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Archive for September, 2018

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As our children grow we are constantly reminded of our own experiences and choices from when we were their age. Their life can be like a mirror into our past, illuminating all that has been good, bad and ugly in our lives.

Sometimes as I watch or listen I am reminded of the choices that I wish I had, or hadn’t, made when I was their age(s). I am reminded of attitudes I had, ways I dealt with people and of my priorities.

It all kind of makes one wish they could redo their past with the knowledge of the present. It also makes one with they could force their children to learn from our own mistakes.

Life doesn’t work that way.

The knowledge we have now has been learned, primarily, through the experience of living, making decisions (good and bad) and living with the consequences. We could not have the knowledge we do now, had we not had the freedom to error, the freedom to choose and our children are no different.

This includes our walk with God. Much of my relationship is sweet because of what he has loved me through … the sins, the lack of love for his word, the incorrigible attitudes, the heartbreaks. He has proved his love for me in how he has loved me despite my mistakes.

As parents the letting go of our children begins the moment we give birth, followed by a million small and big releases of our grip on our children, so that they can lead the lives that we have prepared them to live.

The lives they live, as adults, are out of our hands and that is the way it supposed to be, for we do not bring children into the world to be our clones, but to be individuals, experiencing all that life has to offer, with the hope that they will return to us and share what they have see and experienced.

In the many wedding ceremonies my hubby performed, I always heard him read these words,

“You are giving your children to life’s adventure, and not merely away from yourselves. This is what you raise your children for, to let them go their way. And in their going they come back again to share their discoveries and joys with you.”

I feel it is like our relationship with God. He loves us into existence, then he lets us choose whether or not we follow the guidelines he has established for us. It is in our choosing his way, his love, that we get to experience real living. It is though the freedom, he gives, to choose to love him that we learn what love is.

As parents we are left to stand by, helpless, for we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, who whispers our hearts cries. This is our job, as parents of adult children, and what a privilege it is to lift them up to their heavenly Father, who loves them even more than we do.

“It is possible to give away
and become richer!
It is also possible to hold on too tightly
and lose everything.”
Proverbs 11:24 TLB

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Have you ever messed up … like, really messed up and wondered if you have blown it?

Ever looked back on a decision, an action or words you said and you were pretty sure that you had not only messed up your life, but the lives of those around you?

Ever wondered if your actions or inactions might have thwarted the very plans of God?

I have been guilty on all accounts, both in how I have messed up and how I thought I had ruined the lives of myself, others and the will of God himself.

I expect that most of us have had such thoughts … especially if we are parents! There is a constant fear of failure when one is responsible for breath and life of another human being.

We all make mistakes, we all say the wrong things, do the wrong things, make the wrong decisions. The thing is … our mistakes are not unexpected surprises to God. He has always known of our capacity to mess up, for it has been part of our DNA since that apple incident in the Garden of Eden.

Just the other day, the classroom teacher reminded me of God’s knowledge of our … humanness as she referred to the story of Jonah in her devotions.

Jonah was a prophet … someone who spoke whatever God wanted to be shared (a prophesy) who God told Jonah to go to the city of Nineveh (aka. sin city) and to tell the people to stop sinning … or else. Jonah was not so keen on God’s plan, so he took off on the next boat to Tarshish (aka. the opposite direction). On the trip, a storm threatens to collapse the boat, and Jonah tells them to throw him into the waves. A whale swallows Jonah … and he spends the next three days inside the belly of the whale, until he agrees to go to Nineveh. The whale burps, and up comes Jonah, who finally does what he was told … travels to Nineveh, tells the people to repent and they do.

(there is more to the Jonah story, so click here to read it all)

Through this story, I was reminded that, when God has a plan, he is ready and able to make sure it happens. God’s will is not and can not be hindered by our messing up or even our refusal or running away. God will go to any lengths to have his plan take place.

Have you messed up? Wondering if you ruined the life/lives of others? Thinking that your actions/inactions have thwarted the will and plan of God?

I’m pretty sure that our God’s omnipotence (having all power) ensures that there is nothing we can do to alter his plans.

“Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,
    when as yet there was none of them.”
Psalm 139:16

 

 

 

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“Peace, bring it all to peace
The storm surrounding me
Let it break at your name”

Driving to work this week, the lyrics of a worship song I had thoughtlessly sung along to just days before in church, became clear, personal, intimate.

When we sing praises and worship we can easily just sing words, even thinking that our investment of worship is sincere … and I believe it is. There are times when we worship, though, when we do not just worship God, but we realize the strength, the truth of what we are singing.

“Breath, call these bones to live,
Call these lungs to sing
Once again, I will praise”

It is one thing to be able to simply praise God, another to praise him in the midst of the storm with pressure approaching from all around, but after that storm has past (is passing) …

when you can look back …

when you can see the bigger picture that was hidden from view in the eye of the storm …

when you can see God’s hand of comfort, of protection on your life.

Your name is a light that the shadows can’t deny
Your name can not be overcome
Your name is alive, forever lifted high
Your name cannot be overcome
Jesus, Jesus
You make the darkness tremble
Jesus, Jesus
You silence fear

And the words proved true.

As the song played on the radio, as I drove to work, that first day reminded me of the previous first day, a year ago. I was reminded of the nervousness, the anxiety, the hope that I felt driving to my first, first day at a new job. I was reminded of the many struggles of the past year …

Emotion gripped me as I contemplated how much more nervous, how much more anxious I would have been had I known what was to come in the following months. The emotions did not flow simply for how paralyzing that knowledge would have been a year ago, but how I could see God’s hand of comfort, of protection on my life.

How many drives to and from work I have called out the name of Jesus in the past year … and as I called his name, more peace than I imagined possible, fell on me. I exhaled the name of Jesus, and he gave me breath to inhale.

His name is alive, it has power, for “even the demons are subject to us in your name!” (Luke 10:17). I don’t think that we utilize the power of the name of Jesus, I know that I have not in the past … but …

this year, I understand so clearly how calling on the name of Jesus can silence fear, replacing it with a peace that is beyond all human understanding.

It can truly make the darkness tremble.

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 acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the
Father.”
Philippians 2:9-11

 

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To my beautiful friend who is starting to study for work as a pastor,

you have been on my mind for over a week now …

ever since I heard of the suicide of Inland Hills Church, Chino, California Lead Pastor Andrew Stoecklein.

You see, my friend, your intended profession is a stress-filled one, and though I would never argue your giftedness or calling, I do feel the need to say, with great love … tread carefully.

  • Living a life as a pastor means living your life as a pastor.

It is not nine to five, it is not Monday to Friday. It is six days out of seven (which often becomes seven out of seven), many hours a day. It does not just employ you, but everyone in your household, for it is, effectively, a common path that must be taken.

  • Living a life as a pastor means bearing unrealistic burdens.

You will be asked to give counsel that is well beyond your studied knowledge of the spiritual. Honestly you will be asked to give counsel far more often on that which is outside of your scope of professional practice and training of the spiritual. Encourage those people to seek counsel from one who is trained to meet those needs.

  • Living a life as a pastor can be a lonely life.

Though the ideal is that a church is a family, and relationships are transparent, friendships among those who effectively pay your salary and are your employer have a limit. People in other professions … counselling, medicine, law … generally do not befriend those who they assist professionally, making this particular job reality one that is truly unique to the life of a pastor. The struggle is exacerbated by the fact that much of your time is spent with people in your congregation, leaving little time and opportunity to find relationships elsewhere.

Then there is something else that can make life (whether you are a pastor or not) even more challenging. If you struggle with anxiety and depression.

I read an article called 5 reasons pastors get depressed (and why they don’t talk about it), a week ago that you need to read.

After the announcement of the death of Pastor Andrew Stoecklein, Orlando pastor, Paul Valo posted the following on FaceBook:

“Depression is real and pastors are not exempt or defective who experience it … In this generation, pastors are expected to be business savvy, Instagram quotable preaching celebrities, fully accessible, deeply spiritual, not too young, not too old, and if a pastor doesn’t quite measure up to someone’s expectation at any given moment, they are given a two out of five star rating on Google. Wow! We have reduced the ministry to star ratings on Google! Let me recommend that you pray for your pastor and support your church faithfully! You’ll probably never realize what they walk through privately. ”

Being called to pastoral ministry will not make you immune to depression. Actually, I think that it is even more of a struggle for a pastor, when one considers the three realities of living as a pastor, mentioned above.

Even my favourite (okay, second favourite) preacher, Charles Spurgeon is presumed to have struggled with depression.

“I could say with Job (7:15), ‘My soul chooseth strangling rather than life’. I could readily enough have laid violent hands upon myself, to escape from my misery of spirit.” – Spurgeon

Spurgeon frequently preached on how Jesus had compassion for the hurting. He said, “the sympathy of Jesus is the next most precious thing to his sacrifice.” There is comfort to be found in knowing that Christ himself “was a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief” (Isaiah 53:3).

Sweet friend, I hope this is not all dark and dire, for a life in pastoral ministry also has so many sweet spots, so much fulfillment and joy and love. I just want you to know that I get it, when the dark and nasties come your way. That I have your back, that I will lift you up to God. Know that I am only a phone call, a text, a message away … even on the darkest night.

Know that I love you … not for what you do for me, not for your gifts or talents or calling. I love you … that soul that God made you to be.

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IMG_4307A lifetime of the day following the Labor Day weekend signalling the beginning of a new school year simply reinforces my belief that this is the second new year of the year.

There’s the new paper and pens, the new clothes, routine changes, shorter days and goals-setting. There’s a distinctive chill in the air in the mornings and we all know that pumpkin everything is about to flood the market.

I love that it is a second chance to start fresh in the year (not that we can’t do that any day). I love that, with the end of summer break and beginning of school, there is also a season change, a rhythmic change to our lives.

Daniel (2:21a) tells us, “He (God) changes times and seasons.”

And here we have a new season, a fresh start, a new beginning.

The words from the Psalms have been on my mind as I approach this second new year. They are the words of David, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)

I love how this message is communicated in The Message:

“God, make a fresh start in me,
shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.”

A Genesis week … that so communicates a brand new start, an ‘in the beginning’ experience! What an opportunity that is as a new season, a new school year begins.

So lets start this second new year off with a Genesis week mindset, this is the freshest of fresh starts, for this is the beginning … and there is so much hope in that!

 

 

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FullSizeRenderThis weekend is both delight and dread.

It is a lovely long weekend … yet it marks the effective end of summer.

So we live it up this weekend, soaking in the sunsets, the smores, the sleep-ins and the sweet times with family and friends.

Summer is like that indulgent aunt who loves you, but has no real responsibility for your well being. She dishes out the good stuff in life, spoiling us with the most indulgent things of life and living.

It would be easy to look at summer and say it is not reality, but a daydream in the sun. Summer, though, is so much more.

It is like a refreshing drink when we are parched. A feather soft bed when we are exhausted. A glimmer of light on the water from the full moon up above. It is rest, and refreshment and renewal for our hearts, minds, souls and bodies.

Actually, I think that summer is the ultimate sabbath of the calendar year … giving rest and refreshment to all facets of our lives. It is the time of year when it is totally acceptable to have no plans at all.

One thing that happens so naturally is the opportunity to worship our God and Creator, for his Earthly dwelling shows so well in summer, and it inspires our worship to the Creator.

The sunrises and sunsets, the flowers, plants and trees, the vegetables in our gardens and berries growing along the roadside all speak to a good and wise Creator, worthy of our praise. We whisper thanks as we stand at water’s edge, hike up a mountainside and hear a coyotes call into the night.

As we bid adieu to this fair season, the sabbath experience can continue, if we commit to intentionally including rest and reflection into our new goals for this new season. We know how life-giving this can be from our summer experience, lets take what we have learned into this new season.

The worship does not have to end, either, for God has created variation and change in our seasons. As we continue to allow sabbath into our routines, let us ensure that we give thanks and praise for this life that we have.

Less dread, more delight as we step away from this summer and into the fall.

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