Saturday, October 13, 2012

Spiritual rain vs spiritual sprinkler

There's something about rain for plant growth. It's different to just watering with a hose or a sprinkler. The grass we are growing from seed just seemed to spring up suddenly after a couple of days of good rain, compared to when were just watering it ourselves.

Spiritually, that's what a lot of us are doing now - just watering our spiritual lives from the reserves we have - reserves God has given us through our faith, the Bible & prayer - but it's not as effective as what is to come. It's a place holder - keeping us alive and ready to spring to life when the soaking rain of God falls.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

If you missed it...

If you like being weeks or months (or maybe even years) behind the rest of the digital world like I am, then this summary of things I've come across recently is perfect for you.
  • The most annoying was asked a year ago by Sammy Adebiyi on 'How Much Does God Weigh?', but maybe it needs to be asked again.
  • Similar theme, and more questions to ask yourself from Kim Walker (of Jesus Culture).

A few things that were on my blog:

And pretty sure you can't have missed this... Invisible Children and Kony 2012. But if you are wanting to know more, Rachel Held Evans has put together a great list of resources.

There is a lot of opinion flying around about this. In a nutshell, my opinion is that some awareness and action is better than a lot of ignorance and apathy, even if flawed. Awareness and compassion counts for a lot.

What's yours?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Love with action

I remember watching a man on TV speak about the organisation he founded, a non-profit organisation, caring for thousands of orphaned children around the world. I don't remember the name of the man or the name of the organisation, but what he said stuck with me.

He spoke about a child who died in one of the homes they supported. The organisation provided extra money to the orphanage to cover the funeral expenses and more. And yet four days later the child lay, dead, on a table. No one buried him.

It wasn't their responsibility, they said.

Sometimes it's not a lack of money that's the problem. It's the attitudes. No one buried the child because a dead child wasn't important to them.

The way to change the world doesn't lie simply in the redistribution of wealth. It starts with us; it starts with our hearts.

That's why it's so heart breaking when people have the attitude that one person can't make a difference, so why bother trying. Because it's not the money they don't donate that's the problem, it's that pervasive apathy.

Change the attitudes, and the money follows. Change our viewpoint, and the redistribution of wealth and resources will naturally follow.

What's your viewpoint? What's your attitude? It starts at home - how you treat the people around you, how you view the sick, the weak, the struggling, the lost. If you live all year thinking only of your own happiness and comfort and then send off a cheque to some far away place and think you've done your 'bit' - think again.

If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:17-18

Make Lent about more than giving up chocolate. Make Easter about more than eating chocolate. Make your life about more than your own happiness.

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. Philippians 2:1-4

If the love of God means anything to you, what are you going to do about it?

Monday, March 5, 2012

'Your best life'

"Your best life". I hate that phrase. I've seen it as the tag line for churches, and I hate it. Because everyone is looking at that tag line, and I just know the life they are thinking of. They are thinking of this earthly, temporary one. They are thinking 'how do I get my best life, right now?'

Is that really your best life? Is this best part of your existence?

As Christians, why aren't we looking past the physical to see what our 'best life' should really look like?

I've been wrestling with decisions lately that have made me really contemplate what living my 'best life' looks like - and I'm finding that sometimes the best life according to Jesus is going to look like craziness to other people. How do you explain to a world fixated on having and earning and gaining, that I'm taking time - unpaid, financially unprofitable time - to study the Word of God, to sit at the feet of Jesus, to live in faith that what I'm sowing into right now, though it's not putting money in the bank, it's going to pay off so much more richly? How do you explain that?

Well, you can't really. People are going to think you are wasting your time. They are going to wonder why you seem to be just sitting there when there are things to be done.

I guess it depends on where you are sitting. If you are just sitting down in front of the TV, well, they're probably right. Why are you just sitting there?

But if you are sitting at the feet of Jesus - if you are truly waiting on him and letting him lead you no matter where it takes you - then you have 'chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from [you].' Luke 10:42

Other things to look at:

Friday, March 2, 2012

Inner beauty vs Outer beauty. Is it one or the other?

I like clothes. I like make up. I like doing my nails.

In doing this experiment of Project 3:11, this shopping fast, this is one aspect I keep thinking about. I like all that stuff - is that wrong? 

Consider 1 Peter 3 -

'Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes.'

I think a lot of people look at that verse and feel like its telling us to not think about those things, about 'adornment'. And so either we feel guilty because we took half an hour to do our hair this morning, or we feel high and mighty and decide other people should feel guilty because of the colour of their lipstick or number of shoes in their closet.

But something to notice about that verse is that Peter is not actually saying 'Don't wear nice clothes' or 'you're a sinful, vain person if you like jewellery.' 

He says your beauty should not come from those things. Don't focus on the outward appearance as the source of your beauty, as the thing you value most highly in being a woman. Your beauty 'should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.'

The emphasis here is more on what values you adhere to. In his time, women braided their hair ornately and this is what he was referring to - are you just doing that to your hair because it's fashion, because you are thinking about how others will view it, because you are wanting to fit in with what the world thinks is beautiful?

It is ok to like clothes, to like dressing nicely. It's ok to like physical beauty. I mean, look at the world. Look at a sunset sky - I think it's safe to say God doesn't hate things looking beautiful!

Even when the Bible uses the word modest in relation to dressing, it is a word that means 'becoming' more than it means 'sack cloth from neck to ankles'. 

It means not showy and flashy. It means not dressing to draw attention to yourself about how well off you are or how much money you have. It's about not dressing or living in a certain way just because everyone else does, or it will make you look 'in' if you wear this or buy that brand.

That's the problem - it's a slippery slope. It is very easy to find yourself focusing more and more on the outward as a large portion of your value, even if it started out innocently.

And that's why I started this experiment. Not because I think it's wrong to buy clothes, but because I wanted to check my attitude. If shopping was making me focus more on the outward appearance, if it made me worry what others thought of my fashion sense, if it made me - even for short periods - consumed with my worth based on appearance - then it was something it wouldn't hurt to give up for a while!

And what is any fast but a time to refocus on what really matters - God. To remove those things that are getting in the way - like shopping and buying new things to help me feel better - so we can actually deal with the emptiness we all sometimes feel. To actually take a look at my inner-self without the layer of emotional make up.

And I actually have had much more fun with making my own looks from what I do have. I can't care if they are old or out of fashion because I have no other options, but I kind of like it that way.

So don't feel guilty if you like clothes. Not everyone needs a shopping fast. Inner beauty does not mean throwing out all your mirrors. 

But it can't hurt to take a look inside and check that you are actually working on that inner beauty, and not covering it up with all the things the world says makes us beautiful and valuable. 

You may not be so admired by people if your clothes are out of season or you don't have the right brands. You know those people in the fancy shops who you feel like are looking at you like you don't really belong there...well, they probably are thinking that. But while people will often judge our worth by what they see, God values our hearts.

I'll take what God thinks of me over what a girl in a shop thinks of me, any day.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The difference

I missed my devotions the other morning.

I had started doing them every morning - just a short one, 10 minutes sometimes. But I was starting every day with one. And then one morning people were in our house, I slept in too late and so I went into the day without doing it.

What difference would 10 minutes make?

But it did. The day went differently. I didn't realise it until the day was almost over, and I was thinking back, wondering why I felt different today. Agitated and less at peace.

Nothing in particular went wrong - in fact it was a fairly easy day, and probably less went wrong than other days. But I was different. The way I felt about the day was different.

I didn't realise it until I missed that one day, but since I had started doing devotions every morning, a small inner-peace started going everywhere with me.

It's not like I never read my Bible or prayed before, but I'd never done it consistently. And I didn't start my day with it.

It makes a difference.

Just a thought...

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Whatever you have, give it!

Lent is about giving - giving things up, giving of ourselves. Giving out of what God has given us.

But giving of yourself won't look the same as the person beside you.

Money is the first thing to mind when we think of giving. And in the western world, even when we feel like every bill has come at once, most of us are still, comparatively and figuratively, rolling in it. So give money, by all means. Be generous. Out of your blessings, bless and help others.

One man gives freely, yet gains even more; 
   another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.
A generous man will prosper;
   he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. Proverbs 11:24-25

It's the awesome beauty of everything from God - the more you give it away, the more you have.

But God has given us more than money. And everything he has given is for his glory. I write, because God has given me a voice. Others fix a friend's car, because God has given them practical skills. Others give encouragement, because God has given them compassion.

We all love, because God has given us love.

"Everything in the world is about to be wrapped up, so take nothing for granted. Stay wide-awake in prayer. Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless—cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God's words; if help, let it be God's hearty help. That way, God's bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he'll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything—encores to the end of time. Oh, yes!"  1 Peter 4:8-11
Weekly Tithe... $50. Yearly charity donation... $500. God's bright presence shining through our gifts in action? Priceless.
Oh, Yes!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

'Finding yourself'

Where am I? Who am I? What is my purpose? 

Whether we label it or not, most young people at some stage go through some period of wondering who they are and where they are going. And a good number of not-so-young people too.

Finding yourself. We want to discover who we really are, and so we pursue experiences and a life that is meant to help us define ourselves, help us discover what makes us, us.

I did that. I thought I needed to know who I was by finding it out, searching everywhere.  Chalk the mistakes up to 'experience'. Nothing is bad. Do what I want. Be 'true to myself'.

The problem is, finding yourself doesn't actually help you know who you are or what your purpose is. Find yourself, and what have you got? A flawed imperfect person, searching for something.

The irony, the paradox of following Christ is that to 'find yourself' you really have to lose yourself. 

The world tells us that to find ourselves and our purpose we have to do the things we want, gain things for ourselves, have experiences for ourselves. 

God tells us that we have to deny ourselves. Lay down our lives. Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me." Luke 9:23

That seems to hard to us, because it is so contrary to everything we are told. We are told it's all about self. Self-esteem. Self-confidence. Self-worth. The problem with those things is that the focus is on the Self part, rather than the part that comes after the little dash. Esteem, confidence, worth.

Those things are not found in ourselves, but in God.

The question then is, do you trust God with your life. Are you willing to let go of 'finding yourself' and trust that God already knows who you are, wholly and completely and deeply? Do you trust that will provide you with all the worth and purpose that you need?

And are you willing to risk losing your life to save it?

"For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it." Luke 9:24

Monday, February 27, 2012

Hey, God, are you forgetting something?

Genesis 40 tells us how Joseph, unfairly languishing in a dungeon, finally gets his big break. Two men who are close to Pharaoh are in prison too and Joseph, with the blessing of the Man upstairs, interprets their dreams for them. One of them is executed, but that's neither here nor there. Point is, he interpreted right.

And the other one, the cup bearer, gets out of jail and goes back to work for Pharaoh. And when Joseph asks the cup bearer to remember him to Pharaoh, to help a brother out, the cup bearer agrees.

Joseph must have been thinking, "Yes! Finally! God sent someone to get me out of this place!"

And then the cupbearer forgets.

Wait, what?

Turns out that it wasn't his big break after all. He was still in jail. For two years. TWO YEARS!
I don't know about you, but I can get impatient waiting for God to come through on his promises for two weeks.

And this came for Joseph after being in prison for 'some time' already - and in the wonderfully understated way the Bible does it, that probably means 'a lot of time'. And then before that, being sold into slavery by his own brothers.

Joseph knew how to wait. He had been waiting. But imagine how crushing, to think the time has finally come when your waiting is over, when God is going to come through on his promises and lift you up to a higher place. And then he doesn't.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who has felt like God promised something, and then forgot. It's like when you were a child, and you asked your parents for something; they'd tell you they would think about it - and then they would forget.

Sometimes we think of God like a forgetful or preoccupied parent, and think he must have overlooked us. Surely those promises he made are meant to have happened by now? And then something happens, and we latch onto it - this is it. Surely this is the plan, I can see it now! And then it doesn't happen. And we are still waiting.

But maybe waiting is part of the plan. We can't see 2 minutes ahead of right now; God sees it all. Maybe, just maybe, he knows the right timing better than we do?

Joseph had to keep waiting. The cup bearer may have forgotten. But it came back. When Pharaoh had a dream, the cup bearer remembered him, and Joseph was able to interpret the dream. The cup bearer remembered at just the right time for Joseph to show the power of God to the ruler of Egypt.

The things we are doing now in the waiting aren't for nothing. The things we do now will come back to us, they will be remembered, and they will be important at exactly the right time.

Make the waiting productive. Joseph was sold into slavery at 17 and made overseer at 30. But he didn't just sit around and wait impatiently in the meantime - God made him successful in everything he did, even when that was in a dungeon.

God wants to renew us, and build our strength and character, he wants to lead us to focus on the right things. He knows exactly where we are going, and what we will need once we get there. God keeps his promises, but in his perfect timing.

If you are waiting for those promises, make the most of this time. Nothing is wasted. God has not forgotten you.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

If You Missed It...

If you like being weeks or months (or maybe even years) behind the rest of the digital world like I am, then this summary of things I've come across recently is perfect for you.

This week in the blogging world: (meaning I saw it this week, not that it necessarily appeared this week...)

- Video from White Dove Ministries - Josh Lindsey

The Very Worst Missionary - The Tourist Gospel
"But here we are, the Church, huddled together in awe and fear of the big, scary world, wearing ugly-ass shoes and a stupid-ass hat, and talking like a bunch of foreigners - but we've got our fingers crossed that the people will see how we're so totally set apart, and then they'll come ask us for directions."

- My new problem with rap music - more gold from Jon Acuff. 

Using “Ministry” to Avoid Real Life Responsibility 

On the blog: The list on this page most likely to be actually from this week - since I wrote it. Yet, also since I wrote it, probably covered by someone else years ago....

Blogging through...Sharpening the Cutting Edge #3 
Reformed Clay 
What are we fasting for? Intro to Lent.
Don't Be a Potplant 
The biggest defences around our biggest insecurities 

Total Recall - past posts to revisit: since the whole theme of this thing is being behind the times, a look into the past seems a good place to end.

- Babies in the Bathwater

Friday, February 24, 2012

The biggest defences around our biggest insecurities

It's funny how often the things we feel like we least have to worry about, turn out to be the things that trip us up. Did I say funny? I meant ironic and annoying.

It could be the old 'pride before a fall' - we stop paying attention because we think it's all ok, and it gets away from us.

But sometimes it's because we are fooling ourselves.

Have you ever heard someone boasting about their skills and talents? Telling you how great their life is? If you don't immediately dismiss them thinking they are conceited and just don't know how to be humble, you may get the sneaking suspicion that they aren't all as together as their bluster is trying to prove.

We do this to ourselves, and it's a lot harder to pick. You rarely ignore yourself for being boastful and blustery.

What do you find yourself justifying? For what aspects of your life do you find yourself coming up with convincing arguments about why it's all ok? What are the biggest obelisks of personal pride in your life, the things that you will hold on to no matter what anyone else says? The things you are tempted to pursue and continue, even if others don't like it? The things you to which you say 'they just don't understand'?

Chances are, if you have to have conversations with yourself about something, you're putting up defences. 

We build the biggest defences around our biggest insecurities. 

I have been learning how to examine myself this year - to pull apart all my thoughts on shopping (through Project 3:11), on travelling and other dreams I equated with my identity and worth, on family life, marriage and being a woman.

In all these areas there were things that I was guarding and protecting, putting up fronts to convince everyone that I was secure in who I was. The problem with putting up a facade of security is that behind the scenes you are denying yourself the chance to actually be who you are. Who God created you to be.

We often pick up things - experiences, beliefs, behaviours - that at one time made us feel a spark of confidence, of self worth, of meaning and purpose. They did it once, and so we carry them with us, continuing to pursue those things hoping they will continue to work.

They may have started as good things. The problem is, we turn the things - our talents, our dreams, our ideas - into the objects of our pursuit instead of the One who gave us those things. And while we are busy chasing things that rapidly lose any ability to define us like they once did - and were only a pale reflections to begin with - we are missing the chance to get the real thing.

What have you put the biggest defences around? What are you holding on to most tightly to make you feel secure in who you think you are, or are meant to be?

If it's anything other than your identity and worth in God, then maybe it's time to examine these idols.

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 1 Corinthians 3:11-13

It's not easy. I notice some things that feel so ingrained, so embedded in the bedrock of my emotional foundation, that it feels horribly unnerving to even imagine dislodging them.

But the amazing thing is, I don't have to do it alone. In most cases, I don't even have to do it at all.

If we start trying to pull everything apart ourselves, we will just end up dismantling our lives and being left with rubble. But if we are willing to surrender to God, to open our inmost selves up to Him, then he will take those things that aren't meant to be there and remove them. He takes those things out with more precision than the most skilled surgeon.

There have been things in my life that I have felt like I was struggling with forever, that I was convinced I would struggle with forever - nothing I tried seemed to be able to change it - and then in one moment with was gone.

And unlike surgery, there hasn't been more damage done. You don't have to lie for weeks in a hospital bed and hope you don't get an infection.

And what you realise is, that thing you thought was to big, too foundational, too ingrained to move without everything else crumbling - you were never actually relying on it after all. Your self worth and value wasn't built on it at all. It was a false foundation. All this time you were built on God; everything is resting on him.

Any time God takes something out of our lives, it's a paradox. Normally if you take something away, there's a hole, an emptiness, a lack. But with God, if he takes it away, that space is filled with more of Him. You realise that thing you thought was too important to let go of, that you relied on too much to give over, was actually making you feel less worthy, less satisfied, less whole.

If you look around your life and notice some whopping great defences, don't be afraid to look behind them. Let God in to those places and you won't regret it.

Without those, you give God more room to fill your life with His purpose. The real thing is always better than a pale imitation.

Lay it down. Aren't you tired of carrying that heavy burden all by yourself? Aren't you tired of trying to hold up those defences?

I beg you to offer your lives as a living sacrifice to him. Romans 12:1 

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:26

"Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new Spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you". Ezekiel 36:26-27.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Don't Be a Potplant

We used to have two pot plants at our front door. I say used to because they aren't there any more.

This was back before we had moved in to our house, and it was newly built welcoming us only on weekends. We picked out some nice green plants in dark grey pots and set them either side of the door.

We also had a door mat there, but because we live on hill near the sea, it gets windy and the mat is always blowing away. Several times when I was putting the mat back after retrieving it from half way down the hill I thought, "Something looks weird about our front door."

It wasn't until one morning that I woke up and suddenly it came to me - "The pot plants are gone!"

It's not that windy at our place. I can only guess someone took them. Good luck to them - I hope the plants are getting more water in their new homes than they did in ours.

But pot plants are like that - easy to pick up and move. Unsecured and easy to do whatever you want with, really.

I'd like to see someone drive sneakily away with a full size oak tree.

And yet a lot of us are pot plant Christians. We have shallow, pot bound roots, and will never really grow to our full potential. We're easily moved and uprooted; we rely on someone else to remember to feed and water us.

We only get the Bible read to us at church. We only have fellowship on Sundays and then we 'get on with our lives.' We only pray when someone else directs us, when we are wilting, or when something bad happens - like finding ourselves being carried off by an enemy who notices how small and unsecured we are and decides to take us for a ride.

Don't be a pot plant.

Be "strong, like a tree planted by a river. The tree produces fruit in season, and its leaves don't die. Everything they do will succeed." Psalm 1:3

A strong tree has deep and far reaching roots. It doesn't rely on someone with a watering can to come along and give it a drink. It is tapped into the river of living water, it's is nourished by the fertile soil in which it is planted. "Like trees planted in the Temple of the Lordthey will grow strong in the courtyards of our God. When they are old, they will still produce fruit; they will be healthy and fresh." Psalm 92:14

Grow deep roots in God. Get out of the little pot and plant yourself in God's garden, immerse yourself in His kingdom. Then nothing can touch you, nothing can carry you off, and you will bear real fruit.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What are we fasting for?

For anyone observing Lent in any way, chances are you have given up something for this 40 days. One of the most common ones I hear is chocolate. "I'm giving up chocolate for Lent".
Growing up I either I've forgotten, I was oblivious at the time, or the churches I went to didn't observe or promote Lent. Whatever the reason, it was only last year that I actually talked to people who were giving something up and found out what this Lent thing was.
My first thought was, what exactly has giving up chocolate got to do with anything?  
But that got me thinking about fasting in general. What is it for? Why do we do it? And how are you meant to do it right? 
Is it just denying yourself something to practise piety and self control? Is it a trade  - "God, I'll give you this time of fasting, and you give me what I'm praying for. Deal?"
I think not.
The Bible puts it rather well, as it tends to do:
Isaiah 58:6-7
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
   and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free
   and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
   and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
   and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?"
Ah, so that's the reason. But what's chocolate got to do with it?
I think if you give something up on Lent, it's got to be about more than yourself. You could give up food entirely for the whole 40 days, but if you turned your back on your neighbours, neglected your family, focussed entirely on yourself - what is it for?
Fasting is not for your gain. That should be obvious, since it's about giving something up - but ironically many people think of it in terms of what they can get.
Give up something like chocolate for Lent if you want, but more importantly, give up something of yourself. Put aside your own needs for the good of others. For the glory of God.

"...then you will find your joy in the LORD, and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.” 
            The mouth of the LORD has spoken.       (Isaiah 58:14)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Reformed Clay

"So I went down to the potter's house and saw him working at the potter's wheel. He was using his hands to make a pot from clay, but something went wrong with it...." (Jeremiah 18:3-4a)

Something went wrong. How many of us can look back on our lives, on the way things have turned out, on the way we have turned out, and think - something went wrong.

We feel marred, like a deformed clay pot. We can think back over the things we have done in our lives, the mistakes we've made, the people we wanted to be but somehow didn't turn into like we once dreamed.

Something went wrong. We are that clay pot.

But you know what the potter did with it? 

Well I can first tell you what he didn't do.

1. He didn't scrap it. He didn't chuck it out. He didn't say "That's ruined. Oh well, I'll just chuck it on the rubbish pile and move on to something else."

2. He didn't leave it as it was. He didn't leave it to limp through life as a substandard pot, to be looked down on and neglected because it's no good for anything.

What he did do:

"So he used that clay to make another pot the way he wanted it to be." 

In case you hadn't got it yet, you are clay. God is a potter. 

Maybe things haven't turned out the way you wanted. Maybe you aren't the person you wanted to be, you haven't reached those dreams you used to hold. Something's gone wrong.

But you are clay in the potter's hand. God can take you and reform you. He is not going to scrap you. No matter how damaged you are, you are never beyond redeeming by God. Never. You are soft clay. Clay is malleable. And you are in the hands of the master potter.

He is not going to leave you as you are. God is not going to leave you to suffer because of your mistakes, because of the way life has misshapen you and damaged you. The mistakes may be of your own doing, or the actions of others. But God is not going to leave you limping through life, not being able to live up to the purpose you were intended for.

He can take your life and reshape it. He will form it into something beautiful, something with purpose. A masterpiece. He will shape it the way he wants it.

God is the potter. You are the clay. He can take everything that feels damaged, ugly and broken, and reform it. Not just patch it up or make it 'good enough'. Reform it.

Once clay is reshaped by the master potter, there is no trace of the old, the damaged. You are a new creation. A new, beautiful masterpiece from the very hands of God, exactly as he wanted you to be.

He can do that with your life.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Blogging through...Sharpening the Cutting Edge #3

After the bulldozer incident (Blogging through #2), John was taken to prison, under a serious threat of execution. One thing to take from that is the inspiration, of being willing to risk imprisonment and execution for our faith, for the good of others.

But it was Glena's response (John's wife) that really struck a note with me. When she was told by a reporter that her husband was in prison and could be executed she said, "Praise the Lord".

Oh, for a faith like that.

She was of course not glad that John was in danger, but she said, "he's always preached this commitment to human need and rights, and now he has the privilege of living it."

Would we respond like that?

I think we often think of what we ourselves would do if we were in danger because of our faith or standing up for others. That's one issue. I'd like to think I would not back down, that I would value the lives of others and my love of God over my own physical wellbeing. I would hope I could cling to the certainty of eternal life with God over my temporary physical life.

But what do they do in all those movies when they really try and get to someone? They go after the people they love.

What would I do when someone I love was in danger? Would I be able to say "Praise the Lord" because they have the opportunity to live out their faith, even if it means their death? And when I said "Praise the Lord" would I mean it, or would I be fall apart inside?

I don't know. I guess you can't know, until it's tested.

But if I crumble at the first sign of trouble in my life that is relatively extremely safe, I wonder how strong will I really be when the big stuff comes. (And I say when, not if.)

While I am here in my nice, safe life, I will practise my faith and build that muscle. In every situation, I will say "Praise the Lord".

Friday, February 17, 2012

Something More?

Maybe, just maybe, satisfaction and fulfilment in life is far less to do with your physical circumstances than with your spiritual state...

If we were created by God and for God, then how will anything but knowing God satisfy that fundamental need?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Seek and you will find - but what are you looking for?

Have you ever sought hard, earnestly, til you hurt...and then nothing happened. It makes you wonder, where exactly is God? What about all that 'seek and you will find' business, huh?

God does say that we when seek after him, he will be found. So what's going on?

And at times like that, when we feel let down, we know that God says he'll never leave us or forsake us, but it can be hard to really understand it.

But it doesn't seem to "work" - when I seek and don't seem to find God, perhaps I was actually looking for myself and not for God at all.

Worship is about glorifying God, and yet how often do we come away thinking about what we did or didn't get from it, how we felt, what God did for us?

Seek and you will find. It's true. But what are we looking for? If we look for ourselves, we're always going to find it. And we'll always be disappointed. Because our spirit longs for God.

Just a thought...

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Being a Woman & Video Response

It's been a while since I've posted any videos. I took an extended hiatus while I mulled things over privately. I tend to do that - percolate something until I'm ready to express it again. That process of percolation can take a few days to a few years, so my blogging and vlogging tends to be erratic as a result!

But just recently a man posted a video response to one of my Being a Woman videos that I uploaded ages ago. It was quite a bizarre feeling at first, to be watching someone else talking on a video and addressing it to me. In this cyber world it's easy to feel insulated and almost forget that there are actually real people on the other end of their computers, watching me.

But I found it really touching that someone would take the time to respond. And it was also a great reminder that I'm not the first or the last person to think about these things. And it's probably also a reminder to think more of myself as in a community - a community that stretches over the world through this crazy network that is the web - and remember that I'm not just a lone girl sitting at a computer sending things into thin air.

But anyway, here is the video I posted (which I haven't watched since I posted it, because I find it hard to do without cringing!), and the response, plus the message I wrote back.


My reply and further thoughts:

Thank you - I really appreciated your video response. I am actually married already, but what prompted me to do this video was more about my own wrestling with letting a man be what God created him to be, so that I can be a woman as God created me. Because, as you said in this video, we were created differently. And so even though I am married to a godly man, I am still young, and growing up in a world that fights over the 'gender issue' - even the church is in conflict over it - this means, I, like a lot of young women, have a lot to learn. Or re-learn as the case may be, because in the past I've believed the wrong things about what being a woman is all about.

In the search for 'equality', people have started believing that we can be exactly the same. And I think that robs both men and women of the strengths they were given. So thank you so much for taking the time to respond to my video and speak on this issue. The things you said really touched my heart.

God bless!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Feeling the love...

Valentine's Day came and went with hardly a glance for me...

Because I'm married and my husband loves me every day, because I don't want chocolate anyway, because of my No Shopping Project so I have hardly been in the shops lately, because I can fast forward TV ads on my DVR -  whatever it was, Valentines Day has not been a confronting issue. It barely even registered.

But I remember a time when the day just reminded me of that sinking feeling, that terrible lie, that maybe no one notices me, and no one ever will.

The central issue that never drops off my radar? Love. And I think that's the central issue for everyone, whether Valentine's Day was celebrated with someone, whether it dragged by in loneliness or whether you didn't even think of it - everyone thinks about love, desires it, longs for it, feels it...

So I had a look back over my posts that are on that theme, and you can too, if you feel the need! Because mostly we need reminding, not just that other human beings notice us, but that God loves us utterly and completely, no matter what.

Monday, February 13, 2012

"Macho Men", Women & War

There's been a lot about gender in the church around lately - it seems to come up somewhere on every blog I read. And people like Mark Driscoll are at the heart of it, usually copping the flak.

I've tried to reserve judgement. I don't personally know the man, and I don't want to get caught up in vitriol. But some things I have heard - right from the man's mouth on videos or in his own blog posts, have just sat badly with me.

I just happened to have two links open waiting for the videos to load. First I watched Mark Driscoll talk about real men. 60% of Christians are female. And the men are kind of female too. According to him. The real men are off doing manly things, like shooting guns.

And then I watched the trailers for Women, War & Peace and Pray the Devil Back to Hell. The 'macho men' in Africa are shooting guns too - right at women and children.

There's something terribly wrong with that picture.

I don't think the debate on gender roles in Christianity is meant to be about prescribing behaviours - men drink beer, women like baking. Men are tough 'punch you in the nose' kind of dudes, and women are meekly touching up their make up. Is that what we are really arguing over?

When Peter called Women the weaker vessels (1 Peter 3:7), he was saying "Be a man!" - but following that was no prescription for being a beer-drinking, gun-shooting, sport-watching 'dude'. In fact, he was saying "Take a look at the others in your life - do you find yourself with more physical strength than them? With more political power? Don't abuse that! Take care of them, don't let them be walked over. Be understanding." That sounds gentle to me.

 It's just common sense that on the whole, people with less physical strength and political power are often going to be women. That's not sexist. Men and women alike need to recognise it as a fact.

'Weaker' doesn't mean 'weak'. And being a strong man doesn't mean 'macho'.

We are heirs together.

Maybe instead of infighting on whether Christianity is masculine or feminine -- as if the big issue is whether wearing pink is manly -- we should be looking around us to find the people that are suffering under real gender inequality and real abuse of power and do something about that.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

More than a Humanitarian

Jesus was moved with compassion for people, and then he did something about it. That is an admirable thing to emulate, to be moved with compassion, to care deeply about the suffering of others and do what is in our power to alleviate it.

What was within Jesus' power was quite significant; it was more than natural power, it was more than running a food drive and handing out blankets; it was supernatural. He healed people, he drove out demons, he raised people to life.

But if it ends at that, that just makes Jesus a humanitarian. A supernaturally gifted humanitarian, but just that.

He was more than that, though. The miracles he performed weren't just to relieve physical suffering. What is the relief of physical pain if the person is still in the dark?

Jesus was all about saving people's lives - but life in the sense of the living word, living waters, the abundant life found when we enter the kingdom of God. The life that is available to experience here and now.

He raised people physically to life, but his whole ministry was pointing people to how to be raised spiritually to life.

As Christians we should of course be in many senses, humanitarians; we should have compassion for people, be moved to help them and care for them. But we should be remembering the ultimate gift we can give people is not physical. Alleviating poverty, or even seeing miraculous works, is not our end goal.

We are not interested in merely an outward imitation of Jesus, but to show how are lives and hearts are truly changed by his love.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Speaking their language

You don't have to be qualified to speak the good news.

At Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came and filled those gathered in the room, and the crowds heard them, they were amazed because they were hearing their own languages. These were people from all over, and the Galileans were speaking their languages.

This was not just unusual, like "Hey, I didn't know you spoke Cappadocian!"They were 'utterly amazed'. (Acts 2:7)

Utterly -completely and without qualification; absolutely. In other words - completelytotallyabsolutelyentirely,whollyfullythoroughlyquitealtogether,one hundred percentdownrightoutrightin all respectsunconditionallyperfectlyreally,to the hiltto the core;

Amazed -surprised greatly; filled with astonishment. In other words -astonishedthunderstruckspeechlessat a loss for wordsdumbstruckaghasttaken abackbowled overflabbergastedblown away.

Entirely flabbergasted, thoroughly bowled over, unconditionally thunderstruck. The Amplified Bible says they were 'beside themselves'.

Get the picture?

These were Galileans - not exactly known for there high brow education or broad multilingualism. And yet here they were, speaking in all these different languages. And all declaring the wonders of God.

You don't have to be qualified to speak as a witness. God can use you to speak anyone's language. That may not mean the languages of different countries for you. It may mean the language of your neighbour, a person in the supermarket, a young person in your church, and old person in a home...all those people who have a different culture to you. Those people with a different life, age, gender, personality, education or interest to you. Those people with whom you normally have nothing in common and nothing to say. People not of your own 'kind'. Even people who normally look down on your or ignore you.

God can give you the words to say, and those words come with power.

Those people hearing the wonders of God spoken in their own languages probably could have understood other languages. They didn't have to hear it those particular dialects to be able to comprehend what was being said. But it was more than the words; it was witnessing the power of God to transcend the natural, to go beyond boundaries and borders. To speak right to the heart.

God isn't limited by your social circle, your education, your knowledge (or lack of it), your conversational skills, your age, race or occupation. So why do we insist on limiting ourselves? Why do we say 'I'm too old to talk to young people', or 'I have nothing in common with that person', or 'People will probably think I'm stupid'?

When we let God get a hold of us, when we receive the Holy Spirit, the words we speak will have power and impact. People will notice that you are speaking their language. They will notice the difference. They will be 'flabbergasted' by the power and wonder of God.

Perhaps some of them might think you are strange (or drunk - Acts 2:13) - but there will be plenty more who ask "What does this mean?"

Be ready to tell them.