Sunday, 3 November 2013

What Did I Expect?

Every New Year's, our church gathers for a time of celebrating, a slideshow of the year's events, and sharing of what God has done in the past year.  At the end of the service, we all have the opportunity to pick up what we call a promise verse, something for us to hold on to for the coming year.  With anticipation, I walk up to the front, look at all the little pieces of paper face down on the little table, and randomly choose one, wondering what kind of promise or fate will be revealed.  It's almost like breaking open a fortune cookie, except I can't endorse putting a lot of weight in the little paper inside.  Can I just eat the cookie?

Anyway, this past New Year's, as I picked up my promise verse and read it, I wasn't exactly filled with joy.  It was more like fear.  If I was going to hold onto this promise throughout the year, it meant I would be encountering some difficulty.

Hebrews 13:5 (ESV)
Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."

You see, I didn't know at the time that I would be writing my resignation a few weeks later and spend most of my year unemployed.  I had no idea how much I would have to be content with what I had, and lean on God's faithfulness and promise to take care of me.  I also had no idea what kind of opportunities would follow my decision to stop working.

It was in March that a man who has had a big impact in my life suggested I consider missions.  Although I was content to take a bit of a break from work, I hadn't considered missions a great deal.  I always wanted to go on a missions trip while I was still single, but I didn't think of that necessarily being the time.  I knew I wanted to go to Haiti and I looked into whether or not that was still a possibility.  I further prayed that if the Lord wanted me to do missions, to make me aware of opportunities.  It was only days later that I heard on the radio about a need for volunteers in New York City to help with Hurricane Sandy relief and I began to plan for a one week trip.

This year, I have made five different trips, three of which were to Staten Island.  In those first few months of traveling, one of the questions I got asked often was  "How are you paying for all of this?"  To be honest, I only paid one trip completely out of my pocket.  For the others, many or all of my expenses were covered otherwise.  I have had opportunities this year that I never would have dreamed of when I picked up that promise verse.

When I came home from my last term in NY, I knew I had some responsibilities to tend to, and more than that, I needed to find work.  I didn't think I was that naive about the labour market in my area, but I must say that it has taken a lot longer than I expected.  I would be lying to say that I have always remained joyful through this effort.  I would be lying to say that I always had unshaking confidence that God would answer my prayers in the way I wanted.  And employment was not the only issue I was seeking the Lord about.  There have been a lot of other things going on in my mind and heart that I was trying to understand the Lord's will in.  There were times I said to myself or friends "My life makes no sense!"  And there were times I would kneel and come before the throne and just say "Lord, I don't understand."

To be honest, there were times when I briefly thought "Maybe my last term in NY wasn't such a good idea."  But I always crushed that idea pretty quick.  Last night I had the privilege of reconnecting with some fellow volunteers, meeting new ones, sharing memories, laughter, and tears.  You see, I recognize that despite the uncertainty of my life right now, I would not take back the last 7 months.  I would not go back and choose a different path.  I know how incredibly blessed I have been to be able to do what I have done.  I would not trade the experiences of this year for financial ease.  They have been worth the uncertainty of life.

I think part of the problem of what I experienced coming home is that I had this proud and unscriptural expectation that, since I spent so much of my time this year serving, God would bless me with a great job soon after I came home.  I had gained all this great experience and honed some leadership qualities.  Surely some great employer would see what I had to offer and hire me in an instant!  Not so.  And God does not owe me anything.  In truth, He gave me a lot more than I could have asked for.

I have come to an incredible realization recently.  It's a very obvious one at that.  You may even wonder just how thick-headed I am.  Here it is.  Free time and money rarely coexist in abundance, at least not for a long period of time.  You see, when you work, you are able to accumulate resources, but are limited as to what you can do with your time.  When you stop working, you have a lot of time, but your resources dictate where you go and what you do.  I recognize that this experience is not unique to my life, but is that of most of this world's population.

Obvious, it seems, but I have begun to understand this phenomenon and the frustrations related to it firsthand in a new way, as I have had a great deal of time, but a limited supply of resources at my disposal.  I am so grateful though, that I have learned to be disciplined in the way I manage finances, have been adamant about not making debt, and am usually not inclined to have a lot of stuff or the latest gadgets.

I have wrestled with a lot of different emotions through this.  There have been days I've been so frustrated that I don't have meaningful ways to use my time, and I have to remind myself there are things I can do now, that I won't be able to do later.  There are days I don't understand what the Lord's purpose is in this, but then I remember that I have gained a greater understanding of Who He is, and the love that He desires for me to have for Him.  I don't fail to see the times He provides in little ways.  And (although I admit there have been times where I have not felt positively about the way some people tried to encourage me) I have been grateful for the people--friends, mentors, past volunteers--who have lifted me up, prayed for me, and helped in other ways.

So what did I expect this year?  Two months ago?  Not this. Not all the amazing experiences, nor the not-so-amazing challenges.  But I know I serve One Who is called Faithful and True, One Who calls me His beloved, One Who promised never to leave me nor forsake me.  And I know I'm blessed.

"God will give you the very blessings you ask if you refuse to go any further without them, but His silence is the sign that He is bringing you to an even more wonderful understanding of Himself." --Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest

Thursday, 3 October 2013

What Makes God Faithful?

This year has been full of joys and challenges.  The future remains unknown.  But I am so thankful for what this year has taught me about the faithfulness of God.  I know God is faithful.  It's not because I have seen Him move great mountains in my life, although He may do that at times.  He's faithful because He is.  He is Faithful.  He is called Faithful and True (Revelation 19:11).  He is Faithful and therefore He will not abandon me or be unfaithful, no matter where I end up.

2 Timothy 2:11-13 (ESV):
The saying is trustworthy, for:
If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
if we are faithless, he remains faithful--
for he cannot deny himself.

I don't completely understand this passage of scripture, but I am thankful for it.  I don't have to understand it to believe it.  But knowing that God is Faithful helps me understand it.  If He calls Himself Faithful and True, if that's his very name, to be unfaithful would be to deny Who He is.

So what makes God faithful?  The fact that He is Faithful.  No other reason is needed.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

How I Spent my Summer

Six months ago I walked out of the office for the last time.  And life changed.  Three months earlier as I turned 21, I wouldn't have thought I would make such a move.  And there I was, feeling free, unsure of where I would go next.  I knew I was going to Staten Island for one week, and later to Haiti for a week, but I didn't know what I would do after that.  I was content to take a break from the workforce for awhile and figure things out.  I had no idea what would all come out of my decision.

I did go to New York for a week, the experiences of which I relate here.  The following week, I applied to return long-term and was soon after accepted.  And I did go to Haiti for a week.  The week after I came home from Haiti, I flew to Calgary to receive some training with International Justice Mission.  A week later, our youth girls had a Set-Apart Girl Simulcast Conference and the following weekend I flew back to New York, where I ended up serving two separate terms with Mennonite Disaster Service.

Three weeks ago I returned home, and again, I didn't know what I would do next.  Although I loved serving away from home and most of my needs had been met, I knew it was time to take on my role as Mobilization Associate with IJM and prepare to re-enter the workforce.  This seems to be no small task, since my lack of education and geographic location alone presents a number of barriers.  But try I must.

What have I learned through all of this?  Much.  You don't come home from months of traveling and serving unchanged.  I've learned a lot about my character, I've learned new skills, and gained a wider perspective for ministry.  I have also learned that God uses every experience for good and for preparation of what He has for me next.  The bookstore prepared me for the office, the office for NY, and they have prepared me for my next role back home, even if that role remains to be seen.  God has a purpose for each experience, even when I can't understand it at the time.

Something I used to wonder about is how young people could leave home and go to another country and serve for so long, only coming back to see family and friends about once a year for a short time.  I don't wonder about that anymore.  When you are where God has called you, you enjoy what you do, you know you're making a difference, and your daily needs are met, it's not hard.  New York became home and the people became a family.  Yes, I was busy, there were challenges and was often very tired.  But I loved living in community with people who were all there for the same purpose.  Coming home and returning to a seemingly self-serving kind of life was actually very frustrating.

I will not forget or regret how I spent this summer.  Nine months ago, I longed to go on a mission trip this year while I was still single.  Little did I know that I would spend months away from home.  I met some amazing people and made some incredible memories.  I was able to touch a few lives in unexpected ways.  I saw a mission field right within North America, where we could minister to those so many have forgotten about.  I have been able to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.  And just to give you a taste, here are a few of the highlights of my travels.
  • First trip to NY with my youth group
  • The trip up a mountain in Haiti I wasn't sure I'd come back to tell about
  • Helping take care of a baby at an orphanage in Haiti
  • Going to another province in my country for the first time
  • Throwing a spontaneous birthday party for the project director and presenting the best cake ever: a tub of ice cream with candles that relight after you blow them out
  • Going grocery shopping for enormous amounts of food at Costco and have people look at us weird
  • Laughing with my friends until we cried and growing closer in our friendships
  • Worshiping with the local church on Staten Island that we partnered with
  • House dedications
  • Singing hymns and worship songs on trains, subways and the ferry with an amazing group of people
  • Listening to the story of a homeless couple and praying with them in front of Times Square Church
  • Meeting up with a friend in Manhattan that I hadn't seen in almost two years
  • Visiting a client in the hospital and later taking her home
  • Eating New York Pizza, so I could say I had it.  Yes, I even folded it.
  • A walk down the boardwalk, enjoying the ocean breeze after a week's work
  • Visiting the Brooklyn Tabernacle
  • After a long, tiring day, when I finally thought I was finished working, spilling an unseen bowl of grease all over the floor and down the kitchen cabinets.  No, it wasn't fun cleaning it up, but I won't easily forget it.
With all the joys and wonderful memories, it is bittersweet.  For now, this season of traveling and serving is over.  I met some amazing people, many who I may never see again.  There are places I would have loved to visit and didn't have a chance to. 

I embark on a new season, figuring out a new kind of life.  A life of wrestling between desires and meeting necessities.  A life of putting dreams on hold again, wondering if or when they will come to pass.  A life of remembering that my joy must be in the Lord, not in my circumstances, and knowing that my identity is in Him, not where I am or what I'm doing.

Although this year has had its challenges and pain, I will not forget the Summer of 2013.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Is College Worth It? by William J. Bennett and David Wilezol

In Is College Worth It?, William J. Bennett and David Wilezol "expose the broken promise of higher education."  They examine the financial crises caused by student loans, the rising tuition costs, how tuition money is being misused by universities and how many students are often unable to find employment with their degrees after accumulating thousands of dollars of debt. They take a hard look at the quality of education students are receiving and whether or not a college education is worth the investment. Alternative post-secondary educational options for various types of students are also discussed.

There were several aspects of this book that I appreciated, like how they exposed the misuse of student and taxpayer money at many universities to pay presidents and faculty outrageous salaries, offer programs and courses with little academic value, and improve campus aesthetics.  It opened my eyes to how much our culture looks down on blue-collar jobs, when there's actually a great need for skilled workers to fill those positions.  It also points out that classic literature, disciplines and character training are no longer being taught, nor do students learn to effectively write, speak, teach or make decisions.  Tolerance and diversity has become the great mission of many universities, meanwhile identity studies are actually damaging to individuals and societies.

However, despite the positive qualities, I also found the book to be quite boring at times.  I recognize that statistics and numbers are necessary to prove where the education model is lacking, but I think the information could have been presented in a more interesting manner.  Although the book is definitely informative, I don't think a teen considering what kind of post-secondary path to pursue would likely read through the book far enough to make an informed decision. Overall, I would rate this book 3 out of 5 stars.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through and was not required to write a positive review.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

To Carry Your Compassion

I come back once again briefly to explain my future absence.  As God has called me to various things this spring and summer, writing will be low on my priority list.  I will be traveling to Haiti for a week this month on a mission trip, and then in June I will be returning to Staten Island to serve as a long-term volunteer with MDS.  The next few months will be a time of learning and growing in new ways.  No doubt, there will be lots to be shared, I just don't know when time will allow me to do that.

As I go through different seasons of life, there is usually a song that describes my vision or what it is I'm going through.  One that is fitting to this season of life is "The Power of Your Name" by Lincoln Brewster.  I appreciate the lyrics of this chorus and it's my desire that my life would be a demonstration of that as well.

"And I will live to carry your compassion
To love a world that's broken
To be Your hands and feet
And I will give with the life that I've been given
And go beyond religion
To see the world be changed
By the power of Your Name!"

Monday, 29 April 2013

Serving on Staten Island

Six months ago, Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast.  As with most tragedies and natural disasters, we heard a lot in the news for awhile, we prayed for them, and then slowly many forgot about the people who had lost nearly everything they had.  But on Staten Island, believers from US states and Ontario are volunteering their time to rebuild houses for families that still have not been able to return home.

Last week I had the privilege of traveling to Staten Island with a team from my youth group and serving with Mennonite Disaster Service.  Over the course of five days, we worked with other volunteers in various homes that had been flooded by the hurricane.  Our teams spent time mudding, sanding, painting, trimming windows, installing doors, and doing various other renovations.  Many had the privilege of meeting homeowners and hearing their experiences from the hurricane.  A few young ladies were busy at the seminary we stayed at preparing food and snacks for us and we were fed very well.

I think all of us were blessed to be a part of rebuilding and restoring what was broken six months ago.  We were blessed with great leaders that guided and encouraged us throughout the week as well as for the time we were able to get to know new people and play games in the evening.  We have stored up a lot of memories that we will treasure for a long time.

It's hard to explain what we felt and wondered during our time serving.  The seminary we stayed at for the week was higher up on Staten Island in a neighbourhood of large, beautiful homes hardly affected by the storm.  But only five minutes away, down towards the coast, many families had lost nearly everything they had.  DO NOT ENTER was painted on a door next to a lot where it looked like a house had been leveled.  Inspection notices were posted on many windows and doors.  Debris and garbage was still tangled up in trees and brush.  Many businesses in the city had not reopened yet and many business owners had just left.  Some houses didn't look affected on the outside, but the insides were ruined.  And other neighbourhoods only blocks away looked as if nothing had happened.

We were reminded how nice our part of the rebuilding task was compared to the people who had to come in after the storm, scoop mud out of the houses, and tear everything out of the basements and main floors.  We had the luxury of coming back at the end of the day to a comfortable place to stay, showers, a big, hot dinner prepared for us, and an enjoyable evening to look forward to.  Although we did a lot work, we actually felt pretty spoiled at times.

As I shared in our group devotional on evening, Jesus didn't separate the Gospel from meeting physical needs.  When Jesus sent His disciples out, He told them to proclaim that the kingdom of heaven was at hand.  But that's not all that He said.  He told them to meet physical needs.  They had received freely and they were to give just as freely.  Jesus spent a great deal of time in His earthly ministry feeding the hungry, healing the sick, casting out demons, cleansing lepers and so forth.  We are called to do the same.  It's a demonstration of our faith.

Meeting physical needs often opens the door for sharing the Gospel.  Seeing a group of people joyfully giving of their time and resources to help complete strangers and receiving nothing in return will cause many to ask "Why?".  We went to restore houses, and through that we can show people the One who restores lives.  Throughout this trip, I frequently thought of the song "Build Us Back".  Although written after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, I think it's very fitting for what we did in Staten Island
and a great reminder that Jesus is our Redeemer and Restorer.

I can't possibly share in one article all I experienced in New York.  Our youth group will be sharing a presentation of our trip in the near future, so you may have to wait until then to hear more.  In one word, it was AMAZING!  We saw prayers answered, grew in love for one another, strengthened friendships, made new ones, and were sad to leave and part with people we had grown to appreciate so much in just a few short days.  In short, I would love to go back and do it all over again, but for longer next time!

If you would like to learn more about what MDS does, how you can volunteer with a project, or give, please visit the Mennonite Disaster Service website.  The work is ongoing and the need is great.  If you have the opportunity to volunteer, I can assure it's an experience you will not regret.  Please continue to pray for their work.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Submitting to One Another

Ephesians 5:21
submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.

What does it mean to submit to one another?

For any readers who may know me well personally, you will know that submission is generally not my favourite topic of discussion.  I can be a dominating young woman and I don't always like the idea of having to submit to other people.  But I have grown to understand it and I'm learning to live it, although not without glitches.  Well, parts of it anyway.

I can understand submission to authority.  God tells us in His Word that we are to submit to Him, to parents, to husbands, to government leaders, to our elders, and to every ordinance of man.  It's not always easily done, but I get it.  However, in his letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul tells the church to submit themselves to one another.  In other words, they were supposed to submit themselves to the ordinary people in the church, people on the same level as them.

This is something I have only come to understand in recent weeks, and it hasn't come easy.  What does submitting to one another mean for my life?  It means I don't always get my way.  It means people make decisions that I wouldn't have made and I have to go along with it.  Sometimes it means that if I let people in on my ideas, they have different ideas, and in the end, it doesn't turn out the way I anticipated.  I may not even get any credit.  And I have to be okay with that.  I choose to be okay with it, not because I always agree, but to keep the peace and not cause problems and divisions.  Also, sometimes what I perceive to be good for me, I can clearly see is not good for someone else.  Then I yield my desires for the good of someone else.

I'm also a person who likes to have a plan and work my plan.  Submitting to one another means I no longer govern my schedule as if it's all about me.  I hold my time, my plans, and resources out to God in an open hand.  If I lived on my own, it would be easy, but I live with my family, and sometimes my family has different plans for my day than I do.  Sometimes other people have different plans than I do.  So I submit and do my best to be flexible.  I look to their needs and desires before my own. I still make plans so I can be intentional about how I use my time, but I leave room for something to come up.

These are a couple ways I have been learning to submit to one another.  I'm sure in the future I will continue to have many more opportunities to practice this.  How have you been learning to submit to one another?

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Gods at War by Kyle Idleman

In Gods at War: Defeating the Idols That Battle for Your Heart, Kyle Idleman makes the argument that idolatry is not an issue, but the issue.  He explains how all sin and issues we face in our Christian lives are the result of idolatry and that it's not a matter of if we worship, but rather who or what we worship.  He goes on to examine in detail nine gods that are prevalent in our culture and in the church: food, sex, entertainment, success, money, achievement, romance, family, and me.

Kyle uses a conversational style in his book and helps make his points through stories and fact/research study boxes. He looks at a few gods that are perhaps not often addressed within the church.  I appreciated the Idol ID boxes with questions that helped identify whether or not something has become an idol in your life, followed  by a section on how to replace that idol with Christ.  I did find Kyle was a little repetitive at times.  Some of the stories and humour gave me a good laugh, but there were some points I thought were a little "cheesy."

I thought this book was good, although not amazing.  It helped me come to terms and address some idols that have taken hold in my life.  It provides a good evaluation of which gods may be present in your life if you're willing to look at yourself honestly.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through and was not required to write a positive review.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Leading or Following?

 Do you want to walk with Jesus, or do you want Jesus to walk with you?

This thought came to me after I was reading My Utmost for His Highest on March 9 where Oswald Chambers discusses John 6:67.  Jesus had explained that no one could come to Him unless it was granted by the Father, and from that point on, many stopped following Him.  Jesus turned to the twelve and asks if they wanted to go away as well. 

After reading this, I thought about whether I was walking with Jesus, or if I was expecting Jesus to walk with me.  I do sometimes ask Jesus to walk with me, or be with me, when I think I'm going to have a difficult day. I want to feel His presence and I want things to go smoothly. Louie Giglio's Prayer: Remix series has challenged me in this, and I try not to ask God to be with me anymore, because He is already with me, and living in me.

There's a difference between me wanting to walk with Jesus and wanting Jesus to walk with me.  You see, when someone invites me to go for a walk with them, it's usually understood that I will walk where they want to walk.  Unless we come to a mutual agreement and we both know where we're going and how to get there, one of us is always leading, even if we're walking side by side.

When Jesus asks me to follow Him, or walk with Him, it's of the understanding that He's the One leading.  If I say "Yes, Jesus, I will walk with You", I'm going to go where He goes.  He gets to decide which roads we take, where we go, who we serve, etc.  He gets to decide whether or not we go to work, to the mall, to watch a movie, or if we go to the prisons, the orphans, widows, to another country, etc.

However, if I get up in the morning and ask Jesus to walk with me, what I'm actually saying is that I'm leading the way and I just want His company.  I want His God stamp on what I do, His blessings, and His encouragement on the uphill climbs.  I have a rough road ahead of me and I'm scared to go alone. 

The problem is, Jesus doesn't follow.  The only one He follows is the Father.  (The Bible doesn't say it exactly that way, but Jesus made it clear that He always did the will of the Father.)  He didn't walk with His disciples.  His disciples walked with Him.  They went where He went, served where He served, ate with the people He ate with, not the other way around.  He led the way, even if they were walking side by side.

Perhaps when you ask Jesus to walk with you, you really do have it in your heart to follow Him.  Then we perhaps need to change the way we say it.  Instead of saying "Jesus, would you walk with me today?", say "Jesus, I want to walk with You today.  I can't walk this road alone, so I want to follow You.  Where do You want to go?  Where do you want to take me?"  The scenario changes.  Now it's clear who's leading and who's following.  It's clear that it's about you wanting to do what God wants, not just wanting God's rubber stamper on your plans, as Louie Giglio would put it.

Where are you at in your life?  Are you walking with Jesus, or are you expecting Him to walk with you?

Monday, 11 March 2013

Praying for Your Man

The girls in my youth group are going through a book study again, and one of the first things we were reminded of is the importance of praying for our future husbands.  Now, this was no new concept to me.  I've been doing it for years.  But it's something some girls do struggle with, or don't think of doing, so I will write about my experience.  (And yes, I am still single.  I have not seen my prayers fulfilled, but I know God is in the process of answering.)

For some, praying for a person you don't know is kind of weird.  Yeah.  That was probably the biggest struggle I faced when I started.  How do I pray for someone if I don't even know who he is, or don't know what's going on in his life?  The wonderful thing is, you may not know who you will marry, or what's going on in that man's life, but God does, and He cares about this area of your life.

You may not know the specifics of what is going on his life, but you can still pray.  You can start by praying that He would follow after God whole-heartedly. You can pray that he would be a man of the Word and a man of prayer.  What kind of character qualities do you want to see in him?  Pray that He will grow in those areas.  Do you want him to be part of a ministry or serving in an area of the church?  Pray for that. Pray that he would walk in purity, that he would flee from temptation and youthful lusts, that he would keep his heart, mind and body for you.  Pray that he would cut off sin from in his life and walk in holiness. Pray that God would use him in his single years for His service and glory.

Pray that God would direct his heart to you and have wisdom as to when and how to initiate and lead your relationship.  Pray that God would prepare him to be the spiritual leader and provider for your home, that he would have wisdom in raising your children when God so blesses you.  It's probably also wise to pray that your parents and other counselors in your life would have the wisdom to help you discern God's best for you, and allow yourself to be open to their counsel.  

Now, remember, this isn't all about who you want your husband to be.  Chances are you have lofty dreams of this man and, if you're smart, you're praying about some great and amazing things for him.  I know I do.  But if you want to marry Mr. Awesome, you have to be a woman suitable for him.  So instead of just praying for him, pray that God will prepare you to be the woman, the help meet that he needs.  Keep yourself pure, and conduct yourself in a way that would be pleasing to your husband if he was watching you.  Honour him, even now, with your life.  And keep yourself busy and productive, serving the Lord and others while you wait for God to bring you together.

I have prayed about all these aspects at some time or other, and most on a very regular basis.  I admit though that there are still times when I definitely feel stuck.  What do I pray for?  How do I pray about this man?  Sometimes I feel like I say the same thing over and over.  One of the things I have done at times is ask God how He wants me to pray for my future husband.  I ask God to lead me as I pray.  Something changes in the way I prayed when I do that.  At times, I don't understand why I am asking God for the things I am, but I trust it's His leading.  One day, the purpose of it all will be revealed to me.

It could also be that as you pray for your future husband, or ask God to lead you, that you will start praying in a way you don't necessarily understand.  You may start praying for qualities you otherwise didn't consider.  It may be that God will guide you to pray about someone specifically.  I don't know how God moves in everyone's prayer times.  I don't know what He will do when you seek His direction in this area.  But I encourage you to pray boldly, persistently, and daily about this area of your life.  When you marry the man you're praying for, you will enter into a covenant that is a representation of Christ's relationship with His church.  That's not something to take lightly, and thus, it's something to pray about diligently.

Some who will read this post will certainly be familiar with the song "Faithfully" by Eric and Leslie Ludy.  The idea of waiting faithfully is not a very popular one in our world.  Many may not understand why you're giving up pleasure now for something they don't believe exists, or why you're praying for someone if you don't even know who he is.  Listen to this song.  It may give you an ache in your heart, but I also hope that you will take the words to heart and commit to faithfully waiting and praying for your man.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Is Following Jesus Worth It?

I saw this justice video by Micah Bournes a few weeks ago.  Like most videos by this word artist, I really liked it.  Near the end, I thought you could almost replace the word "justice" with "following Jesus" in this video.  There are many striking similarities between pursuing justice and following Jesus, and how it is perceived by the world around us. (Please watch the short video before reading further.)

Following Jesus does seem to be a very futile pursuit for many people.  It doesn't promise success and prosperity, although some try to make it sound that way.  You probably won't see a grand increase in the world's goods if you follow Jesus' command to deny yourself daily, take up your cross and follow Him.  It likely won't be very profitable if you try to measure it in those terms.

The thing about following Jesus is, we'll never reach a point in this life where we'll be able to say "I've made it.  I'm done working for God, and now I can sit back and relax until Jesus comes."  No.  We work until He comes or your physical bodies die.  Only then have we finished the race.  We can give up along the way if we want to.  But if we understand the price Jesus paid, and the reward that follows, we won't. 

Most people in this world don't perceive following Jesus as worth it.  Many Christians at some point wonder if it's worth it.  I know I have.  (I also think our churches are full of people who are tired of the idea of following Jesus, because they're not actually doing it the way they should.)  But as in pursuing justice, I don't think the question "Is it even worth it?", comes very often from those who have laboured for years for Jesus Christ, who have given their lives to the ministry, to preaching the Gospel.  I don't think it comes often from those who have spent years in the mission field, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, healing the sick, caring for orphans and widows, freeing the captives and being the hands and feet of Jesus to the least of these. 

Oh, I'm sure they get tired.  I'm sure there are days some have no strength of their own and only God's strength sustains them.  But as tired as I'm sure they often get, I don't think they often wonder if it's worth it.  They know it is worth it.  They know because they have communed with Jesus.  They have spent time in His presence and they have grown to have a heart for the things He has a heart for, for the people He has a heart for.  They have developed a Christ-like love that empties and pours out self for the good of someone else.  They have given their lives for the broken-hearted, for the wounded.  They have toiled to see souls come into the kingdom and set free from the power of sin.  Like Jesus, they have come to see that their lives are worth the sacrifice.  And for those who follow Jesus like that, I think it would be offensive for them to be asked if it was worth it.

Where's your relationship with Jesus?  Are you busy following Him, or have you grown tired of the idea?  For myself, I admit I have at times probably grown tired of the idea.  But I don't want it to stay that way.  I want to come to the place where I commune and identify with Christ, where I have a heart for the people and things He has a heart for, so much so that it becomes offensive to me to be asked or to wonder if following Him is worth it.  I want to be able to cry out myself "What do you mean, is it worth it? Of course it's worth it!"  How do I know?  Because I was worth dying for to Him.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

This is War!

My blog has been mostly quiet in the last month, but my life has certainly not been.  A chapter in my life is coming to a close and I'm seeking the Lord's direction for what He would have me do next.  I have ideas, but nothing is clear or has come together yet.  But I trust that God is leading and is preparing something.

At the beginning of the year, I sensed God leading me to do something.  Now I wonder if it is the will of God.  I made the difficult decision to close a season of my life.  I would go to bed confident I had made the right choice and wake up the next morning saying "This is ludicrous."  I went from being confident to confused, not knowing the difference between truth or lies.  I had sought counsel from people I trusted, and am confident in their wisdom, yet I wrestle within me.

As I seek God's will for the next season of life, it's harder to trust His leading today than it was a month ago.  Weeks of inspiration, of sensing God's leading have turned largely silent.  Things are dimmer.  Fears are creeping in.  I look at what I aspire to spend my time doing, then consider my financial needs, and wonder if I should just settle for "normal" drudgery again.  I am hampered with temptations.  There has been conviction of sin, and with it discouragement.  I sit down writing down thoughts about how to serve others and how to meet needs in the next season of life, then my ideas run out and I get stuck.  I fear that if I pursue this, people will misunderstand me.  I'm afraid they'll look at areas of my life and call me a hypocrite.

I understand what's going on though.  I know what's going on, even though I can't see what's ahead of me, even though at times I can't discern truth.  This is war!  That I know.  There is a battle going on in the spiritual realm for my life.  Whatever plans God has for the next season of my life, the kingdom of darkness is opposing it.  Satan does not want me to yield to God's purpose.  He does not want to see me bring vision into peoples' lives, to see captives set free by the truth of God's Word, to see broken lives heal, forgive, love, and be filled with joy. So he will meddle in my life.  He will bring fear, temptation, and cause me to beat myself up over little things.  When God convicts me of sin, he will play the role of an accuser, telling me I'm not fit for God's use.

 So what does this mean for me?  It means I have to fight.  It means I have to look to Jesus, to the Word of God.  It means I have to wrestle with God in prayer and command the enemy to leave me.  It means I constantly have to pray that God would speak truth to me and that I will be able to discern it.  I fight against a kingdom I cannot see, because I'm in the midst of a war.

As Christians, I don't think we fight enough.  I don't think we're mindful enough of what goes on in the spiritual realm.  Part of it is because we can't see it.  Part of it is because this war is fought with intangible weapons.  Our weapons are not carnal, but mighty through God and able to pull down strongholds (2 Cor. 10:4).  Our greatest weapon is prayer and some of us are just too lazy to storm the throne room of God with our prayers.  Also, we seem to forget, that in the name of Jesus, even demons have to obey us.  We have to understand that and believe it.

God has not left us powerless in this battle but we have to use the tools He has given us to fight.

What kind of battle do you find yourself in today?  Pick up your sword and fight!

Friday, 22 February 2013

Who Do You Think You Are? by Mark Driscoll

Who Do You Think You Are: Finding Your True Identity in Christ by Mark Driscoll is essentially a study of Paul's letter to the Ephesians.  As the subtitle suggests, it's about understanding our identity in Christ and each chapter focuses on a different aspect of our identity.  He starts each chapter with a story and uses scripture to help the reader understand that we are in Christ, saints, blessed, saved, reconciled, afflicted, gifted, forgiven, loved, victorious, etc.

This book captivated me from the first chapter.  Mark is very direct, his message comes through strong and clear and his words are thought-provoking.  Yes, the book is fairly theological, but not to the point where it's difficult to understand.  It helped me to better understand my position in Christ and that my identity is not shaped by the things I do, but rather that understanding my identity will shape the things I do.

The setup of this book is great.  Mark references a lot of scripture, but he puts the references in footnotes, so it doesn't clutter the pages.  Notes and references at the end of the book allow you to dig deeper into things without them being distracting.  This makes it easy for someone to simply read through or study on a deeper level.

There were some theological points I didn't quite agree with, but nothing that would hinder me from recommending the book to others.  I would definitely encourage all Christians to read it, and keep a notebook and pen handy so you can learn as much as possible.  This could be a great tool to help Christians understand their identity and live victorious lives.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher through  I was not required to write a positive review and the views expressed are my own.

Monday, 4 February 2013

Reflecting Him Part 2

This post is a continuation of Reflecting Him Part 1.  Just so you know, my weeks aren't always that hard, and I did highlight the hard parts.  I did get some feedback that indicated surprise.

What I began learning at the end of that hard week, and am still in the process of learning is to intercede for people even in the midst of my trials.  To intercede means to plead on another's behalf or to act as a mediator in a dispute.  The word is often used a term for praying for other people.  And although I'm learning the importance of that, I'm also learning to go beyond praying for them.  I'm learning the importance of reaching out to them personally.

You see, I'm not the only one with problems.  I'm not the only who is going through or has gone through pain.  I'm not the only one who hurts, who gets depressed, who faces family challenges, work challenges, who lacks clarity, who struggles spiritually, who gets sick, etc.  I am surrounded by hurting, broken people who can't walk their road alone.  I'm surrounded by people who need a friend to come alongside, to listen, to share their pain.  Even if I don't always know how to help them, sometimes they just need to know somebody else cares, that they're not forgotten.

Think about this.  It is possible that for some reason, you are the only one who sees another's pain.  Perhaps other people notice, but choose to ignore it.  Or perhaps you're the only one a person has had the confidence and trust to share their struggles with.  Perhaps you've just experienced something that allows you to understand what that person is going through.  Don't assume someone else will talk to a hurting person.  This really hit me personally last week when somebody said "You're the only person who asks me."

Sometimes it's hard to make the effort.  It's hard to reach out to others and to listen when I'm bogged down in my own problems.  I'm working through a massive load in my life right now, but there are a few individuals and families that I have had to be intentional about staying connected with.  I've had to be intentional about showing them that I care about them too, and that I'm not just dumping my problems on them, which I can do very easily.

There are days where I feel like I have a right to my "down time".  Some people like to just "veg" and recharge.  Jesus needed down time too.  He needed time away from His work and peoples' demands, but most often, He wasn't just sitting by Himself in a mountain somewhere.  He was spending time with the Father and recharging by His strength.  No, I don't know what He always prayed about, but I think He probably spent a good deal of time interceding for others.  And after that, He went and served them again.

We all get worn out.  We all have hard days and seasons where we just don't know how to keep going.  Tenth Avenue North has a song called "Worn" which has really come to mean a lot to me personally the last couple months.  It echoes how I have felt many days, and I'm sure I'm not the only one.  I encourage you to listen to it, and gather strength, knowing there's hope and this is not the end.  Then look around for someone who needs your prayers and encouragement.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Reflecting Him Part 1

This post was written after a tiring week, but I don't know when it will go onto my blog.  As for some background, at New Year's, my primary vision for 2013 was that in good times, and in hard times, God's grace and strength would be reflected in my life.  This post is a look at my week and what I learned through it. (I have been non-specific about some things to keep some aspects of my life/work more private.)

*  *  *  *  *

I go to bed earlier to catch up on sleep I missed the night before.  Monday went alright, but I know I have stresses and long days ahead of me yet.  I need the rest and energy, and I pray for a good night.  I fall asleep quickly, or at least I think so.  The next thing I remember is various thoughts going through my mind.  I'm in a half-awake and dreaming at the same time.  I begin to shake underneath my blankets.  No, I can't get sick now.  I have an important meeting today.  I wonder if I will have to call in.  I've never had to do that before.

Wondering how much time I have before I have to get up, I turn over to look at the alarm clock.  It's only 11:22.  I still have over six hours.  I push the covers back and head down to the bathroom.  There I continue to shake violently.  This happens all too often to me.  I try to relax my shaking body, then go to the kitchen where I measure a spoon of antacid into a glass of water.  I drink the bubbling mixture, hoping it will work quickly and I will be able to sleep again.

Shortly hereafter, I make my way back to bed, only to come back down to the bathroom several times.  I try to vomit, but am not successful.  After being up for about two hours, I drift off to sleep.  In the morning, I pull myself out of bed, force some breakfast down, take a Gravol and go to work.

*  *  *  *  *

I have been praying about this meeting for weeks.  I have feared it.  I stare out the window watching scenery and traffic go by and pray again.  I know we'll need it.  Afterward, I walk out confused.  It went totally different than expected.  Better than expected.  I want to thank God, but I'm so confused, I only wonder when the next attack will come.

Why do I do this? Why is it that when things go better than expected, I either think I was worried for no reason, or that something bad is yet bound to happen?  I pray for weeks about something, and then when it goes well, I don't even give credit to God.  Why do I strip Him of the praise He deserves?

*  *  *  *  *

I come home late.  It has now been 14 hours since I left that morning.  Another fearful meeting has gone better than expected.  I'm very tired and hungry.  Nothing is prepared for me.  I pull out a carton of almond milk and Cheerios.  This is as much supper as I can handle half an hour before bed.  Must try to get 8 hours of sleep tonight, because I have the same kind of day ahead of me tomorrow, although likely not quite as late.

*  *  *  *  *

I drive myself to another meeting.  It's an hour to my destination.  I can follow Christian radio stations for the whole drive, but I'm looking forward to getting past the next city where the traffic thins out.  These are moments I'm thankful for.  After the meeting, I make a similar drive home, although slower than usual with the snow in some areas.  I arrive home earlier than last night.  I had noticed pork chops thawing on the kitchen counter that morning and looking forward to something close to a real supper.  There are, however, no pork chops left.  I cut a bagel in half, push down the toaster, and pull a jar of Cheez Whiz out of the fridge. I don't even like this stuff, but I crave it occasionally and don't want butter again.  How does that work?

*  *  *  *  *

So there's snippets of a few of my days.  What did I learn from all this?  Although I was busy, tired, and had little time to think or focus on anything other than work, I can never shut my mind off completely. Some of the things I have described are common for me.  Others perhaps not so much.  What I saw though is that when I desire to reflect God's strength, my circumstances don't always change.  God doesn't always sugar-coat things for me or smooth out the road.  Life is still hard.  I still get tired.  I still feel sick during nights I really need sleep.  I still have to get up and go to work when I really don't want to.  So how do I reflect God's grace in all of this?

Response.  That's what it comes down to.  I can whine and complain, or I can invite God into my circumstances.  The difference is in how I respond.  And to be honest, my response is generally to complain and get irritable with people around me, to mope in my self-pity.  Perhaps that's largely what I've been doing in this post.  

When I look back on this week, I can't identify a moment where God's strength was incredibly evident.  But I do recognize where I had peace that I normally would not have.  I have recognized meetings that went better than they should have.  And yet, my first instinct wasn't to praise God and give Him credit for these things, although I had prayed significantly about them.  I know I'm not the only one to do this but why do we do that?  Why do we dismiss things and say that maybe we were just overreacting or getting worried for nothing when things go better?  Why do we try to credit our own strength when we can go to work when we don't want to, when we can speak with confidence and peace, when just the thought of something half an hour earlier terrified us?  It's something I don't entirely understand.

This I do understand.  We reflect God's grace and strength in how we respond to circumstances.  We reflect His grace when we give Him the credit that's rightfully His.  We also reflect Him when we intercede for others in our own hard times.  

But that's too much for this post, and I will continue my story later.

To be continued....

Monday, 21 January 2013

King's Letter from Birmingham

Today, Americans remember the life of Martin Luther King, Jr.  And although I'm not an American, so do I.  A few weeks back, a young woman posted King's letter from a Birmingham jail on her facebook page, quoting from the letter "But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here."  This was posted days after making the move to a different city to give herself fully to pro-life work.  I have taken the time to read the letter and it left me crying.  I would like to further share my thoughts here.  You can read the letter or watch this video that shares the letter.  It is lengthier, but well worth it.

This letter was written from a jail in Birmingham after King had been arrested for parading without a permit.  It was in response to criticism from clergymen about his non-violent activities to protest against segregation.  It's one of the few times he responded to the criticism he often received.  He begins by explaining why he is in Birmingham, since he was previously in Atlanta.  He was invited, but more than that, Birmingham was a place of grave injustice.  So he went where he was wanted and needed.  He went to where the injustice was, instead of staying in Atlanta.  Not once did he say that the injustice in Birmingham wasn't his problem.  He recognized that injustice in one city directly or indirectly affected the entire nation and he didn't shrink back.

In order to fight injustice in Birmingham, King and those who worked alongside him had "to undertake a process of self purification."  They had to prepare themselves, ask themselves hard questions, and evaluate whether or not they were willing to bear the cost of their actions.  For King, it ended up meaning going to jail.  He was willing to disobey unjust laws and accept the consequences "to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice...." 

In his letter, King addresses some of his disappointments. One of his disappointments was the white moderate.  These are the white people who would rather sit on the fence about segregation and desired to keep the peace instead of speak out against injustice.  They were the people who thought they needed to give it more time.  Time, however, as King made clear, would not change anything. 

Another one of King's disappointments, the one that really caught my attention, was his disappointment with the church.  "I have been so greatly disappointed with the white church and its leadership."  He goes on to acknowledge some exceptions.  "But despite these notable exceptions, I must honestly reiterate that I have been disappointed with the church."  This man was not speaking out of criticism, but out of love.  He was a minister of the gospel and dearly loved the church.  Here was a man who had been expecting support from the church, and was finding that people in the church were some of his greatest opponents.  For them, the issues of injustice had nothing to do with the Gospel.

This really made me think.  How many people within our nation or around the world would say this about the North American church?  We are not living up to our calling!  But King doesn't stop there.  He goes on to explain how the early church was different.

"There was a time when the church was very powerful--in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed.  In those day the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society.  Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being "disturbers of the peace" and "outside agitators."  But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were "a colony of heaven," called to obey God rather than man.  Small in number, they were big in commitment.  They were too God-intoxicated to be "astronomically intimidated."  By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests.  Things are different now.  So often, the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound.  So often it is an archdefender of the status quo.  Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church's silent--and often even vocal--sanction of things as they are."

Here I broke down crying.  I cried over how far the church has fallen.

". . . If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century.  Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust."

What I'm about to say in the next couple paragraphs I say to myself as much as to my readers.

These words were written 50 years ago, and what has changed?  It sounds hardly any different from the church in North America today.  This ought to break our hearts.  This ought to disturb us, deeply.  Instead of the church shaking up the world, the world is shaking up the church.  And we are silent.  We are silent as our government allows the killing of millions of children.  We are silent as children are sold for sex.  We are silent as same-sex marriage is legalized.  Many who bear the name of Christian are active participants in the injustice and immorality.  Sure we may speak about these things amongst ourselves, but do our politicians ever hear about it?  Are we having any affect on public opinion?  Or are people just looking at our churches in disgust, as social clubs with no meaning?

It's time to speak up.  It's time to shake our nation.  It's time to stand for truth and for justice until we start receiving some opposition, which may perhaps come from other believers.  It's time for the church to hear again "These people have turned the world upside down!"  We need to return to the power of the early church.  Yes, there will be a cost.  Jesus told us so much.  Have we experienced the extent of the cost He described?

I was told recently that it only takes 3 percent of a population to shift culture.  If that be true, why aren't we doing it?

Where are you at?  In what ways to you need to disturb the peace around you?  Where do you need to stand for truth? 

Find the answers to those questions and go turn the world upside down!

Monday, 14 January 2013

Why Pro-Life?

Here is my latest book review on Why Pro-Life?: Caring for the Unborn and Their Mothers by Randy Alcorn.  This is a short, informative book that the average reader could read in just a few hours.  In it Randy covers a lot of the hot and difficult questions surrounding the abortion issue.  Is the fetus really a human?  Is the fetus alive?  Is he part of the woman's body?  What makes human life meaningful?  Do we get to choose what happens to our bodies?  Do we get to choose whether a baby lives or dies?

He not only covers these topics, but also discusses the effects of abortion on the woman afterward, and the effects it has had on our society.  He doesn't shy away from the circumstances where some believe abortion is justifiable due to rape or extreme medical conditions.  He also shares the salvation and forgiveness a mother can receive if she has had an abortion, as well as suggestions for what people can do to get involved in helping the unborn and their mothers.

Randy keeps his chapters short and concise and his arguments based on medical evidence and research.  It's a great resource for anyone who wants to learn more about abortion and the pro-life view, or to become equipped with answers to the frequently asked and difficult questions that arise with the topic.  I definitely recommend it.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

He Likes Me!

What does God like about you?  This is a question that came up when studying Alien Love by Kevin Abell with a group of believers.  At first, the only thing I could come up with was God likes me.  To be honest, I didn't like the question at first.  It sounded kind of conceited.  Who am I to say what God likes about me?  I don't know what He thinks.  I was afraid to put words into the mouth of God.  Also, asking what God liked about us sounded kind of cheap, like we were downplaying His love for us.  However, as I began to think about it, I became very thankful for this question.

At first "like" sounded like a cheap word when we consider God's love for us.  But it isn't.  God isn't immature like we sometimes are.  He doesn't say "I love Margaret, but that doesn't mean I have to like her."  Imagine if God was like that, if He only loved us, but didn't like us.  Every time I feel compelled to say "I love that person, but that doesn't mean I have to like them", it's always because I feel like I have to love them, that I'm obligated to.  I have to love them because God commands it, not because I want to.  I'm glad God isn't like that.  He loves us because He wants to, not because He has to. 

It's much easier to think about what God doesn't like about me.  After all, there are a lot of things about me that are not desirable.  It's almost as if I'm so used to focusing on sin in my life, my faults, things I need to change, that I forget about the good.  As I mentioned, I was afraid of putting words into the mouth of God.  I think it's harder to say what He likes about me specifically, because His Word doesn't tell me.  I can go to His Word and see what sin is in my life that doesn't please Him.  I can go to His Word and see that He loves me and created me for His pleasure.  I can go to His Word and see what my position is in Christ.  I can say I'm a saint, and that I'm His bride, because the Bible says I am.  The Bible never tells me what God specifically likes about me, Margaret.

However, we as Christians are quick to point out things in each others' lives, and perhaps even in our own lives, that don't please God, even when the Bible doesn't specifically say so.  I can say with confidence that it would not please God if I spent all my free time watching dirty movies and playing video games.  The Bible never specifically says I shouldn't do that.  But the Bible does say we are supposed to redeem the time and that we are to put no vile thing before our eyes.  The Bible gives us general guidelines and we come up with our own specifics.  Sometimes this can be dangerous and other times it can be beneficial.

If we can do that with things God isn't pleased with, then why shouldn't we be able to do the same thing with things that God is pleased with, on the condition that we are using His Word as a guide and not coming up with ridiculous ideas and claim God is pleased with them?  After all, His Word does give us indications of many things that do please Him, even if it doesn't tell us anything about our lives specifically.

So what does God like about me?  I started by looking in the mirror.  God likes the way my eyes squint when I smile or laugh.  (He likes it when I smile or laugh.)  It may sound silly to some, but my eyes are a facial feature a lot of people notice about me.  And since God delights in the way He made me, I think it's safe to say He likes that about me.  God likes the way I share my heart with Him, no matter how dark, fearful, painful or sinful.  No, He doesn't like everything I think and feel, but He does like that I don't hide those things from Him, but trust Him and lay them bare before Him.  He knows anyway, but He still likes when I talk to Him about it.  God also likes how I write to share with others what I'm learning and what He's doing in my life. 

I also think that perhaps God likes some of the same things about us that the people who love us like about us.  When I ask people for things that characterize me, I get various answers, but there are some things people mention that I believe God likes about me.  How I take risks, do things to make a difference even when I may not be guaranteed results, how I'm not afraid to share what I believe, even when others might not like what I have to say.  I think those are things that God likes about me as well.

This has been a good question for me to think about, and I encourage you to think about it as well.  You can drop a comment to share your thoughts. 

What does God like about you?