Last night at church we talked about the first commandment–thou shall have no other God’s before Me. Then we talked about how rarely we live this one out. No, we don’t have images made from stone or wood, but we have our idols none the less–those things we hold so tightly, they’ve subtly gained control of our heart. Sometimes even good things can become bad, when gripped too tightly. For me, it’s a constant battle, requiring a constant heart check. Where does my obedience truly lie? Am I really living for Christ and Christ alone, or am I straddling two worlds hoping they’ll somehow merge?

So how do you know when that thing’s become the Thing? When you can’t let it go. When it dominates your thoughts and becomes the central reason for your actions. How do you make the Thing a thing? I’m not sure of that one. I know in my life, my heart, if left alone, quickly darkens. Each day I have to pray for God’s purifying intervention. I pray that He draws my heart toward Him, softens it to the things of Him, and removes anything in me that does not bring Him glory. But quite honestly, the praying’s easy. It’s the doing that gets tough, because inevitably, God shows me something that needs changing, dropping, adding, confessing. And anyone who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it sins. There’s no self-justification here. No, “Well, I wasn’t sure if that was God’s will for me.” God’s not buying it. More often than not, the question is not do we know God’s will, but do we have the courage to obey, even if it doesn’t make sense or means giving up something we hold dear.

Today’s devo first appeared on Ashley Clark’s blog, Everydays.

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The original title: God May Be Calling, But What IF the Line’s Busy?

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about what happens when God places a call on our lives, but we’re a little too busy with all our good efforts to pick up. Who’s on the other line? Well, it’s probably not Satan incarnate, unless you are really outside my typical blog audience.

More likely, it’s those nice folks at church, asking if you can volunteer for a few more service projects. Or maybe it’s a coworker who wants to know if you can pick up a few extra hours.

Or if you’re like me, maybe it’s yourself. And no, I’m not schizophrenic.

I’ve seen this happen to friends who hold the idea of their “ministry” so close to their hearts that they are inflexible when God Himself brings a change to their plans, and I’ve done this many times personally when God is telling me to relax and I feel the need to explain how concerning and significant my efforts are.

The conversation goes something like this, “God, I know You’re listening, and I know you care, but this stuff I’m doing here is pretty important, so please help it work out the best way it possibly can, and please give me strength as I work so hard to exhaust every possible avenue to make this happen.”

When really, the prayer should be more like this: “God, I’m listening. And I’ll follow.”

The. End.

I challenge you today to live in faith rather than in a form of faith that’s really driven by self-imposed, false humility and a legalistic, works-based salvation structure. Remember that it is by grace and grace alone we are redeemed, and all we are that is good is because of Christ’s work in us.

So stop trying too hard to BE that person, whatever he or she looks like in your mind, and realize you already ARE if Christ is at work, living within you.
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Ashley Clark writes romantic comedy with Southern grace. She’s currently working on her master’s in English with an anticipated spring 2011 graduation date. When she’s not writing, she enjoys teaching English Composition I and Introduction to Literature. She lives on the Gulf Coast with her husband and two rescued Cocker Spaniels. You can find out more about her and her writing at Everydays and Kaitlyn’s Reply.

And remember, if you loved today’s devo, fb share it, “like” it, tweet it, or leave a comment. And, take a few moments to visit Ashley’s blog. She’s a wonderful sister in Christ who has a fun way with words! And a heart that spills grace and joy on all she meets.

(You might also enjoy reading my interview of Dr. Senske, author of The Calling: Live a Life of Significance on Reflections today.)

About a week ago, maybe two, I wrote an article about making plans lightly so that I can be more pliable to God’s leading. This is an area of weakness for me, which is probably why God continually throws me curve balls. I must admit, standing at home plate, bat in hand, it can be hard to know which ones to let pass and which to swing at. I’ve always taken a “swing at everything” approach, trusting God to intercept when necessary.

Until it comes to the day to day, then everything looks like a bad pitch. The other day I received two exciting emails, almost back to back. One was from an editor of a very respected magazine requesting an article I had queried about and another was from an international ministry that seemed so inline with my passion and personality, I just knew it was from God. I was a little concerned about all the responsibilities and ministry obligations I already have scheduled, but I just knew God would work it out. He was the one opening the doors of heaven, so He’d be the one to provide the bucket big enough to catch it all.

Now those are the type of assignments a Christian wants to surrender to. These emails led to a day of praise and prayer. As we drove home from a week-long vacation, I told God that I would surrender my plans, expectations, and goals to Him. I would be completely pliable. (Although, I must admit, I had my weekly to-do list scheduled in my iphone calendar.)

But then I got home and surrender wasn’t quite so glamorous. We returned to a dead sprinkler system, and equally dead lawn, an empty fridge, and pounds of laundry. While my husband attempted to fix our sprinkler, I headed to the store. Not a good idea on a Sunday evening, especially the second to last Sunday before the start of school. Two hours, and two phone calls later (why does everyone call the minute you step inside the grocery store?) I returned home rather frazzled. And I still had quite a bit of unpacking and laundry to do. Along with a very busy week ahead.

It was about to get busier. While I was gone, my husband had determined the cause of our sprinkler problems. Apparently we had blown a fuse, which meant we needed an electrician. Although I would have preferred Monday when I already had a repairman scheduled to fix my new stationary bike, the electrician couldn’t come until Tuesday. The day of our daughter’s thirteenth birthday party, when I’d be taxiing kids to and from our house and juggling a bunch of ravenous, giggling teens.

Okay, so I can handle this. No biggie. A couple hours at the pool, some grilled burgers, and a little Wii and we’re good to go. But then my husband reminded me that his parents were coming in on Friday, which meant that I’d have about three days to shovel whatever mess the girls had made during the party, do some quick meal planning, and hit the grocery store once again. If I was even here. Should my sister go into labor (which she is long overdue for) anytime between now and Sunday, all plans are shot and I’m off to Nebraska to whisk my three year old nephew off her and her husband’s hands, potentially leaving my husband to play host. (I hope my in-laws like fast food.) And if she goes into labor on Saturday night, my husband, daughter, and in-laws are going to have to cover my Sunday school class in the morning. Either that, or I’ll need to drive the three hours back home with my nephew in tow.

Needless to say, I was anything but the cheery housewife I would like to pretend to be. As I stepped over the mounds of post-trip clutter to make dinner while waiting for the load of laundry to get done, I fumed at all the things that were getting in the way of my surrender. I know, many of you are laughing right now, but I was so consumed with self and my “God-given” agenda that I lost my pliability.

Until I happened upon Anne Baxter’s blog post on the kingdom of God. As I read her article on the kingdom of God being within you, I was reminded of the conversation I had had with God on my drive home. How quick I had been to surrender everything to Him–when I thought that meant a writing assignment or ministry opportunity. When it meant folding laundry or waiting for electricians, not so much.

Thanks, Anne, for the much needed heart check your article provided. It reminded me that surrender is not just for the big things, but also for the day to day.