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Life Is Like a Rollercoaster

In life is seems there are times that we coast along for a little while with no serious issues or problems that worry us, or worse, wake us in the night.

Then, life changes.

Up crops a small (or large) thing that drives us to the place of prayer. You know the one I mean – on our knees seeking God’s guidance, provision, intervention, or healing.
And next, true to the old proverb that trouble comes in threes, along comes another, and another source of anguish, worry, or distress.
Then there we are, on our face again, before our Heavenly Father, begging for His mercy and grace to be poured out (yet again, if you’re like me) and for Him to “fix” it.

These times always remind me of a line from the movie “Parenthood”: life is like a rollercoaster; it has ups and downs that can make us sick or terrified. (I know this isn’t a direct quote, but I haven’t seen the film in a long time.)
It’s still true. Life has very few straight, boring stretches; it’s mostly long slow up-hills, followed by terrifying rushes down and around.
And in those times, we’re reminded very clearly of why we need a Saviour.

At the present time, I need to see God do some really big things.

There are loved ones who need His provision, guidance, and protection, and their hardship and uncertainty weighs upon my heart just as much, if not more than, my own stuff that needs God’s “fixing”.

It seems like throughout my life there has been a recurring theme of “God, we need Your provision! And we need You to help us to trust You for it.”
This has been a result of life choices, but I often question whether I have a big character flaw that I’m unaware of. That’s often hard to face, although I do have frequent times of asking God to change me by the power of His Spirit and to make me the person He wants me to be.
Sometimes those prayers are followed closely by the realisation that I will never completely be the person He desires me to be, but I do still believe that He loves me in spite of my flaws and issues. And I know that He is always at work, refining, shaping, and moulding.

Thank God, His love is never-ending and His mercy knows no limits!

Psalm 40 is perfect for times like these, of life crises and self-doubt  –

1I waited patiently for the Lord to help me,
and He turned to me and heard my cry.
2He lifted me out of the pit of despair,
out of the mud and the mire.
He set my feet on solid ground
and steadied me as I walked along.
3He has given me a new song to sing,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see what He has done and be amazed.
They will put their trust in the Lord.

4Oh, the joys of those who trust the Lord,
who have no confidence in the proud
or in those who worship idols.
5O  Lord my God, You have performed many wonders for us.
Your plans for us are too numerous to list.
You have no equal.
If I tried to recite all Your wonderful deeds,
I would never come to the end of them.

6You take no delight in sacrifices or offerings.
Now that You have made me listen, I finally understand—
You don’t require burnt offerings or sin offerings.
7Then I said, “Look, I have come.
As is written about me in the Scriptures:
8I take joy in doing Your will, my God,
for Your instructions are written on my heart.”

9I have told all Your people about Your justice.
I have not been afraid to speak out,
as You, O  Lord, well know.
10I have not kept the good news of Your justice hidden in my heart;
I have talked about Your faithfulness and saving power.
I have told everyone in the great assembly
of Your unfailing love and faithfulness.

11Lord, don’t hold back Your tender mercies from me.
Let Your unfailing love and faithfulness always protect me.
12For troubles surround me—
too many to count!
My sins pile up so high
I can’t see my way out.
They outnumber the hairs on my head.
I have lost all courage.

13Please, Lord, rescue me!
Come quickly, Lord, and help me.
14May those who try to destroy me
be humiliated and put to shame.
May those who take delight in my trouble
be turned back in disgrace.
15Let them be horrified by their shame,
for they said, “Aha! We’ve got him now!”

16But may all who search for You
be filled with joy and gladness in You.
May those who love Your salvation
repeatedly shout, “The Lord is great!”
17As for me, since I am poor and needy,
let the Lord keep me in His thoughts.
You are my Helper and my Savior.
O my God, do not delay.

Don’t Forget to Do Good

What turbulent times we’re living in!

Wars, natural disasters, terrorists, nuclear threats.

Disturbing. Sad. Even frightening.

The challenge today for followers of Jesus is to keep from getting swept along in the mayhem. But how do we keep from getting distracted?  I’ve heard it said simply:  keep your eyes on Jesus.

As a follower of Jesus, we want to obey Him, obey His word and His teachings. We want to “remain in Him” and to have His words “remain in us.” There are so many instructions in the Bible – for those who read it, I’m sure you’ve noticed this. So how do we pick and choose which ones to follow and which are not necessarily key to right living?

Some say we don’t get to pick and choose.  And for the most part, I’d agree. But those same people are usually the ones who try to prove their righteousness, or religiosity, by obeying the law – God’s law and the laws of society.

But didn’t Jesus really turn all of that on its head?

He said there are really only two commandments:  Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, AND Love your neighbour as you love yourself. According to Jesus, these two things encompass all of the law and the commandments.

That brings me to something that has really gotten under my skin today.

As the people of God, we are to love, love, love.  Love each other.  Love God.  Love our enemies. (I’m not going to quote the multitudes of scriptures that I’ve referred to and will continue to refer to; that’s not the point today.)

Also, as God’s people (and here I mean those who love God and have given their lives to Him, just to clarify) we are to stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves.  We are to rescue those who are being swept away by injustice.  We’re to care for the widows and orphans, and I think what’s really meant by that is Handthose who are suffering and in need. We are to “act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.”

How does any of that lead anyone to think that we are to stand idly by (or even worse, cheering) while human beings, those made in the image of the God we love and serve, are mistreated, humiliated, enslaved, or made to suffer needlessly?  And do that in the name of “obeying the Word of God.”

My dear brothers and sisters (those of you who say you love Jesus),  do not think for a moment that you are living as God intends if you keep silent while whole people-groups are labelled as evil intruders.  When “authorities” who were supposedly put into power by God began oppressing, and then murdering, entire categories of people, the “church” kept silent. But the outraged, and I don’t know how many did or did not believe in or follow God, went to work tirelessly doing everything they could to defeat and foil the plans and actions of the so-called ruling government.

Throughout the ages, there have been people who have stood up against oppressive rulers, many giving their lives in the process, because they recognised evil when they encountered it.

Wake up!

Even now the deck is being stacked and the steps are being taken to silence any opposition.

Pray for our leaders; yes, of course. But at the same time, LOVE your neighbour (the stranger you encounter who is in need).  Show your love for God by standing up and speaking out against evil.  No matter who the perpetrator is.

I’ve been thinking a lot today about anger and forgiveness.

Seeing people hurt each other does that to me.  First, it makes me really angry, to the point that I want the “hurt-er” to suffer in the same way and degree as the “hurt-ee.” I’ve always been quick to become “righteously indignant” at the mistreatment of others.  But then, after reflection (sometimes a lot of reflection), I realise that I am doing the same thing, or at least violating the same principle.

I’m a follower of Jesus.  I love Him, and really want to live my life in a way that pleases Him. In order to do that, I have to keep His commandments, as it says in John 14:15 (“If you love Me, keep my commandments.”)

I say that because my initial intention was to have a good rant.  This is my blog, and blogs are made for rants at times, right?  And there are so many scriptures that talk about love and forgivenessRant. So, so many!  I know because I’ve looked up a bunch of them today while I’ve been thinking along these lines.

But castigating someone with scripture is unloving and vengeful.

I was inspired to go ahead and write today after reading an email from someone I follow who has made it his mission to inspire would-be-bloggers and hopefuls.  He said to overcome your fear and say what’s inside of you.  Well, what’s inside of me today has the makings of a sermon on overlooking wrongs that have been done to you and forgiving, instead of lashing out and trying to get even.

Kind of ironic, since lashing out with words, desiring to shake up, wake up, and correct unloving behaviour, is itself hurtful.

I would love to just go for it, and unleash all the scriptural correctness that’s rolling around in my brain.  Like….

Forgive exhaustively (70 x 7) (Matthew 18:22)

In your anger, do not sin. (Ephesians 4:26)

Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:32)

Pretty much all of Matthew, chapter 5 – Blessed are those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy…But I say if you are even angry at someone you are subject to judgment…. ‘Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!’

Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.  (Colossians 3:13)

I could go on, but you’ve more than gotten the idea.  And I have now given a mini-sermon to myself.

Overlook.

Forgive.

Love.

And pray.  Always pray.

The act of writing has been cathartic.  I feel better!  I hope at least one person out there does too.  And if not, write it out, and pray it out; then I’m sure you will.

 

 

A Good News Story

Good news just has to be shared. It begs telling by a good storyteller so that others can rejoice with the recipient.
Unfortunately, I’m not that great a storyteller, but I’d like to share something any way:
We’ve been driving a car that was gifted to us by a godly, generous couple. It has been an amazing blessing to us, especially since we never really expected to be able to afford to have a car. We were living as missionaries, with me as a “tentmaker”, on an extremely small income for a family of five. (Not complaining! Just explaining.) It was actually the 3rd or 4th offer of a car that had been extended to us, but the only time we felt it was right to accept and trust God to provide for insurance, upkeep, and petrol (gasoline) costs.
Four years and thousands of miles later, we have been becoming increasingly aware that it is probably time to find a replacement. As aged creatures do, our faithful vehicle has long been showing signs of the down-hill slide: groaning and rattling with more and more volume, engine lights that don’t go off any more, taking longer and longer Car 2to start and warm up. Twice, part of the exhaust system has tried to fall off.  The driver’s side window is being held in place by duct tape – not too bad as it’s silver and matches the paint colour. Someone tried to break in by smashing the little triangular side window near the back, so it too is covered by duct tape, and it’s not looking very “respectable” these days, and is making me wonder if our neighbours are a bit embarrassed by its presence.
We’ve been praying, and asking God to provide a replacement, as it is no longer a luxury item, but essential to my husband’s marketplace-missionary job. Hubbie has been scouring the online ads, looking for a low-cost, reliable vehicle of the appropriate size for our family, but we’ve both acknowledged we don’t have the necessary funds….
Until this morning!
In the daily post (mail) was an envelope containing a cheque for almost the exact amount needed for a reliable, used vehicle.  Yay, God!
Praise Him with us for His amazing faithfulness and provision! He is Jehovah-jireh, the God who supplies our needs.

This does remind me of the story Jesus told of the woman who lost a coin and when she found it told all her neighbours to rejoice with her.  Now, I know that Jesus was making a different point with that story, but I’m going to leave the spiritual insights to you, and just hope that my little good news story encourages someone who is trying to trust God for provision or other answers to prayers.

Just Do It

I haven’t written in such a long time…Zippy WaitingI think it’s because I’m afraid I have nothing to say. The longer I’ve put it off, the bigger and scarier it’s become. I get overwhelmed by the enormity of the pressure to say something profound or “helpful”.
And, I get distracted easily! Like right now – it’s raining, and the dog is outside, and people are talking in the other room.
Also, I feel like I haven’t heard anything from God that He would like me to say. But do I have to hear from heaven in order to say anything? Of course, not! So why do I see it differently just because these are written words instead of spoken ones?

Perhaps it’s time to decide why I want to write a blog any way. Am I doing it to reach out? To teach? To relate? Or just to have a creative outlet and maybe have a few people see it?
Self-examination is even hard to maintain over the noise of the everyday sounds of life that intrude into my thoughts.
My daughter, the wise student/author, has said, “Just start! Don’t worry about what you’re saying. It can start out as a bunch of nothing, but as you carry on, it can become something.”
So that’s what I’m attempting to do today. Just start.
If I’m forever trapped in the cycle of allowing fear to keep me from starting, I’ll never attempt anything at all.

You’re a Vegan?

CowsMy daughter has decided to follow a vegan diet. I had to question that decision – it’s part of my job description as a mom.  I don’t really mind, as long as she’s healthy and finds suitable sources for balanced nutrition. She’s begun buying her own ingredients, when they’re not part of our normal pantry-stock, and is learning to cook new and different dishes. So, really, it’s a positive thing.

But our ‘vegan’ conversation got me to thinking…

People don’t want to eat animals, particularly animals that have been treated inhumanely…

Animal cruelty….

What about human cruelty?…

Why should the treatment of animals be considered so much more than the treatment of people?

We don’t want to eat certain foods because of how the creature was treated, what it was fed, how it was captured, or killed, but do we put that much consideration into the people who grew the food, harvested it, or sold it? Is our coffee-grower given a fair price for his crop? Is our chocolate produced by using slave labour?

Are we willing to not just think about these things, but change what we buy based on the answer to these questions? What about the clothes we buy? Where and by whom have they been produced? Are the conditions safe? Are the workers paid a fair wage? What conditions are they working in, or being forced to live in?

Thinking about these questions makes me think about the story of the Good Samaritan in the Bible, in the book of Luke. The reason Jesus told the story was in answer to the question, “Who is my neighbor?”

25 One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?”

27 The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”[c]

28 “Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!”

29 The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

That’s a very good question as we consider our responsibility, whether to animals God has made, or people who are made in the image of God,

Does the command to love our neighbor apply to the people living on the other side of the world, who are a link in the chain used to supply the clothes we wear, or the food we eat?

And, if it does, what are we going to do about it?Child Labour

“How Did I Get Here?” – My Faith Journey

How did I get here?  This place of knowing God’s love for me isn’t conditional. Of viewing Him as “Abba*.”  Of knowing I’m accepted, forgiven, and cleansed.

I asked myself this question recently after listening to the faith struggles of a young person. As I listened, I remembered my own doubts and questions at a similar age, but couldn’t put my finger on when or how I made the transition from that place of insecurity of faith to the sureness I’m experiencing now.

Wanting to analyse my faith-journey so it can perhaps help someone else, I looked back over the road travelled, and found it strewn with fear, heartbreak, depression, hardship, failure, and desperation. The shaking, sifting, and pruning of my soul was required so that I would learn to rely only on God, instead of myself or anyone else. My intellect, ambition, pride, and determination only served to drive a wedge between myself and God. At the end of self, I have found the joy of abandonment and been able to throw myself into the safe, secure embrace of my merciful Father. But all that went before was necessary in order for me to get to this place.

“Sorrow is God’s plowshare that turns up and subsoils the depths of the soul, that it may yield richer harvests….it is sorrow that makes us think deeply, long, and soberly.  Sorrow makes us go slower and more considerately, and introspect our motives and dispositions.” (Streams in the Desert)

The doubts, so prevalent in my younger days, don’t plague me any longer…at least not very often. But when doubts do come, I go back to the altar of remembrance and recount God’s faithfulness to me.  I recite to my fear the many times God has proven Himself.  Force my brain to bring to the short-term memory center how God has spoken to me, personally, in an intimate way so that I’ve known it was Him, and not my own imagination.  My will says to the panic beginning to awaken and rouse itself: “Remember the time…” and “Didn’t God send that person right when…”

Then my heart and soul begin a hymn of praise, “God, You are faithful! You are loving! You are merciful! You are kind!”  And doubt, anxiety, and heaviness are dispelled once more as the dawn of His Presence illuminates my being and the dark shadows disintegrate, becoming like dust particles in a shaft of morning sunlight.

rays of sun pushing through a window

*Daddy God

Nobody Puts Grisham in a Box

I’m a fan of John Grisham novels.  The plot is always intricate enough to keep my attention, and he often includes a moral of some sort, satisfying those of us who like it when good triumphs over evil.

On my husband’s recommendation, I recently decided to read The Confession.  I don’t know if Grisham decided to prove that he can’t be put in a box, and that good does not always triumph, but……….I don’t want to give it away, for those who haven’t read it yet, so I won’t say any more. But let it suffice to say that I was over-wrought by a particularly sad scene.

And there I was, crying my eyes out for a fictional character in a book.

Realising how foolish that was, led me to think about the real-life nightmares people live through all the time.  Particularly those that have no end in sight – the nightmare just continues because no one sees, no one knows, or no one cares enough to help.

“Who,” I wondered in the middle of my book-induced emotions, “cries for them?”

What must it be like for a victim of abuse, abduction, or human trafficking?

Thanks to a friend who has made it her goal in life to educate ignorant people like me, I have learned that people really are still held captive by others who force them to do things they don’t want to do. They are forced to work, in fields, factories, homes, businesses, or brothels, and don’t receive any pay or are made to give it all to pay a “debt.” They are abused, manipulated, deceived,  and treated like property instead of people.  They must lose hope that anything will ever change for them, or that their horror will ever end.

If I care about people because God made them in His image and dearly loves each one, then I should definitely care about victims of trafficking and abuse.  We’re to care for widows and orphans, the poor, and the powerless.

human_trafficking_3

That must surely include every hidden, nameless, faceless person who’s been shoved into the dark recesses of society by evil people who think they are beyond the reach of justice.

I’ll save my tears for times of crying out to God for them.  I’ll keep reading things I never thought I’d read, and learning things I’d rather not know, and follow Jesus where ever He leads me. So that, just maybe, I can help even one person to wake up from their living-nightmare, and learn to hope again.

I don’t know yet what that will be.  I don’t know what a not-very-brave, quiet-ish, pretty average woman can do to help stop someone else’s suffering…..

….so I’m telling you, for a start.

…if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when He judges you. -James 2:13b

Grace – Person, Place, Thing, or Idea?

Grace is one of my favourite words.

A friend once gave me the definition I still use: God’s unmerited favour.

He has given us what we don’t deserve and could never earn.

I am constantly in awe of the kindness of God towards me.  His grace has been the theme of my life. He has blessed me again and again when I have done nothing to deserve it.  I have made mistakes, over and over, but instead of  abandoning me to my own foolishness, my loving Father has patiently helped me, strengthened me, taught me, and shown me mercy.

He is so much more merciful than we are to each other.

He forgives us over and over, lovingly drying our tears of pain, frustration, and fear.

When we feel abandoned by our earthly parents, our Heavenly Father is there.

When we feel let down by friends, He is loyal and ever-present.

When we feel stupid and unteachable, He is patient and kind and picks us up again, gently restoring, strengthening, and encouraging.

Even when we doubt Him, looking around in wild-eyed terror, He forgives us for doubting His faithfulness and steadiness, and calms our fears.

God delivers His grace to us in so many different ways.

It may be a friend who rearranges their schedule so they can help you pack and move.

It may be a neighbour who you’ve only ever waved to and smiled at who comes to clean your house so you can pull yourself together during a family crisis.

It may be the new acquaintance from church who takes care of your child when you are extremely ill while your husband is out of town.

It may be the stranger who fixes your car in an empty parking lot, and then disappears as suddenly as he showed up.

Maybe it’s the clothes that don’t wear out, or the shoes that are just your size that someone is giving away.

God’s grace can come to us in the smile and kind word of a stranger. Or the listening ear of a friend.

He is amazingly adept at using the ordinary, the everyday, to deliver His overwhelming, never-ending, incomprehensible love….particularly when we feel the least deserving.

To Write, or Not to Write – That is the Procrastination

Writing should be an outlet, not a struggle, a chore, or a burden.  It should just flow out of the inner thoughts, ideas, creativity, or opinions of the writer.

Shouldn’t it?

Not if we build it up in our minds so that it becomes a bigger and bigger entity, taking on weight and power, until it seems an overwhelming, fear-inducing obstacle that we must some how surmount.

The result of that kind of thinking is procrastination.

There is always something else that is more urgent, more vital, or just more fun, than writing the little, insignificant blog that probably no one will read any way.

But I want to write….don’t I?

I need to express myself, share my thoughts, experiences, or whatever with whoever cares to read my words.  And maybe someone out there is just waiting for that shared experience, or wisdom, or hope, and will be encouraged by it.

I think that’s really what’s at the heart of my desire to write a blog: the hope of even one person being encouraged or smiling because of what I’ve written.

So I press on.

My “to do” list contains an added item: write new blog post.  And the rest of the ‘urgent’ things filling up my life and taking up my time can wait an hour or two (or three) while I write, delete, rewrite, edit, until I’m satisfied that the new entry says what I want it to say, flows in a satisfactory rhythm, and reflects a little of who I am.

The need to encourage others, and express self…those things could be part of who God has made me to be.  Two things that give me life, refresh my soul, and allow me to give (in however small a way) to someone else.

It’s been said that to know who God has made you to be, or the gifts He has given you, just try to imagine not doing it.  If it feels as though a piece of yourself is being ripped away, then you are probably meant to do that thing. [I should add a disclaimer here: It must be legal, morally right, and beneficial to society.]

This wasn’t actually meant to be a post about writing….but while I’m still on the subject, I would like to remind you that writing is very therapeutic.  It allows us to express our feelings, some of which we may not be aware of until they come out of us onto paper or a computer screen. It aids in self-discovery, as evidenced in this post, as well as decision-making.  It allows the expression of creativity, and the exploration of ideas.

Now that I’ve convinced myself of why I should keep writing, I’ll bring this to a conclusion.

Next time, I’ll try to get to the topic I had intended for today: God’s grace.