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Archive for the ‘Walking with God’ Category

It was an opportunity …

a gift …

one that we knew, but they did not.

It wasn’t huge, nor was it small …

it wasn’t a need, nor was it just a want …

but it would be helpful,

make life easier,

better.

Though we didn’t communicate this as a gift, we also did not, not communicate it.

The offer was in our wording, to be revealed if asked, if the one condition was met.

The one who could benefit from this offer, this gift, had only to meet one condition.

But,

that condition meant hard things …

patience.

humility.

sacrifice.

But,

for us to follow through, to give the gift, they had to take the next step.

The gift had a condition, a hoop to jump through.

I was frustrated as I realized that they were so focused one their goal, they were going to miss what was being offered. That they would miss out on the thing that would bring greater help and ease, long term, because they were so focused on the short term desires.

Then, it came to me …

that’s me.

I want what I want, when I want it. Often, my mind is so focused on my goal and my expediency to accomplish it that I miss out on the longer term goals, that can bring better results.

When I think of this sort of impatience, I often think of times of buyer’s remorse. When I have seen a shiny item that lights up my moment and have to have it! Often I spend too much, or spend money on something that truly has only momentary gain … at the cost of something of better quality, because I refused to wait.

God’s love for us is freely offered to all. It is a gift that satisfies us, not just today, but for always. There is nothing hindering our receipt of his love … except that we have to accept it, accept him as our one and only way to a better life, to redemption.

His word reminds us of what is offered to us, the opportunities and gifts that are ours if we would …

Even John 3:16, no doubt one of the most often verses quoted, has an if – then statement.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

The eternal life that is offered to all of humanity is an offer with a condition … and conditions come with some sort of sacrifice. In this case the condition is to believe in God … sounds easy enough. But, when we are in the midst of why God moments … belief is a sacrifice … to our understanding, to our pride. It requires patience and humility. But, our understanding and pride are short term … this life that God offers is eternal. It is the long term goal, over the short term.

When we really take the time to understand the offer, we also have to realize that our sacrifice is nothing in comparison to the cost of it … that of the Son of God.

May our … my … eyes be open to what is being offered to me, every day. I pray my focus is on what lasts.

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So, you made it to Friday … after thinking it was Friday twice this week already.

You feel like you simply are doing your best to put one foot in front of the other, accomplishing each expectation upon you one slow step at a time.

You are living for the end to this day, this week … knowing within your soul that this is not satisfying, not life-giving … not what you were created for.

Bone tired … that is what you feel, what describes you best right now.

It is a weariness that zaps your energy, your joie de vivre (joy of living), drying up the body, mind and spirit.

Refreshment …

That is what you need. Like a cool lake on a sizzling hot day, a tall glass of water when utterly parched. You need to be refreshed, from the inside out.

come …

It is a beckoning, a pursuing, an invitation. A word that opens the door for one on the outside.

to me …

To Jesus, to God himself. He is the one giving the invitation. It is personal. Not an invitation delivered by another, but offered personally, physically.

all …

Not everyone except, not only a certain group, but all.

that labor and are heavy laden …

This covers the things that encompass our work (jobs, physical work) as well as the weight on our hearts and souls. Are you tired from your work and your heavy heart?

and I …

This is gonna be the promise, the commitment. And it comes from the Creator of heaven and Earth, and of us.

will give you rest.

This is the outcome of the promise. The result, the then of the if/then.

This is for you who are bone weary.

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As I walked, I glanced to the empty lot. Dirt and rocks, grass and weeds.

I became alert to the lyrics playing in my headphones,

“in the soil I now surrender, you are breaking new ground”

Then something caught my eye. Color in the middle of the dirt and mess. One solitary poppy, standing straight and tall, like an oasis in the midst of the desert.

The poppy, a symbol of peace, sleep, death. Growing in the midst of land in between what was and what will be.

I’ve walked that in between place, that liminal space. Knowing that what was is gone, what is to come is not yet announced itself.

I feel that with vaccines we are all planted in the dirt between what was and what will be. What is our new normal? Will it resemble our old normal? Do we want it to?

That beautiful flower, standing tall in a vacant place … reminding that life comes from death, that beauty can grow out of dirt and weeds, out of nothing.

“Break new ground. Plant righteousness, and harvest the fruit that your loyalty will produce for me.” It’s time to seek the LORD! When he comes, he will rain righteousness on you.” Hosea 10:12

surrender

new ground

We are required to surrender our today, to enjoy the fruit of the time to come. Though we humans are usually people of action, this is not a requirement through any effort, other than surrender. I love the Oxford dictionary definition of surrender, “cease resistance … and submit to their authority.” We people aren’t so fond of submitting either! Yet, that is the surrender that God requires. It is what can carry us from what is gone to what is to come.

Through the dancing poppies stole
A breeze, most softly lulling to my soul.

John Keats

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I am an if-then person. It is most encouraging, even comforting to me to know the effects or consequences of my actions. In my perfect world if I spend time making a good meal – it will taste well, if I am kind to others – they will be kind to me, if I eat a salad – I will awaken the next day having lost ten pounds (sigh).

As I was reading in Philippians (2:1-4), the other day, I was excited to discover an if-then statement (until I realized that I am the conditional part of this equation) :

“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 the others.”

  • 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

Four ifs!

Lets take a look at them!

if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ
Encouragement from being united with Christ? Heck ya! I’ll be totally honest, I cannot imagine a life without the encouragement that Christ brings to daily life.

if any comfort from his love
His love is the ultimate comfort. Because of his love I can face any future, for he is the comforter of our souls.

if any common sharing in the Spirit
I am never alone, for the Spirit of God lives within me. He is my eternal helper, as Jesus declared in John 14:16.

if any tenderness and compassion
Have we any tenderness and compassion? Have we received these from the Creator of all? Have we been given compassion, albeit undeserved? But of course, yes to all!

then

Here’s where the rubber meets the road! This is the consequence part, this is where we are responsible for something, because of what we have received.

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 the others

One could re-word all of this within the idea of the Golden Rule …

do to and for others, what I have done and for you.

This is not a suggestion, folks, but an expectation of those of us who claim the name of Christ as ours.

Love and humility … these are the gifts given to us, these are the mode of how we have been treated (undeservedly) by the God of all humanity. These are the expected byproducts of our receipt of his redemption, of his compassion, of his help.

May we honor Him as we strive to follow his example.

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Beginnings are great. We look forward to beginnings. Count down to them. Prepare for them. They come with feelings of novelty, fresh start, resetting.

Beginnings are the capital letter at the start of the sentence.

Endings often miss the adrenaline rush of beginnings. They signify completion, farewells, closing.

Endings are the period at the end of the sentence.

The thing is, they go together … beginnings and endings. One follows the other. Each are dependant on the other. You can’t have one without the other.

As this work week ends, the weekend begins. As spring is coming to an end, summer is going to begin. As the tulips and lilacs droop and complete their blooming season, the hydrangeas and roses are taking their colorful places.

This cycle of beginnings and endings is everywhere in our lives, reminding us …

of our Creator (Revelation 22:13) :

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

Whether we are living in a time of beginnings or endings, we are living with the beginning, the end right along with us.

He knows what is going on in our lives.

He knows what has gone on in our lives.

He knows what is to come in our lives.

(Revelation 1:8)

Who are we to fear?

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Just this week, I realized I have never written about Elijah. A giant of the faith! A hero. A prophet. One who God used to orchestrate miracles. One who teaches us so much … about God.

Not only have I not written about Elijah, but I realized I did not know well the stories of Elijah. So, guess what I have been reading this week?!

A friend had referenced the story of Elijah and how God encouraged him to eat and sleep when Elijah was in the depths of despair. That it is a model of how God encourages the same of us.

I checked out the story.

Elijah had done the work of God, faithfully, confidently. He was the one through whom God’s plan to thwart the intent of Ahab and Jezabel in the indoctrination of the worship of Baal upon people of God. Through the challenge given by Elijah, 450 prophets of Baal were killed after they could not elicit a response from their god (thus proving the lack of existence of such a god).

Lets just say Jezabel was a bit miffed at this loss of ‘her’ prophets (and perhaps the egg left on her face) and she threatened Elijah’s life.

Now, one might think, after such a great success that the threatening words of a mere mortal would be as nothing to the ears of one who had just shown God’s strength and power through such a large scale miraculous show. But this was not the headspace of Elijah … (1 Kings 19:3):

“Elijah was afraid and ran for his life.”

Fear is a response. Sometimes our fears are valid. But, sometimes fear is a response not to the threat, but because we are weak, tired, not in a place of good health.

Elijah’s fear, that took him to fleeing … it (his fear) originated in his own deficiencies, not in his fear of Jezabel.

Not only did he run away (into the desert), but his fatigue was so great he didn’t even want to live (1 Kings 19:5)

“I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”

Then he lie down and slept … I expect there was nothing else that he could do at this point.

We don’t know how long he had been sleeping, but (and I love the next verses, v. 5-6)

“All at once an angel touched him and said, “Get up and eat.” He looked around, and there by his head was some bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.”

So … this angel shows up with a midnight snack, which he eats then goes back to sleep. No awe, no wow … he just eats and drinks and rolls over. Why? Because he is so exhausted that the natural responses are muted.

“The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” 

So (v. 7), the angel comes back, wakes him to yet more food and drink. This time introducing a journey.

“So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. There he went into a cave and spent the night.”

Without a word (v. 8-9), Elijah just does what he is told. He gets up, eats and drinks, then travels for forty days and forty nights (still in the desert … hum, didn’t Jesus spend the same time in a desert?). He went into a cave and slept yet again. He is exhausted! Yet, he does as he is told. Is it because he is too exhausted to put up a fight? Does he instinctively know this angel of the Lord is God’s own messenger? Why doesn’t God correct Elijah’s despair of life? Why doesn’t God tell Elijah to pull himself up by his bootstraps? Why doesn’t God frown and say, “stop the naval gazing and get on with it”?

God knows that Elijah is exhausted. God knows that he cannot see the forest for the trees … he is not thinking right. God knows that Elijah’s soul needs are best first met through physical ones.

Eat, sleep, move …

These are the instructions that Elijah receives from this angel of the Lord (a pretty significant entity throughout the Bible).

What is the lesson? Well, I am still studying this one, but this I am coming to see … God’s medicinal care instruction for us, when we are exhausted, is to care for our physical needs … the basic needs we have as a newborn … so that we can begin again to live.

This is the way of the Lord.

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A beautiful day. The sun, high in the brilliant blue sky. The air warming to the skin.

I felt beckoned to go out, to join in the revelry of nature.

As I walked down the sidewalk I glanced to my right to see a most unsettling sight (image to the left).

The dark cloud almost seemed to have a silent but dominating presence. It moved in my direction, east to west. If one were to have an active imagination, it could be said that it seemed to be hunting for a place to land, for a location to unleash upon.

I imagined I could be that location.

To continue or go back for a waterproof jacket? That was the question.

A tug at my arm reminded me of the presence of yet another indomitable force, the Wonderdog.

I submitted to his will and we continued our trek along the sidewalk. Townhomes and a condo building hid the Cloud (for it seemed imposing enough for a proper name) for a number of minutes as we walked on the sidewalk, turned the corner and continued along.

As we passed the tallest building, I looked to see where the Cloud was currently ‘hanging out’. I looked left and right. I even digressed from our regular walk and moved toward the back of the condo building, thinking it had moved more quickly than I’d imagined.

It was gone. The remnants of it dispersing, dissolving into the atmosphere.

Then Solomon said,
“The Lord has said that
he would dwell in a dark cloud”
2 Chronicles 6:1

God dwell in a dark cloud?

I can envision him in a cloud, but … in my imagination it’s a white, fluffy cloud reminiscent of that commercial for cream cheese. I simply do not imagine God on or in a dark, thunderous, threatening cloud.

Now, some have said it is because God is light and so his brilliance would make the cloud appear dark. But, what if we look at it as God being in the midst of dark clouds that sometimes surround us? What if he comes into our dark clouds with us, so that we are not alone, so that there is still the presence of light, even when we cannot see it?

Isaiah 25:4 :

“For You have been a strong-place for those who could not help themselves and for those in need because of much trouble. You have been a safe place from the storm and a shadow from the heat.”

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Which way? A common human question. When there are options of which way to go (or what decision to make) we want to make the best decision, the right decision, the decision which will incur the least harm, the most joy.

Prior to the death of Jesus, he is readying the disciples for his death at every opportunity. They had lived life together. Jesus, knowing that his time with them was coming to an end seemed to be ramping up his lessons on life without him, on how to continue his work.

After they had enjoyed the meal of the last supper, Jesus is trying to prepare them, to give confidence in the process to come. Unfortunately he makes the common error (yes, I just said that Jesus made an error … give me a moment to explain).

“Do not let your hearts be troubled”

There is nothing like one putting their hand up in a “just a minute” gesture, then saying “now, don’t worry” to cause we mere mortals to begin to worry. Saying the words almost always secures that that the hearer will do the absolute opposite of what is being said.

(don’t worry … I really don’t think Jesus made a mistake … I think he, who was a question asker to answer questions, was baiting his eleven (Judas had already left) to keep the conversation going).

He then goes on to speak of preparing a place for them. That they know the way …

Then Thomas … I just love Thomas. He is the most human of those disciples. He asks the questions that the others want to, but they just do not have the pure-hearted curiosity to actually speak them. He asks :

“Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Can’t you just see his face? Can’t you imagine the face of Jesus in hearing the question. There’s gentleness written all over the face of his Saviour, in my imagination.

I think Thomas was chosen to be part of the group as a kindness to Jesus, as a kindness to us. He reminds us that curiosity, that asking the obvious questions is good, normal, real. He reminds us that there are no wrong questions. And I think that maybe, he reminds Jesus of who the human race was created to be like … not that Thomas does not carry the weight of human sin, but that he also carries the reflection of Adam, prior to his choice to eat of the fruit.

You just know that he is the guy in the crowd who everyone rolls their eyes in response to pretty much every time he opens his mouth. But, you also know that they would all die for him, for he is harmless to anyone or anything around him. He is pure of heart.

Maybe, just maybe when we are confronted with the question, when we, like Thomas, have the guts to ask … which way? Then we can be reminded that the answer is not us, but Him. Then we have opened the door to his response that we also need to be reminded of daily.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:1-6

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Just a few items to pick up at the store. Plant fertilizer for my outdoor growing greenery and flowers. A new filter for the coffee maker to replace the one with a rip.

Of course I bought more than those two items. Girl guide cookies greeted me on a shelf facing the entrance (and how can one not support the Girl Guides? … the ‘guys’ in the house would be so thrilled). Descaler for the coffee machines (yes, that’s plural, two of them, in use every morning … that is a subject for another post). Then I noticed that Nairn’s Ginger cookies (biscuits) were on sale and, well I had to buy them in honor of my Scottish Nan (and the fact that I love all of their products).

So, in for two items, out with a bag full. If I could only go into a store, pick up what I want and go home! But no, I have to check out every aisle, as though I am some sort of Proverbs 31 woman … “She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar”
(v. 14) … from the beauty counter to the electronics department, from the shelves of sweeties to the coffee machine paraphernalia.

Though the clock just turned half past seven, the sun was still high in the sky, beckoning me to pause my mental to do list. My body felt more worn that the time, so a mini drive chosen … and I knew exactly where to go.

Just a short walk from my home, this spot is perfect for viewing Mt. Baker. This giant of the Pacific Northwest is known as “the Bride of the Pacific” for it is always cloaked in white (snow) year round. Though it is roughly 100 kms. from this spot, it is perfectly visible.

Mt. Baker is always there, yet it never looks the same way twice. The weather conditions, sunlight, snow pack, cloud cover all change the daily appearance of that mountain, yet it is always there. It is always covered in white snow, this Bride of the Pacific.

Makes me think of ourselves, who, as the church are frequently called Bride of Christ (who is the Bridegroom).

Like me, heading into the store for an item or two, I got distracted from what was my purpose. I spent my time focused on things I never intended to spend my money on. As the Bride or church, we too have gotten distracted from our purpose. We have spent time on things God never intended for His church. We have wasted our resources on things that, as stewards of His good gifts, we should not.

As the church, we have frequently blown it, forgotten our purpose, our first love. We are scarred by our corporate sin.

Yet, as the Bride of Christ, through the eyes of Him, our hard surfaces are covered over by his sacrifice, by his love. It is as if we are permanently cloaked in white, like the Bride of the Pacific.

In this, there is still hope for us, as His bride.

“ … just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” Ephesians 5:25-27.

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Seriously?

I have this experience periodically. I will be musing, or mourning, or making sense of life in my heart and mind on something for days … days, maybe even weeks. Then, suddenly, I am flabbergasted by what seems like intentional communications to me, from the Creator of heaven and Earth.

They will come in the form of social media posts, song lyrics that are playing on the radio, or words from another who has no idea what is going in my heart and life.

It makes me feel a bit as though I am experiencing Zephaniah 3:17 :


The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.

Except that, in these cases, the verse might be re-written as :

The Lord your God is always right beside you, a mighty one who will save, support and encourage; he will rejoice over you with joyfulness through your co-workers; he will quiet you by his love written all over instagram; he will exult over you with whispers of encouragement through singing on the radio; he will speak his message of care to your heart and mind, while you listen to that podcast.

It is as though God is listening to the silence around us, hearing every beat of our heart, whispering into our souls,

I see you

I know what you are experiencing

I love you

and will pursue you, even to the end of the world (Matthew 28:20).

There is no other god who reaches so far to show himself to us. No other who sticks closer. No other who knows us so well that he knows our silent thoughts, and fears, and insecurities, and doubts.

People, the Almighty God, the Creator of heaven and Earth, the one who loved us so much that he sent his Son … he is worth following, he is worthy of our praise. Follow Him and you will experience a love and freedom beyond anything else.

Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!

Psalm 139:7-8

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Karla Sullivan

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