Sunday, December 28, 2014

The High Calling of all Believers

What is your calling? What has God called you to do?

In Christian circles we like to talk about calling. We hold it up as something important. We make it into something that we can use to put people on a pedestal.

In the process, we leave many Christian feeling less than because they don't feel like they have a calling from God on their lives. They fell unworthy as believers because they think God didn't see them as good enough and gifted enough to be called to something specific.

We also set people up for failure with the way we talk about calling. When someone says they feel like they're called to something, we often put a list of expectations from them, of what that calling should look like. We put them in a box of our own making of what that calling should look like. And it's usually not God's ideas.

What if calling is something so much simpler than all we make it out to be? What if we could be certain what the calling of every believer was?

"Our call is not to 'fix' everyone else, please everyone else, or live up to everyone else's expectations of us. Our call is simply to wholeheartedly love Christ; then He will direct our steps." (Sheila Walsh, All That Really Matters)

When we look at the call of God on our lives this way, it changes things. We don't have to wonder if we're called to it. We don't have to feel stuck in a box. It frees us to really live the life God intends for us to live.

The call of all believers is to love God first. It's as simple and as difficult as that.

When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was in Matthew 22, He answered with these words: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." (vs. 37) Jesus teaches us that the most important thing for us to do is love God. He goes on to say that the second is loving your neighbour as yourself.

When we choose to love God first and love Him with everything we are and everything we have, He shows us what comes next. He will show us how to love our neighbour and who that neighbour is.

We can be sure that we are loving God first, He will show us what to do next. That part looks different for all of us and may look like what other people expect of us. We may not always know clearly what it is, but we can be confident of what our first call is as believers - to love God.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Words From God Will Never Fail

"For no word from God will ever fail." (Luke 1:37)

These are the final words the angel says to Mary after telling her about God's choosing her to be the mother of the promised Messiah and about her relative Elizabeth's pregnancy. (See Luke 1:26-38 for the full story).

When I read these words I stopped and had to go back to reread. They seemed to be different than I was used to remembering. In other translations Luke 1:37 reads that nothing is impossible with God. A reminder of God's ability to do exactly what He says He will do even if it seems impossible from our limited human perspective.

If God says He will do something - even what seems impossible - we can be sure that His word will not fail to happen.

That's a significant truth to hold onto in life. One that should cause us to stop and think.

"For no word from God will ever fail." (Luke 1:37)

The angel had just told Mary the impossible, from a human perspective, would happen for her. And the impossible had already happened for her relative Elizabeth. The angel then tells Mary that no word from God would ever fail. The angel declares in these few words just how reliable what God says is.

I've been thinking about the impact on how we live these words have if we really believe them. If we really believe no word from God will ever fail, we live differently. We live out of a trust that goes beyond what seems obvious. We live with an ability to wait, even in the silence, that is beyond what we could do on our own.

"For no word from God will ever fail." (Luke 1:37)

Do I really believe this? Do you really believe this?

"For no word from God will ever fail." (Luke 1:37)

Does the way I live say I believe this? Does the way you live say you believe this?

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Impatience with the Waiting

"So isn't there something here that should tell us that while hoping for the miracle, while praying for the miracle, maybe we should view God's silence not as punishment but as preparation? May be we should stop cursing the waiting and start thanking God for it? May be should trust that His timing and His way is perfect, and that He's only asking us to wait because He loves us too much to bring us something we're not yet ready for? . . .
Long we wait for the promise. But we don not wait alone. He is here, in the waiting, in the praying, in the weeping, in the hoping, in the doubting, in the trusting, in the wishing . . . HE IS HERE."
(Mandy Hale, The Single Woman)

I read the above quote as part of a blog on advent, waiting, and singleness. The Single Woman is one of my favourite blogs to read on life as a single Christian woman. Honesty about the good and hard realities of life, encouragement and hope in the midst of it all. The post this quote is from was no exception and left me with much to ponder.

As I wrote a few weeks ago, many events around the holidays can present a challenge for singles. A season where the reminder of being single and what we long for and are waiting for seems to be much more noticeable. Then I came across this post that reminded me once again, that in a time of year I love because of what we are celebrating, it's okay of I struggle with the waiting sometimes. The important thing is what I do in the waiting.

Do I put my trust in God?

Or do I get impatient and go looking for my own solution to fill that longing?

When Jesus came to earth as a baby, the Israelites has been waiting for the promised Messiah for generations. They had waited while God had been completely silent for the last 400 years.

In those years of waiting, they had come to their own conclusions and ideas of what it would look like for the promised Messiah to come. Instead of waiting with God for what He promised in His timing, they began to look for what they wanted - what they thought they needed. And then, they missed God's promise fulfilled.

When I reflect on this, I see how easy it could be for me to do the same thing in my life. Instead of taking my desire for marriage to God in prayer and trusting that God has things in control, I could get impatient with the waiting and try to make it happen all on my own. Or I can trust God in the waiting that He is preparing me for His plan - which may or may not look like mine.

It's a choice we all have in any area where we feel like we're waiting. We always get to choose how we will wait. Will we trust God? Will we remember that He is there in the waiting? Or will we do our own thing and miss what God has for us because of it?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

One Night that Changed the World

As I have been reflecting on the Christmas story this year, I've been struck by how life changing the birth of this one baby was for all people - the night it happened and for all eternity.

One baby changed the world forever. 
Nothing has been the same since that night.

We often talk about how a baby changes everything for the family that baby is born into.
 None brought so much change as Jesus when He was born.

God come to earth.


God with us.

The One whose life, death, and resurrection would make a way for mankind to once again have direct access to God.

The ultimate expression of sacrificial love. Of humble service.

I wonder if Mary and Joseph, if the shepherds, if the Magi, really understood the significance of that night. They knew what the angels had told them about this baby, but did they really get it? 

A couple thousand years later, do we really get it? Will we ever really get it?

The birth of a baby, named Jesus. 
A baby Who would change everything through His life and death.

The promised Messiah. The One prophesied about.
The One missed by so many when He came because of the way He came.
The One missed by so many while He walked on earth because He came to serve, not to exert His power.
The One missed by so many because He dies a criminal's death to become the greatest sacrifice and defeat sin and death for good.
The One still missed by many today.

But for those who stop to notice . . .
for those who are searching for something more . . .
for those who are willing to be humble and serve . . .
the chance to meat the One Who changes everything.

The One Who offers hope.
The One Who offers forgiveness and a second chance.
The One Who offers unconditional love.
The One Who never fails.

It was one night . . . 
in a stable . . .
in a small town . . .
with two poor parents . . .
surrounded by animals . . .
where the world changed forever.

God put His plan in motion to redeem a fallen world,
to restore a broken relationship with His people.
A plan still in motion today.
A plan that still offers hope today.

A birth.
A baby.
A life lived.
A death.
And the greatest of all - a victory over death, a resurrection.
All because of God's vast, unmeasurable, unchanging, unfailing love for each of us.
That makes it something worth celebrating!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Surrender All?

I surrender all
I surrender all
All to Jesus, I surrender
I surrender all

As the words played in my car, I stopped singing for a moment.

Reflecting on the words - was that really true? Did I surrender it all to Jesus? Was I surrendering it all to Jesus in that moment?

Most of the time I desire to surrender it all to Jesus. But sometimes I struggle to actually do that. Sometimes I allow my flesh to take over and I want to be in control of it all myself.

Surrendering means giving up control. Instead of living for my own desires and doing what I want when I want, I'm telling God I'll do what He wants when He wants. That I'll obey Him even when I want to do something else.

But, surrender is what Jesus calls us to:

"Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it and whoever loses their life for My sake will find it." (Matthew 10:38-39)

Jesus never hold back on speaking of the necessity of being willing to give it all up to follow God. It's not a half-ways or sometimes thing. It's a completely and all-the-time thing.

I surrender all
I surrender all
All to Jesus, I surrender
I surrender all

Do you surrender all?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Faith in the Midst of Fear

Matthew 8:23-27 records Jesus calming a storm for His frightened disciples. They were on a boat, with Jesus sleeping, when a violent storm came up. A storm that scared the disciples.

Some of the disciples were fishermen and had been through storms before, but this storm caused them fear. The disciples wake Jesus in their fear that they are going to drown in the storm.

Jesus asks a simple, yet deeply challenging question of His disciple in Matthew 8:26: "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?"

Jesus asked the question while the storm was still raging - while the cause of the disciples' fear was still very real all around them. He wanted them to know Who He was in the middle of the storm - in the middle of their fear.

God does the same with us. When life throws something at us and we cry out to Him in fear that the storm we're in will kill us, He says to us: "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" He asks us the same question He asked His disciples.

Jesus didn't calm the storm and remove what was causing the disciples' fear right away. He asked them to trust Him and rest on what they knew of Him in the middle of the storm.

The same is true for us. Jesus asks us to trust Him in the middle of the storm. While the wind is howling and the waves are crashing, He asks us to trust Him. To put our faith in Him in the midst of fear.

Are you in the middle of a storm that is causing you fear?

Have you called out to God for help?

Have you chosen to trust Him and rest on what you know of Him in the middle of your storm? In the middle of your fear?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

All Parts Working Together

Serving together

Words we talk about often in the church. But sometimes it can seem like just talk. We don't seem to see them in action.

Paul talks about the church being a body - all of us working together, doing our part. Each person has role that is important to the whole. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul speaks of the need for each of us to take our part - the part God has given us - and do it with our whole hearts, not comparing it to others. This is just one of the examples in Scripture that speaks of our need to work together.

This has been on my mind a lot this weekend, because I've been privileged to see it in action. Privileged to see each part of the body of Christ working together in unity and serving God. And it has been something beautiful to see. This has moved from just talk to being action.

It's something that we see glimpses of throughout the year. We get it right sometimes - hopefully, more often than we don't. We're on this journey called life and we learn over time how to do it better.

This weekend of the year, I get to see it in my church in an amazing way. Living Nativity weekend is a weekend where I get to be a part of my church coming together to serve in a great way. Each person doing their part - no matter how small and insignificant or upfront and seemingly important. All the roles are important and each is required to make it happen. An example of the body of Christ working together as Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians 12.

And my prayer is that it is something that carries on beyond this one weekend. That it becomes a part of who we are as a local body of believers. That each year we learn to serve together this way all the time even better. That we can be an example of what God intended His people to be.

And each of us has a part to play in that. It's not something any one of us can do on our own. Each of us needs to choose to be a part of it and fill the role God has for us in that.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A Letter to a Younger Me

In a few places lately, I've come across letters people wrote to their younger self - the most recent time being over at The Single Woman. It's interesting to read their thoughts of what they would tell their younger self and it's prompted my own thoughts on the topic.

I've been thinking about what I would write to my younger self - specifically myself ten years ago. Ten years ago, I was just finishing up my second to last semester of college. I was five months away from graduating with a business degree. I had my plans for the future - plans that were ultimately different than my reality now. There was nothing wrong with them; they just weren't what God had for me.

Dear Younger Self,

Right now, you're looking at your graduation date with excitement and a bit of fear for what the future will hold. The culmination of four years of hard work. You have plans for the kind of job you're going to get, to get married. All of them are good things, but don't hold on so tightly to them that you miss God's plans for you. He has some things in store for you that you could never dream of on your own.

Take the time to enjoy your last semester of school. Go deep in your classes. Soak in all you can learn. It will be a long time before you can embrace studying and learning this way again.

Invest in the friendships you have with those in the dorm. Don't take your studies too seriously to go on adventures with them and have those late night conversations. Some of the friendships you are investing in now, will continue to be important ones in future years. They're the people you will call when life gets hard and you need encouragement or advice. Take the time now to go deep in those friendships.

Some of those friendships will drift apart after you all move on from living in dorm together. Invest the time you have in those friendships now anyway. Those people are in your life for a reason right now. They will impact your life now for the future. You will become who you are going to be, in part, because of the time you spend together now.

You have your plans for what you want to do for a career and where you want to serve at church when you go home. Be willing to allow God to take you in a different direction - to show you something different. You'll save yourself so much frustration and boredom if you go with God in His direction right away - rather than fight for your way. Don't hold onto your plans too tightly. Let God change them.

Your plan to get married and have a family of your own won't happen in this time frame of ten years. You'll have two choices in how you deal with this: 1) You can get frustrated with waiting and stop living life because you don't have what you want. Or, 2) You can choose to live life to the full, to do what you love and what God has given you to do, all while still longing to get married. It's your choice what you do, but one will give you a life of meaning and one will give you a life of regrets.

Your life in ten years is going to look very different than you imagine it will right now. But, you will know God's faithfulness in a way you can't understand right now. Whatever happens, don't allow the storms of life to cause you to doubt or turn away from God. Keep holding on to God and trusting Him with your future. You'll never regret doing that.

Your Older Self

Sunday, November 30, 2014

A Challenge Single People Face During the Holidays

"You and a guest at invited to our Staff Christmas Party."

The annual invite showed up in my work email inbox. My work staff Christmas party was coming up. Or, as it sometimes feels, the annual reminder that I'm still single - that I don't have a guest to bring with me.

When I RSVP to the party, the inevitable question: "For 1 or 2 people?"

"Just me." I respond. Thinking, but not saying aloud: Like usual, I'm coming alone. I know there was no intent to remind me of that by asking the question - they were just making sure they have the correct numbers.

When the night of the Christmas party comes, I'll face the same dilemma I face every time: Where do I sit for dinner?

All the tables have an even number of chairs at them. Perfect for the people who come with a spouse or a significant other. But it makes it awkward for those of us without a date. Any table we sit at, now has a potentially empty seat left at it.

Or, even worse, if there's only the same number of seats as people coming, our choice of a table may mean a couple ends up sitting at two different tables because there aren't two seats left at the same table.

Most of the time, I'm okay with my single status. I would still like to get married, but I'm not going to let it keep me from enjoying life. I've gotten used to going out for dinner, going to a movie, showing up at any other work event, or any other number of activities by myself. And usually, I enjoy them.

But, there's something about the holidays, that challenges this. Something that causes me to be more uncomfortable showing up at events and parties alone. I'm not sure what exactly, but I've talked to enough singles to know I'm not alone in this. It seems to be a common struggle, that no one has an easy solution for. So, each year, I find myself opening that email at work, knowing the same struggles and feelings will come again.

As I've been writing this post, I've been trying to come up with a tidy way to conclude it - an easy solution that would fix this dilemma. But, I don't know if there is one. I think this might be one of those realities of life as a single person there is no easy answer to.

My thought is that the only thing we can do in these situations if show grace to one another. And do what we can to make sure everyone is welcome at our Christmas (and other) parties - whether they are single or have a guest to bring with them.

If you are single and have a solution to this problem, I would love to here it in the comments below. Or, if you're no longer single, but have something that worked for you when you were single, leave it in a comment below.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

We Weren't Made to Walk Alone

"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching." (Hebrews 10:23-25)

This is just one of many passages of Scripture that speaks of our need for other people to walk this journey of life together. In these verses, the writer of Hebrews is reminding his readers of their need to make meeting together a priority. And giving them a reason why - to encourage one another.

We weren't made to go it alone. When things get hard, we need other people who are walking with us to make it through. We need their encouragement. We need their presence.

When we try to go it alone, the hard times get harder. And it's easier to just give up rather than pushing through what God has for us.

As I look back on my life, I can easily see the difference in the times when I walked through hard times with other people walking alongside me and times when I tried to get through it myself. Life experience tells me that we weren't created to walk alone. We need other people with us.

If past experience makes it so clear that we need other people to walk with us through life, why do we so easily slip back into trying to get through whatever comes our way alone? Why do we pull back and not share what's going on with those around us who care and want to know?

It doesn't make sense, but it's often what we do. And we have many reasons why we do it.

  • We don't want to burden other people.
  • We don't want to sound negative.
  • We don't know anyone well enough to share it with them.
  • We don't want to be perceived as weak.
  • We want to prove we're strong enough to get through it alone.

The truth is, all of those reasons we can give for why we try to go it alone, really come down to pride. We don't allow others to walk with us because of our pride. Sharing what is really going on would require us to be vulnerable and show our weakness.

Our culture tells us that we shouldn't show weakness. We are encouraged to live as if we have no weaknesses. So, we learn to live behind walls that never let anyone behind them. We don't let others in because we're not willing to be vulnerable - we're told being vulnerable is a weakness itself.

But, Scripture makes it clear that we need one another. We weren't made to get through life alone. And past experiences confirm that for us. We need to learn to share with one another and allow others to walk through the hard times with us.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Five Minute Friday: Notice

Joining in with the Five Minute Friday group again this week. This week's prompt is "notice."

As I sit and watch the first snowfall of the season around here, I've been struck by the peaceful feeling it brings to just sit and watch it. Sitting in my favourite writing place - a coffee shop - sipping my latte, I'm watching peace fall outside the window.

I've always like snow - as long as I don't have to do a lot of driving in it. There is something about the way it blankets everything in white and muffles the usual noises, that seems peaceful.

Especially when the things in my mind seem to be anything but peaceful. When my mind is in chaos, the visible reminder of God's peace is a welcome sight.

It invites me to start to notice God in the midst of the chaos swirling in my mind. To notice the peace God has given.

In Matthew 14:27, Jesus said these words to His disciples:
"Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."

If we're too busy, we don't notice the peace Jesus gives.

If we've gotten too caught up in the chaos of our minds and become troubled and afraid, we don't notice the peace Jesus gives.

But, He promised us His peace - in the midst of our chaos, our trouble, our fear. He lets His peace fall in all those areas. We must learn to notice it.

Sometimes we might need a visual reminder of His peace, like the falling snow has been for me tonight. Watching it fall, I notice that my mind begins to settle, as I become more aware of the peace Jesus gives falling in my mind and my heart tonight. Not to bury or ignore the challenges, but so I approach them differently.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Growth we Don't See

Cold. Barren. Frost covered.

The ground firm beneath each step I take.

Lifeless poles with spindly limbs are what the trees I walk among have become.

There is no snow yet to cover the barren landscape around me. The death that precedes the coming winter glaringly obvious to anyone walking through it.

It's hard to find the beauty at this time. The colours of earlier in fall are gone. No brightly coloured leaves remain. All that is left is gray and brown.

Lifeless. Dead.

Our lives can feel like that sometimes. Everything that once brought life and colour gone. Nothing but dull and drab left behind.

When the snow of winter finally comes with its blanket of white, we longer see the dead and lifeless all around. We see the beauty of the white blanket reflecting the light instead.

The snow covers and protects the work of new life that is already beginning. It holds the beginnings of that new life deep inside until it's ready to see the world outside when spring comes.

The same is true for our lives. Everything can feel dead and buried in snow. No growth happening yet, that we can see. But, deep inside, God is already beginning His work - He is creating new life. When the time is right, the snow will melt and new life will emerge. It's now ready to grow into what God created it to be.

We don't always see it that way, but the times when everything seems dead and completely buried, are the times when God is still at work. Deep inside, new growth is beginning. We can't see it yet, but it is there. 

And when the time that feels so cold and dark is over, the new growth will be strong enough to emerge and begin to produce something beautiful. Something that wouldn't have been able to grow without the time where everything felt dead.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Beauty from the Broken Pieces

Broken pieces scattered on the floor. Hundreds of them in every crack and corner. May of them too small to gather together again. What was once treasured and beautiful to they eye will never be the same again.

Slowly. Carefully. The bigger pieces are gathered. Leaving just the ones too small to pick up behind. Those tiny pieces swept up and thrown away.

Reconstruction of the larger pieces begins. Gentle placement of each piece - hoping there aren't too many holes in the rebuilt masterpiece.

The question becomes how to put the pieces together again. What will fill the cracks and the holes now? What will hold it all together?

Finally, the pieces are all together again. A different beauty emerges this time. A beauty of the recreated whole. A delicate beauty of all the shapes and sizes of the pieces together. The cracks reflecting the light in different ways.


We serve a God Who is the master at taking broken pieces and recreating beauty from the pieces we thought too broken to ever be used again.

He takes the broken pieces of our dreams and plans and creates beauty in His purposes for us.

He takes the broken pieces of our families and our relationships and creates beauty in forgiveness and restoration.

He takes the broken pieces of our sin and choosing to do wrong and creates beauty in redemption when we turn to Him.

We serve a God Who specializes in taking the broken and recreating incredible beauty. The key is that we have to let Him. We have to let Him see the broken pieces of our lives and touch the broken pieces of our lives.

We would rather try to hide the broken pieces. We do our best to keep anyone from touching our broken pieces because it's painful to let someone touch them. It reminds us that they're broken pieces. And we don't want to remember that.

But when we choose to let God take the broken pieces, beauty emerges from them. The pain of letting Him take those pieces and rebuild them is worth it for the outcome in the end.

What broken pieces of your life do you need to allow God to take and rebuild into something beautiful?

Monday, November 10, 2014

Will You Jump in the Puddle?

The pouring rain has turned the ground into a muddy mess. Puddles are forming as the ground cannot absorb any more water.

From the safety of chapel, I watch out the window. Ladies get out of their cars, grab their studd, and carefully make their way through the muddy parking lot to get inside.

They're looking down . . . taking careful steps . . . avoiding the puddles . . . stepping only the spots that look the like the firmest path to take.

Even as the rain stop, the parking lot remains wet and full of puddles.

It's the beginning of a weekend retreat for all who are here. A weekend away to laugh and have fun. A weekend away to hear from God - to allow Him to speak to us.

As the evening winds down and conversation in my room begins as get ready for some sleep, I hear God ask me a question: "Will you jump in the puddle?"

I'm taken back to the scene I watched earlier in the evening as the ladies arrived - how I watched them step carefully to avoid the puddles.

Stepping in the puddles is messy, dirty, and often unpleasant. As kids we go puddle jumping and find joy in it, but as we grow up we start doing all we can to avoid stepping in the puddles and we definitely don't jump in them intentionally.

I drift off to sleep. The question still on my mind. And I'm not yet sure what it means.

"Will you jump in the puddle?"

The question is still there in the morning. I'm still not sure what God means by it yet.

"Will you jump in the puddle?"

We avoid jumping in puddles because it's messy, dirty, and unpleasant. And we avoid talking to God about certain things in our lives or going to certain places in our lives because it's messy, dirty, and unpleasant. We don't like jumping in puddles physically and we don't like doing it spiritually either.

"Will you jump in the puddle?"

God's invitation comes again.

Am I willing to go with Him into one of those areas I would usually avoid? Am I willing to get messy and dirty and deal with what is unpleasant with Him?

Will I jump in the puddle with Him? Because He's not asking me to go there alone. He will be in  it with me.

Will I jump in the puddle and look at what is there that I've been avoiding? And in the process discover it's a puddle because God has poured His grace and love in such abundance on that area. Discover that I can deal with that part ofmy life because God's grace and love for me is more than enough.

"Will you jump in the puddle?"

The question keeps coming until I answer it.

I believe this is a question God asks all of us at different times in our lives. He asks us to trust Him and step into the mess where it's dirty and unpleasant. He asks us to step into this so He can do His work - so He can clean up the mess.

"Will you jump in the puddle?"

The next time the rain pours, the area that became a puddle last time becomes a firm place to stand. A firm place to launch our jump into the next puddle. Because we've allowed God to do His work there and we know He is full of grace and love to handle the biggest, messiest puddles in our lives.

"Will you jump in the puddle?"

Maybe that's the question, God is asking you right now. Maybe He's asking you to take that next step and allow Him into those broken and messy areas of your life, so He can transform them.

"Will you jump in the puddle?"

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Five Minute Friday: Turn

Joining in with the group over at Five Minute Friday this week. This week's prompt is "turn."

When do I get a turn? Why do I have to wait for my turn? Do we always have to wait for our turn?

We don't wait well for our turn. We get impatient when we're waiting. It doesn't come naturally to us to wait for our turn. 

Yet we often find ourselves having to wait until it is our turn for things. We're standing in line waiting for our turn. Or maybe we've heard something from God about what is coming in our future, but we still have to wait for our turn for it to happen, because someone else is in that role right now.

Maybe we often need to wait our turn because God has something He wants to teach us in the waiting. Instead of getting impatient while we wait for our turn, maybe we need to learn to look for what God is teaching while we wait.

Monday, November 3, 2014

It's All by Grace

Am I good enough? What do I need to do to be good enough for God to love me? How can I earn God's love?

God has been continuing to take me back to the basics of what being a follower of His is all about. And this weekend was no exception. I was at a retreat with a group of ladies from my church. Our theme for the weekend was Delighting in God's grace.

When you get right down to it, following God is all about His grace. His love for us is all about the grace He has shown to us. There is nothing we can do to be good enough for Him to love us - He just loves us.

"See what great love the Father has lavished upon us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" (1 John 3:1)

The love that God lavishes on us, is a gift from Him. We can't do anything to earn it. And we can't do anything to make Him stop loving us.

The Old Testament outlines God's Law that the Israelites were to live by. The rules and sacrifices that were a required part of life as one of God's people.

When Jesus came, He fulfilled the Law completely - He was the perfect sacrifice for sin. And that perfect sacrifice for our sin is offered to us by God as a gift. There's nothing we can do to earn it. We just need to accept the gift that comes by grace.

But, that is more difficult than it sounds. Our human nature likes the rules and things we have to do to earn God's love and grace. We make rules and requirements of what we should do and what we should avoid. 

In the process of that, we forget about God's grace. We miss His grace. And we struggle with feeling good enough for God to love us. Except that we don't have to try to be good enough to be loved. God doesn't ask us to be good enough - He just asks us to accept His gift of grace.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

What is the Message we Should be Living?

There is value in returning to the basics of what we say we believe and live. God has been continuing to take me back to that. A few days ago, I wrote about what our lives should be all about – that they should be all about God’s glory and God’s fame. He does His work in our lives to point to Himself, not to make us great. (You can read that post here).

The question I’ve been pondering lately since then is: What is the message I should be sharing with the world around me? And what does it look like to do that?

Whether it’s in the words we say or the things we choose to do or not do, our lives and our words are preaching  message to the world around us. What is that message? The one I’m currently sharing with the world? And does it line up with the one I should be sharing as someone who claims to be a follower of Christ?

Paul talks about the message that we should be sharing many times in his letters to the early church in various cities.

“. . . but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.” (1 Corinthians 1:23)

“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all and therefore all died. And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who dies for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:14-18)

“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, He made known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Christ.” (Ephesians 1:7-10)

As I dig into God’s Word to find an answer to my question, it comes back to one thing – the core message is Christ crucified and risen. And through that, forgiveness of sin – God’s grace that allows us to enter His presence.

Whatever I’m doing, whatever I’m saying, it should all be pointing back to the reality of Jesus’ death and resurrection. This doesn’t change just because I’m not someone gifted in evangelism or called to preach from a pulpit. In my ever day life, I should be living and speaking this to the people around me. That is the message that my life should be all about.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Back to the Basics

What is the core of everything our lives should be about as followers of Christ? What should our lives be all about?

I've been pondering this question a lot lately. As a person who loves to wrestle with the lard truths and the passages of Scripture that can sometimes be challenging to understand, it can be easy for me to miss what my life should really be all about. Wrestling these Scriptures out is a good thing - a necessary thing. But it becomes a problem if it's all I do.

Sometimes, I need to, we all need to go back to the basics and remind ourselves of what that is.

In Luke 4, Jesus quoted words from the prophet Isaiah and stated that day they were fulfilled in their hearing (Luke 4:16-21). As I look back in Isaiah to the passage Jesus read, it becomes clear that the basics are all about Jesus.

     "The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
          because the Lord has anointed me
          to proclaim good news to the poor.
     He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
          to proclaim freedom for the captives
          and release from darkness for the prisoners,
     to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour
          and the day of vengeance for our God,
     to comfort all who mourn,
          and provide for those who grieve in Zion -
     to bestow on them a crown of beauty
          instead of ashes,
     the oil of joy
          instead of mourning,
     and a garment of praise
          instead of a spirit of despair.
     They will be called oaks of righteousness,
          a planting of the Lord
          for the display of His splendor.
     They will rebuild the ancient ruins
          and restore the places long devastated;
     they will renew ruined cities
          that have been devastated for generations."
                                                                (Isaiah 61:1-4)

Jesus began His ministry by declaring He had come to do exactly these things.

These verses in Isaiah also give us a reason why Jesus came to do these things. Verse 3 tells us that we "will be call oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor." It's the last phrase that is important here.

Everything God does in our lives is about His glory and renown. About it making His name great.

When we get back to the basics of what our lives as followers of Christ should be all about, this is what it comes back to. It's all about making God's fame and glory known. Whatever we say and do has to be all about making God known and for His glory. If we start there, then we're starting in the right place.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Change Your Perspective

Two steps forward . . . one step back . . . one step forward . . . two steps back . . . two steps forward . . . one step back.

Life often feels this way - especially our spiritual lives. We gain some ground in an area and then we discover we're going back again. If we notice, we can change direction again before we go all the way back.

In those moments, it can feel like we'll never get beyond this - like we'll always struggle in that specific area. We feel that because we're only seeing a small part of the whole. In that moment when we feel like we failed again all we see is the distance between where we were and where we are now. The distance we fell.

But, we're missing the bigger picture when that's all we're looking at. We're only seeing the distance we fell, not the greater distance we've come. That greater distance can only be seen when we pull back from the immediate. It requires us to change our perspective.

Changing our perspective doesn't mean we ignore what just happened or pretend it's not big deal. Changing our perspective gives us the motivation to get up and keep moving forward. As we see the journey we've been on that includes many moments of what looks and felt like going backwards, but we also see that overall we've been moving forward.

In those moments when we've fallen and gone backwards, we can be assured that we follow a God who gives us the opportunity to get up and try again, with Him helping us move on. Many of our heroes in the Bible have this as their story - Abraham, Moses, David, to name a few. They all had failures and struggles, but they got back up and kept going with God.

In our moments of greatest failure and struggle, we easily get discouraged if we focus only on the failure or the struggle. But, when we remember all that ground we have already covered with God walking with us, we have the courage to get back up and keep going.

Sometimes to change our perspective, we have to be intentional about remembering it all. We have to go back and remind ourselves of it all. Remind ourselves where we were and how far we've gone with God. Remind ourselves of all the second, third, tenth, hundredth chances God has given us and how eventually we walked it the way God was trying to take us.

Where are you right now?
Can you see the bigger picture of the whole journey?
Or are you lost in the latest failure or struggle and in need of a perspective change?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Shining Like a Light in the Dark

This is the last in a series on Philippians 2. You can read previous posts here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

"Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, 'children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation.' Then you will shine like stars in the universe, as you hold out the word of life." (Philippians 2:14-16)

These verses seem fairly straightforward. It's clear, but not so easy to live out. These verses go against our natural way of living.

Complaining and arguing are defaults for many of us most of the time. We easily see the negative in things. It's easy to join in on the conversations that focus on everything that's wrong with our lives and the world around us.

But Paul is saying that we should be doing everything without complaining or arguing. That's quite the task. Instead of seeing the negative and talking only about it, we need to be looking for the good in things - in everything.

The good news is that we don't have to try to live like this on our own. God in us gives us the strength to do everything without complaining and arguing. As the verses just before this one remind us, "it is God who works in [us] to will and to act according to His good purpose." (vs. 13). It is God in us Who enables us to do everything without complaining or arguing.

As we continue to live the way God calls us to, we become blameless and pure. It's about the process of moving in this direction, not a one time thing.

We learn to live this way and we become lights shining in a dark world. Lights that point people to God. We hold onto God's truth and live out His ways. And as we do so, we become beacons of light in a crooked and depraved generation. Lights that point people toward the truth.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

God Working in Us

This is Part 4 in a series on Philippians 2. You can read the previous posts here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

"Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed - not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence - continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose." (Philippians 2:12-13).

What does Paul mean when he says we should "work out our salvation with fear and trembling"? Why with fear and trembling? Why do we need to work out our salvation?

When we choose to accept the gift God offers us through Jesus Christ, we are saved - our salvation is complete. But, the process of learning to live the way Christ wants us to is just beginning. We are continually being changed to be more like Christ as we follow Him.

We need to take seriously the gift we have been given and seek God. We choose to follow and obey what He has told us. When Paul says we should work out our salvation with fear and trembling, this is what he's talking about. It's about taking seriously living the life that God has asked us to live as His followers.

The good news is that we don't have to do this in our own strength. We have God in us being our strength to live that out. It's not about us trying harder to do it. It's about us allowing God to work in us.

We choose to follow God and take Him seriously. That's our part. Then He becomes the strength we need to live the way He calls us to.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

What is True Humility?

This is Part 3 in a series on Philippians 2. You can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

We don't like the word humility. We don't want to talk about it or think about it. But it comes up consistently in Scripture. Because of this, it becomes clear that humility is key in living our lives following Christ's example.

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourself, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others." (Philippians 2:3-4)

Paul calls his readers to humility in how they treat one another. He then goes on to point to the ultimate example of humility - Jesus Christ - in the verses that come next.

"In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus." (Philippians 2:5)

Being willing to give up everything to serve others and love others. Not seeking to make a name or ourselves, but for God. This is what humility really is. Seeking to serve and love others to make God known, not ourselves.

So, what does it look like to follow Jesus' example of humility? How do we live if we are following His example?

Philippians 2:6-8 says,

     "Who, being in very nature God,
          did not consider equality with God
               something to be grasped;
     rather, He made Himself nothing
          by taking the very nature of a servant,
          being made in human likeness.
     And being found in appearance as a man,
          He humbled Himself
          by becoming obedient to death -
              even death on a cross!"

Jesus gave up all the rights and privileged that came with being God's Son and came to earth as a man. He experienced things as we do living on earth. He didn't come as a king expecting to be served. He wasn't born into a family with status. Jesus didn't come expecting the world to do everything He wanted and serve His every need.

Jesus came to serve and love us! He gave up everything He had so that He could purchase us back from the bondage we were in. He came to free us. And that meant coming to serve us.

This is what true humility looks like. Coming to serve and love others at personal cost. It's not about thinking of ourselves as having no value. But it is, as Paul says earlier, about "[valuing] others above ourselves." (vs. 3). We put others first, as we seek to love and serve them.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

We Are One

This is Part 2 of a series on Philippians 2. You can read Part 1 here.

Philippians 2 begins with a call for unity as followers of Christ. Paul is asking his readers in the church at Philippi to be unified, to work together for the good news of the gospel. The same thing is asked of us today as we read this passage.

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in His Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. (vs 1-2)

Paul emphasizes the reasons why we should be unified in these verses. He points out what forms the foundation of our unity as believers in Christ.

We have been united with Christ. When we choose to accept the gift God offers us through His Son, we are united with Christ. The One who paid the debt of our sins for us. This is the reality for all of us who claim to follow Christ.

We are all loved by God. And that love is equal for each of us because we are His creation. We are all equal before God and He loves us all the same. We don't have to do anything to try to earn His love. He loves us anyways. There is comfort in that. And it puts us all on level ground as believers.

We all have the Holy Spirit in us. When we accepted God's gift we were given the Holy Spirit. All of us have the Holy Spirit in us to guide us and give us wisdom if we choose to listen.

Because of the great gifts we have been given by God, we are filled with tenderness and compassion towards others. We have received tenderness and compassion from God and it begins to flow out of us and change the way we interact with others.

Paul is telling the church at Philippi that these are reasons why they should be united - "being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind." He's not telling them they all have to be exactly the same. Paul is saying that the motive and the reason behind what they do should be the same.

As followers of Christ, we should all have the same purpose, we should all be working towards the same thing -  even if the specifics of how we do it looks different.

Unity doesn't mean clones. It doesn't mean everyone does exactly the same thing in the same way. It means we are all working together, in our own way and roles, toward a common purpose. That is the unity Paul is speaking of here.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Follow Christ's Example

Following Christ and following His example and teaching of how to live is a high calling. We're called to live in a way that is counter-cultural.

When I was at Bible college, the words of Philippians 2 became familiar. My first year, part of this chapter was the theme verse for my hall. And my second year, a large part of it was the theme for the entire school. Philippians 2 is a chapter I find myself returning to continually and finding that there is still more I can learn from it.

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
     Who, being in very nature God,
          did not consider equality with God
               something to be grasped;
     rather, He made Himself nothing
          by taking the very nature of a servant,
          being made in human likeness.
     And being found in appearance as a man,
         He humbled Himself
         be becoming obedient to death -
              even death on a cross!
     Therefore, God exalted Him to the highest place
         and gave Him the name that is above every name,
     that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
         in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
     and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
         to the glory of God the Father.

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed - not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence - continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, "children of God in a crooked and depraved generation." Then you will shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labour in vain.
                                                                                      -Philippians 2:1-16

In these words, Paul calls the church at Philippi to a high standard of living. And that same call is extended to us. It's a standard we can't meet on our own, but Paul also speaks of how we get what we need to live it in this passage. Thankfully, we can assured that God will "work in us to will and to act according to His good purpose." (vs. 13). It's not up to our own willpower to do this. It's God in us.

For the next while, some of my posts are going to take a look at exactly what is being said in this passage and how God is calling us to live as His followers.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Our Need for a Place & a Way to Refresh

Coffee grinders buzz as beans are ground to make the next drink. Metal spoons bang against cups of steamed milk poured out to make the next drink. The scent of fresh ground coffee fills the air. Murmurs of conversations around me. Moments of silence where the music is heard clearly after being drowned out by other noise before.

Some people call this place my office. Some call it my second home. Some are so used to seeing me there, they wonder when I'm not.

Coffee shops have easily become a favourite space for me.

A place for conversation with a friend.

A place to read a book.

A place to write.

A place to hear from God.

People walking by my table. Some in a hurry - grabbing a cup of coffee for the rush to the next place. Some take their time - lingering with a friend or a good book. Those who know exactly what they want and those still undecided.

Hot or cold? Tea? Just coffee? Or a special drink? Any food with it?

I watch the people coming in as I sit and sip my latte. Such diversity of people coming in. I wonder why they come.

Why do you choose a busy coffee shop over the quiet of your house? It's a question I'm asked regularly. It's a logical one. My house is as quiet or as loud as I choose for it to be. It seems a good place to think or wrote or read or pray.

But it's also filled with distractions . . . the dishwasher that needs emptying, the floor that needs vacuuming, the laundry that needs doing, the computer or TV vying for my time. For me, sometimes I just need to leave those things behind. Other times I can put them aside and remain at my home.

The truth is, I think we all have places we like to go or things we like to do to escape the demands of everyday life. We need those place and activities. They renew and refresh us, so we have the energy and perspective fro the daily demands of life. As long as our escapes are realistic in time and don't cause harm to us or others, they are beneficial to our lives, even necessary.

For me, that escape is often to a coffee shop to read or write or pray for a couple hours. For others, it might be a hike or a run or a bubble-bath at home. We all need these times if we're going to live the life we've been given to live by God. We weren't created to go nonstop without a break or time to refresh.

Where is that place for you? What is the activity you do to refresh?

Monday, September 29, 2014

Worship the Creator

Crisp, cool, early morning air
Sun rising over the mountains behind
The quiet, stillness of it all
Draws me to my knees in worship

Only a God of masterful creativity
Who desires the grandest of beauty
Who cares deeply about smallest details
Could have created all I see

Greens, oranges, blues, and browns
A vast array of brilliant colours
Highlighting intricate details
Of all I am surrounded by

Worship of the Creator of it all
Seems the only fitting response
Remember He loves me more than these
More than could ever be understood

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Learn to Stop Running so we Can Listen

"I really need to take a break and get away."

"I'd just like a few moments of quiet, but I don't know if I can find it."

"I know it's important to take time to get quiet and listen to God, but I just don't know how to fit it into my day."

"I can't put my phone away for any amount of time. What if someone needs an immediate response form me?"

How often have you said those things? Or though them?

I've noticed that we like to talk about our need for rest from the daily demands of life. We can articulate the reasons why we need it. We can point to Scripture that says we should do it.

But our practice of it doesn't seem to line up with our talk. We don't do well at practicing what we talk about. I don't do well at practicing what I talk about sometimes.

I've been challenged in this area of my walk with God this summer (as many of my recent posts indicate). And as I've learned how to step into this more, I've realized just how much we miss when it's not a regular part of our lives.

It's only when we stop running and silence the noise of our lives that we can hear from God. In the midst of our fast-paced, noisy culture, doing so is difficult. We're conditioned to expect an instant response and to try to do multiple things at once. Putting off the response to that text or email until later and doing only one thing at a time takes practice for us to learn how to do it well.

The danger comes in never learning to do it well or even to do it at all. We try and it feels too hard, so we quit trying. Or, we try it and the interruptions keep coming, whether other people or our own thoughts, so we give up trying.

But, this is something we have to learn because it's counter-cultural. It will take time to learn, because it's counter-cultural. Instead of expecting to do it well the first time, we need to begin expecting we won't do it well, expecting to get distracted.

Then we'll begin to discover the value in taking the time. That's when we'll realize a desire for it. That's when it becomes a regular part of our lives and our actions will begin to match up with our talk.

We can't begin expecting it to be a lengthy time. That's not realistic when we're learning anything. We have to teach the muscles what to do and how to do it repeatedly. We build the strength and endurance slowly over time.

We have to start small when we begin to make it a regular part of our lives. And build it from there.

I've always looked up to people who could take days or a week or longer and spend it with God - having shut off the distractions and noise of the world. I wished it was something I could do. I wanted God to give me the ability to do it right away.

But in the last few years, I've discovered it's something developed over time. It starts with a small chunk of time and it grows as we practice it more. As we develop the muscles and endurance for it.

Where are you at with this?

Is it time to start the regular pattern of time to rest? To start small with lots of grace for yourself as you learn and develop the muscle?

Is it time to take the next step in this? To take more time and stretch yourself? All while still offering yourself grace as you grow?

Monday, September 22, 2014

People Matter

Silly songs. Fun activities. Field games. New friends. Reconnecting with new old friends. Great speakers sharing God's love. Worshipping God. Chapel. Camp fires. Spiritual decisions. A feeling of coming home. Those are the things that come flooding through my mind when I drive on the camp property.

This weekend, I was back at the camp I went to as a kid and then had the privilege of working at for a few summers. It was a celebration of 40 years of ministry in that place. 40 years of lives being changed as people met God - some for the first time and some in a way they never have before. Celebrating 40 years of what is still occurring in that place and will continue to.

As we heard stories of how God had worked to provide for the camp, to protect the camp, to keep the camp moving forward. Provision of people and funds to continue to point people to Jesus. So much of it came down to people who were willing to allow God to use them.

That's what it comes down to for me. The camp is special to me, because of the people I met there. People who cared and gave of their time and energy to pour into my life. People who saw something in me they thought was worth investing in. People who gave me a chance to learn how to lead. People who gave me a safe place to fail and get back up and try again. People who celebrated with me when I succeeded.

So much of what really matters in our lives, the memories that we hold onto for years, are of the people. We might remember some of the place or the things, but it's usually the people who we hold onto in those memories. That's because God created us to be in relationship with others. We were created to need others in our lives. And when someone does take the time with us, we remember them easily. They become a part of who we are today.

As I sat and visited with some of those people in my life this weekend, I was reminded of how they have impacted my life. My response is one of gratitude. Gratitude to God for bringing them into my life. Thankfulness to them for being willing to be used by God in the lives of other people.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

I Will Provide

Trust Me
I will provide
Stop and sit awhile
I have something to say to you
Stop your frantic hurry
Lay down your worry
Let go of your fear

Trust Me
I will provide
I have promised you
With Me, you will lack nothing
All your needs will be met
Be still and know
I am God

Be still
And know I am God
Until you stop your running
And learn how to sit quietly with Me
You’ll no know My great provision
I will provide for you
Trust Me

Monday, September 15, 2014

Get Away

Leaves rustling the wind
The only noise to hear
The sky a brilliant blue
Eyes squinting in the sunlight

City noise and hustle
Seems a world away
Nothing screaming for attention
No urgent needs to meet

Space made to listen together
To be fully present with one another
Time to hear God’s thoughts
A place to learn to pray again

Bright greens and orange abound
Trees and brightly-coloured wildflowers
Leaves go silent with no wind
A still small voices speaks

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Being Silent to Listen First

Listening is a forgotten skill in our society. We're so busy thinking about what we're going to say next, that we don't listen very well. We live with so much noise around us, it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to really listen.

We don't listen well to each other. And we really don't listen to God. We've stopped listening for His still small voice, or we have so much other noise going on in our lives that we drown it out.

I've been reading a book this summer that has been challenging me. It's called The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath by Mark Buchanan. In the chapter he wrote on stopping to hear God, he shared a question that stopped my reading for a while. I had to think about it for myself: "If people stop to listen to you, to whom are you stopping to listen?"

It's a challenging question because I have places where people listen to (or read) what I have to say. I have to be careful that as long as I'm sharing my words, thoughts, ideas with other people, I'm stopping to listen to God first. Because it's in those quiet moments, that I learn. I have to learn to listen first.

And that's a lesson we all need to learn. Whatever sphere of influence we have, whether large or small, we have to learn to listen to God before we speak.

As Buchanan goes on to say in the chapter, "Silence is the condition for listening." (pg. 178). We have to get quiet and turn off the background noise to hear God speak, to be able to recognize His voice.

"God is always speaking. . . . But we're not always listening. We don't make the effort and so fail to go boldly into his throne room to receive what we need: a word that can pierce, and cut, and heal." (pg. 188). Learning to listen for God's voice is important. God is always speaking, but we're not always listening to what He has to say.

We have to learn to stop talking and silence the noise so we can hear His still small voice.

How are you doing at listening?

Do you need to stop doing all the talking and start listening?

Is there noise you need to silence to hear God's still small voice speaking to you?

Monday, September 8, 2014

Why You Need to Play

When did you last play?

When did you last do something just because it was fun?

Do you think of play as something only children do?

We live in a society that prizes accomplishment. That is always pushing us to do more, to climb the ladder, to get to the next level of success. We're told not to waste time, but to maximize every minute we have.

As a result, we feel guilty when we waste time. We feel like we did something wrong when we did something just for the joy it brought us. Even when we take a vacation, we don't feel like we can really shut off work and enjoy a break.

In the midst of this, we've lost an important part of our relationship with God. We're missing something important.

A look at Jesus' life in the gospels shows us that we took time out to enjoy life. We see Him at weddings and parties with His disciples. He went to people's homes for dinner. Yes, Jesus performed miracles or gave challenging messages in those setting, but those don't seem to His primary plan in those situations. Jesus laughed with His friends. He was on earth one a mission, but He stopped to find joy and do things to enjoy them as He went about that mission.

In Philippians 4:4, Paul says, "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" Romans 12:15 tells us to, "Rejoice with those who rejoice." That means the joy we see Jesus finding is important to us as well.

One of the ways we learn to rejoice is by doing things for fun. By learning to play and to waste time again. If we don't know how to have fun, if we're always focussed on maximizing our productive time, we'll have a hard time rejoicing.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Come Away

"Come away with Me -
Leave the phone behind,
Leave the computer behind -
I want to meet with you."

A million reasons I could not
Flooded through my min
Deadlines, to-do lists, phone calls, emails
All the things I had to do.

"Come away with Me -
You will leave refreshed
Full of all you need
No longer overwhelmed."

Remembering times before
I answered this call willingly
Tasks once such urgent needs
Seem to fade away.

"Come away with Me -
I have great plans for you,
I want to reveal what's next
For you and Me to do together."

Monday, September 1, 2014

Escape the Hurry

Sun reflecting off the water
The cool lake below a refreshing retreat
A place to stop, to escape the hurry
Time seems to stop here
Relax, nothing screaming for attention
Finally, a place with no demands
Nothing on the agenda today
No to-do lists to complete
A time away to laugh with friends
A time to hear from God and speak to Him
A time of rest, a time of Sabbath

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Is Your Busyness Robbing You?

Have I let busyness rob me of knowing God the way I might if I wasn't so busy?

I've been pondering this question for a few weeks. It's a challenging one to think about.

We live in a culture that prizes busyness. The answer to the question of how things are going is often that we're busy. And when we're not busy it can feel like we don't have the right answer to that question.

This thinking has infiltrated the church as well. There's a subtle pressure to add more volunteer time to the schedule if we can't continually tell people how busy we are. We look up to those who have filled their weekends and evenings with service.

But when we fill our schedules too full, often one of the first things that gets pushed out is our time with God. And this robs us of knowing God the way we could. Even when we're filling our time with serving at church, that busyness robs us of knowing God the way we could.

Don't get me wrong . . . I'm not saying there is anything inherently wrong with serving at church. In fact, I believe we should all be taking an active role in the church we belong to. But, when the time we spend serving our church makes us so busy we have no time for relationship with God, we have a problem.

How do we respond to this? How do we stop allowing busyness to rob us of knowing God?

We have to learn to create a life with space in it. Space, so we're not running from one thing to the next unsure if we'll be on time. Space, so we can linger with a friend in need. Space, so we can spend time with God and listen to His voice.

We have to learn to slow down - to stop living life in a hurry.

It doesn't come easy. It's a counter-cultural move.

I think we need to change what we celebrate and look up to. Instead of celebrating busyness and looking up to those who are really busy, we need to learn to celebrate being unable to talk about how busy we are.

We need to change the way we look at how we spend our time. We need to see our time with God as the most important thing. We need to move our time with God onto the non-negotiable list and allow other things to go when we don't have enough time to do it all.

Have you allowed busyness to rob you of knowing God the way you could if you weren't so busy?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Regretting the Hurry

"Someone asked me recently what was my biggest regret in life. I thought a moment, surveying the vast and cluttered landscape of my blunders and losses, the evil I have done and the evil that's been done againstme.
'Being in a hurry,' I said.
'Being in a hurry. Getting to the next thing without fully entering the thing in front of me. I cannot think of a single advantage I've ever gained from being in a hurry. But a thousand broken and missed things, tens of thousands, lie in the wake of all that rushing.'
Through all that haste, I thought I was marking up time. It turns out I was throwing it away."
(Mark Buchanan, The Rest of God, page 45)

Go back to the beginning and read the quoted passage above again. Slow down while you read it. Take time to reflect on what Mark Buchanan is saying here.

How would you answer the question about what your biggest regret was in life? What do you see as your biggest regret?

It usually doesn't take us long to come up with things we regret. Choices we made. People we chose to keep in our lives and people we chose to remove from our lives. Jobs we chose to take or not to take. Things we chose to do with our money or possessions and things we chose not to do with them.

When I really stop to think about it, despite all the choices I've made that are regrets, I have to say that I've come to agree with Buchanan on this one. My biggest regret is being in a hurry and it's the root of most of the decisions I regret making.

When we're living life in a hurry, our decisions suffer. We're so concerned about getting to the next thing that we run from one thing to the next with no time to think.

Are you living life in a hurry?

Do you see living life in a hurry as a regret? Why or why not?

I wonder what would happen if we became intentional about not living life in a hurry. What would happen if we slowed down enough to be really present in the moment and gave ourselves the room in our schedules to think?

I think that rather than feeling like we couldn't possibly get everything done, we would find that we have the time to do what we need to do without a problem.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Five Minute Friday: Change

It's Friday, which means it's time for Five Minute Friday. This week the word is "change."

Do you embrace change? Or do you fight against it?

Or maybe you find yourself somewhere in the middle of those extremes? You don't excitedly seek after change, but you don't run form it either.

Whatever the case, the one thing we can be sure of in life is that we will have to deal with change. Change in our lives because of things we do. Change in circumstance because of choices we made. Change in our lives because of things others do. Changes in circumstance because of choices others made. Sometimes we choose the change and sometimes we don't.

The one thing we can be sure of is that change in evitable. And as followers of Christ, change is something that happens constantly in our lives - or, it should be.

When we choose to follow Christ, we being a process of transformation - of change. And that process of change in a lifelong process. We're constantly being changed to become more and more like Christ.

When we stop to look back over the years, we can see evidence of this change. And evidence of how we responded to it. We can see the times we embraced the change and we can see the times where we fought against it. But the important thing is that we give glory to God for the ways He has changed us.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

We're All Called to Something

What is a calling? Do you have one? Do we all have one? Or is it only for specific people?

Sometimes I wonder if we overuse the word calling in Christian circles, and it loses some of its importance in the process. Other times I wonder if we elevate it to too high a status and lose some of the importance of what God asks us to do as we serve Him in our everyday life.

I just finished reading a book that made me think more about this. Kelly Minter ends her book Wherever the River Runs with the following words:

“I think our tendency is to believe that God is inviting someone else into the ministry of reconciliation, tapping someone a little more gifted or holy than us for the work. . . . But the reality is that God has called every one of His children to the poor, the outcast, those on the fringes of society, the spiritually hungry. Hardly ever do we feel ready, comfortable with the task, confident in our goodness, or have any idea where the river might run, but – such a sobering reminder – He has called us still.” (emphasis mine).

The last sentence really resonated with me. I think we often struggle with the idea of calling because we don’t feel ready or comfortable or confident. But, God still calls us to serve and to love the world. How we each do that looks different, but it all comes from the same call.

We call it the Great Commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39). Elsewhere in His teaching, Jesus calls us to love our enemies as well (Luke 6:27-36 & 10:25-37).

When God sends us to “the poor, the outcast, those on the fringes of society, the spiritually hungry,” He is sending us to live out what we call the Great Commandment. It’s the way we are called to live as followers of Christ. We may not feel qualified or ready to do it in the specific way God gives us to do it, but He asks us to anyway and depend on Him to do it.

When I look at it this way, I start to see the calling God has on my life, on your life, on the life of everyone who claims to follow Him. We are called to love our neighbours and our enemies. It’s not a calling specific to a few “elite” in Christian circles. It’s a calling for all Christians – whatever we spend our time doing.

We do all have a calling. And it is important. That calling is to love – sacrificially, with an attitude of service to those we meet and interact with. It’s a high calling, and it’s worth it.

Monday, August 11, 2014

What We're Really Looking For

“We may desire deep friendships, ironclad marriages, thriving children, a secure economy, healthy bodies, a trip to Europe – but what we really want is an encounter with the living God. To be loved known, and seen by Him. We pursue all the other stuff because it’s the stuff that tastes, but Jesus is the One who nourishes.” (Kelly Minter, Wherever the River Runs)
Since I first read those words, they’ve been running through my head. Specifically, the short sentence in the middle: “To be loved, known, and seen by Him.” Those words ring true in my life, and in the lives of many people I talk to.
We purse all sorts of things in life, as we seek to fill our deepest longings and desires. And ultimately we find that nothing satisfies them for long, if at all.
Friends, family, vacations, money, possessions . . . they make us feel happy in the short term. And most of the time, they can be good things in our lives. There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of them. How we use them may be a problem, but that doesn’t make the thing itself a bad thing.
The problem is when those things no longer satisfy, when they no longer make us happy, we’re left looking for more. And that is when we can turn to the wrong things, or things that were good to begin with can become a problem.
When you get to the core of what we’re looking for – what  we desire – it comes down to wanting to be known, loved, and seen. We want to be known for who we really are – the part of us that we often keep locked deep inside for fear of how other people will see us. We can to be really loved – unconditionally, sacrificially, deeply. We don’t want to go through life feeling invisible – we want our presence to be noticed, to be missed.
We seek to find all of these things in so many places that don’t satisfy, when what we really need to do is seek to meet with God. The one place we can be really known, loved, and seen is when we enter into relationship with Jesus. He is the only One who can satisfy those needs.
The psalmist put it this way, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34:8). The psalmist knew and had experienced that God was what would satisfy and he calls us to try.
What are you seeking to satisfy your desires?
Is what you’re seeking truly satisfying your desires?
Have you allowed Jesus to meet you and be the One who knows you, loves you, and sees you?