The-OneThing: on vision, intentions, and goal-setting

Seeking acute awareness of Christ’s immediate presence — the-OneThing.

 

Here’s one exploration, one practice that developed as a result, one quote from someone else, and one question for you to think about this week.

 

One exploration…

 

This week I’m thinking about vision, intentions, and goal-setting in relation to my spiritual life, health, and vocation, sparked by Dallas Willard in his book Renovation of the Heart, where he teaches using the acronym VIM: Vision | Intention | Means.

 

Willard suggests we gain a vision for the kingdom of God as he reveals it to us in the Bible and then set intentions from there. While pondering this lesson, three arches rose in my imagination. An arch for spiritual life, a second for health, and one for vocation. The arches represented a vision for that area of life. Only one arch was stabilized, firmly set, clearly defined with intentions flowing out of the vision — vocation. The other two were murky.

 

This surprised me.

I’m a goal-oriented person. I make deliberate choices for specific reasons. So why were two of the three arches less defined and floaty?

 

To find the answer, I analyzed the arch that seemed strong and in order.

 

Vocation.

I have a vision for my vocation — I see my future self, God willing of course, as a writer who has published books that people enjoy reading. Each day, I intentionally do the work that needs to be done to achieve that vision.

 

Then I compared the results of my analysis to the other two arches. The problem quickly emerged.

 

My intentions in my spiritual and health categories are not bad, but they lack the anchorage of a vision.

 

Spiritual.

I want to love God.

I want to be helpful.

I want to love others.

So I …

  • Read the Word
  • Memorize passages to help me think and act better
  • Pray
  • Meet needs through service and encouraging words

These are fine goals, and worthy tasks to meet them, but I lack the spiritual vision of God’s kingdom that spurred Jesus forward in everything he said and did.

 

Health.

I want to have more energy.

I want to maintain a healthy weight for my height and bone structure.

So I…

  • Eat clean
  • Exercise regularly
  • Drink enough water –  half my body weight in ounces

Nice goals. Respectable tasks. But not a vision for my health.

 

And so, I concluded…

… setting intentions apart from a vision is like a ship at sea without navigation skills or tools.

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One practice…

So, this week according to the lesson on pages 57-59 of Renovation of the Heart in Daily Practice book, I started reading the gospels with the following questions in mind, hoping to gain a vision for the kingdom of God as he sees it.

 

  1. Where do I spot Jesus living out the kingdom of God — where what God wants to be done is done — through his teaching, behavior, and choices of whom to associate with?

 

  1. What do I learn about the kingdom of God — its nature, power, and character — from what Jesus did and said?

 

One quote from someone else…

“The seeking of the kingdom of God is the chief business of the Christian life” — Jonathan Edwards

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One question for you to ponder this week…

What fascinates you most about life in the kingdom of God?

 

 

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The-OneThing: on practicing God’s immediate presence, and relief during a storm

Practicing the acute awareness of Christ’s immediate presence, and
being curious about the intimate outcome.

 

This week I’m exploring ways to deal with anxiety about stuff I can’t control and how to find rest in a storm.

Here’s 1 idea from me, 1 practice to try out, 2 ideas from others, and one question for you to think about this week.

 

1 idea from me

The world, the flesh, and the devil say get busy …

 

… ignore the eternal, focus on the temporal.

… ignore the body and mind, all that matters is your spiritual life.

… ignore the present, regret your past, dread your future.

… ignore the power of the cross and Christ’s resurrection, carry your load alone.

… ignore God’s desire to apply the salve of mercy and grace during sorrow, drown in your grief.

 

Christ says …
… come to me and I will give you rest.

 

 

1 practice to try out

Ever so gently, turn your head toward Christ.

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 2 ideas from others

1.

The Lord in the Storm, by Tim Keller

“The last chapters of the book of Acts could all be called “The Sufferings of Paul,” because it’s just one bad thing happening to Paul after another. He is caught in a storm on his way to Rome. He has appealed to Rome and the soldiers have him in custody, and the sailors, of course, are running the boat.

Now he’s in a storm, and everyone is afraid for their lives. It says they had gone for days in this situation. Down in verse 20, it says, “Neither sun nor stars appeared for many days. The storm continued raging. We finally gave up all hope of being saved.”

The storm, which was another part of Paul’s suffering, represents all suffering. All the suffering we get in life could be called a storm. They’re all like storms. Watching Paul deal with his storm teaches us something about how we can deal with all storms, all suffering, all troubles when they come in. I would like you to notice the paradox, the purpose, and the presence in storms.”

Listen to the podcast here.

 

2.

“Peace comes not from the absence of trouble, but from the presence of God.” Alexander MacLaren

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1 question

What would happen, over time, if you started practicing the art of sleeping in the boat during a storm?

 

 

 

 

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the-OneThing: on the hidden significance of work, and its subtle, but powerful impact on the heart

Seeking acute awareness of Christ’s immediate presence,
and being curious about the outcome.

 

Here are 3 quotes from others and one question to think about this week.

3 quotes from others

1.

“Work gives us dignity.”— Paul Tripp

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2.

“We are called to stand in for God here in the world, exercising stewardship over the rest of creation in his place as his vice regents. We share in doing the things that God has done in creation—bringing order out of chaos, creatively building a civilization out of the material of physical and human nature, caring for all that God has made. This is a major part of what we were created to be. . . . Work has dignity because it is something that God does and because we do it in God’s place, as his representatives.”

— Tim Keller, Every Good Endeavor

 

“Wear the world like a loose garment, which touches us in a few places and there lightly.” — Saint Francis of Assisi

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1 question

How can I rework my perspectives about the implications of work and impact my heart in a positive way?

 

 

 

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the-OneThing: On the peculiar nature of helping

The costly nature of Christ.
To lose is to gain.
To gain is to lose.

 

This week I’m thinking about helping and outcomes. I hope you enjoy the fable I wrote for you and the three quotes afterward.

 

ONE FABLE

The Girl, The Spider and The Wasp

 

A curious young girl sat in a comfy chair on her back porch admiring the storm clouds rolling in and the shadows cast on the ground. She opened her drawing pad, hoping to get a sketch done before the rain came. A brilliant black and yellow spider climbed from the bottom of the porch rail, crossed over and back down again, weaving threads into a pattern. A red wasp lurked behind a potted basket above the girl’s head.

Without warning, the wasp flew past the girl’s ear. She dodged and dropped her pencil. As she leaned over to pick it up, she saw the wasp soaring toward the spider’s web like a kamikaze pilot. Its body curved. Thrusting its stinger out as it landed.

The spider scurried to the edge of its web.

The girl wasn’t as cautious. She felt sorry for the helpless creature tangled in the spider’s web.

“I’m stuck,” a crackly voice cried out.

Putting down her drawing pad and pencil, the girl left the comfort of her chair for a closer look.

“Help me.”

The girl took a step backward, remembering her trip to the hospital after a bee stung her on the arm.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Wasp, but I better not get too close,” she said as she eased the back door open. “I’ll go inside and find someone to help you.”

“Do you actually think someone other than you, who has such a warm heart would take the time to free me? You can keep your distance. Use that long stick just underneath me to break the web wrapped around my foot.”

Her heart thumped against her chest as she considered the consequences.

“Just think how good you’ll feel after helping me get free.”

Her lips curled into a smile when she imagined how the wasp would feel if she saved it from the spider’s lair.

She shut the back door and turned toward the wasp.

Lightning struck off in the distance. Raindrops soiled her drawing pad. She hurried toward the stick and picked it up.

The wasp wiggled violently.

The spider scurried off her web and hid behind the porch rail.

“She’s moved away. Be still, so I can set you free.”

Keeping as much distance between herself and the wasp, the girl eased the stick toward the web. Just before the tip wrapped around the first thread, the wasp broke free and whizzed past her ear.

The girl lost her balance and fell to one knee. “That was rude,” she said ignoring where the wasp had gone.

Thunder cracked behind her. “I guess you didn’t need my help after all.”

The spider skulked out of hiding. “Of course he didn’t need your help. He was here for me.”

“I know. And that’s why I wanted to save him.”

“A practiced deceiver, he is.”

The girl’s cheeks grew pink as stood up and brushed off her knee.

“I thought I was helping.”

“Ah, but help you did. If you hadn’t come along when you did, I would have been his next meal.”

Another crack of thunder and the rain fell harder.

“You better get inside. A spider is never safe when a wasp is on the hunt. Nor is anyone who gets in his way.”

The spider quickly sewed new threads to repair her damaged web. “Today, a trap was set for sure, but not for me, I think.” warned the spider as she settled into her web to wait out the storm.

Bewildered by the spider’s last words, the girl leaned down to pick up her soaking wet drawing pad and pencil. A solid punch hit her on the shoulder. “OUCH!”

She looked back and saw the wasp speeding away.

It was difficult to breathe. Her tongue felt thick.

Lunging for the back door, she slipped and fell. The side of her face landing hard on the wooden deck.

The wasp circled back and settled himself beside the girl’s face

She looked at the wasp through soaking wet hair draped over half her face. “Why did you do that?”

“Because I’m a wasp. It’s my nature to sting.”

Unable to keep her eyes open, a faint whisper escaped her lips. “And it is my nature to help.”

 

*Help where we can, because it’s impossible to know where God will shine His glory.*

 

 THREE QUOTES

A good character is the best tombstone. Those who loved you and were helped by you will remember you when forget-me-nots have withered. Carve your name on hearts, not on marble.

– Charles Spurgeon

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What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.

– Augustine

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The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: “If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?” But the good Samaritan reversed the question: “If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”

– Martin Luther King Jr.

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the-OneThing: On who we believe

I have 3 ideas and 1 question for you as you explore your personal intimacy with Christ this week.

 

Idea 1

The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Romans 8:16

 

Idea 2

“Everything depends on how we read; on how we enter the magic circle of a text’s meanings; on how we smuggle ourselves into its words, and allow the texture of a text to weave its web around us.” -Michael Fishbane

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Idea 3

The Baby, The Dwarf, The Fairy and The Green, a fairy tale

Once upon a time, a baby was abandoned in a magical forest at the opening of a cave where an old grumpy hermit dwarf lived. A giant crow swooped down on the basket and lifted it about a foot, but it was too heavy for him to carry away. Leaves crunched beneath the basket when hit to the ground.

Crying emanated from inside the basket.

The Old Dwarf stumbled out of the dark hole. “What’s this ruckus out here, disturbing my nap?”

The baby looked up with bright eyes and stopped crying. The heart of the Old Dwarf warmed for the first time. I think he likes me.

He took the baby into his cave and made a home for the little orphan. He fed, clothed, and sheltered the baby, seeing to all his needs until the boy took his first step.

The Old Dwarf’s lips and chin trembled. Something he’d never felt before was taking hold of him deep inside. Great fear overcame the Old Dwarf that day. A horrible, unthinkable thought crossed the Old Dwarf’s mind. If he can walk, he will leave me. The idea of ever being separated from the boy made his chest feel heavy.

 He lowered his voice to a whisper as he picked up the toddler, “This must be what love feels like.”

The Old Dwarf carried the boy to the edge of the wide meadow that separated their cave home in the forest shade from the big city beyond. He sat the boy down on a flat stone nestled in the dirt that sat just before the edge of the great meadow.

He picked up a long stick and traced the meadow edge in front of them. Back and forth. Back and forth saying, “Green.”

After tapping the stick on the grass three times, he snapped his fingers, igniting the stick into flames. “Danger,” he said with a frown. The boy teared up.

His father scooped him into his arms. In a quiet, soothing voice the Old Dwarf said,  “You will be safe with me as long as you do not touch green.”

Each day the Old Dwarf repeated the ritual until the boy understood the importance of the boundary around their home.

Years later, when the boy had grown into a man, a tree fairy considered his morning routine and grew curious about him. One morning before dawn, as she sat high atop a tree keeping watch over the forest creatures, she watched the man skipping across the meadow with so much ease that she almost mistook him for a light elf, but not quite, as his ears were obviously human.

She admired the man’s poise and strength, leaping from one rock to the next with a heavy pack, but she didn’t understand why he traveled the way he did.

Curious, she flew toward him and landed on a stump beside his path.

He stopped out of respect. He knew fairies were powerful and had a great dislike for being ignored. “May I help you,” he said.

Her wings fluttered and folded behind her. “I’m curious to know why you travel the way you do.”

The man turned his head and looked at the pack on his back. Assuming she was referring to the reason he carried a heavy pack when only going for a day’s journey, he said, “I leave before breakfast so I can get to work on time in the city. There’s no time to come home for lunch and I get back home after dark. So, I take my breakfast, lunch and dinner with me each day along with other supplies I need for my job.”

She giggled. Her cheeks turned pink. “I should have been more specific with my question. Why do you skip on the stone path instead of taking a carriage or riding on horseback? You could shorten your travel time to half an hour and lighten your burden in your pack.”

He furrowed his brow. The brightness drained from his eyes as he tilted his head. “I thought fairies were the wisest of creatures. Do you not know that green is dangerous?”

She stood up taller. Her wings took on the glow in the moonlight. Her voice reverberated. “Who told you this?”

 

“My father, the Old Hermit Dwarf.”

 

“Where is this dwarf?”

 

“He died a few years ago.”

 

Her voice softened like a warm breeze. “Good sir, there’s something you need to know. You’re missing out a great deal of good life because of the lie the Old Dwarf told you.”

 

The man’s body stiffened. “I built this path after my father died. I carried each stone on my back one by one until the path stretched from my home in the forest all the way to the city so I could get to work without touching the dangerous green. My father had no reason to lie to me. He wanted to me.”

 

“He was protecting himself as all hermit dwarves do.”

 

The man turned his face away from the fairy and jumped off the stone where he was standing. His body, agile and strong from years of leaping and landing for hours every day. He descended on the next stone just ahead like a butterfly landing on a flower petal.

 

The fairy flew in front of him.

 

He jumped to the next.

 

She flew faster and hovered two stones ahead of him. “Sir, green is not dangerous.”

 

“Why are you lying to me? I was told fairies were incapable of lying.”

 

The outline of her body glowed brighter than the sun rising in the distance. Her voice deepened. “You are correct. Fairies cannot lie and dwarves only tell the truth when it serves their needs.”

 

He pushed hard off the stone under his feet and leapt over the green.

 

The fairy waved her arm and pointed to the next stone in front of him.

 

It vanished.

 

Mid stride, he had no choice. He couldn’t pull back to the stone he left, nor could he launch himself farther to reach the next one beyond. He squeezed his eyes shut, expecting fire to ignite from the green when he landed.

 

It didn’t.

 

His toe hit the ground first. Using his back leg, he caught his balance. Squatted down, preparing to leap for the next stone.

 

But he didn’t jump.

 

Instead, his fingers frolicking across the cool, wet green beneath him. The corners of his mouth curled into a smile.
 
The fairy flew to his side, squatting down on the grass without making a sound, the radiant edges of her frame fading to a soft white. “The Truth offers you a new life.”
 
His face softened as this new reality took hold of his heart.
 
“I accept.”

 

1 question for you

Who are you listening to?

 

 

Exploring Truth Through Story,

 

 

 

 

 

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the-OneThing: On identity, the value of your distinctiveness and identity as a shaper of behavior

Here are 3 ideas and 1 question for you to consider this week.

1

“Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that my Father may be glorified in the Son.” John 14:13

I admire the way Jesus thought of His behavior as a glory conduit toward His Father.

 

2

“Traits that are uniquely you…

             … frame your edges.

                             Don’t discard them.”

― Bridgette Booth, editor and children’s book author of The Cowboy’s Golden Cup (Tales from Burnt Boot Creek Book 1)

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3

“When you know who you are, you know what to do.”

― Shelley Hendrix, Why Can’t We Just Get Along?: 6 Effective Skills for Dealing with Difficult People

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1 question for you: 

Who is glorified by your behavior?

 

 

Exploring Truth Through Story,

 

 

 

 

 

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