Recently, my Bluetooth portable speaker bit the dust. With the battery no longer holding a charge and the speaker making a horrible crackling sound when I plugged in the power cable, I made the decision to replace it. It has served me well over the years listening to Scripture and teaching as I get ready in the mornings.
Scouring Amazon, I purchased a speaker that I thought would work. When it arrived, I read the owner's manual as it charged. Downloading the accompanying app, I thoroughly enjoyed exploring the features of this speaker.
Although the new speaker does not make the cool spaceship sound when it turns on and off like my old one, there are a couple of features that the old one did not have. The first is that when you power it on, with an Alexa-ish warm voice, it tells you its current charge, “Battery 70 percent.” The second is with that same digitized friendly voice, it confidently tells me, “Connected to... Jonathan C Dow iPhone.”
Waking up with issues of work undermining my peace one morning, I reached for the power button on my speaker. And while it usually instantly connects to my phone, that day it didn't. I fiddled with the Bluetooth settings on my phone and I fiddled with the speaker all the while battling whining thoughts about changes at my job. "Why are they going to do that? Why increase responsibilities and expectations and simultaneously remove support resources? That's insane and it is setting us up for failure." Interrupting my internal litany, I finally received the reassuring and unemotional alert, "Connected."
Resting the now connected speaker on the sink, I began listening to the book of Luke as I got ready. When the narrator got to chapter 6 verse 45, “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks,” something happened.
It was as if Biff, from Back to the Future put me in a Marty McFly headlock, knocked on my head, and said, "Hello? Hello? Anybody home?" And while I know that is completely opposite to the heart and nature of God, it was the jolt that I needed to snap out of my wallowing.
Reflecting on the reality that my speaker was only voicing the source to which it was connected, the parallel became obvious. Whatever my heart and mind are tethered to will eventually flow out of my mouth. And while I won't actually say, "Connected to... negativity, whining, and complaining," my attitude and actions will surely reveal it.
In his talk, “Overcoming Negativity through Rest,” Graham Cooke says simply, “That which you focus on, you give life to.” Perhaps that's why the apostle Paul exhorts us, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things” [Phil 4:8 NIV]. Every day, we have the opportunity to take our thoughts captive and to keep them “continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind.” We can live, "fastening our thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising him always" [TPT]. That which you focus on, you give life to.
Think that is unrealistic? It is when all of those lesser things... or if I may be bold enough, dead things [Romans 6:11], are the focus of your thinking. Beloved, we don’t deny our anger, pain, frustration, guilt, or ___________ (you fill in the blank) by trying really, really hard to not think about it. Because even in trying not to focus on “it”... we are actually still thinking about it, resurrecting and giving it life! Romans 8:5 says, “Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle. Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end.” [TPT].
Instead, precious one, we deal with those things by acknowledging and surrendering them to the One who can truly heal, restore, redeem, and reconcile. Paul instructs us, “Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayer, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life” [Phil 4:6-7 MSG]. That is what frees us to live out Philippians 4:8!
God is the God of divine displacement. And I believe He wants to displace all of the slimy residue and the murky sediment that has been churning in your heart with things “true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious – the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse” [vs 8 MSG]. God wants to displace that “stuff” with Himself.
I can testify that as an introverted, internal processor, I swam in the swirling cesspool of my own thoughts for far too long. I rehearsed the lies I created from my misunderstanding of the heart and nature of God for decades.
Here is what I am learning. The only way to get rid of a lie is to replace it with the truth.
In A Journey of Grace, I describe the pathway of learning to remain connected to God this way. "It is a journey of living with instead of living for him. It's a journey of living into him instead of living up to him. It's a journey of sharing with him instead of talking at him. It's a journey of surrendering more instead of trying harder. It's a journey of resting to receive instead of striving to earn. It's a journey of thanking him for instead of begging him for. It's a journey of believing as an heir instead of pleading as an orphan. It's a journey of fulfilling destiny instead of manufacturing momentum. And, it's a journey of intimacy instead of acquiescence."
Beloved, the truth is, “Attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life” [Romans 8:6 MSG]. And, "it’s not a timid grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike, “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children” [v 16].
May I ask, as the Spirit is asking me? To whom, or to what, are you connected? What is the playlist of your heart? What are you rehashing and what are you rehearsing? What worries need to be shaped into prayers? What lies need to be displaced and what is the Truth that needs to replace them?
Today, may you take another step living into the destiny that God was joyfully grinning about as He knit you together in your mother's womb. Amen.
When you have about 23 minutes, I invite you to watch my talk, A Journey of Grace on YouTube. It describes what God has been doing in my heart in the last 6 years and perhaps will give you a visual to help you walk in the fullness of who you really are in Christ.
If this blog has been meaningful to you, I invite you to do two things. Subscribe to the blog. You will be one of the first to receive a heads-up via email when a new entry is posted! Then, I invite you to share this blog with your sphere of friends. You never know how God might sustain the weary through a simple word of encouragement.
Lastly, I wanted to personally thank you for your grace in my dearth of writing new blog entries in the last couple of months. I have no excuse other than to share the rationale that I will not just "put something out there" to appease my self-imposed mandate to write a blog entry every month. I do want to write fresh from what God is stirring, but that sometimes takes a while to process... hence my silence. All that to say, thank you. I pray you are indeed finding encouragement in these writings. Grace and peace, Jonathan