Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Just Like A Child



“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of GodSee what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!”

A couple of weeks ago I got to go to Florida with my sister, brother-in-law and nephew.  It was one of the best vacations I’ve had! One of my favorite parts of the week was waking up to my 3 month year old nephew Lucas each morning.  Most mornings I tried to get up with Lucas so that my sister could sleep in more.  She has to do it every other morning but for me it is still a novelty!  After Lucas was fed and changed in the morning, he was so happy.  We played for a while, he giggled and squealed, and those mornings were so precious! I love him so much!

Sometimes the longing to be a wife and mother is so strong, but God has been so good to bring so many babies into my life now that I can love.

As much as I love Lucas, I can’t even imagine the love that comes from a parent-child bond. I loved watching Janette and Mike interact with Lucas. I love how attentive and gentle they are with him, and how much they just delight in and enjoy him.

One morning I read Matthew 18:1-14 and it completely came alive to me in a new way as I had Lucas in mind .  It goes like this:

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”  And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

What quality best describes Lucas right now? He is desperate. He is totally dependent for everything. If nobody dressed, fed, and changed him he would die. At this point Lucas can’t even sit up by himself. Lucas hasn’t done anything to make Janette and Mike love him so much because he can’t do anything to earn their love. It is the same with us and God. We are dead in our sin with no power or desire to come to God. We can’t do anything to earn the love of a majestic, holy and perfect, Lord of all God.  We just need to come to God with a simple yet implicit faith. We just need to need him!

“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. “Woe to the world for temptations to sin. For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire.  And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.

I know these verses seem very harsh! But, what does sin bring? Death! If anyone ever tried to do anything to Lucas, I know Janette and Mike would do anything and everything to try to protect him!  In the same way, God sees the full picture of how sin brings so much destruction and death to the people He created, and any strategy to get rid of sin and the causes of it is not too much.

 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray?  And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

Have you ever thought about the sheer number of people in the past, the present and the future that have or will put their faith in Jesus? Despite that though when one of His Children goes astray, He still pursues them. There are also angels in heaven who minister to us when we are weak.  That should bring such a comfort to our souls!

It has been a beautiful realization to come to understand more and more how desperate I am for God. It is painful to admit that how often I want to go my own way and go astray. How often I need God to convict me of sin and to remind me of His truth. It’s life-giving too though! The more I know how much I really do need Him, the more I can see how much my Father loves me, fights for me, chases after me, and simply delights in me.

A child never outgrows his dependence on his parent, even as he grows and becomes stronger. When he is no longer dependent, he ceases to be a child. As those who have put our faith in Christ, may we always come before him with the dependence and humility of a child. Love and enjoy the children God places in your life, and while you do, bask in the glory that it is only a fraction of how the Father loves and delights in you as His child!



“It is not necessarily the one who knows the most theology, the one who wins the most souls, or the bravest martyr who is the greatest in the kingdom. It is the one who is most like a child.” –R.C. Sproul



Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Empty.



What do you do when your passion for the Lord has disappeared?

What do you do when you feel empty, dry and numb and because of that, you feel like you have nothing  to give?

What do you do when guilt and fear of failure cloud the truth of God’s great love and grace?

This is where I am right now and it’s a painful place to be. Yet, as I’ve started to talk about these emotions I’m experiencing, I’m strangely comforted by the fact that everyone who follows Christ, has experienced the same struggles.

How did I get to this place? The answer that keeps popping up is simple, but complicated. I’ve been so distracted. It hasn’t been just one distraction. It’s been many; big ones and small ones.  Life is busy, and there is always something fighting for our attention and time. The problem is I didn’t fully realize how distracted I was and how much it was affecting my relationship with God.

Until last week that is…

This past week when I was supposed to lead a couple of things at church, I came face to face with the fact that I was empty and felt as though I had nothing to give. I discovered that I’d been blinded to the fact that I had been running on the fumes of my past experiences with God and was trying to live out my faith through other people’s experiences with God.  I was running on “e” and I finally ran out of gas. 

Now God seems further away, but I realize that He wasn’t the one who moved, it was me. I have distanced myself from Him and right now it feels like we are more like strangers and conversation is awkward.

I hate being in this place and I don’t want to stay here any longer than I have to.
 
I believe God is pursuing me by showing me these things, so how do I pursue him in return? How can I feel Him close again? Ultimately I can’t control the seasons God decides to bring into my life. Hebrews 12 talks about how God disciplines all those He loves, so this season may be a time in my life God wants to produce in me deeper levels of perseverance and trust in His steadfast love for me. I can continue to pursue God through praying, reading the Bible, going to church, and being around other Christians who spur me on; out of my love and desire for the Lord knowing that my feelings may not always follow. I never feel like going to the dentist but I still go because I don’t want my teeth to fall out someday. I am so prone to live according to my feelings and most of the time my feelings aren’t based on the truth of the Gospel! 

This week I’ve also been reminded of the necessity and privilege of talking about my struggles with the people in my life who I trust and look up to.  It’s in these discussions I realize I’m not alone.  God has put people in my life who are wiser than I and I want to learn as much as I can from them.  One particular conversation I had this week that has really spurred me on was with my brother.  Even though he is younger than I am, I still learn so much from him! J He shared his strategy for getting into the Bible every day. It’s the very first thing he does each morning, before checking his phone or having breakfast.  I’ve been imitating his strategy over the last few days and it has been very helpful.

So often we forget that we are in a war. I think the greatest weapons Satan uses against God’s people are business and distraction. There is no such thing as a super-Christian; we are all as equally bankrupt and needy apart from the Lord. We will all go through seasons of being distracted, dry and empty; and so, we need each other.  In the times when we are barely hanging on to Jesus, let’s remind each other of two things: 1. Jesus is still hanging on to us and his grip is infinitely powerful, He will not ever let us go! 2. God’s love remains sure and strong and His goodness and unfailing love will pursue us all the days of our lives! (Psalm 23:6)

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Come and See



Recently I moved from the rapidly-growing town of Binbrook, to live with a friend in the city!  Packing my stuff (you never realize how much stuff you have until you move!) jogged my memory and it made me go back in the past. Some wonderful memories were brought back and some not so great memories were also brought back. For whatever reason, God brought back grade 6 in particular. Grade 6 was a dark time in my life. I was being teased at school and every day I would cry and beg not to have to go to school. My parents went through a lot that year as well. Towards the end of that year I started entertaining thoughts of taking a whole bottle of pills so that all the pain would be over. I even tried to run away one night.  It is a season of my life that is still hard to think and talk about. 

The next year my parents decided to homeschool us and sometimes I wonder where I would be if I wasn’t ever homeschooled. I think I would definitely be a very different person and sometimes I even wonder if I would still be here. God used those homeschooling years in profound ways to heal and restore me. One of the most common stereotypes of homeschoolers is that they don’t any socializing opportunities. The opposite happened for us. The homeschool group we became involved with provided many, many social outings and we were able to develop some amazing friendships. Some of my closest friends I have today are from the homeschool group. 

I look at my life today. No, I don’t have everything I want but yet there is still so much I’m deeply thankful for. I’m so glad God didn’t end my life when I wanted it to in grade 6. I’m so glad God provides the strength needed to keep going when all we feel like doing is giving up. The past is a dangerous place to live in but I think we need to visit it once in a while. Psalm 66 tells us to come and see what God has done, his awesome deeds for mankind!”  Thinking about that painful school year reminded me of all that God has brought be me through.  God has done many amazing things and sometimes the only way to see those things are to remember the past.

In Psalm 9 David says that he will give thanks to the Lord with his whole heart and will recount all of God’s wonderful deeds. Why?  I think it is because life is hard and in the midst of trouble, it is hard to see God’s present goodness. It is when we recount all the ways God has already worked powerfully in our lives we are reminded of His power to bring beauty out of ashes. We remember all the times we thought God wasn’t working at all, but now we can look back and clearly see how He was at work all along.

This coming thanksgiving I want to give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart.  These are some of the things I’m thankful for:

I’m thankful for family and friends who I can live life with. I’m thankful for the people who constantly encourage and spur me on. I’m thankful for a church that teaches the Bible and has provided a place to grow and to serve. I’m thankful for a bed that is warm and comfortable. I’m thankful for coffee on those mornings that are hard to wake up. I’m thankful for a car that gets me place to place and that doesn’t break down too often. I’m thankful for the beauty of each changing season. I’m thankful that there will always be new songs to write and sing. I’m thankful for the ability to work. I’m thankful for my crazy cat that provides lots of laughs. I’m thankful for the way a baby can bring so much joy.  I’m thankful for the Spirit of God that convicts me of my sin so I can know and experience Him. I’m thankful for the feeling of clean laundry.  I’m thankful for the kind of laughter that hurts my stomach.  I’m thankful for all the different flavors of food. I’m thankful for cherished memories. I’m thankful that the Lord’s mercy is new every morning so that I can enjoy all these good gifts.



Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Broken Heart



I’ve had the privilege of working at a nursing home for the last few years, and many of the residents have become just like grandparents to me. I’ve gotten to meet a lot of wonderful people but a few residents in particular have found a special place in my heart.

After being away for a couple of weeks, I went into work one evening last week for a staff meeting.  During it I found out that one of the resident ladies I’ve been closest with had taken a turn for the worse and was close to death. It was a struggle to pay attention to the rest of the meeting and afterwards I went upstairs immediately to visit with her. When I asked the nurse if it was okay if I visited with her for a while, I found out that she had passed away while we were having our meeting.

It’s always hard not to get to say goodbye to residents, but to be so close to being able to see her one last time, broke my heart. I had considered going into work early that day to say hi to everyone before the meeting but the day got busy and so I didn’t. Now I keep wondering if I had, if I would have been able to see her one last time.

My heart has been heavy the last few days. In the midst of my brokenness, the Enemy has seen opportune moments to accuse me and to remind me of the times I’ve failed to love her and other residents as Christ would want me to. This resident often asked me why I was so happy all of the time so I had a couple of opportunities to bring up the Lord in our conversations, but I wish so much I could have done more.

Sometimes I wonder if it’s worth allowing myself to grow to love the residents so much. It seems so costly emotionally and I wonder if it really makes a difference. 

In the midst of all these ponderings, God has been reminding me that He is close to the brokenhearted. While it may seem costly at times, it is worth it to be fully where God has placed us, for to be near to God is a good place to be in any circumstance.

My friends, in the midst of our broken heartedness, let’s seek the Lord!  Oftentimes I focus so much on what is happening around me, that I neglect to remember the kind of God that has saved and loved me.  Psalm 34 is a regular place I go to and sometimes I have to read it over and over until the incredible promises in it start to sink deeply into my soul. Those who trust in Christ can be sure that He will deliver, provide, hear, save and redeem. Even when our emotions and feelings tell us differently, we can rest in these great promises. No matter how great our brokenness, our God’s power to heal and to redeem is greater!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Third Time is a Charm!



It has been said that the third time is a charm and while that isn’t always the case, it proved to be true for our Mexico missions trip this summer!  It was our third trip there and I think we were all impacted, more than any other year. We always work with the same missionaries and church, and this year we got to see fruit from our continued relationship with them and how God is opening new doors of opportunity for them.  The first week we were there we helped run a camp for kids in the community, and the second week worked up in a village up the mountains called Mimbres. It was a completely new experience for all of us. Life there is very different, the houses are small and simple yet the people are so hospitable, they grow all of their own food and there is not very much running water. We also ran a camp for the kids there and had opportunity to help lead a church service each night we were there. What happened in those two weeks, I believe will extend way past those weeks! The following is a list of my most favorite moments and greatest lessons during the trip!
1.       Through this years trip to Mexico God taught me so much about having faith in Him. I almost dropped out of this trip because I was worried about saving up money for my next car but yet, God made it clear in a few different ways that I was supposed to go. It felt like God wanted to show me how He would again provide for me and it wasn’t long until that was exactly what happened. God’s providence proved to be a continued theme the two weeks we were in Mexico, even down to a specific song that tremendously encouraged me during the more challenging times.  When sleep was very difficult for a few nights of the trip, God provided the ability not to stress out but instead use that time to pray and He also supplied energy for the next day. During a bee attack, I know that God provided a calmness that enabled us to stay safe while we were escaping.  When insecurities, doubts and fears plagued my mind, God provided His Spirit to gently guide me back to the truth in His Word. Lastly, God provided all of us many amazing moments to be ministered too and to minister to those around us.
2.       God also greatly challenged and prepared me with a sermon I heard while I was packing for the trip. The main premise of the sermon was that as Christians, we shouldn’t be pursuing comfort. We should be pursuing a deep life with a deep relationship with God and deep friendships. There were a number of uncomfortable parts during the trip, besides the normal discomfort of being in a foreign country with a language barrier. When we went up to the village in the mountains because we had no idea of what to expect, it was way out of our comfort zones. During those days, because we had to rely on each other and on God more, I really believe that our friendships and faith in God deepened.  God longs to show us how strong He is and how much He cares about all the small details of our lives; and I’m learning how being comfortable often blinds me to my need of Him and robs me of opportunities to be used of Him .
3.       One day in the mountains we decided to bathe in the river instead of having a bucket shower. It was a long trek down to the river but before long we were enjoying the nice cool waterfall and the feeling of being clean again.  It was heavenly until a neighborhood boy decided to throw a rock at a bee hive.  Karey, Gino and I were still enjoying the waterfall so we didn’t realize what was happening until someone yelled something about being too many bees. It came to the point that we just had to make a run for it. The ground was rocky and rough so I couldn’t go very fast; so while most of the group got stung, I got the worse of it with about 25 bee stings. Through this experience I was reminded again that I’ve been blessed with many great friends. Karey and Gino definitely got as many bee stings as they did because they helped me get through the bee attack. When we got back to where we were staying, some of the girls cut up garlic and smeared it over where I got stung. By that night, I was already feeling a lot better! When the nearest hospital is 3 hours away, you get to learn about all of the natural remedies! God definitely did take care of us during the whole ordeal!
4.       A missions trip wouldn’t be the same without a few pranks!  One day a few of us were ready to throw water balloons at Gino as he exited the washrooms. We were a bit too loud as we prepared for the attack because he heard us, and of course there would be a back escape route he could use. It actually turned out to be more of a prank on us when we saw him running out of the back off the building! One successful prank I got to witness and take pictures of was one early morning in the mountains, when Natalie put a chicken through the guys window. It took some prompting but finally the chicken was in their room 'cock-a-doodle-doing’ away! I love how pranks always seem to bring about teamwork and some great memories!
5.       Staying up in the mountains for 4 days helped me to realize afresh how much I really do take for granted. I have never felt thankful for a toilet seat but after 4 days of not having one, I realized why they were invented! Literally everything we have is a gift from God, down to the air we breathe and the food we eat.  A song by ‘All Sons and Daughters’ perfectly sums it up: “It's Your breath in our lungs so we pour out our praise to You only
6.       The missionaries we work with have developed an amazing ministry with the local fire department and many of the firefighters have become Christians. This year they decided to do a Firefighting theme at the camp.  The firefighters were there for the whole week teaching the kids about safety, fire drills and some first aid tips. One day they brought a fire truck in and the kids were able to try on firefighter gear, be hoisted to the top of the ladder in a harness, and try shooting water out the hose. My favorite memory of camp this year was when one of the girls I really got to know last year ran up to me on her first day there and gave me a huge hug and said “my Amiga.” That was particularly encouraging because sometimes I feel like all I do at camp is chase after the runaway kids! It was neat to see how the kids really do remember us from year to year.
7.       We got to do a lot of visiting of families from the church this year. One of my favorite parts is getting to hear their testimonies of how God has worked and protected them through some really difficult situations.  I’ve learned so much through hearing their stories. One lady’s testimony especially impacted me this year when she talked about how she has learned not to ask God why in hard times. She said that she has learned that God always has her on a path to correct and purify her and that through it all, God always proves Himself to be so faithful and so good.   I left that night wondering how much time I have wasted asking God why and wanting more of the kind of faith I saw in this godly women.