Tuesday, September 29, 2009

T-R-U-S-T

There are two kinds of people in the world.

I love those general statements! They open you up to challenges on every side. Of course there are more than two kinds of people, but comparisons between two extremes sometimes help us see ourselves more clearly.

This summer I presented a two-part sermon series to my church on trust. The messages were based on Jeremiah 2:13, where God accuses Israel of committing two sins:

They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water.

The imagery God uses here is powerful. He is an Artesian Spring, spurting out an abundant supply of clean, fresh water (representing life) constantly, forever. But Israel prefers to dig empty holes in the ground, with cracks in the bottom, and trust the rains will come once in a while to fill them up.

If you walked for miles in a dry desert and came across a fountain of water spurting into the air and splashing down on the parched ground beneath, what would you do?

I have friends who would immediately shed their clothes and go for a swim. They are one kind of person.

I am another.

I am a container person. When I see water spurting up all over, my first inclination is to grab as many containers as I can find and fill them. I want the security of contained water, a water supply I have some kind of control over. This sheer abandonment, this splashing all over the place, it makes me nervous. I am a broken cistern person by nature.

But sheer abandonment is what God calls us to. It’s the only thing He asks of us, in fact, because it’s the only thing we are capable of giving Him. Sheer abandonment opens us up to receive everything He wants to give us. And He’s all about giving.

I have no problem with partial trust. I know He’s the Spring of Living Water and I am more than willing to dip into it now and then, but I'd like a couple of cisterns dug nearby as well, for a back up supply.

It’s the carefree splashing I have trouble with. The total abandonment, full of delight, without any back up system, as if the water will always be there and always be all I need. What a concept.

So, there are two kinds of people in the world. There are those who splash in the fountain and there are those who scurry around looking for something to put water in. I am a scurrier by nature. I have to work hard at splashing. I have to work hard at trusting.

How to do that? Here’s a suggestion. Five steps to joyful abandonment:

Tune in to Him.
Get His perspective. Our trust has to start with Him and who He is.

Rest in His victory.
His victory is real and eternal and it began, for us, the minute we gave ourselves to Him the first time.

Understand the final end.
Heaven awaits. All else is temporal and relatively unimportant. Trust requires us to be forward-looking.

Stand firm in faith.
Though we’re to rest in His victory, that doesn’t mean we are to act like wimps. The enemy will fight against our abandonment to the Fountain. We need to equip ourselves like soldiers (I Corinthians 16:13) and take our stand in His victory.

Thank Him for who He is and for all He has provided.
Trust automatically results in praise and thanksgiving. Lack of thankfulness is unbelief. And, when we find it hard to trust, the opposite also works. Thanksgiving will create trust because it puts us back at the beginning of this process.

It’s pouring rain outside. My shoulders are wet because I just had to sprint to get the garbage out. The truck was already roaring down my street.

I think I’ll wear the clothes for a while, as a reminder that "wet all over" is not always a bad thing.

Ah-choo! Or maybe not.

Monday, September 28, 2009

For Zouxi


Today is my little Zouxi's third birthday. She lives in the Dominican Republic with her Mama, Eridania, Dad, Andy, and brothers, Alex and baby Rowan.

I still feel the same as I did when she was born and I wrote this poem:

It’s hard to be a grandma
Who lives so far away,
When you’d love to give her kisses
At least five times a day.

It’s hard to wake up worried
In the middle of the night,
When you can’t go in and check her,
To see if she’s all right.

It’s hard to think she’s crying
In someone else’s arms,
When your arms long to hold her
And soothe her baby storms.

You’d so much love to tell her
In words her heart could hear,
That Jesus wants to be her friend
And He is always near.

But you have to make adjustments, so,
To calm your fears and cares,
If you can’t hold her in your arms
You hold her in your prayers.

You know that you can trust Him
To watch her day by day.
He loves her more than you do
And He’s not too far away.

And so I’ll be a grandma
Who lives too far away,
And spoil her when she visits
And when she’s gone, I’ll pray.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Godly Imagination

We traditionally (at least in this culture) perceive imagination as being a method for creating ideas or things that have no foundation in reality. Things that are “imaginary” are not real. Novels are imagined. They are fictional. Children’s fantasies are shadows of reality, practices designed to prepare them to function in the “real” world.

Often this is the case. Novels certainly are imagined, and child’s play is pretend. But I’m becoming convinced that this limited perception of imagination might be short-changing us. What if imagination is actually a gift from God, designed to allow us to “see” the unseen. To “see” Him? What if we were designed to use our imaginations to picture and better understand (and more readily believe in) unseen realities?

There are dangers here, of course. It’s very possible to imagine things that do not exist. Relying on my imagination as a revelation of truth could put me out of touch with reality. And I’m leery of believing you can create reality by wishing it into existence. But at the same time, I wonder if we miss the wonders of the unseen world by not wondering imaginatively more often. (Don't you love that sentence?!)

So how might this godly imagination work? Yesterday I was picturing my current spiritual state, framing my feelings about my walk with the Lord in a visual image. I saw myself, a small sheep, hunkered down on the side of a lonely, grassy hill, all by myself, lost, no landmarks, no way of knowing where I should be going.

That’s an accurate picture of how I’m feeling right now. I’m not afraid or frustrated. God has instructed me not to fear or be dismayed. He’s told me that He is my God. He’s promised to strengthen me and help me. He’s said He will uphold me with his righteous right hand. But I am confused. Not sure where to go from here in my life.

Today I realized that, though this image is an accurate picture of how I feel, it’s not a totally accurate picture of reality. Psalm 142:3 says “When my spirit grows faint within me, it is You who knows my way.” When I discovered that verse in my quiet time this morning I added some new elements to my “lost-on-the-lonely-hill” image. Today I pictured (accurately) a tall, gentle Shepherd standing on the hill beside me. He’s got a little lamb in his arms (a picture of some of my loved ones who need to be carried right now), and He’s walking beside me, step by step. Not pointing in any direction, but leading. His walking appears aimless but I know it’s not. He knows where we’re going.

Some years ago, on a rainy, dreary Vancouver day, I was sitting in my car at an intersection waiting for a red light to turn green. As I waited, a ray of sun broke through the clouds and a beam of warmth fell through the window onto my arm. I said to myself, “I’m going to imagine that warm beam of light is God touching me.” Before I could finish the thought, a more powerful one interrupted to say, “It’s not your imagination.”

Unseen realities are all around us. It takes imagination to believe that. Imagining is a risky business. We could make mistakes. But maybe we need to take some risks. Imaginings that are based on Biblical truth will lead us into realities that could revolutionize our lives. Today I will quit hunkering. I will imagine that the Shepherd is by my side and I will step out in faith, confidently, knowing that the rod and staff are in place if I turn in a wrong direction.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

My Sins

Ha! I knew that title would get your attention. You want to know what my sins are, don’t you?

Well, I might tell you. I don’t know yet. My sins are pretty personal and blogs are not. But I have been thinking about my sins this morning, with questions.

The first question is, what are sins? I know what the “big” ones are—the ones the Ten Commandments tell us NOT to do. It’s pretty easy for me to avoid them. I currently have no thoughts of murder. I don’t even hate anyone, which Jesus says is the same thing. And in the forty years I’ve been married to my husband I’ve never even been tempted to commit adultery.

Bearing false witness is definitely a no-no. Truth is too important to me. I can remember the two deliberate lies I told in my youth and the consequences were so excruciatingly painful I’ve been afraid to tell a lie since. At least not with malice and aforethought.

Hmm. I’ve probably told some without noticing, or some that I’ve rationalized away before they could be labelled as lies in my conscious mind. The heart is deceitful, God says. I know I’ve told lies to myself, and this is probably one of them.

Oops. I’ve done it. I’m slipping into confession mode here. I’d better be careful.

The reading in my daily devo this morning, Daily Light, (published by Moody Press) is about sin. It begins with the verse, “Sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace.” (Romans 6:14). It says, “Everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.” (John 8:34). And ends with Galatians 5:1: “Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.”

Hmm again. I think maybe “sin” in my life can be identified in this way. How about saying that anything that enslaves me is sin? It is wrong for me to be enslaved to anything except Christ.

And why is slavery to other things so wrong? Because it keeps me from doing what I should do.

Ah, those niggling sins of omission!

Slavery to Christ demands that I GO and DO. In Luke 9:60, Jesus says to those who are thinking of following Him (some day): “Follow me first. Let the dead bury their own dead.” In other words, he’s saying we should prioritize. It’s only the things we put FIRST on our “to do” list that get done. Instead of burying our dead, we need to be proclaiming the Kingdom of God.

Could it be that it’s a sin for me to spend the money God gives us on a new kitchen BEFORE we give to that organization that sends the Gospel over radio waves into Russia? (Elaine, you’re to blame for this jab at my conscience. Thanks a lot!) The struggle is real. Am I a slave to material things? Is that slavery keeping me from doing what is right?

When I struggle to sit down at the computer and open a new Word document and start writing—when my fingers stray, instead, to a solitaire game or my Facebook site—is that sin? Am I enslaved to intellectual/spiritual apathy and laziness?

James 4:17 says: “to those who know to do good and don’t do it, to them it is sin.” The paraphrase that makes me squirm is, “if she knows how to write and doesn’t do it, it’s sin.” (Elaine and Connie, both of you have squirmed me on this one.)

God, help me to see how You view these sins in my life. How You view the world full of needs that I have been equipped to go and do something about and have not done it. How You anguish over all the undone deeds of righteousness around me. Fill me with your motivating love and power. Help me to follow You FIRST, and then go bury my relatives.

So I will go out today and find something to do that is of eternal value. It feels good. This slavery to Christ is such a freeing thing!

(I wish I could remember stuff like this every day. Maybe I need to make a deliberate commitment to it? Hmm once again.)