EXPRESSIONS OF FAITH

EXPRESSIONS OF FAITH ©2008, Vicki Hinze
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
WARNING: This is a no-edit zone…

Have you ever considered how we express faith?

It’s been on my mind a great deal lately, though perhaps not in the traditional sense.  Expressions of faith like prayer and obedience and respect for the authority and Word of God are givens.  But we express our faith in other ways, too, and those are the expressions on my mind this morning.

We worry.
We fret.
We doubt.
We question motives.
We make mountains out of molehills.
We make assumptions–usually, for the worst rather than the better.
We handicap.
We limit.
We restrict and restrain.

Those don’t sound like expressions of faith, but they really are.  They express an absence of faith, or a minimization of faith.  And that got me to wondering how God would look at those reactions in us and how He would regard them.

We say we trust God.  Yet we doubt that He’s listening, hearing, aware.
We say we know God will never forsake us, yet we doubt the outcomes of our challenges.
We say we take on faith and yet attribute motives to others that are fact only in our own imaginations.
We assume based on what we see, hear, expect, and often we’re wrong.

I’m not talking about common sense calls.  I’m talking about things like when we’re on fire with a dream that is bigger than us and we’re struggling along to make it real but we doubt it can ever be brought to pass.  That’s an expression of faith.  Well, a lack of faith in God’s ability to bring it about.

These expressions, the ones that bring doubt and negativity into our lives, aren’t honoring God.  Okay, so our dream is bigger than our vision of how it can come to pass.  That limited perspective is typically what slams us into doubt and sends our faith sliding down that slippery slope.

But what if we check it.  What if we turn that around in the same way God turns bad intended against us for good?  What if we say, you know, I can’t see how this dream is going to manifest.  But I believe it will because God sees more than me.

What if we go a step further, take a little bigger leap?  What if we say, you know, God planted that dream in me, and He wouldn’t do that if He didn’t already have a way to bring it to pass.  All I have to do is my part.  I just have to keep plugging away at it, doing what I can do and believe that He’ll handle the rest.

That’s an expression of faith.  One that doesn’t just say, “I trust” but actually trusts.

This seems like such a simple thing.  But worry and fear and doubt and assumptions and all those things are a very real part of our daily lives.  That makes those expressions significant, and how we deal with them even more so.

Expressing faith isn’t just in our words or even in just our actions.  It’s belief in the absence of evidence we should.  It’s in trust.

That’s constructive, positive, empowering.  That’s a worthy expression of faith…

Blessings,

Vicki

VICKI HINZE
©2008, Vicki Hinze

LIVING OUR BEST LIFE: PART 2

LIVING OUR BEST LIFE: PART 2 ©2008, Vicki Hinze

Being disciplined.  Discipline doesn’t come easily, particularly to creative types.  Actually, I doubt it’s easy for any type, but where would we be without it?  Whether it’s the discipline to stick with something from start to finish, to hold your tongue when you know you should but are mightily tempted not to, or to eat right and exercise, discipline is work.  Today, with so many tools at our disposal that permit us to do more, it’s easy to get sidetracked and end up scattered or with diffused focus.  But it isn’t only on what we do that discipline is required.  It’s also on what we don’t or shouldn’t do.  It’s following through, following up, carrying on.

When we’re in a rough patch, when our faith is tested, when we’re going through a time when it seems the evil in the world is nipping at our heels and eager to destroy our joy and all that is good and makes our lives worth living—or when someone is making a concerted effort to steal our joy or destroy our reputation, credibility or just to make life miserable, there is comfort and solace to be found in discipline.  We all have times that try our souls.  If our faith is strong, we aren’t exempt.  Actually, we’re warned we’ll be persecuted and tried stronger.  But discipline can serve us well in these times.  It can send us back to prayer when we’re wondering if God’s listening.  Remember Jacob?  Isaiah?  Remember David and Moses and Joseph (who became, in effect, the Prime Minister of Egypt)?  And what of the Apostles?  Of Paul!  Oh, but these men of great faith endured horrifically trying times and, in each case, we can see that discipline factored in their path to wisdom and played a significant role in their relationship with God.

Embracing honesty.  King David claimed my mind on this trait or aspect of wisdom.  He did something horrible he shouldn’t have, suffered mightily for it, and found no relief until he was honest about what he’d done and accepted responsibility for it.  When he did, he humbled himself before God and God forgave David.  He lived the consequences of his dishonesty and experienced them full force for as long as it took him to truly comprehend the lack of wisdom in that course of action.  Could he have become the man he became without the wisdom gained from those insights?  I don’t believe he could.  I don’t believe any of us can.  With each experience, we are no longer the person we were; we are the person we become.  If we take into context all these traits of wisdom, we can see how they combine and interact.  King David’s experience evidences that, and illustrates to us the significant role honesty plays on our road to wisdom—the path to knowing God, from whom nothing is hidden.  He doesn’t pay so much attention to what one professes with the mouth, but pays a great deal of attention to all that lies in one’s heart.  If deceit and deception reside there, one is no friend to wisdom and is not right with God.  Like David, one must humble oneself first, admit the truth, ask forgiveness for it, and then God responds.  Wisdom is in recognizing why this is the required path, why dishonesty has no place in a wise heart and only creates distance between one and God.

Embracing tact. Tact is a bit of an art, and often people underestimate its value.  There is a way to say what needs saying without drawing blood.  One of the most frequently noted errors when it comes to tact (or a lack of it) is that a person will attack another person rather than the challenge.  (Making it personal.)  “It’s broken” is equally effective at making the point but far gentler than “You broke it.”  Tact is seeing through compassionate eyes and through a compassionate heart.  One doesn’t blossom, grow or flourish under a barrage of pointed out flaws, errors or mistakes.  Instead, focus on solutions, and before we speak, we should emulate Solomon and weigh the impact of our words on the other person.  How will what is said be taken?  Is it our intention to convey that this way?

Perhaps this is one of the reasons that we’re warned that the tongue is double-edged.  It can save or destroy us.  If we think first, with our minds and hearts, and then speak, odds are better that we what we say will be more temperate and well received.  If we place ourselves on the receiving end of what we say, and ask how we would react, we are emulating grace and mercy, too, and those are qualities of wisdom.

Tact isn’t always easy or expedient.  It doesn’t always give us the satisfaction of telling one who has been causing us challenges just what we think of their actions.  But as good as that type thing might feel for a moment, it feels bad for a lot longer because it resolves nothing and creates even more tension.  Tact isn’t being dishonest.  It’s expressing what needs to be expressed in a way that is not absent of kindness, compassion, respect and civility.  It’s treating others as we wish they would treat us.  And in that, there is an abundance of wisdom.  It does require that we look out, at others, as much as we look in, at ourselves.  And that’s where most get into trouble with tact.  As we would have them treat us.  That’s wise, and a great place to start embracing.

Embracing mercy.  A heart without mercy deserves none.  I’ve forgotten where I first heard that now, but I’m grateful that God is merciful and doesn’t demand from us that feel the full brunt of all we deserve.  I doubt any mortal could withstand it.  But mercy isn’t about what we deserve or it wouldn’t exist.  Mercy is a gift we’re given from a loving heart.  Maybe it’s for something we did, or for things we should do and haven’t.  Regardless of the reason, without mercy in our character traits, we lack a key quality expressed verbally and through the actions of Christ.  We know He was wise. We’re clever enough to deduce that such a dominant character trait in a wise man surely equates to it being a trait of wisdom itself.  Could wisdom exist without mercy?  I don’t believe it could.  I believe we’d be crushed under the errors we make long before we got anywhere near wisdom.  Without mercy we’d be lost.  But receiving mercy, a blessing to be sure, is no greater blessing than being merciful.  In being merciful we emulate Christ.  We embrace that which He embraced, and honoring Him definitely brings us closer to God.

Embracing righteousness.  In each moment of each day we make choices.  Those choices are to choose righteousness or to turn away from it toward sin.  We make the call.  I’m not talking about self-righteous behavior, which is often rooted in arrogance or a misplaced sense of entitlement, but righteousness in the eyes of the laws of God.  When we walk with Him, in His way, doing our best to follow His laws His way, then we’re closer to Him.  We’re adopting wisdom, either on knowledge of it or on faith in it.  And that coupled with grace invokes the promises God made to people who conduct themselves His way.

I started doing a little research on what exactly righteousness is—not the classic text-book definition, but how it’s described in the Bible.  What I found fills a book—several books, and that definitely makes it a different exploration.  For me, embracing His way is sufficient, and so I’ll leave this at that for now—and study more on righteousness on its own.

The value of wisdom is clearly outlined for us—the traits and characteristics of it, too.  In Proverbs, we’re told to seek wisdom and it will protect us.

In examining this, it seems if we seek wisdom and embrace its traits, we probably have less need for protection than we would otherwise.  There’s comfort in that.  A tool God gives us to help ourselves…

Blessings,

Vicki

 

 

 

Living Our Best Life: Part 1

LIVING OUR BEST LIFE: PART 1
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 13, 2008
WARNING: This is a no-edit zone…

LIVING OUR BEST LIFE: PART 1 ©2008, Vicki Hinze

We all want to live the best life we can live.  We have many different views on what our best live is and how to attain it.  We also go about seeking our personal best in different ways.  Because we are all universal and yet unique, that we do this is evidence of God’s wisdom.  One life does not fit all…

Being a simple woman with limited perspective of what constitutes my own best life, I decided that the most I could do to help myself and maximize my chances for success was to make a two-prong effort:  First, to pray for protection from false steps and poor judgment, and second, to seek the counsel of the wisest of the wise among mortals, whose perspective is not all-inclusive (he was mortal) but it’s surely far broader and more insightful than mine.  That mortal was King Solomon.  God offered him anything he wanted—anything at all.  And King Solomon chose wisdom so that he could rule well.  God granted Solomon’s request and bestowed upon him wisdom.

So Solomon had wisdom and he got it directly from God, who does have all-inclusive, broad perspective and He happens to also love us, so we are sure that He wants only what is best for us.  Bearing all this in mind, whose advice better to seek on spiritual progress in our relationship with God and on wisdom?

Wanting to learning from that insight, I went to the writings of Solomon, specifically to Proverbs, to see what inspired divine insights he had to share.  There were many, but one that really snagged my focus was that wisdom is the way to God.

In every Christian beats the heart of one who wants an up-close-and-intensely-personal relationship with God—and wisdom is the way.  Solomon says it with a bit more polish and finesse in Proverbs 4:7 (KJV):  “Wisdom is the principal thing:  therefore get wisdom:  and with all that getting get understanding.”

The upshot is that if you attain wisdom, embrace it, live it, then understanding comes with it, and when you have both wisdom and the understanding that comes with it, those things will bring you to honor, and that results in wisdom gifting you with “an ornament of grace and a crown of glory.”

Solomon, in these divinely inspired writings, had a lot to say about wisdom, and much of it put down a road map for the rest of us in the form of traits and virtues that are aspects of wisdom.  If we adopt the aspects and make them our own, then in a real sense they become part of us—we’re embracing them, and that does carry us down that spiritual path and lead us to God.

That makes knowing these traits—(How can you adopt what you don’t know?)—critical to spiritual development.  As I read, I became engrossed and had to go back and read portions of the text again.  I love it when that happens.  When I get so caught up in the Word I forget to make notes.  But go back I did, often several times, and what follows are those traits and virtues I noted.  Honestly, each one of them is worthy of deep study and exploration on its own. I wrote them down and added my own notes and immediate gut-reactions to them, so that’s what I’ll share here.  As you’ll see, I stumble my way a lot and often take the scenic route on this spiritual path.  I figure that’s the route God wants me to take for His own reasons or I wouldn’t do it.  So I do hope that sharing provides some value… and you’ve the patience to get to that of value to you.

Being wise is…

Having a willingness to learn.  Receiving instruction is essential to growth and development.  To lack a willingness to learn is to imply (to God and oneself) that you already know all there is to know.  Not only about wisdom but about everything, and in adopting and embracing that attitude, you close a lot of doors to knowledge and insight that could have expanded your world and mind.  Lost opportunities abound in this kind of attitude, and that’s shutting doors in the face of wisdom that is eager to come to you.  So gain or attain a willingness—even an eagerness—to learn.  The world is full of fascinating things, and wisdom comes to us through many of them, but we have to be open to seeing them or we miss them—and the fault and responsibility for that is ours, due to our own closed minds.

Developing discernment.  With deeper insight and knowledge, applying common sense and compassion, we hone judgment.  What appears good isn’t always, and without honed judgment—knowing what to consider, how to weigh what we consider, and why we should consider those things in our decision-making processes—we lack the skills needed to develop and/or exercise discernment.  Our judgment isn’t its best, which means we’re apt to make far more mistakes and errors and to suffer the resulting consequences.  If our judgment isn’t at its best, our discernment can’t be at its best, and that means we and our lives are not at their best.  Wisdom is eluding us.  Sure, we can call on God, but He gave us tools (namely, the Word) and He expects us to use them.  Actively working to develop discernment is essential to wisdom.  Without discernment how can one know wisdom?  What then does one embrace?  Oh, yes.  Develop discernment is high on the wisdom priority list.

Respect for authority.  Any believer sees the wisdom in respecting God’s authority.  Now when it came to respecting the authority of kings who held people as slaves, it got a little tougher.  No small part of that is because that way of live is so alien to most of us.  We’ve been gifted with freedom; we can’t exactly relate.  We also don’t live in a time when if one person in the community chain fails to do his or her part others die.  That inter-dependency and reliance is far less pronounced in society today.  But then it was very much the reality of life then.  Authority in the form of laws keeps us civil; there’s wisdom in civility—far more than in the obvious lack of it, which is chaos.

But wisdom and authority goes deeper, into the deepest interrelations in our lives.  As believers we are always under God’s authority, though typically the first knowledge of authority evident to us happens when we’re children in the form of parental authority.  Then our circle broadens and those with authority over us expands, as does the types of authority they have over us.  It’s dynamic, depending on their role and place in our lives and their influence on us.  Some claim authority over us, and some accept the authority we grant and freely offer them.  Jesus’ “render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s” comes to mind.  So does the mentor, those we admire, wish to emulate; those we love and wish to indulge.  Whether parent, teacher, boss, colleague, mentor, eccentric aunt, judge or police officer, respecting authority and wisdom walk hand in hand.  Lacking respect for authority estranges one from wisdom.

Yet there’s another element to this that is often overlooked because it isn’t always viewed through the lens of respect for authority. That aspect is ownership, whether it relates to someone’s time, methods, or even their property: real, personal or mixed.

For example, consider discretionary time.  Generally we have little time that isn’t committed, but what there is of it in our lives falls under our authority.  If we freely offer it to another, that’s our personal choice and us exercising our authority.  But if another infringes upon it (by tactic such as guilt) and we allow it, then not only is that person lacking respect for authority but, in allowing them to infringe, we are lacking respect for our own authority.

On methods, I’m not talking about an employee/employer situation but more personal ones.  When someone does something, whether for themselves, for us, or for others, the method they use might well not be our method, but that doesn’t mean it’s wrong or ineffective only different.  It’s their effort, their choice, and their authority.  As recipients, we should respect that.

On property.  A very personal example.  Someone you know comes into your home and uses your computer without your permission—as though doing so is some innate right.  Or say you have a special food item or drink that is expensive and you purchased as a special treat.  A houseguest gorges or guzzles, consuming not just some but all of it.  Is that houseguest expressing respect for your authority or ownership over your property?  Is s/he expressing respect for the owner?  And probably worse, is the houseguest expressing a reflecting of his/her own discernment and judgment by not considering that this is or was a special treat that the owner likely worked long and hard to get?

Some would consider those things inconsiderate, and they are, but they attest to a deeper sense of entitlement that doesn’t honor the person who does them and certainly doesn’t acknowledge much less respect the authority rightfully belonging to the owner who shared.  There’s an arrogance in this type behavior that places one’s self above others which is in direct opposition to the teachings of Christ, who said that the greatest among us are not to be served but to serve.  See what I mean about that perspective lens?  I can’t imagine Jesus going into anyone’s home and taking the best of their best, leaving them without, and seeing that as treating his host with respect.  He just wouldn’t, and that’s a clear-cut sign we shouldn’t either.  There’s no humility in it, no grace—and both He and Solomon talked about humility and grace being traits in wisdom.

Being humble.  Two things come to mind on this.  The first is that none is as good or as bad as we or they believe.  There are facets upon facets that combine to form these judgments, and even when they’re our own, we likely don’t fully understand them all—which, if you think about it, could be a key reason we’re warned against judging.  The second thing that came to mind immediately is a memory from my teen years.  A guy was trying hard to impress my dad, going on and on about his own superior intellect and accomplishments.  My dad clearly wasn’t impressed.  Not a very flattering admission on my part, but I remember wishing the guy would just hush.  With his every word, he came across as more and more obnoxious, and as if he was superior to everyone else on the planet and just tolerated others’ existence.  After he left, I asked my dad why someone so smart didn’t know better than to think or say things like that.  My dad shook his head and said, “Tiger, if you’re smart, you don’t have to tell anyone.  They’ll figure it out for themselves.”

I remember thinking on that for a long time.  Clearly, my dad didn’t think this guy was as smart as claimed, though Dad didn’t say that.  But in figuring it out for myself, I digressed into wondering if maybe he acted as he did in a kind of preemptive strike—letting others know he was smart so they didn’t tag him otherwise.  And then I wondered if that was so, then who or what had happened to him to make him feel so “not smart.” What if he hadn’t been bragging but justifying himself?  What if he had been told over and again how stupid he was and he had been determined to prove his accusers wrong?  He’d accomplished all these things, learned all these things, and yet some part of him must still be fighting that horrible self-image.

Whether he was arrogant or damaged and struggling, I have no idea.  But I better understood my dad’s response then, and the sense of annoyance I’d felt melted under the possibility that his actions stemmed from pain rather than an attitude of superiority.

I learned a lot about humility that night. Not fake humility, but the real deal.  We all have special gifts and special trials.  If we seek, we eventually become acquainted with our own on both.  But even seeking diligently, we merely glimpse the gifts and trials in others.  Knowing it, and refraining from thinking too highly (or lowly) of ourselves or too lowly (or highly) of others, holds wisdom.  We are all extraordinary by grace, and that being a gift from God, inspires humility whose wisdom is inherent.

NOTE:  due to length, I’m ending Part 1 of this entry here.  Part 2 will be posted as soon as I’ve finished it.  Pondering, exploring is in-progress…

Blessings,

Vicki

Vicki Hinze
http://www.vickihinze

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Blessings,

Vicki

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