>Flaming Arrows

>My FaceBook friend Gideon Strauss (whose fb profile pic reminds me of my oldest son, Seth) has recently posted quotations from Twyla Tharp’s book, The Creative Habit.

The pithy quotes seemed so specifically designed for me at this point in my life that I ordered the book. It arrived in my mailbox yesterday where I found it when I drove home to “drain the dog” during the afternoon break of Classis Central US of the URCNA (which was meeting at Covenant Reformed Church about five minutes from my home).

This morning I could easily follow many rabbit trails: I could write about how providential it was and how thankful I still am for Classis being held so close to my home this week. I could write about my reflections on a sometimes very emotional Classis meeting that saw two men sustain examinations (but I am already writing about that for Christian Renewal). I could write about the demands of dogs, but also their rewards and the many ways Libby actually facilitates my writing process. I could write about how Tharp emphasizes ritual in beginning the creative day and how that fits with my practice of prayer in the early morning time I call “the votive silence.”

But I will do none of those things this morning. Instead I will tell my readers why Tharp’s book is timely and I will post a highly personal plea for prayer.

Tharp’s advice is timely because this summer has been very difficult for me. Creative energy has been at an all-time low; random distractions have been at an all-time high.

My personal prayer request is that you would join me in praying for good health, a peaceful spirit, and the ability to function creatively and do with excellence the work God has placed before me.

If the Lord leads you to pray, I would appreciate it. And I would appreciate knowing that you’re praying.

I rarely use the language of spiritual warfare, but the distractions that have pulled me from my regular schedule and the creative process have been of such a nature that they accurately can be discribed only as the flaming arrows of spiritual warfare.

I have been plagued by electrical and computer problems during my most creative morning hours. Family and health concerns have crowded out creativity. My work on the second volume in the juvenile fiction series I am writing about Matthew has not been going well. Aside from two days of creative energy in June, there has been no joy in Matthew-ville.

There has been no joy in my work for Christian Renewal. There has been no joy in my work on Mid-America’s Messenger. There has been no joy in my work on Precious Oil, the newsletter for churches of Classis Central. There has been no joy in my book on infant loss, which sits stone cold on the farthest back burner. There has been no joy in previewing prayer stories for an editor. There has been no joy in the ever-increasing amount of work hanging over my head as church librarian.

There was a glimmer of joy when I recently was asked to write the fifth grade volume of the “Life in Christ” catechism curriculum. Surely if the Lord was providing this opportunity He would equip me to the task! Surely He would sustain my health and provide the necessary time and creative impetus!

I charted the work to be done into the available time frame and came up with what seemed a viable schedule: 25 pages in Matthew manuscripts and one or two lessons in the catechism curriculum per week. My schedule factored in two weeks for editing each novel and allowed four weeks leeway between my self-imposed deadline and the catechism project deadline.

The past two days at Classis Cetnral brought a glimmer of joy when I met old and new friends. Surely God intends for me to continue doing this work for Him! Surely He will provide the words to write an accurate and interesting report!

I began writing the report last evening and it was going well, but…I was distracted. I began to think about the fact that spending two days at Classis had put me behind on my Matthew schedule. I began to think about pain. I began to feel a bit panicky. The flames intensified on the flying arrows.

I don’t believe I am such a crucial cog in the Lord’s kingdom that the forces of evil have targeted only me, but I do believe God has work for me to do. And I believe it must be work that might accomplish good. Because one thing I’ve learned in my lengthening life is that the more potential for good in a work, the more it comes under attack from the evil one.

Feeling as if I’m being attacked by flaming arrows reminds me of the “Armor of God” section found in Ephesians 6:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.

This passage reminds believers that not all our enemies are visible; that some of our struggles are against “the powers of this dark world” and “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” It also mentions what I feel I’ve been the target of: the “flaming arrows of the evil one.”

It also reminds us to stay in God’s Word and remain steadfast in prayer, including prayer “for all the saints.” And that is why I dare request your prayer.

When feeling like the target of the enemy’s flaming arrows, it’s good to read Psalm 7, a prayer for justice and deliverance, which begins:

O LORD my God, I take refuge in you;
save and deliver me from all who pursue me,
or they will tear me like a lion

and rip me to pieces with no one to rescue me.

The Psalmist pleads:

Arise, O LORD, in your anger;
rise up against the rage of my enemies.
Awake, my God; decree justice.

O righteous God,
who searches minds and hearts,
bring to an end the violence of the wicked
and make the righteous secure.

The Psalmist then confesses:

My shield is God Most High,
who saves the upright in heart.
God is a righteous judge,
a God who expresses his wrath every day.
If he does not relent,

he will sharpen his sword;
he will bend and string his bow.
He has prepared his deadly weapons;

he makes ready his flaming arrows.

God is the shield who saves the upright; He is a righteous judge who does not relent against evil. He sharpens His sword, prepares His deadly weapons, and makes ready His flaming arrows.

So whose arrows are they anyway? It’s proper, like the Ephesians passage, to speak of them as the “flaming arrows of the evil one.” But the book of Job is a vivid reminder that the evil one does nothing without God’s permission. God allows him to fire the flaming arrows.

And God is the ultimate archer. His flaming arrows will scorch the wicked and deliver the righteous.

With the Psalmist, I can say:

I will give thanks to the LORD because of his righteousness
and will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High.

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