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Monday, September 16, 2013

Disciplined responsiveness

Mark a life of discipline - easier said than done.  What we often "mark" is the fact we are rather undisciplined characters, living as we like and then wondering why our choices have yielded less than desirable results.  Wisdom calls out - listen carefully.  One of the tell-tale signs of an undisciplined life is the inability or unwillingness to listen.  Blessing comes to those who live "awake" lives - those who are alert and responsive to the Lord.  Now, this all said, just how much of our lives do we actually live "alert" and "responsive"? If we cannot say we do this more often than not, we are likely living rather undisciplined and opportunities pass us by without our notice.

So, my dear friends, listen carefully; those who embrace these my ways are most blessed.  Mark a life of discipline and live wisely; don’t squander your precious life.  Blessed the man, blessed the woman, who listens to me, awake and ready for me each morning, alert and responsive as I start my day’s work.  When you find me, you find life, real life, to say nothing of God’s good pleasure.  But if you wrong me, you damage your very soul; when you reject me, you’re flirting with death. (Proverbs 8:32-36 MSG)

The condition of a disciplined life is that of being active in embracing the right stuff.  For some, this is the right people - those who will actually help us to grow and mature into solidly grounded individuals.  For others, this is the right choices when faced with the multitude of opportunities which herald our attention.  Still others think of this as just being in the right place at the right time - kind of "kismet" of sorts.  Dare I say, kismet is not the best means by which to develop a disciplined life!  On the other hand, paying attention to those we associate with and the choices we make when opportunities herald our attention definitely comes closer to "marking a disciplined life".  

A disciplined individual does more than just follow the rules - they desire to understand the intent behind he rule.  For example, the rules to drive at a certain speed on a highway vs. within a school zone are different, aren't they? The "rule" is similar, though.  In general, the rule is to give us "limits" to abide within so we can avoid unnecessary injury to self or others.  Exceed the limits and we place ourselves in places of danger.  The knowledge of both the need for the rule and the intent of the rule helps us to understand the importance of keeping the rule.  

A disciplined individual is intent on becoming better at something.  In a natural sense, the individual who desires to become a great musician exercises certain discipline to give up "fun" for the time to practice the scales and transitions which will mark him/her as a great musician.  The purpose and intent exhibited in the consistent practicing will eventually pay off with excellence in the skill they are pursuing.  In a spiritual sense, when we "practice" the right stuff long enough, it begins to "pay dividends" beyond our imagining.

A disciplined life is also marked by correction, as warranted.  No one goes through life without the need for correction.  When we are faced with the need for corrective action, if we stall out, turn the other way, or do whatever is necessary to avoid it, we likely are running from living within the rules and with a purposeful intent.  In other words, we are living undisciplined lives.

Remembering the keys of being awake and alert - disciplined lives are marked with attentive surrender (responsiveness).  There is nothing more rewarding than to hear the strings of the violin when played by a skilled musician - one who has been attentive to learn the skill.  The beauty produced is not by accident - in fact, it seems the strings are "responding" to the movements of the musician.  This is all God ever asks of us - to respond to his movements in our lives.  These movements are subtle and easily missed if inattentive or undisciplined.  Because they are so subtle, we need to exercise vigilance toward them.  Maybe this is why the disciplined life is marked with alertness and awareness - for responsiveness is a result of these two characteristics.

Disciplined lives are responsive lives.  What are you responding to?  Are you awake and alert?  Are you paying attention to the subtle voice and leading of God's Spirit?  He doesn't shout - he whispers.  You listening?