Sunday, January 10, 2016

God and Post-It Notes

I love Post-It notes. If you peek into my "tape, pens, stamps, etc" kitchen drawer, you'll find a stack of colored mini Post-Its (about 10 notes of one color before a new color begins) and a stack of the popular standard yellow ones. The top drawer in my desk at work holds a more impressive array: large pages with lines, several medium-sized pads of various colors, a couple of pads of mini-sized in various colors, and a cute little organizer holding 5 pads of various-colored page markers.

Truth be told, though, I'm more a Post-It note lover than a Post-It note user. I love having them on hand, and I love how they look all neatly -- and colorfully -- organized in my desk drawer. But I can't remember the last time I used one here at home, and I ordinarily only use them at work to flag a stack of papers as "to be graded" or "to be returned" with the appropriate course section noted.

Some people, however, are Post-It note users extraordanaire. Maybe, like my sister, you're one of them. If you walk into my sister's kitchen, the first things you would probably notice is her beautiful built-in oak desk with tall cabinets on the wall above it. The reason your eye would be drawn to it, as opposed to the matching but much-larger cabinets that grace the two much longer walls in the room, is the dazzling array of Post-Its that adorn the lower half of the wall cabinets.

Orderly organizer that I am, I am impressed at the uniform spacing and alignment of the yellow squares of paper, each note ordered by (according to my sister) the priority of the information on the note.

I'm so in awe of my her system that I've attempted a few times to replicate it in my own home and/or office. But I can't. I simply cannot abide, on a daily basis, the cluttered-ness of the array of Post-Its and the fact that, once the note on it is no longer needed, it is relegated to the trash can, leaving no record of the accomplishment or when it took place. And so, I always return to my well-loved and trusty planner and my Pilot Hi-Tec-C Coleto pen with 5 cartridges of ink (blue-black, pink, red, green, and orange).

I don't need Post-Its.

Neither does God.

For a very long time, I thought He did. Oh, I knew he didn't need the kind of reminders available online at amazon.com or found, if needed right away, at a local office supply store.

No, I thought He needed reminders in the form of prayer. I was a strong believer in 1 Thessalonians 5:17: "pray without ceasing".

And so I prayed "without ceasing". My version of "without ceasing" involved making a list of prayer requests that I rattled off to God -- grocery list style -- when I prayed. Sadly, my prayers often consisted of just a quick "thank you" followed by my list followed by "amen".

In other words, I nagged God.

And then, when in a women's Bible study about 23 years ago, the leader talked about putting a need in God's hands and "letting it go". No fretting, no constant reminders to God. Just leave it in His hands, trusting Him to handle it in His way, in His time.

The heads of every other woman in that group nodded and murmurs of assent filled the room; I didn't have the nerve to ask what I was thinking, "But what about 'pray without ceasing'?"

Instead, off and on for 20 years, I'd think about the contradiction that I thought existed between  the two -- between praying without ceasing and leaving things in God's hands -- both of which are supported by Scripture. Mostly, though, I'd simply vacillate between the two, trying one method for awhile and then switching to the other, figuring that between the 2, I had the bases covered.

For those who are careful readers and who are now hung up on the idea that I flip-flopped for about 20 years (!), I must admit that, yes, that's exactly what I did. 

And then came the day, in the Fall of 2006, when in a Bible study group, a lady openly shared that she had never been able to reconcile these 2 ideas! I was so impressed by her candor -- this lady wasn't hiding behind a facade of having it all together and understanding all the Biblical concepts like I'd been doing. I wanted to lean over and give her a high-five!

Another participant admitted that she, too, had struggled with that dilemma until her pastor preached on the issue. He said that "pray without ceasing" means that we should be in constant communication with God and that we should pray about everything, giving thanks for our blessings as they occur, asking for guidance when needed, and requesting help when problems arise. He explained that once a prayer request was made, we should leave it in God's hands, only bringing it up again if circumstances changed in some way or if we felt exceptionally anxious and needed God's reassurance. According to him, "pray without ceasing" does not mean that, like a dog with a bone, we take the same thing to God day after day after day.

In short, we shouldn't nag God.

I went home and, over the course of several weeks, I consulted several Bible translations, checking the passages I found using Bible concordances and online searches. While Jesus never specifically addressed the difference directly, everything I read supported a mixture of the two approaches. Prophets in the Old Testament often prayed about the same thing over and over, beseeching God to answer their desperate plea. I found, though, that the Prophets did this in a time of great distress or calamity, and they prayed with fervor. No rote recitations of a list of requests from them. More often than not in the New Testament, Jesus simply says that we are to "ask" and our prayers will be answered, that we are to trust Him and fear not.

What I found brought me peace, and it still does.

Because it's not how often we ask God for something, it's the nature of our heart that matters.

We can bring something to God in persistent, heart-felt prayer. It's perfectly fine, too, to petition God one time and, in complete trust in Him, leave the matter in God's hands, confident our request won't be lost in the midst of all the other requests He receives.

He doesn't forget our requests; He doesn't forget us.

He doesn't need Post-Its.

 

Challenges Updates 

January 16 in 2016 challenge to ruthlessly sort through all my possessions:

  • sorted my entire closet (shoes, winter & summer clothes, purses, etc), files and paperwork, my jewelry (had never done that before!), and 5 plastic bins & 1 box from the basement

  • discarded a large paper shopping cart of unneeded, outdated papers; filled a large trash bag with clothes, shoes, etc, to be dropped off at the Safe House for Women resale shop, and added well over 30 items to the "try to sell" pile


Write 365 (write every day) -- journaled every day and am blogging today (Saturday's end of the week post to be published tomorrow)

52 Books in 52 Weeks -- Read Practicing His Presence; actually, I read it again, which is allowed in the challenge. Fantastic book that I read at least once a year.

 

2 comments:

  1. Love the post Patti! I used to struggle with wondering how in the world would I ever be able to pray without ceasing. I finally decided it meant an "attitude" of prayer...being close enough to the Lord that you just automatically talk to Him about everything anyway. Just like breathing...you just do it!

    And a word or two about your challenges. When I cleaned my closets in anticipation of going "tiny" I found a method called wardrobe capsules or something like that...google it ;) It made the whole process much easier!

    And I LOVE Practicing His Presence ;)

    Cindy

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  2. I love how you explain your understanding and practice of praying without ceasing, Cindy! Wardrobe capsules? Sounds intriguing, and I will check them out!! Thanks so much :)

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