins you will find roots to pagan religions, you will find misunderstanding of bodily functions, and you will find human create perspectives in dealing with evil or not offending God. There are reasons superstitions develop and become part of cultural nomenclature. The purpose of this article is to examine some the elements that go into how we begin to hold to superstitions in our life.

The basic elements of superstitious behavior are in fact rather elementary. These behaviors happen with the prospect of improving self in some way. An individual engages in an action or acquires an item with the hope and faith that it will bring good things into their life or prevent bad things from occurring. The basic formula would be: Self + Action= Benefit. Action being either something a person does or acquires. Benefit being either good things happening or bad things avoided. The key here to all superstitious behaviors is the self receiving some benefit. The behaviors in turn get reinforced when either a good thing happens as a result or the perception of avoiding something bad that was expected. Either way the behavior is likely repeated. Repeat a superstitious behavior often enough and it become ritual.

The fact is, each of us at some point or another engage in superstitious behaviors and actions. Granted, there are the superstitions that are learned and practiced within culture. These are things said and done without even realizing the source or origin. We just do them. The biggest area where superstitious behaviors develop is in competitive situations. The games we play or sports we root for often result in our engaging in behavior we hope will influence the results.

Often times the practice of superstitious behavior and ritual is rooted in fear. The psychiatric disorders such as obsessive-compulsive disorder and other anxiety based conditions exemplify ritualistic and superstitious behavior development. Something is feared and behaviors are repeated to prevent what is feared. When what is feared does not happen the behavior is repeated.

Now the reader may be thinking is not all religious behavior actually superstitious behavior with what is done to achieve some reward or avoid some consequence. Yet, there are also supernatural forces that can contribute to the effectiveness of superstitious behaviors. For example, with the use of blessing or curses they can have a simple self-fulfilling aspect that changes behavior. People may view evidence in such a way to validate a blessing or a curse. Yet, there are real supernatural forces that can be at work.

Sadly within Christianity, many people take a superstitious approach to God and evangelism. Some people pray and do thing to please God in order to get some gain or avoid some evil. There is a strong disconnect with truly relating to the Creator of the Universe. What is done is all about the benefit of self. This is even compounded by an approach to heaven that focuses on emphasizing eternal reward versus eternal punishment. The reality is the matter really comes down to being in relationship with the Creator of the Universe who loves far beyond our knowledge of love, a desires relationship or not being in such a relationship. It is hard to grasp for some the reality of such interactions and far easier to focus on rewards and consequences to self. The reality is Heaven is eternal time in God’s presence whereas Hell is eternal separation from God.

Now hopefully this article has got you thinking about how you let superstitious behavior influence you life. Each of us can benefit from thinking about why we do what we do and examine the origins of behaviors. Hopefully a strong look is taken at your approach to God. Do you dismiss the supernatural and view all religious practice as superstitious behavior? Do you take a superstitious approach to interacting with the Creator? Do you take only a reward and consequence approach to sharing the Gospel with others? These are questions for each of us, depending on where you are in life, please consider them.