Sunday, April 27, 2008

taking things for granted

Have you ever really thought about how much in life we take for granted? Especially in our culture and our society we take a lot of things for granted. Have you ever really seriously thought about it?

It's something that has been on my mind for the last couple of days and most definitely is now. I just got home from the Starfield concert in Kelowna tonight. (It was awesome!) The concert that was the first one after they watched the floor collapse in front of them at their concert in Abbottsford on Friday night during their second song. You could see in their faces and hear it in their voices when they spoke about it that they were still struggling with all that happened that night. (Praise the Lord, there were no fatalities! But there are injured people and others at that concert that need our prayers right now.)

All this got me thinking . . . we take so much for granted in our lives everyday . . . even something as simple as the floor beneath us not collapsing. We just assume that it always will be there; which we should be able to most of the time, if the building has been built right. We take for granted that the floor we walk on is secure and won't buckle and collapse underneath us. And that's not even all that we take for granted.

In our part of the world we take for granted that there will be food on the table for each meal, that we will have a warm bed to sleep in, that we won't be shot or tortured for what we believe . . . and so many other things. And for the most part, those will be things that we can count on to be there for all of our lives. But, that should make them reasons to be thankful for what we have, not something that we take for granted and assume will always be there for us.

Think about it: What do you take for granted in your life?

The list for me is pretty long:
- that I have a loving family behind me every step of the way
- that I have a good job to go to each day
- that I have enough money to buy what I want for food and clothes
- that I have amazing friends and roommates to come home to each day
- that I have a (mostly) reliable car to get me where I want to go
- that I can go to church without worrying about what will happen to me because of it
- that I can sit in a park on a gorgeous day and read my Bible without fear
- that I have a roof over my head and a warm bed to sleep in
- that I have amazing, caring friends to walk the journey of life with
That's what comes to mind when I think about what I often take for granted in my life. And there's probably more that I could add to that list if I thought about it more.

Think about it: When was the last time that you said thank you to God for all these things He has blessed you with that you take for granted? When was the last time you let those people you sometimes take for granted know how much you appreciated having them in your life?

I know for me, before tonight, it had been way too long. I'd gotten used to them being there - so used to them that I'd forgotten what a privilege and blessing they are. But, tonight I was reminded of that. Now I just need to figure out how to keep myself from taking it all for granted again . . . or atleast remind myself regularly that all those things I take for granted are incredible gifts from God that I have been given.

Friday, April 25, 2008


So, I was out with some friends tonight and I had a great time. But, at the same time it was also a realization for me that I'm still dealing with things from my uncle dying five months ago. It seems like certain things just bring things up that I hadn't realized.

Like having a drink with dinner or going to a club. If done responsibly, as I see it, there really isn't any problem. But, tonight was probably the first time I've been around people who were having a drink or anything like that in these last five months. And for me it was a challenge tonight. I watched my uncle's life be destroyed by alcohol . . . and ultimately that's what killed him. I hadn't realized how that affected me until tonight. The conversation around having a drink and the jokes about getting drunk . . . five months ago wouldn't have fazed me or bothered me at all; in fact, I probably would have laughed along with everyone, knowing that no one at the table had that intention to begin with. But tonight, just the jokes about it bothered me. This time I just couldn't see how people could joke about something like that. Just because it's legal, doesn't mean it doesn't destroy people's lives and families. Not that I want to dictate to my friends or anyone else how they should view alcohol. For me, it was really just a night of realizing and clarifying where I stand on it. And I know that my view will be somewhat different from that of many others. After tonight I know that I can't go there just because of what I've watched go on in my family.

I don't think we ever realize how much of an impact even some of our more distant family members can have on us until they're gone. I mean, until the last three years or so I didn't really know my uncle or see much of him. But, in the months since his death, I've begun to realize the impact that he had on my life. Unfortunately, most of it was in pointing things out to me that I didn't want to do in my life . . . but he had an impact nonetheless. But also a few times where I saw a completely different side of him . . . and how much hurt had and how incredibly much he cared about his family despite not seeing his own kids grow up.

It has all got me thinking about how many other people there are in my life who have influenced me in one way or another - either for the good or the bad. There's a lot of people . . . some who were in my life for just a short time and some who have been a part of my life for many years. There are a lot of people that I would like to let know about the influence they have had on my life and the ways they have helped me to grow. So often I don't say these things, but I should. Really . . . how do we know for sure that person will still be there later? In recent months I've really just been challenged not to let these things go unsaid . . . but to tell people that I appreciate them, to tell them how they've helped me grow, to encourage them in their own walks. I don't how long they will be around or I will be around . . . not that I think morbid thoughts all the time. But I've come face-to-face in a more personal way with my own and others mortality in the last few months, and it's made me want to be (and hopefully actually follow through) more intentional about telling people these sorts of things.

Well, I think that is the end of my rambling tonight.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

the Holy Spirit

When was the last time you went to church and they talked about the Holy Spirit as the message? And no, I don't mean sat in a Bible college class or chapel and heard about it. I mean sat in your typical church service or young adults service or whatever and that's what it was about.

Until last night, I don't think outside of my time at Bible college I had ever heard a sermon preached on the Holy Spirit. I think that because the topic is one where there is so much that could be said and there are so many things that could cause conflict and division because the church doesn't agree on them. But, I don't see those as good reasons to avoid talking about a specific topic. I think those are exactly the topics that need to be discussed.

For me, growing up in church, you received the Holy Spirit when you became a Christian - He now lived in you and was supposed to be guiding you. And that the Holy Spirit was part of the Trinity. But, beyond that, I remember very little being said about the Holy Spirit. Not to fault the church I grew up in . . . it was pretty conservative when I was a kid.

But, I never really understood how the Holy Spirit guided you, or why He came into your life when you became a Christian. It all seemed a little strange to me . . . and then I would hear from some of my friends that grew up in more charismatic churches about speaking in tongues and being slain in the Spirit. I think that just confused me more. It took some Bible college theology classes to help me better, although still not fully, understand the Holy Spirit and His role in the life of the believer.

Needless to say, I was interested to see what would be talked about in the message at Alive last night. After taking theology classes at Bible college where we spent time talking about what the Bible had to say about the Holy Spirit, there wasn't really anything in the message last night that I hadn't heard before. But, it was good to hear and be reminded.

There was one thing that has kind of stuck with me since then. The speaker talked about the difference between having the Holy Spirit indwell us and having the Holy Spirit fill us. About how we can allow the Holy Spirit to dwell in our lives, but limit the areas of our lives He can enter and limit His influence in our lives. Or, we can allow the Holy Spirit into our lives and give Him access to every corner - to every area - of our lives and allow Him to really influence how we live our lives.

It got me thinking, I know many people who are Christians but you would never know it from how they live. And I know many people who are Christians and there is absolutely no doubt about that. There is a huge difference between allowing the Holy Spirit access to one part of our lives and allowing Him access to every part of our lives.

What about you? Are you filled with Holy Spirit? Or have you only allowed Him to dwell on your life and limited what areas of your life He has access to?

I think I often go through times of both in my life. I have times when I allow the Holy Spirit to lead and guide me where He wants and I follow willingly. And I have times when I close off parts of me to His access - when I don't allow Him to have influence in areas of my life. My guess, from conversations I have had with friends, is that that is the case for many people. But, my prayer that is that I would live full of the Holy Spirit - that I would allow Him complete access to every part of my life. And that is my prayer for you as well.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

asking God in prayer

The sermon that I heard at church this morning has just really stuck with me since then. No matter what I'm doing I have thoughts and ideas and Scripture from it rolling around in my head. So, I decided to write a bit about it and see if that helped me make sense of it all. That being said, I make no promises about this post making a lot of sense. I hope that it will, but I'm not sure because I'm still thinking this through as I write it.

At church right now we're coming close to the end of a series in the Sermon on the Mount. It's been a really good series. Today was on Matthew 7:7-11.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (NIV)

The pastor this morning was talking about how we can often take just the first two verses out of context and see them as saying that God will give us anything we ask for. But if you look at the rest of this passage and the rest of Scripture it's quite clear that that's not what Jesus is saying here.

Jesus is talking about how when we ask God for good things, He gives them to us. God wants to give us good gifts, but we have to ask Him.

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given to you. John 15:7

You do not have beacuse you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with srong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. James 4:2-3

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

The key in our asking things of God is that we be connected to Him - that we be acknowledging Him in all areas of our lives. Then what we ask Him for will be things that He wants to give us.

The part that really struck something with me was when the pastor started talking about how one of the things Scripture tells us to ask God for is the nations - that they would come to God and be restored.

May the peoples praise you, I God; may all the peoples parise you. May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you rule the peoples justly and guide that nations of the earth. May the peoples praise you, I God; may all the peoples praise you. Psalm 67:3-5

The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to persih, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9

If my people who are called by name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked way, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

God desires for us to pray to Him and ask for the nations to return to Him!

That seems like a huge goal and a huge request. And it only happens as we allow ourselves to be completely transformed by God so that we can make a difference in our corner of the world - in our school or workplace or apartment building or neighbourhood. As we allow ourselves to be transformed, we change to world around us.

We are called to not only allow ourselves to be transformed, but we are also called to pray for our world. Nothing is impossible for God . . . what we need to do is ask!

So, this is where I've been thinking since this morning. How am I doing at praying for the salvation of the world? Of the city and region that I live in? Of the people in my apartment building?

Honestly, it's not something I've thought a lot about ever. But, the more I think about it, the more I realize that this is what I need to be doing. World transformation and salvation happens through the people of God getting on their knees and praying - asking God to do it! It doesn't happen by anything we can do on our own!

I must say, this morning really challenged me to make this a part of my prayer time regularly. Rather than something that I just think of from time to time, it needs to be a part of my journey with God . . . because that is how the world will be changed!

Friday, April 11, 2008


Lately I've been thinking about the whole idea of hiding. Not so much in the physical sense . . . but in terms of hiding true selves from others.

Growing up I often felt like I had to hide who I really was when I was around "church people". I grew up in a family where how we appeared to other people at church was very important. I remember many a Sunday morning where we would argue and disagree all morning, but about a block from the church we stopped and it was smiles on everyone's faces and everything was "good" if someone asked. It was normal for me. And, as I've learned for a lot of my friends at the time too. It also meant that when you were struggling with something you couldn't really talk about it with people, except in fairly general terms.

As I got older, this "hiding" of how I was really feeling and how I was really doing became so normal for me that I didn't even have to try anymore. I just did it. To this day, there are still some weekends when I'm heading to church or Alive that I fall into the same pattern of everything begin fine even when I've had a awful day or week. It's been ingrained in me since I was a little kid. It takes some serious time and work to change something like that.

I first realized how hard a facade like this could be to keep up when I went to Briercrest and lived in dorms. Not only did I live on a hall with 22 other girls . . . I also shared my room with one of them. For the first month or so I really did keep up my facade 24/7. It was how I was around other Christians . . . up to that point there were very few people who had gotten to know who I was underneath everything I put up at church.

But, after about a month of living behind this front, I came to the realization that I couldn't live for another seven months like this and then come back the next fall and do it again. It's tiring to always pretend that everything's good. I also had some girls on my residence hall who really weren't happy with my "I'm fine" answer everytime they asked how I was doing and they lovingly pushed to get past that . . . and as a result became some of the best friends I have from my time at Briercrest. My two years at Briercrest taught me a lot about allowing others to see the real me and know what was really going on in my life.

And I hoped that would change things when I got home. And it did for a while. But, back in familiar territory and with my family around again and still operating this way much of the time, I pretty quickly fell back into old habit. The only real difference being that now I craved those friendships where the other person knew what was really going on. And so I sought out a few friendships like that and continued to learn and grow in it all. But, I could always escape back to my parents' house (where I was living) and no one would really have to know what was going on if I didn't want them to.

Almost six months ago though, I found myself in a living situation more like what I had at Briercrest. I moved into an apartment with three friends. Three friends who knew more of what was really going on under the facade that I could put up, but they still didn't know it all. Not only that . . . my current roommates are three people who know how to read me even when I'm pretending that everything's fine. Needless to say, it's really hard to live behind a facade in this situation. And, while it drives me crazy at times, I know it's good for me.

So, all this has got me thinking about how good we, as the church, have gotten at hiding. Think about it for a moment . . . how many people sitting around you in a church service are really doing "fine" even though that's what they tell people . . . probably fewer than would admit it to someone else. We live in a culture that prides itself on being self-sufficient individuals and we don't want help from others with anything.

But, this journey that we are on as followers/disciples of Christ was not meant to be made alone. We were created to live in real community with one another. The kind of community that comes when we give people permission to really enter the mess that our lives are - when we allow them to be a part of our struggles, of our battles with sin, of our sorrows, of our joys. This doesn't happen when we hide behind a facade at church. This happens when we honestly answer the "How are you?" question. When we say that we are not doing very well, if that's the truth. When we say that we are doing well, if that's the truth.

Obviously, we don't have to pour out our entire life story to every person in the church. But, we need to stop being afraid of being real - of being honest about where we're at. All this hiding really does us no good. It causes us more harm because we're left to deal with everything on our own and sometimes it's just too big for us to carry it all on our own.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

spiritual disciplines

So, I've been think a lot about what we call spiritual disciplines lately. It was spurred by a book I just read called Contrarian's Guide to Knowing God. The premise of the book was that maybe, for some people, the way that we have typically told them to spend time with God doesn't work for them because they don't think or operate that way.

It really got me thinking. I'm one of those people for whom the read a passage in your Bible, maybe journal about it a bit, and spend some time praying works for most of the time, because that fits with my personality. But, I think about my sister . . . trying to do that is just about impossible for her. She can't sit still and concentrate on something like that for any significant amount of time.

Or take the sermon portion of our services . . . how many people do you know who can really sit there and listen for that long and do nothing else? I can probably about 75% of the time . . . the rest of the time I have problems with that. And my sister . . . forget it! And she's grown up in the church and has done it all her life. But, I talk to her and she's never gotten anything out of those sermons when she's had nothing else to do but listen. So, then she starts drawing or sketching while she listens to a sermon . . . and gets something out of it for a change . . . and someone tells her that it's disrespectful for her to do that during a sermon. Excuse me! I've seen her drawings from when she's listening to a sermon . . . they very often relate to the message and are her way of making sense of it and learning from it . . . same idea as those who take notes during a sermon. What is wrong with this? Different kinds of people learn different ways. We have realized that in schools . . . why can't we realize and accept that in the church? Our one-size-fits-all approach doesn't work. Will we ever learn?

OK, end of rant.

The thing that came up when I was reading this book that really got me thinking was when the author started talking about the whole idea of some spiritual disciplines being helpful for a season and then not as helpful for a while. As I look at my own life, I can see that as true. There are some things that I have done for a time that have been tremendously helpful then, that I don't do anymore because they aren't as helpful to me right now. Not that there is anything wrong with these spiritual disciplines . . . just that they aren't how God is speaking to me for this time.

I have often wondered why we took something that is not specifically commanded in the Bible and made it the basis by which we measure spiritual growth. Yes, the Bible talks about and emphasizes our need to grow and develop in our relationship with God. But, it doesn't lay out a prescriptive course of action that we are to follow to a "t". The Bible describes what people did and emphasizes the importance that we don't try and do it all alone. But, no where does it say that to grow spiritually we have to get up early in the morning and spend a half hour or an hour in Bible reading and prayer. Are there examples of people who did that? Yes! Does it say that we have to do exactly the same thing? No!

Can I just challenge you today to think a little bit outside the box? Rather than trying to fit everyone into the same box when it comes to how we relate to God and grpw in our relationship with Him, let's allow people to do that in a way that works for them. Provide them with encouragement and ideas, but don't try to prescribe for them what they should do. It doesn't work.