Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Danger of Busy-ness

Do you ever have those times when you look at your calendar and realize you have booked yourself to do more things you normally would have? When you see that you are far more busy than you would have chosen to be?

That was the case for me recently. I looked at my calendar and realized I had something written on pretty much every day. Some people may like having something to do every evening after work and every weekend, but not me. I like my time at home.

This started me thinking about busy-ness in our lives. The way it affects us. The dangers of it.

The problem with busy-ness is that it can keep us form the things that really matter. When we're running from one thing to the next, our relationships with others and our relationship with God take a hit. We get so caught up in what we're doing that people don't have the priority that we should.

And then I began to wonder if that is exactly what Satan wants for us. To have us so busy with things that we don't have time for what really matters. To have us so busy that we forget about what is really important in life.

And we need to learn where to draw that line for ourselves. The line of what is too much to do and what is enough. And then we have to learn to live by that line.

Busy-ness can be a problem. We have to be careful with it.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Work Together

A few days ago was the 35th anniversary for the place where I work. For us that meant a chance to celebrate 35 years of changing lives. That's something worth celebrating.

The day of our party as I watched everyone working together I was struck by the team of people that came together to make it happen. My coworkers and our guests, churches in our community, and other groups. We were all needed to make it happen. None of us could have done what we did together that day if we had tried to do it alone.

As I've thought about this since, I've realized that everything we do as followers of Christ to offer hope to the world around us is done as part of a team. We need each other and we need to be working together to do it. We can't do it on our own.

So many of the stories I've heard of God transforming lives talk about multiple people and multiple groups playing a role in that transformation. That would be my story as well. Some of those people or groups have a bigger influence than others, but it's rarely just one person that God uses.

I walked away from our 35th anniversary party with a new reminder of the importance of working together for God's Kingdom. That's how God designed it to work. He uses us to transform lives as we work together.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Choosing to Forgive to Find True Freedom

I've been feeling like I should write this post for a while, but I've been hesitant to write it, let alone post it. A couple of days ago, I briefly hinted at this journey when I shared a post of a poem I had shared a few year earlier that talked about this same thing. But, God is not letting me go on this one - the topic even came up loud and clear in a TV show I was watching - so here goes the post.

At the beginning of April I drove to one of my favourite places to be. To the Bible camp that has played a significant role in my life. I was heading to a retreat. I've gone to many retreats there, but I really didn't have any idea what this one would be about. I knew it was a retreat called Encounter God, and that for the people I knew who had gone before it had been life-changing for them.

I won't say all of the weekend was easy, but all of it was God-ordained. God had things planned that He wanted to deal with that weekend. But even in the face of things that weren't always easy, God was gentle and loving in how He brought things up.

It doesn't take long walking through this life to gather up hurts from other people. It happens when you interact with people. We're all fallen and we hurt other people - sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally - but we hurt each other nonetheless.

Over the years, I've picked up my fair share of hurts from other people (and I'm sure I've hurt people along the way too). It took me a while to learn to trust people again. I started on that first Encounter God weekend to trust people again.

But that was only the beginning of that. I had taken those hurts and decided that the way to protect myself. That first weekend, I made the choice to trust people again. To begin to remove that wall.

Fast forward a couple of months to this past weekend. I found myself driving to my church for another Encounter God retreat. I knew what to expect the second time, but at the same time I didn't know. I went open to what God had for me that weekend.

But, once I figured out where He was going this weekend I wasn't sure I wanted to go where He was going. Over the years, I had taken all those hurts from other people and held onto them. At first I thought it was a good idea. But, over the years, I had come to see that it was not a good thing.

The problem was that I wasn't sure I was able to forgive those people any more. The unforgiveness I was holding onto towards those people had become something I was so used to carrying around. And the truth was that I didn't want to let it go because I thought it was protecting me.

This last weekend, God showed me that I needed to forgive those people - that holding on to that unforgiveness was hurting me, not helping me. It happened as I knelt before the cross, contemplating all that Jesus had forgiven me for. I was overwhelmed with all that Jesus had forgiven me for. And I knew I had to forgive others as I have been forgiven. It was a choice I made to forgive them.

But, in making that choice, I realized just how good choosing to forgive was. I quite literally felt like a weight had been lifted off of me. Letting go of something that I had carried for years that had been slowly destroying me, was the best choice I could have ever made.

Three months ago, I would have told you it wasn't possible - that I would be carrying this with me to the end of my life on this earth. Now, it's been a week since I finally let it, but I can't imagine carrying it around any longer.

It's changed the way I look at life. It's changed the way I look at the importance of being in community with people.

I know I'll probably be hurt again in the future, because that happens with fallen people, but the one thing I do know for sure is that I don't want to pick up that hurt and start carrying around unforgiveness for it with me for years.

Forgiveness is possible with the help of Jesus. And it really is the best way to live. We may not feel like it, but when we make the choice to forgive, it is worth it.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Rhythm

Joining Five Minute Friday over at Lisa-Jo Baker's blog. This week's word is "rhythm."

Life often seems to have a natural rhythm - a natural way that things happen as we go. And we get comfortable in it. We can even stop thinking about the natural rhythm of life when things are going well.

The same thing seems to happen in nature as well. We move from one season to the next - from day to night and back again.

But there are times when the rhythm that we're used to get interrupted. Sometimes just in one way and sometimes in many ways.

My mind has been thinking about this since early yesterday. That's when I first heard of flooding and crazy amounts of rain in areas where I have family and friends living. The news just seemed to keep getting worse as the day went by - and it still isn't getting better.

The rhythm of nature that we all got used to was interrupted. And then it began to interrupt the rhythm of life for many people. We can no longer stay comfortable.

Usually I have some sort of point I try to make in my writing, but today I can't come to one. My mind is full of pictures of the destruction I've seen from floods. And stories I've heard of the natural rhythm of life being interrupted.

Today I'm left with the reminder that we cannot control nature. And the need to pray for those affected by thing we cannot control - because when we pray we're talking to the One Who can control those things.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Choosing Forgiveness

It seems like in the past few months, some of my Thursday posts have been reposts of things I wrote and shared here years ago. I've shared them again because I feel like they are what God has been teaching my lately. They reflect where I'm at on my journey with God.

And in the case of this poem I wrote that I'm sharing again today, when I first wrote it I had no idea how significant what I was writing was. I wrote about forgiveness and unforgiveness back on December 11, 2010. I know I was walking that journey when I wrote this, although I don't remember all the details. When I read this poem again today, I was struck by how much of what I wrote spoke to deeper issues of unforgiveness and the choice to forgive then I realized at the time. I've learned much about it on my journey in the last few months.

So, with that introduction out of the way, here's a repost of a poem I wrote and posted on December 11, 2010.

Choosing to forgive
With the help of God
Frees us from the other
Helps us to move on

Unforgiveness traps us
Keeps our heart all tied up
With the one who caused us pain
Freedom seems elusive
Revenge our only choice
But when will it be enough
That the other person pays?
Will it ever satisfy?
Or will we long for more?

Maybe God does have it right
The only way to freedom
The only way to peace
Forgiveness from our hearts
Cancelling the debt
Letting go of anger
Giving Him our hurt
Seeking reconciliation
Moving on with love

Choosing to forgive
With the help of God
Frees us from the other
Helps us to move on

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


"Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely that you do no forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them."
Deuteronomy 4:9

These are words Moses spoke to the people of Israel when they were on the edge of the Promised Land. A Promised Land that Moses himself would never enter.

But Moses knew something important and he was making sure the Israelites knew it.

Moses was telling the Israelites the importance of them remembering what God had brought them out of and how he had cared for them as they wandered in the desert. Moses knew that they would be in trouble if they ever forgot that. It is something they needed to recount to other people - to pass the stories on.

We can learn from these words of Moses about our lives as well. Just as Moses told the Israelites they needed to remember what God had done for them and how He had rescued them, and that they needed to share those stories with other people, we need to do the same.

We need to make a point to remember what God has rescued us from.

We need to make a point to remember how God has cared for us.

And we need to share those things with other people.

When we don't remember and we don't share those things with other people, we quickly find ourselves in trouble. We lose sight of who God is, and who He has created us to be.

We have to make sure we remember these things - write them down, share them with other people.

"Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely that you do no forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them."
Deuteronomy 4:9

Sunday, June 16, 2013

It's a Heart Issue

This morning as I was reading further in Exodus 20, through the Ten Commandments, I was struck by something. As you read each commandment, it really gets down to being a heart issue. All of them are about the heart.

Sure many of them talk about actions and things we aren't supposed to do. But even with those ones, it really does come down to the heart. Because if our heart isn't right, doing or not doing the right things won't last and won't mean much while they're doing them.

Elsewhere in Scripture, God clearly states that He wants the hearts of His people, not just their actions.
"For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgement of God rather than burnt offerings." (Hosea 6:6)
God spoke these words to Israel when their actions were right, but their hearts weren't.

I don't think God's desire for us has changed. He still wants the hearts of His people over actions that mean little or nothing. And so much of how He calls us to live in this world comes down to a heart issue.

We can do the right thing for a while, but if our heart isn't in it, it won't last.

So, I'm left with a couple of questions to ponder that I'll leave for you as well:

Where is my heart? Do I need to ask God to change my heart so my actions have some real meaning?

Friday, June 14, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Listen

Joining in with Five Minute Friday over at Lisa-Jo Baker's blog again this week. This week's word is "listen."

I wasn't sure if I was going to join in this week. This weekend is a busy one, but when I read the word for this week it resonated with the reason why my weekend is a busy one.

I'm at an Encounter God retreat with my church. And so much of the weekend is about exactly what the word for this week is all about.


It's something we don't always do well. Sometimes with each other. And oftentimes with God.

We struggle to listen. We just want to get our "quiet time" over with, so we can get on with life. And so we don't often take the time to stop and listen. We don't stop talking for long enough to hear what God may trying to say to us.

But, just how much are we missing when we do that?

I often liken it to going for coffee with a friend and all you do is sit down and tell them everything you can think of that you want to share with them. Then, when you're done, and before they begin to talk themselves you get up and leave.

That's not really a way to have a friendship with someone. You can't have a friendship if all you do is talk. You have to learn to listen to really be a friend.

The same is true with God. We have to learn to listen to Him if we want to have a relationship with Him. We can't just " spill the beans" and then get up and walk away. We have to give Him time to speak to and listen for what He has to say to us.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

God has Rescued Us

Exodus 20 is the chapter where God gives Moses the Ten Commandments. And for most of my life, I've skimmed the first couple of verses, so I could get right into what the Ten Commandments are. I didn't so it intentionally, but I thought I was getting to the important part.

Yesterday, when I began reading that chapter, I found myself stopping on the second verse. I didn't even make it to the first commandments, but I felt like God was telling me to stop there and spend some time on that verse. As I did, it felt like God was reminding me of something very important.

"I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery." (Exodus 20:2)

Less than twenty words, yet it contains so much.

"I am . . ."

God was declaring that He was speaking about Himself - about Who He is.

I sometimes wonder if, when he heard God start a statement this way, Moses went back to his encounter with God as the burning bush in Exodus 3. In verse 14 of that chapter, God tells Moses to identify Him as, "I AM WHO I AM . . . I AM has sent me to you." I think after an experience like a burning bush, Moses would remember it every time God started something with these words.

". . . the . . ."

A seemingly insignificant little word, but so important. Using this word says there is only one of what follows.

". . . LORD . . .:

In most English translations, this word is in all uppercase letters, indicating that the word used is Yahweh. The Israelite's most valued and honoured name for God. God was making sure there was no doubt in their minds Who He was.

". . . your . . ."

It was personal. God wasn't just the Lord of some people somewhere. He was the Lord of Israel. He declared Himself to be that, and in the process, declared them to be His.

". . . God . . ."

He was the One they were to worship. The One they were to follow.

After making sure they knew Who He was, God took the rest of this verse to remind them of what He had done for them.

". . . who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery."

He had rescued them from their captivity - from their slavery. He reminded the Israelite's why He was so important to them and why He was "the LORD [their] God."

As I read and pondered this verse yesterday, I realized God was using this verse from His Word to speak specifically to me. God had the same message for me, that He started with when He gave the Israelites before He gave them the Ten Commandments.

He is the Lord my God, Who brought me out of the land of my captivity, out of the land of my slavery.

That's a pretty awesome message to be reminded of. God is my God. And He has rescued from so much. He has pulled me out of where I was trapped because of Who He was.

Maybe that is the same message God has for you today.

I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of [your captivity], out of the land of [your bondage].

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

People we Can be Honest With

It's something we all need. We can't live without it. We need to have them in our lives to live the life we were meant to live.

We need people in our lives we can be honest with about how we're really doing.

We need people in our lives who will ask us the hard questions because they really care.

Not because we want to be down on ourselves and focus only on negative.

We need these people that we're honest with so we have people to celebrate the good things and the victories in life when they come.

We need these people that we're honest with so we have people to encourage us when things don't seem to be going so well.

We need these people that we're honest with so we can walk through the normal-ness of everyday life with people.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Brokenness is What I Want?

As I drove home from a prayer time at church tonight, I found the words to a song we sang when I was growing up in church running through my head.

Brokenness, brokenness is what I long for
Brokenness is what I need
Brokenness, brokenness is what You want from me

Take my heart, and form it
Take my mind, transform it
Take my will, conform it
To Yours, to Yours, O Lord

When we sang this song growing up, I was never really sure that I wanted to tell God brokenness was what I wanted or needed. It didn't seem like it was something I really wanted.

I mean, honestly, is being broken really something that is fun? Or something we would generally want?

Especially when we live in a culture that tells us we need to have it all together . . . or at least that we should look like it . . . it can be hard to allow ourselves to be broken. To allow God to break us.

But, I'm beginning to see that no matter how we may try to avoid brokenness, it is necessary. If we're living behind walls that keep people from seeing who we really are, we end up missing out what God has for us. But when we allow God to break us, we get what He has for us.

Maybe that needs to become our prayer - for ourselves and for our churches. That we would be broken before God, so that we don't miss out on what God has for us.

What if the words of that song we used to sing when I was growing up became our prayer? What kind of difference would that begin to make?

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Five Minute Friday:Fall

Once again joining in with Lisa-Jo Baker and Five Minute Friday (although it would be early Saturday morning as I finish this). The word for today is "fall". We write for five minutes, unedited on the word and then post it.

Slowly. Carefully. I inched out toward the ledge.

I had almost conquered it all. The high ropes course I had looked at and decided I could never do for years. Most of it was behind me now.

But the last remaining section was the scariest of them all.

The zipline.

It sounds exciting to some, but when you don't like heights and you really don't like the feeling of falling, it's anything but exciting.

When I finally reached the edge of the platform, I froze. Now I was supposed to jump off and let the ropes and harness catch me as I sailed through the air to end.

I wasn't sure I could do it. I hated feeling like I'm falling, and that's exactly the way I would feel for a few seconds when I jumped off the platform I was standing on.

By the time I finally jumped, I'm sure everyone had given up on me ever actually finishing. But, I did it. And I really didn't like the feeling that came with jumping off the platform - falling was not fun. But actually finishing the entire course was.

As I walked away from that day, I started to see how that experience could be likened to many moments in my walk with God. To "fall" off the platform, I had to trust that the ropes and the harness would catch me.

Sometimes it can be like that in our walk with God. God asks us to step out in something. And to step out, we have to take that step without knowing where our foot will land. We have to "fall" and trust that God will catch us and keep us on track.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

"Believe Me, Child"

Another re-post of something from a few years ago tonight. I first posted this on November 22, 2009.

"Believe Me, Child," said the Father,
"Even when life seems hard
and the challenges overwhelm.
You must learn to trust Me;
to trust that I know best."

"Believe You?" asked the child.
"How do I do that,
when life doesn't seem to make sense?
It's just so hard to trust
in Someone I cannot see."

"Believe Me, Child," said the Father,
"Even when life seems hard
and the challenges overwhelm.
I will never change;
I will never leave You alone."

"Believe You?" asked the child.
"How do I do that,
when life doesn't seem to make sense?
How do I believe You,
when you feel so far away?"

"Believe Me, Child," said the Father.
"You must make a choices,
and place your trust in me.
I know it won't be easy,
but be assured I will never change.
I will always be here;
I will not forsake you."

"Help me to believe You!" cried the Child.
"Even when life seems hard
and the challenges overwhelm,
I will choose to believe You -
that You will never change;
That You are always there.
I believe; help my unbelief."

I wrote this poem during a time when I struggled to see how God was at work in every situation going on around me. It doesn't always make sense in life, but God is always there. And He is always calling us to believe - even when we're not sure about what is happening.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Hearing God Repeat the Same Message

Have you ever had one of those times when it seems like every where you turn the same thing keeps coming up?

Different sources - same message.

When that happens I find myself wondering what God may be trying to tell me. It causes me to stop and listen more carefully. To pay attention to what I'm hearing.

I've found that God often speaks this way. He gives the same message to me in multiple ways. I might read it in my Bible, hear it in a message at church, read it on a blog or in a book, or have it come up in conversation with a friend. When that happens multiple times, I become pretty sure it's God speaking.

God speaks to us, but we have to learn to listen. If we don't begin to pay attention to those times when God keeps saying the same thing to us, we miss what God is saying. And missing what God is saying, makes life more difficult to live the way we were created to live it.

Different sources.

The same message.

Are you listening?

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Worth it to be a Work in Progress

I've been thinking more about the post I wrote a few days ago about being a work in progress.

While it's true I'd rather be a work in progress than an unfinished project the Artist has given up on, that doesn't mean being a work in progress is easy or pain free.

Being a work in progress means God is changing me in what He has for me. That might be hard sometimes. That might hurt sometimes.

Like a potter, God might sometimes need to go back to the beginning with us and reshape what we look like. Or He might need to paint over all that has been put on the canvas to create a new picture of us. Those times when God does that aren't easy.

They're hard and can be painful as God takes away the lies we've held so dearly, so He can tell us the truth.

They're hard and can be painful as God takes away the habits that fill our time, so He can give us new things to fill that time.

They're hard and can be painful as God takes away the thoughts that fill our minds, so He can replace them with the Holy Spirit filling us.

But the end is worth the pain and the hard road, because the end is the beautiful masterpiece of the Master Artist.

Being God's work in progress means the final result will always be better than we could ever imagine, because God is the Master Artist and His work is always perfect in the end.

"For we are God's masterpiece, created in Christ Jesus . . ." (Ephesians 2:10)