Thursday, February 24, 2005

Oh Lord, Help

To read today's devotional from My Utmost for His Highest, go here

OC says - "The delight of sacrifice is that I lay down my life for my Friend, Jesus (see John 15:13 ). I don’t throw my life away, but I willingly and deliberately lay it down for Him and His interests in other people. And I do this for no cause or purpose of my own."

This makes me think of Henri Nouwen, a man who left notoriety and "influence" to work among those who didn't know or care who he was. His book on leadership details the growth of humility in him as he made that transition, and the growth of Godliness too. His sole purpose was to get close to Jesus.

My husband and I were just dicussing an elderly saint in our congregation who just went to be with her Lord. She was a prayer warrior par excellence and we kept hearing people say things like, "Who will pray now that Mildred's gone? Who will stand in that gap now?" She wasn't a perfect person. She was fiesty and often cranky as only a woman who's lived a large chunk of her life alone can be, but she was a saint called to pray and pray she did. My husband pointed out that God gave her the opportunity - she was a young widow who never remarried, never had children - just dogs and cats! :) She spent her time wisely.

I'm humbled and in awe of people like this. I realize that each person's route will be different, but when I read about people like Chambers and Nouwen and think of people like Mildred, it drops me to my knees. I'm so far from it, so caught up in my own purposes.

Oh Lord, help!

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Restoration

Dave Long linked to this post today
It made me think and want to write. So here I go -

For many years I was a lapsed Catholic. Having been raised in all the tenets of The Church, having tried to do all the right things, say all the right prayers, keep all the right ordinances, I left it, convinced I just wasn't good enough for God.

Then one day a friend blew his head off with a shotgun. My neighbour's baby drowned in the river that ran past my door. My friend's husband fell out of his canoe and was swept away. And all that I thought was safe and secure crumbled when I tried to reach for it.

My husband sought the answers first, and in seeking them found more questions, but also found the God of his childhood. I was afraid to look again. Afraid He still wouldn't let me find Him. But I took a risk one day, overlooking the Stewart River in the Yukon, and asked Him to show Himself. He laughed. Then He gave me my heart's desire - the baby the 'experts' said I would never have. And my heart melted as I moved into a culture of faith, a community of believers.

As I learned the truth in His word, I became angry at The Church. They'd lied to me. So I thought. It was all their fault. It was easy to lay the blame at the foot of that altar.

Flash forward twenty years or so - I found myself holding the portfolio of Communications for our church's association. They paid my way to Montreal for the national conference and I found myself in a nunnery. Once housing seven hundred women of God, it was reduced to hotel status with a small wing left for the aged Sisters of Charity still in residence. I passed the statues of the virgin on my way to breakfast, glanced sidelong at the portraits of Christ pointing to his heart, exposed. I tried to be angry but only felt sad. I smiled and said "Bon matins," to the nuns. When I passed the chapel one evening and heard them singing I had to hold myself back from walking through the doors. It shocked me that I still wanted to be with them.

Then one night we were invited to go to the Notre Dame Cathedral at the heart of the old city. There was a "light show" there, we were told. We sat in the old pews, heard a lecturer describe the building of the Cathedral as portions of it were lit around us. The sculpture, the art, the richness of history, and yes, of faith, left me breathless. But it was when the screen we'd been watching suddenly folded back to reveal the altar that my heart almost stopped. It gleamed, shone, soared toward the heavens, and in the silence forced our eyes to look up. Look up and behold our God.

I sat still as people around me began to leave. Our host announced we were welcome to draw near for a closer look. My husband took my hand and we walked toward the altar. I kept my eyes raised until we were standing directly in front of it. Then I saw The Lamb.

Carved in bas relief, He sat on the throne with the multitudes around Him. Angels covering their faces with their wings, angels hovering above and around, saints throwing down their crowns, saints bowing. The multitude worshiping. And at the centre, The Lamb.

"Look," I whispered to my husband. "Look."

And I wept there, in that Catholic cathedral, because I had found Him, once again. I wept because He had chosen to reveal Himself to me in a place where I was convinced He could not be found. He restored my heritage to me, its richness, its beauty, its essential truth. At the centre, The Lamb.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Bringing Jesus to Life

This is The Spur for Feb. 16. Enjoy! :)M

“Double, double, toil and trouble. Fire burn and cauldron bubble.” The woman was hunched over, her hands clasped around an imaginary ladle, as she stirred an imaginary cauldron and continued to recite the lines from the famous witches’ scene in Macbeth. We, about twenty-five grade ten girls, were completely transfixed.

When our teacher, “Mrs. B,” suddenly stood straight and announced, “That, ladies, is Shakespeare, and you are going to love him,” we were totally convinced. Somehow she managed to keep us there for the rest of that year. We did learn to love Shakespeare and we learned to love “Mrs. B.” as well. She was a demanding teacher but her style of teaching made her classes a joy. Macbeth wasn’t the only play she recited, complete with voices and facial expressions. She became the characters for us and brought the plays to life.

God calls us to do the same. We are to become the image of Him, of His love, His mercy and His grace, so that people begin to see Jesus through us. In the book of Ephesians, chapter 5, verses 1 and 2, the apostle Paul says – “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” I don’t know about you, but that seems like a tall order to me. It’s hard to imagine that we could even attempt such a feat. We fail too often, sin too much. We are all too human. Left to our own devices, we cannot even begin to be the image of Christ. Yet God asks us to try. And in the trying, He pours His love, His mercy, His grace, into us and empowers us to do His will. And little by little, we are able.

We can become the gospel to those around us, as my teacher became the characters from Shakespeare’s plays. We can become His voice, His hands and His feet, as we listen to His Spirit and obey. Listen and obey – two small words that can mean the difference between a life lived for self and a life lived for God.

The frustrations of life, that make our sin nature take over, will get in our way. We will fail from time to time, but God has not asked us to do the impossible. He has asked us to allow Him to do the impossible through us, that He might be glorified.

Like my teacher of long ago, each one of us can bring Jesus to life for those around us. “Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15 &16).

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Second-Hand Messages

OC says - "We show how little we love God by preferring to listen to His servants only... we do not desire that God Himself should speak to us."

This is the result of unhealthy fear, of believing God wants to dispense punishment instead of grace. We know we are guilty and we forget about His forgiveness.
We also know, intuitively, that when He speaks it will require a response. We'd rather stay silent, hiding in places we think are safe.

Our ignorance of our God is apalling, yet we insist on maintaining it. With understanding comes responsibility and we run from it.
God help us all.

Friday, February 11, 2005

A Little Imagination

OC says – “In every wind that blows, in every night and day of the year, in every sign of the sky, in every blossoming and in every withering of the earth, there is a real coming of God to us, if we will simply use our starved imagination to realize it.”

We all let our imagination run away with us from time to time. Some of our greatest inventions and highest achievements are the result of someone’s imagination soaring to impossible heights. Some of our greatest failures and basest sins are the result of the same. It all depends on where we allow our imagination to take us.

Being a Christian takes a lot of imagination. The writers of the Bible continually call us to use it. For instance, the Prophet Isaiah encouraged the people of his day to “Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name” (Isaiah 40:26). Isaiah paints word pictures for us, and our minds begin to imagine. In his devotional book, My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers says Isaiah made the people “begin to use their imagination aright.”

Chambers’ premise is that our imaginations are starved of the things of God. We focus so much on all the other imaginings that we miss the inspiration that is around us every day. We’re imagining our bank accounts growing, while nature displays its riches in a sunset. We’re imagining how great we’ll look in that new dress, while the snow falls and makes the world look new. We’re imagining the new car we’ll get when we’re promoted, while the wind sings songs in the trees. When our imagination keeps us focused on ourselves, on our needs and desires, we become blind to what God wants to show us. When we look for Him, we are stimulated by what is around us and our thoughts turns to God. We see him in everything we look at, in every turn of events, and we begin to know Him.

He has put himself on display for us. All we have to do is look, use a little imagination, and turn to Him. The Apostle Paul refers to this as taking “every thought captive” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Our imagination will try to run away on us, and it usually leads to places that starve our soul. It takes an act of the will to bend the imagination toward God, to turn our thoughts away from ourselves.

He has put himself on display for us. All we have to do is look, use a little imagination, and turn to Him. The Apostle Paul refers to this as taking “every thought captive” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Our imagination will try to run away on us, and it usually leads to places that starve our soul. It takes an act of the will to bend the imagination toward God, to turn our thoughts away from ourselves.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Getting Hold of God

OC says - "The meaning of prayer is that we get hold of God, not of the answer."
He then goes on to say that getting hold of God happens through everyday life, through the "commonplace things and people around us."
Oh so true! God reveals Himself to us every day but we don't see Him. Sometimes, as someone so eloquently said, He is in a 'distressing disguise.'

There are a lot of people in my home town who walk around in distressing disguises. They are patients at the psychiatric hospital. Some of them have wild delusions about being Jesus. Their illness is evident, but sometimes amazing truth comes from their lips. They are often very perceptive and very forthright about what they sense. Sometimes I wonder if God isn't speaking through them. He does use the simple to shame the wise. Maybe He's telling us to get hold of them in order to get hold of Him.






Saturday, February 05, 2005

The Scenery of my own Sacrifice

I had a hard time with OC's devotional today. I find it hard to believe that God wants anyone to be abased. But then, He was.

My daughter just told us she is beginning the process that will take her to Bangladesh with a mission group. It makes this mother's heart beat a bit faster when I think about it. Will that be the scenery of her sacrifice?

And what or where is mine?

It makes me think of this job, and my feelings about it, especially when I first started. I had been working as a unit clerk and admissions clerk at the hospital. A job among professionals. It thrilled me to be there, to be among others who, in my estimation, were a notch above "the common." (I guess I'm revealing my snobbery here!) When those positions were cut back, since I was on the bottom of the totem pole, I was out.
Taking the job as a clerk in a small shop for just above minimum wage was definitely a blow to my self-esteem.
Yet this job has allowed me to write to my heart's content. I've finished a novel (almost) in the past year, and written and edited quite a lot more. I'm absolutely certain God put me here for that purpose.
The sacrifice of position for ministry wasn't my choice, but it was accomplished.

I think of Henri Nouwen, and his experience of going from a prof. at Yale to the L'Arche community where, as he expressed it, he went from being a man of reknown to a man working with people who only cared if he could make their cereal in the morning. The lessons he learned about God and himself in the process were invaluable.

And then there's the cross - Christ's scenery of sacrifice. Makes all others look just a shade more than mere.


Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Always Home

My husband and I just returned from a weekend in the city of Edmonton, where we attended Breakforth Canada, 2005. It was a good time, listening to some topnotch speakers and some rather loud music. :)

I attended most of Jill Briscoe's sessions on the Holy Spirit - excellent teaching. To learn more about Jill and her husband, Stuart go to www.briscoeministries.com

Jill talked about being stranded in Newfoundland on 9/11 and some of the conversations she had there with a few of the hundreds taking shelter in a Salvation Army chapel. One of her stories was about meeting a famous model. She’d noticed the beautiful young woman and had felt the Spirit nudging her to connect with her. But when she tried to get close enough to strike up a conversation, there were always so many people, mostly men, around the model, that Jill couldn’t get close enough. So she prayed. The Holy Spirit told her to smile. So for the next couple of days that’s what she did. The young woman’s eyes seemed to wander her way a lot. Every time, Jill smiled. Finally she came to Jill. “What on earth do you have to smile about?” she asked. Their conversation quickly turned to spiritual things. When the model said that all she wanted was to go home, Jill replied, "I am home." She explained how that could be, though she was thousands of miles from the place where she lives, her family and friends.

As I heard Mrs. Briscoe tell that story, it made me think of an experience I had many years ago. I had been traveling in Europe, mostly Spain and Portugal, and had just returned. It took just over thirty-six hours to go from Madrid to Esnagi Lake, an isolated place in northern Ontario, where a job was waiting for me. The afternoon I arrived, I went for a swim and fell asleep on an air mattress. When I woke I was disoriented. I stared at the line of dark pine trees trimming the high cliffs. A loon let out its plaintive cry. I knew immediately I was not in Spain, but where was I? Then my foot slipped off the mattress and hit the cold water. Instantly my mind clicked into gear and I thought. “Ah, Canada. I’m home.”

There is one sure way to know where you are, to know you are always ‘home,’ no matter your location on the globe. Keep at least one foot in the water – the water of life. That is Jill Briscoe’s secret, the one she shared with that famous model while stranded in Newfoundland. Mrs. Briscoe stays connected to the One who is home to her, the One who can be home to all of us, Jesus Christ.

In John 14:23 Jesus says – “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”

When God makes His home in you, you are always at home with Him.