Saturday, October 30, 2010

Hosting In Other Words--Pray for the Harvest

Autumn is my favourite time of the year. Growing up on the farm, autumn meant harvest and harvest meant long hours with, often, extra workers. I loved harvest time.

Our lives are called to the harvest. But sometimes I miss the significance of that....

Come back on Tuesday and I will continue my thoughts on being part of the harvest. I have the incredible privilege of being the hostess for In Other Words and I've chosen the words of Jesus for us to reflect our thoughts. Please, write your own thoughts and come and link to us on Tuesday. If you are unable to write your thoughts, please come and encourage those who do.

Then Jesus made a circuit of all the towns and villages. He taught in their meeting places, reported kingdom news, and healed their diseased bodies, healed their bruised and hurt lives. When he looked out over the crowds, his heart broke. So confused and aimless they were, like sheep with no shepherd. “What a huge harvest!” he said to his disciples. “How few workers! On your knees and pray for harvest hands!”

Matthew 9:36-38 (The Message)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

In Other Words--What do I know?

It is easy to make God in our own image. We feel a need to create a picture of who God is that fits our needs and situation. We don't intend to do it, but it is the natural outflow of attempting to understand the "otherness" of God with the limitations of our vocabulary. (For a really good examination of some of these constructs, J.B. Phillip's book "Your God is Too Small" can be eye-opening but should also be read critically.)

This self-construction of God can lead to sweeping condemnation of that which is different from our understanding. It can be used to justify actions and opinions in such a way to shut down dialogue with those who think differently. It can also result in disappointment if God does not operate according to our user's manual.

There is often a point when the "rubber meets the road" and we our confronted with whether our beliefs are solid, or if we have added to or diminished our understanding of God. It is often in the moments of crisis that we are forced to weigh those decisions. Scripture uses the picture of a refiner's fire burning off the dross in our lives to bring out the precious treasure that lies underneath. (Malachai 3) I believe that moments of crisis are also a refiner's fire for our belief system. It serves as a moment of burning away the things that we have created, leaving us with more and more of the precious treasure of who God truly is that has been hidden in our construction of God.

I recently read an account of an event that many in evangelical circles are suspicious of legitimacy of the actions that happened. The person giving the account, someone known to me who I trust, was saying that if she had just read what had happened to her in a report she would have dismissed it, but she could not deny what had happened. She had experienced a moment (in my words) of having some of the dross of her belief system burned away to see more of God. That removal of extra explanation about our beliefs happens in different ways for different people. But it is always to give us a clear understanding of who God wants to be in our life. Then we will be able to hold onto those things with more intent.

“I know a lot less about God, but the things I know about God, I know a whole lot more, for sure.”
~ Steven Curtis Chapman, on Larry King Live after the death of his 5-year-old daughter, Maria~

Father God, as you confront me with the things I have added to my understanding of you in an attempt to easily contain my knowledge, give me the courage to let you burn those things away. He me to know the things I know more certainly and to let go of things that I do not need to know. Let me know the precious treasure of you. Amen.

This week's hostess is Jen at Scraps and Snippets. Go, visit and read the posts. You may be challenged, you will be blessed.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A New Thing

"Forget the former things;

do not dwell on the past.

See, I am doing a new thing!

Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?

I am making a way in the desert

and streams in the wasteland."

~Isaiah 43:18-19~

If Jesus is Lord....

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
~Colossians 2:6-7~
Recently our Minister to Youth and Children was preaching on the book of Colossians. He was reminding us of the cultural pressures the new believers at Colossae would have been facing. He made what was a seemingly obvious observation, but one that has hung with me for the weeks since:

"If Jesus is Lord, Caesar is not."

By declaring that Jesus is Lord, the new believers were emphatically declaring their allegiance. And that allegiance was dangerous.

Those words continue to resound in my ears, "If Jesus is Lord, ______ is not." What fills in the blank in my life. What things do I need to be reminded are not Lord in my life?

If Jesus is Lord, blogging is not. Although a casual observer might not be too sure. The balance of time between reading my Bible/praying/spending time with Jesus and reading blogs/commenting on blogs/writing my blog is actually, often, way out of balance. I am working on keeping the ratio more acceptable. The funny thing is, when I prioritise time with God, I find I have more to say for my blog and it takes less time to say it. Imagine that!

If Jesus is Lord, homeschooling is not. Yes, educating my children is important and I believe that it is something that God has called us to do. But it is not more important than my spiritual wellbeing. And my childre will learn nothing of the love of God if all they see in me is hypocrisy. Again, getting the priority right is allowing school to become less of a struggle.

If Jesus is Lord, German and the girls are not. This one is often where the rubber meets the road. They are important. They are gifts from God. But they cannot and will not save me from my mess. Only Jesus can rescue me. I am amazed and grateful that he gives me these relationships to bring joy into my life, but I cannot depend upon relationships to make me feel good about myself.

I am grateful for the reminder that the declaration of "Jesus is Lord" is more than a glib statement that is made and then forgotten. It is a declaration of allegience. The choices I make and the priorities I set will demonstrate if that allegience is lip-service or heart-felt. I'm praying that I am found faithful to the declaration.

Monday, October 18, 2010

In Other Words--Grumbling


“The spirit of complaint is born out of an unwillingness to trust God with today. Like the Israelites, it means you are spending your time looking back toward Egypt or wishing for the future, all the while missing what God is doing right now.”
~Priscilla Shirer~
in “One in a Million”

Have you ever been around a grumbler? You know the type of person, nothing ever pleases them. The glass is neither too full or too empty, it is just wrong. That is the type of person I think of when I hear the phrase "spirit of complaint." It is a spirit that is totally unsatisfied.

In today's quote, then, satisfaction must come with trusting God with today. I understand the intent of the statement, and the statement is not wrong, but I think it is limited. I believe a grumbling attitude comes from not trusting God, period/full stop. If we are looking at the past and grumbling about how things did not turn out the way we wished, we are neglecting to trust that God knows our past and is in it. When we complain about the things that are or are not happening right now, we are neglecting to trust God with today. When we worry about things in the future that we cannot yet do anything about, we are neglecting to trust God already has the future in hand.

Neglecting to trust God leads to worry and anxiety. Worry and anxiety lead to irritability in word and spirit. Irritability leads to complaint and grumbling. It is a downward cycle that we all to easily can start down when we take our eyes off Jesus.

Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.
~Psalm 55:22~

These men are grumblers and faultfinders; they follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage. But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, "In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires." These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.
But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God's love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.
~Jude 16-21~

Trust him...with your past, with your present and with your future. The result is less anxiety and no reason to grumble.

Father help me to trust you today and always. I don't want to be a faultfinder. Stop my tongue when I seek to grumble. Instead help me to praise you for your presence in my life, my plans and my future. Amen.

Today's hostess is Debbie at Heart Choices. I know that you will find a blessing there when you visit.

Strength Will Indeed Rise

A little over eighteen months ago, things went terribly pear-shaped in our worship community. After one particularly difficult encounter where really harsh judgment and punishment was dispensed toward us, we chose to make a drive and worship elsewhere. We visited a church in a nearby town where we know the tradition and worship would be so totally different than our usual experience, we felt we would be able to relax and reconnect with God.

It was there that I heard Chris Tomlin's "Everlasting God" (lyrics by Brenton Brown and Ken Riley) for the first time. I stood with tears running down my face as we sang the words "strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord." I was wondering if strength would ever rise again. At that moment I felt so weak and battered, that I had little hope.

Over the next months we practiced "waiting on the Lord." I had to daily, or more often hourly, choose to wait on him and to trust him in the situation. I continued to feel weak and unable, but he continued to give me just what I needed when I needed it. That waiting time would lead to a cross-country move and a lot of healing.

Recently we stood to sing worship with our new faith community. Once again the song was "Everlasting God" and once again the tears were flowing. This time, the tears were out of gratefulness that strength had indeed risen. The ironic truth is, however, that I am still weak. I'm just not defeated in my weakness.

It was never going to be my strength that would rise. It was always going to be his strength. As I trusted him, I learned to rely on his strength. My trust allowed his strength to pour out and manifest in me.

But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
~2 Corinthians 12:9-10~

If you are struggling today, be encouraged. His strength will indeed rise and will be manifested in your weaknesses, if you trust him with those weaknesses.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Accepting the Rebuke

Still dwelling on the forgiveness/regret/conviction theme.  Feel free to move on if you aren't. ;-)

Then Nathan said to David, "You are the man! This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master's house to you, and your master's wives into your arms. I gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the word of the LORD by doing what is evil in his eyes?
2 Samuel 12:7-9
This is one of those passages that has always intrigued me. The courage of Nathan to say to the king that he was wrong.  The willingness of David to see the truth in what Nathan was saying.  There are times that I have seen the need to be a Nathan in someone's life, and chickened out. And there have been times when a Nathan has showed up in my life, and I was less than gracious in accepting that. I'm not Nathan, and I'm not David.

Last night at house group the question was raised to choose characteristics of David that made him a good leader. One of the responses was "he was close enough to God that he was able to accept the rebuke." I love that thought. David was close enough to God that he was able to hear rebuke from others because he knew that God's acceptance of him was based on God's character not on his own. He was able to hold up the rebuke and see if it measured up to what God was saying. When it did, he was close enough to God to confess, knowing that God would hear the confession.

I know that the confidence in the relationship can make all the difference in how I hear a rebuke. I am much more willing to hear from German or from a few friends who have been granted access to inner sanctum of my life because I know that their rebuke is not the end of the relationship--it is because of the relationship.  My confidence in the sureness of relationship means I can hear correction. I trust it. On the other hand, the random person who chooses to give me their mind on my life without any reference of true relationship will not be heard. I'm not close enough to them to accept it.

That is what I loved so much about the statement made about David being "close enough to God to hear the rebuke." I want to be so sure in my relationship with God, that I am able to hear the rebuke when it is needed. I want to be drawn back to where I need to be without fear. I want the relationship to be so close that I hear the love in the rebuke.

Does that make sense to anyone else? Do you find that the closer you are to God the easier it is to hear convicting advice? Are you able to accept the rebuke?

Father, help me to walk in sureness of my relationship with you. When correction and rebuke is needed, help me to accept that as coming from a loving father who only wants my best. Help me be willing to change when you call me to make those changes. Amen.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Getting Real with Forgiveness

Fools mock at making amends for sin,
but goodwill is found among the upright.
Each heart knows its own bitterness,
and no one else can share its joy.
Proverbs 14:9-10

This week I was re-reading Ann Voskamp's amazing piece The Fish Principle and reflecting on rejection and forgiveness. I felt that familiar twinge in my spirit that there was more to this story. I wasn't quite sure where it was going, but I knew the lesson would be made clearer eventually.

I didn't expect is so soon. But then, I guess I often do not expect the hard lessons to come.

A reminder came of some trouble in someone's life. A really tough time being felt by this family. There is an urgent need of prayer. I clearly heard that small voice say, "are you going to pray?" Of course I said I would, and uttered a quick prayer asking God to be with them in their need. But the voice persisted, "I mean will you really pray? Will you seek blessings in their life from me?" Insert a heavy pregnant pause here. I know what the answer is, but I cannot say the words.

This is a person who has hurt me deeply. This is a person who shook my very core of security and abolished relationships with half-truths, innuendos and sometimes outright lies. It is also someone with whom I have known for some time that reconciliation needed to happen. I've even had church leaders assist in approaching this person about meeting to reconcile these differences--and have been turned down more than once. This person has shown no willingness to resolve our issues, so I have let it go.

Except. Except that I haven't. I still feel the pit in the bottom of my stomach when I hear this person's name. I still feel physically ill when I see them. And, as is glaringly apparent this week, it is someone that I would rather wish ill upon than seek God's blessing.

*UGH!* The truth is so ugly to confront. Reality is, this person does not care if we are reconciled. This person is willing for things to continue as they are. It exemplifies that my harbouring of ill feelings is not harming that person at all. But it is harming me. Because I*have*not*let*it*go. And when God confronts and says, "let me have it," I hold on for dear life because I am afraid that he will not handle it as well as I am. How silly is that! Paul reminds us,
Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. (Romans 12:19)
but I would rather hold on be sure that the vengeance is what I would demand. I have become Jonah, sitting beside the destroyed plant stalk sulking.
I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Jonah 4:2
The reminder to "really pray" for someone who has hurt me and to truly seek God's blessing is challenging. It is challenging because I know God's character and know that he may very well answer those kinds of prayers!

I would love, at this point in the saga, to happily report that I got my attitude straightened out and said the prayers with a pure heart. Truth is, it is not that simple. I've confessed my vindictive attitude, I've prayed for this person, I've prayed for me, I've argued with God and I've sulked a little more about it. The easy part is recognizing that God is calling me to a higher path than I've been on. The hard part is actually climbing the path and walking it.

I know that this is a path of higher calling. It is not something I do for that individual--as I have said they are not concerned with my forgiveness. This forgiveness has to do with me and my obedience to what God is calling. Obedience always requires a sacrifice. This time in order to obey I must relinquish my desire for fair retribution or for justification. I must trust that his ways make sense.

I doubt that I'm the only one out there that God is reminding about real forgiveness. Maybe you are walking right there beside me. If that is you, please be encouraged that you are not alone. I would love to pray for you. My email address is in my profile (or if you feel comfortable leave me a note in the comments). If you have already walked this road, I would be so encouraged if you would pray for me. Let's get real about forgiveness and allow God to heal.

But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you...
Matthew 5:44

...And if you are so inclined, there is a hurting family that needs God's blessing. He knows the details.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

In Other Words--Words of Condemnation or Healing?


“When we are going through desperate, difficult times, the hardest thing can be hearing the voices of condemnation, rejection, and shame from others. The Enemy – the accuser of our brothers – loves to use people to kick us in the stomach when we’re down. The Enemy loves to use our sin to condemn us rather than allow us to hear the conviction of the Holy Spirit . . . Jesus silences the condemning voices and commands them to leave. Listen to the kindness in His voice as He says in John 8:10-11.”

~Beth Redman~
God Knows My Name:
Never Forgotten, Forever Loved

"A real Christian would never find herself in that position."
"If you only had enough faith, this would not have happened."
"He doesn't care about the details of your life!"
"Why would God rescue you? You made this bed, now you have to lie in it."

How I wish that those were all hypothetical statements! But they are not. They have all been heard by me in the midst of difficult times. They have all been spoken by well-meaning friends, wanting to help guide me to improvement. They all hurt, a lot.

Before I become sanctimonious that they were so wrong I must confess something. I, too, have said similar (if not worse) things to my friends when they were hurting. Under the guise of a helping word, I can unwittingly become part of Satan's plan to bruise and batter. Condemnation comes easy, especially when it is dressed up in the pretty clothes of advice. No matter the motivation behind the words, condemnation hurts.

Hear instead the words of love.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
~Isaiah 53:5-6~

But I call to God,
and the LORD saves me.
Evening, morning and noon
I cry out in distress,
and he hears my voice.
He ransoms me unharmed
from the battle waged against me,
even though many oppose me.
Cast your cares on the LORD
and he will sustain you;
he will never let the righteous fall.
~Psalm 55:16-18, 22~

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
~Matthew 10:29-30~

They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
but the LORD was my support.
He brought me out into a spacious place;
he rescued me because he delighted in me.
~Psalm 18:18-19~

Dear readers, let the truth of God's word seep into your souls. No matter what mistakes we make, no matter how far asunder we fall, He loves us more than we can ever imagine. His love draws us to himself and he will rescue us in our day of trouble. He has already taken on the condemnation of our sin and conquered it. We need to trust him to care for us the way he has promised.

Father forgive me when I doubt your care. Forgive me when I say unkind and unhelpful things to those who are hurting. Just as you are the rescuer in my life and you are poured into my life through others, help me to be the vessel used to rescue those trapped in condemnation. Let me be a tool for healing. Amen.

Loni is our lovely hostess this week. Please visit Writing Canvas and join the conversation.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

In Other Words


"No one man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself, and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true."

~Nathaniel Hawthorne~

She was dancing around wearing her Belle dress pretending to be a princess. Curtsies and smiles abounded. A few minutes later, however, there was a shriek of pulled hair and not so nice words toward her sister. "That is not how princesses act," I admonished through the door. She came out, in her normal clothing and said, "I can't be a princess all the time, sometimes I'm just Flower."*

She was discovering early that we cannot pretend to be something we are not for very long before our true self begins to show.

The old adage, "fake it 'til you make it" really doesn't work. We can fake it for so long but if it is only an act, the reality of who we are remains intact. I do believe that we can make a decision to be something different with the motivation of changing. I can "fake" wanting to eat healthy things with the motivation of truly wanting to be healthier. Eventually those choices become more second nature. But the key to that change was not the "fake" behaviour but rather the motivation behind the behaviour. Eventually, our true motivations will show.

One of our favourite places to go in Edinburgh is a pub named after Deacon Brodie. The story goes that Deacon Brodie was a councilman by day. A loud opponent of crime who was instrumental in funding the building the gallows in Edinburgh. The problem was that by night he was a common thief. A smug thief. A thief that eventually got caught and was sentenced to hang...on the same gallows he had helped build. He was, in fact, the inspriation behind the story of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde. In reality he is an example of how one cannot live two lives and not expect the two to become intermingled. The true face will eventually appear.

I, too, struggle with keeping the true face apparent. If you have read the snippet in my profile you know that I claim the title of Princess because I am the daughter of the Most High King. It is a title we all can claim as believers (okay a few of you may prefer Prince). But claiming the title does not mean I always act like a Princess. I am often selfish, spiteful, resentful, harsh. Not at all the characteristics that God puts forth for his children.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
~Galatians 5:22-23~
I get confused when I believe that I can "just be MiPa" and not be a Princess representing her heavenly father. I get befuddled trying to be something that I am not intended to be. I need to find consistency. I need to trust God to be the character developer in my life and I need to not hide behind excuses. Motivation to follow him and represent him well should be my key.

Father God, so many days I am anything but a princess in the way I act toward others. So many days I do nothing to represent your goodness and faithfulness. Continue to help me become what you would have me to be. Draw the two personas of me into one whole person. Help me to be "just MiPa" who also is a princess. Chisel away the hypocracy in my life and make me whole. May everything I represent point people to you. Amen.

Tami is our lovely hostess today at The Next Step. Go, visit and I know you will go away refreshed and encouraged.

*yes, I also addressed that this is not how Flower should act either

Marriage Monday--A Cord of Three Strands


Friday night I received a text, "Thank you for letting me come to Ryder Cup." I smiled as I texted "enjoy it for both of us."
Saturday the tables turned as I texted, "The show was awesome. Thanks." When he responded "it makes me happy when you are happy" I knew he meant it.
Our lives our intertwined, we are able to let each other do their own thing because joy brought to one is joy shared.

A major decision loomed. His boss said, "if you need time to talk to your wife..." but he answered, "we've discussed this type of thing many times. I know what our answer is."
I'm reviewing a curriculum choice. I am not sure whether it is right for us. I hear his voice in my head affirming my hesitation. I make the changes needed.
We discuss life goals and principles all the time. Our thoughts are so interlaced that we can make decisions independently knowing that they are united.

Our new church has small groups in the evening, after children's bedtimes. Most couples have one go and one stay home with the children. We are struggling with that. As German told one of the elders, "I don't enjoy worship with half of me not there." We are looking for a solution.

"I don't enjoy ____ with half of me not there." That is the gist of our lives together. When God joined us together, and joined with us to form this marriage, we stopped being individual strands. We are ONE cord, all joined together. I can't separate home life and church life and school life--it is one life. He can't separate family life and work life and church life--it is one life. We don't separate his life and her life--it is our life, joined together mysteriously and irreversibly. And I would not have it any other way.

Join others in the discussion of sacredness in marriage at Chrysalis.