Tuesday, 16 June 2009

excited about the possibilities - but Father, Your will, Your love, be done!

June 15, 2009 one more time!

I practiced my guitar for quite a long time.

Lord, I have not been able to play the chords so easily for so long, maybe never before. It's been so long since I could play - or sing - at all! And on Sunday at breakfast-in-the-park someone was suggesting to Pastor P. that he could lead in singing - but I really don't think it is his thing! At all! (Pastor P. said he also needs to find someone to do some haircuts... I wonder if I could?) (Simple ones, anyway!)(Maybe I could!) (Father??) Well, which is it? Guitar and singing? Or haircutting? (Not to mention baking and coffee making and... maybe even quilt making?!? Oh Papa! Could this be "my old dream" coming true after all, only maybe in a way I really didn't expect? Papa? Who knows? YOU DO! YOUR WILL BE DONE! Thank You, Lord! Amen!

Father, Your will - Your love - be done. Amen! Wow!

being a garden hose for Jesus' living water... and more on dreaming Your dreams

June 15, 2009 yet again!

Yesterday afternoon as I was doing my "daily readings" I left my book marks sticking up at John 4 and Ephesians 3, for I felt that You had more to say to me from these passages. So let me look at them again...

John 4.... Father, I pray that You will give me boundless amounts of Your living water... and that I can pass it on to others so they will grow and become as strong and beautiful as You see them in Jesus, and that they will be a sweet scent and savour both to You and to all the world around them, and that in turn they will bring Your living water to so many others! Oh dear Jesus, Your water, please! I thirst! They thirst! Like the little lawn and garden in my yard that has, over a hard winter, become yellowed and scruffy and barren... and yet slowly, as I have trimmed, and watered (over and over) and raked and dug, and gathered and tossed the piles of fallen tree seed pods that were burying the grass, and added some fertilizer to the garden (thanks, Dan and Lily, it really has been a team effort!), and planted seeds in it... slowly but surely the bare spots in the lawn are filling in, and there is getting to be more green than yellow. And the dusty gray of the garden soil which seemed before to attract only cats (their smelly neighborhood litter box! yuck!) and a very few scraggly weeds, now has neat rows of lettuce, radishes, spinach, chives, parsley, tomato plants, strawberry plants... small, not yet ready for the harvest, but looking more beautiful and healthy day by day, in their rich black soil amendment added by Dan and Lily!

But, boy oh boy, in our dry, hot climate, if I don't keep watering, it could all go back to that yellow, patchy, dusty, dying mess (even with digging, cleaning, fertilizing, raking...). Water, Lord! You! Living water, Father, Jesus, Sarayu! Pour it on, Lord! On me, on us (hubby and me), on my children and grandchildren and their families, on Your church, on the people I'm getting to know out on the streets... on all mankind! On Jason (Oh Father, heal his body, too), and C___ (use him,Father, to proclaim Your Word and share Your love, as he longs to do) and Jennifer (bless her for her kindness and friendliness and sweetness - she calls me "sweetie" but she's the one who has blessed me, really... help me bless her, too) and Tim (Father, he went to treatment for 90 days, but came back in about 9... oh dear God, he needs Your living water so much), and Pastors J and P and C (pour Your living water into them, and then out of them, bringing life and refreshment and growth and greening and ripening harvest, just like the cold refreshing water that pours out of my garden hose onto my little lawn and garden...

Oh! I see! The "little" things You have me doing are like the "little" lawn and garden (postage stamp size, as they say), that I have here in my little yard, and that, even as small as it is, I have so much pleasure and joy and excitement watching them grow and green up and develop (every day, sometimes several times a day, I run outside to take another look! And to do a bit more work, add some more water, rearrange all those twigs in the garden so the cats don't come in a dig it all up) - wow, just like You look down on Your little garden here in Penticton with love and joy and care and anticipation, and You keep on gently weeding and digging, and especially, watering with Your living water! And wonder of wonders, maybe my "little job" is being the garden hose, or the rake perhaps, or the garden fork, or even the little kitchen spoon I used to make rows for the seeds... these tools don't seem very exciting or important, each one on its own, but they are all working together to transform a dusty, yellowed, dying landscape, very slowly but very surely into a beautiful green, growing, soon-ready-to-be-harvested garden - a small corner of a vision of a little paradise-to-be, imperfect as it still is (I can't affford professional gardeners and landscapers to come in and make it instantly perfect, and anyway, that would take away all the joy and anticipation... and participation... and reality!)... as imperfect as it may always be, this side of eternity, but a joy nonetheless! Thank You!

(Oh my goodness - all that after reading just John 4:1-10??!! Wow! You are amazing, Father! Thank You! (No one has commented on my blog for ages... and then, just a few days ago, someone pointed me to the woman at the well: confirmation again!)

John 4:38 "I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored; others have labored and you have entered into that labor." That's how I feel about where I am at right now - entering into the labor of those who have already labored long and hard (always, of course, including You, Papa, number One, with Your graciousness in allowing others to help, to participate, to journey with You! Wow!), and now You're allowing, inviting, guiding me into doing my small part... a cup of cold water in Your name - no matter how small or simple, it's important, eternally valuable in Your eyes! And perhaps even the joy of helping to reap, to bring in the harvest! Yes! Thank You! It all seems so worthwhile now that You are showing me what You see, what You plan and purpose, what YOU dream and envision... and WILL - have already, from eternity! - bring to pass! Thank You! Yay! Amen! Praise God! Hallelujah!

John 4:46-54 The official implored Jesus to heal his dying son... and believed Jesus when He said, "Go, your son lives"... and then he saw that the healing took place right then... (v53) "So the father... himself believed and his whole household." Make me a believer, Lord, and a pray-er - an implorer! - that others may see Your answers, Your miracles, Your love - and also believe! Please! Yes... "Be strong and courageous... for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go!" (Josh 1:9).

Philippians 3:1 "Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord!" Yes! So much to rejoice for... starting with YOUR words, YOUR answers, right here, in my comfy chair on the front porch, right now, this morning! Thank You, Lord! Amen!

There it is again - Your purposes vs "my dreams and plans": "we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh!" (v3)

"7. But whatever things were gain to me (my big dreams, my hopes, my plans, recognition of myself), these thing I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8. More than that, I count all things to be loss (even if I seem to have "nothing" to respond to the question, "But what are you doing?" - "seem" because we do not see what You see!) in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ 9. and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousnes which comes from God on the basis of faith, so that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings (oh my goodness: we so avoid that! We don't want it! We don't believe it! We pray to be kept from it! We just want happy, happy,joy, joy, "success!" But it is basic to "being like Christ" - it is joy itself! Yes! Forget the goals and big numbers and success ratings and fame and wealth and health and prosperity!), being conformed to His death, 11. in order that I may attain to the resurrection of the dead. 12. I PRESS ON SO THAT I MAY LAY HOLD OF THAT FOR WHICH ALSO I WAS LAID HOLD OF BY CHRIST JESUS!" (Jesus laid hold of me! Amazing grace and mercy! And He never lets go! I am His child, forever and ever with Him! Oh dear God, help me to long for this great good news, this reality, this eternal blessedness and joy for all others - for You do indeed love all Your created children and long that none should perish but that all should come to repentance! (2 Peter 3:9).

"...forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus... living by that same standard to which we have attained (Phil 3:13-14, 16).

dreaming GOD'S dreams and visions

Up at my cousin's place, which also has a bit of pine forest, but also lots of well-watered fields around their place (which would hopefully impede any fire), it smelled wonderful, bringing Pine Grove family Bible camp to mind. I sometimes wonder why it had to come to an end... but Papa, You know best. You know I dreamed of being part of an intentional community, of people gathering to bring healing to others through Your mercy and care lived out by Your people in unity with You... in a setting like that beautiful camp... maybe in that particular setting, even...

Papa, there used to be this big "visioning" thing a few years back, when we were told to dream our dreams and then to trust You for them... but Papa, number one, I saw a lot of "big-time dreamers" fall... and number two, I don't see that in Your Word, either. It sounds to me more like the "American dream" than "God's dream" ... and no, I really don't think those two things are the same at all!

Yes, Joel prophesied, and Peter proclaimed the fulfillment that "it shall be in the last days, God says, That I will pour forth of My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, And your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams...." (Acts 2:17)... but Father, that wasn't "our dreams/ my dream" ... those are speaking of prophetic dreams and visions... and when one reads of such dreams and visions in scripture, not only are they given by God (not self-dreamed by us), who has poured out His Holy Spirit on people whom He has made righteous (for example, in Isaiah's case, by the coal on his lips from the altar in the heavenly throne room of God; in the case of the apostles, by the shed blood of Jesus redeeming those who have believed), but they are messages not only of glory (future glory, always brought by God - His glory) and they are dependent upon our response to warnings to truly repent and turn back to God and love Him and obey Him (with dire warning of terrible destruction for those who fail to do so!).

Yes, we humans - even we believers - often "dream" grand visions of great amazing ways we can help others, love them with the love of Christ, proclaim the gospel to them... by raising great programs and projects and outreaches and such... and while our "motives" I suppose are "noble" at least to some degree, I don't see in the scriptural record any "dreams" that worked that way (except maybe David's dream of a magnificent temple for God... who as it turned out wouldn't let him do it, but allowed his son Solomon to do it... and then look what became of that magnificent temple within such a short time period, for, as even Solomon admitted at the temple's dedication, "But will God indeed dwell with mankind on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain You; how much less this house which I have built." (2 Chron 6:18).

No, the prophetic dreams in the Bible - Old and New Testaments both - were God speaking, calling, begging His people to return to Him, to return to righteousness, to repent, to fully turn from their sins and walk with God in new life, the life Jesus came to bring! Always, it is God's speech, not man's ideas. Always it is God's work, and man is simply called to hear His voice, and to turn and to fully participate in the eternal work God already has in progress, whose purpose and end is sure and already complete and victorious in Christ.

We are called to dream, to envision, righteousness among all people, the restoration of God's design for humanity, as it was before we chose to turn from Him and go our own way... before we chose to go the enemy's way. We are being called to walk in the garden with God, in perfect relationship, as Adam and Eve did before their fatal decision to disobey (Gen 3). Yes, we dream utopian dreams - even non-believers dream these kinds of dreams - of a perfect, uncorrupted world and society - for deep inside each of us is the memory (sense, consciousness, call from God to return to Him) of what and who God created us to be.

But then we go on to "dream" of "how we can make this happen"... and while God does use "practical" means (Jesus Himself healed, physically, emotionally, spiritually; and fed the people and calmed the storms... and both Old Covenant Law and the New Covenant church cared for the poor and the foreigners, and sought to live righteous lives, and shared their goods with one another, and so on) - we, after all, are creatures of flesh, and this is a hands-on, touchable world. His call is first of all to inner, spiritual transformation, without which those "practical means" can only be temporary and will quickly become corrupted and cast aside and destroyed - just as Solomon's beautiful temple was.
As Jesus told the woman at the well (John 4), "whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life" (verse 14); and, "an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshippers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth" (verses 23-24). The work is God's, the methods are God's, He has given us freely of His Spirit and His Word (His written revelation AND His Son!). We just need to truly repent, to truly turn to Him, to accept the salvation Jesus' sacrifice on the cross has provided, to truly walk with Him daily, literally abiding in Him moment by moment, seeking His face, conversing with Him (prayer), sacrificing our own desires and ways in the process (which is where, I believe, the repentence and humility of fasting comes in...is that right?). And as we do, we will learn to hear His voice, respond to Him in obedience and love, see the world as He sees it - "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16). And in that process, that true life, that walk in the garden with our Creator and eternal loving Father, His "dreams" (His sure eternal plans and purposes) will also become ours:

our dreams and visions, from and in - abiding in - Him, and He will lead us into the practical ways He has determined and prepared for each of us individually and as His family, Christ's body, the church (local and universal) to work toward His final realization of His dreams in practical ways, even on this beautiful (practical, hands-on) earth He created for us, His creation (for whom, in His love,He has given all (He has given Himself!) to restore the Eden - to create the "new heavens and new earth," an earth which includes both the perfect physical home and the perfect full relationship with Him, that He intended before He ever created it and us!

So... (thank You, Papa.... this writing surely is from You, isn't it? I did not have it in mind at all when I started writing, and it contains much that is "new to me." All I had when I started was questions and wonderings... about what it is You want from me/ us, where You want me/us, why it seems like we wait and wait and don't receive any great "vision" of a "great work" You have for us to do, why it feels to me like I am a failure and never seem to really bring anyone to You, how it can be that my "work" at this time should be just making fry bread and cookies and being kind of shyly friendly (and why You don't seem to give me the courage - BOLDNESS - I've kept asking for - aka Josh 1: 7-9... though that simple word to me from Your through Your servant - "mighty (valiant) warrior" (from Judges 6:12) - has never left my heart!), and so on and on... well, I sat down to write down my questions to You... but before I could think them clearly enough to write them down, You spoke these words - Your Word! - to my spirit through Your Holy Spirit! Thank You, Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit (Sarayu - wind of God, blowing in my heart!) - my Lord and my God! Praise Your Holy Name! Thank You! Wow!

Again yesterday someone asked me, "What are you doing these days?" and again I told them about writing and illustrating the family story... and the small, little things I am "doing" for this very informal "street ministry" as You give me the opportunities... and yet I actually found myself wondering, "But am I really doing anything? It seems so small... and maybe inconsequential..." and I found myself really feeling (and speaking) defensively about it because I could "see" how other people see it and think maybe like I'm just wasting time and talent (not to mention not contributing to the family coffers - and church tithe... oh dear...).

Father, are You also asking me to de-dream, to de-vision... as You have already asked me to de-systematize (de-school, de-church, de-be-self-sufficient, etc etc etc)? So that You can completely replace MY dreams and visions with YOURS? My ways with Your ways? My timing and impatience with Your eternal purposes and great amazing loving patience ("The LORD is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentence" 2 Peter 3:9)?

(How amazing! You have brought all these scriptures together for me in just the past few days, in my "daily reading"... unplanned by me, but totally planned and executed by You! Amazing, wonderful, awesome God! Thank You!)

talking with Father about street church, street ministry....

June 14, 2009

Got up 3:10 am, and set bread dough. Went back to sleep till about 4:30 am, then made about 100 fried bread! Finished just after 6:30. Took most of it, along with cookies and muffins from the freezer, to church-in-the-park. Breakfast there was hot dogs - which lasted until the propane ran out! So it was a good thing I took so much food (Thank You, Father, for inspiring me to take the muffins and cookies). I also learned to make coffee in the big percolator, so that will be my little job from now on. There were a lot of people there - but only one other woman; she stayed almost the whole time - thank You, Lord! Apparently there were 3 "almost fights" but except for one, I didn't really notice. I had good chats with several people, and gave Colin the printouts of our "testimony" as well as a list of my websites.

The "lesson" was about "the way." It was a real confirmation to me about "love walking" and about reaching out to the poor and the anguished.

There are getting to be a lot of out-of-towners; unlike the year-round people, some of them don't respect Pastor Peter's efforts, and don't appreciate the efforts of the city's soup kitchen (which is run by volunteers in a facility built by a local church). The soup kitchen is having a lot of problems, with more people coming than they are set up for (this community is known as a summer resort area, and has a huge influx of people who come here to spend the summer relaxing in the sun...), people fighting, butting in line, taking more than their share of the food. There is potential for it to close down if things get worse.

Pastor P. wants to start moving out to help get street ministries going in other cities. I think it is maybe time for him to empower the people (disciples!) he has been mentoring, to take more responsibility for the work here, so that he can do that.

He also wants to encourage churches to commit to pay people to do full-time street ministry. I wonder? As he says, people need to be able to support their families. But if the money support comes from established traditional churches, will the street ministry people have freedom to do the work as God leads them, out on the streets where the people are, rather than trying to bring them into the "church building" programs and places... Well, God is all-powerful, so it really is up to Him - and we need to follow His Spirit's lead, right?

He was talking about this church in a city area in Ontario where he was last week. There are a few hundred thousand people in the urban area there. At this church, there are ten pastors - including a "street ministry pastor." He was pretty excited about that, so he asked this pastor how it was going. The pastor said, "Well, we had Jack, but he recently moved to Toronto." Pastor P. was pretty surprised at that. He and his wife decided to go for a walk down the street outside the church, and within a couple blocks met 10 street people who hang out right around there. (It seems to me that it is sometimes hard for established/traditional churches to really reach out. Their idea of outreach seems to be to have some kind of program in the church building and hope it will attract the "lost" to come in and be "ministered to." .... Oh, did I say that already? Yep...)

Makes me wonder if God is maybe moving individuals OUT into the streets, into the world where the harvest is ready for reaping??? (I read John 4 this afternoon: "just happened" to be today's reading....)

Father, Pastor P is really hoping that the folks at the church that hosts the Tuesday and Thursday morning coffee times will really take ownership, and turn up regularly, and supply the needs for coffee, snacks, etc... and especially build friendships, relationships with the street people who come by for coffee and breakfast snacks. Father, please don't let any "religious spirit" overcome this outreach - and move Your peoples' hearts to follow Your lead in this area. Please strengthen and guide and encourage the pastor there who really has a desire to reach out into the downtown community where the building is locate! And please use me in any way You wish in these regards. Thank You.

Father, I have to say (which of course You already know - and understand far more completely than I do myself) that I sure don't know what You want from me/us. Campbell River or Penticton (or elsewhere)? The job hubby has or another? What about me - a job, or home-based business, or not? What about our son - job, education, what?

And Father, I sometimes feel so, I don't know, out of place! Well, I don't feel right in the "traditional church"... but I also wonder if I really am making any difference on the street? I don't seem to be doing any real "proclamation of the gospel"... but some at least seem to appreciate me being around, and pretty near everyone loves the baking...

So many times I have been told I have the "gift of teaching" ... but it seems like in this situation and time I am mostly watching and listening. There sure aren't any traditional "Bible study" opportunities (which is no doubt a good thing... seems I am going through a de-Bible-study-leadership time too!)... and even in Pastor P's "lesson" times it seems I have almost nothing to add. But I think that it is true that one often needs to show - walk! - love! first, before being trusted enough by people to be able to proclaim the gospel message in words.

I am not sure how biblical that is. John did "prepare the way" for Jesus... but he did it by preaching repentance and baptizing for repentance of sins. The apostles.... well, they prayed and fasted and the Holy Spirit was given (like the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus)... and yes, both Jesus and the apostles did signs and wonders under the leading and power and authority of the Holy Spirit, which certainly did attract listeners (though even then, of course, some of the seed fell on the roadshide, or was choked out by thorns or whatever... but some grew and a great harvest was reaped, as Jesus said in the parable!)

I tried to bring up to ___ about prayer together among people involved in the street ministry and also any believers on the street who would like to join, or to be prayed for... but I don't think he really heard me. He is truly wanting to know what You want him to do (and I can understand that... I've been there myself almost constantly... but more and more I can't help but think that You want Your people to pray together, fast together, go out together! Jesus sent the disciples out two by two (without money or food or extra clothes or anything!) and the apostles went out by twos or in larger teams.

I kind of think of Priscilla sometimes as the kind of believer I'd like to be... but she was a team with her husband Aquila, and sometimes with Paul working with them as well. Father, I'm really concerned about myself in relation to submission to and under the authority, covering, headship of my husband... Father???

I have so many questions and wonderings right now, dear Papa! Please teach me, guide me, show me Your way... use me THE WAY, YOUR WAY!

listen church! Are you truly prepared to fast the fast that I, your God, desire?

June 12, 2009

So I have just done my Bible reading, and one of my chapters for today was Isaiah 58, about fasting. Now I've done a lot of "study" on fasting before, even written up "how-to's!" But I saw something "new to me" in my reading today - that is, that God doesn't want just rite and ritual (which I knew), or even just "fasting and prayer" (important as prayer is): but that He won't answer if we are not truly repentant (in action as well as in word!). So that doesn't just mean "humbling ourselves" by going without food, or even bowing ourselves before Him and going so far as weeping and wailing and sitting on sackcloth and ashes! God wants true repentance - true "turning about," away from all unrighteousness, to true righteousness, which is proven, worked out, in the actions and behaviors of our daily lives (even as we fast and pray).

We must declare our transgression and sins (Isa 58:1). We must stop acting, claiming, pretending to be, even thinking we are, righteous and obedient: we must see ourselves as we truly are! We are so blind, thinking that we are seeking God and delighting to know His ways, and we think that therefore when we do the fasting ritual, He will come near to us and notice us and give just decisions (to our benefit!) (Isa 58:2-3)

And yet we don't even see how we really are as a nation, and as a people who claim to be people of God. We contend with each other, we argue, we fight - even among ourselves - which is wickedness. We go after what we desire. We drive our workers hard (often for unreasonable wages!). We enslave people in these and other ways - even in spiritual aspects like the Pharisees who put the Jewish people under endless rules and regulations - bondage - that in the end actually kept them from finding God. How often we ourselves do this, too! We point the finger, judging and gossiping, and being self-righteous. We speak wickedly, slandering people, laughing about evil things, complaining all the time... and we think wickedly, too, enjoying the "entertainment" of the world. We are selfish, taking care of ourselves, but not taking care of the poor and afflicted - even those in our own families and churches, not to mention those in our cities, nations, and around the world (Isa 58:3-4, 9-10).

Isn't that what Jesus was talking about when He said that the "goats" at the great judgment will include those who thought themselves to be so righteous, yet they failed to feed the hungry, give a glass of cold water to the thirsty, invite the stranger in, clothe those who need it, visit the sick and those in prison - "the least of these." And the result will be eternal punishment! (Mt 25:31-46).

Instead, Isaiah says, if you want your fasting to be effective, if you want God to hear you and respond to you, to come near to you, you must live lives of true righteousness, even as you fast and pray. What does truly righteous living look like? (Isa 58:6-14).

- loosen the bonds of wickedness, undo the bands of the yoke, let the oppressed go free, break every yoke (which of course starts with becoming freed from sin yourself, through belief in Jesus and sacrifice and death to yourself... and then bringing the good news of liberty and freedom to others as you walk with and abide in the Lord... and love and serve both God and others... all the time, as Jesus did, and as the Holy Spirit empowers you and guides you.

- divide your bread with the hungry, bring the homeless poor into the house, cover the naked, not hide yourself from your own flesh (like Paul said, take care of your own families... hmmmm... not just leave it to the church... or the government?). (Do we really do this? We live in such a divided society... do we even want "the hungry and homeless" to be in our homes and eat our food (dividing it! Which means giving away some of what we intended to eat ourselves - might be a good thing for our expanding waistlines, eh?!? What if they come back and steal from us? What if they make our house smell funny? What if they swear in front of our children? Wouldn't it just be better to donate to the soup kitchen, or even vounteer (staying safely behind the counter, preferably... hmmmm..) or, if we are really brave, making up some sandwiches to pass out on the street, and taking our cast-off clothes and raggedly blankets to the thrift store? Wouldn't that be enough? After all, surely we don't want "those kind of people" wandering in our neighborhoods - or even walking through our churches where we have valuable expensive musical equipment and such! (Or, heaven forbid, moving ourselves into their neighborhoods and becoming truly neighborly with them!)?

And as for those folks in third world countries, does it really make any difference to them if we "get involved." Won't the money or food we send just end up diverted by some rebel group or some evil government, anyway? And if we do "go," wouldn't a couple weeks helping build a house for people, or doing some skits or whatever, be just as good as spending the same amount of travel money, but staying there for a long enough period of time (years maybe), and living simply, with them, as friends and servants?

- give yourself (literally, furnish yourself) to the hungry, and satisfy the desire (soul) of the afflicted. (What? I have to give MYSELF? What does that really mean?)

- honor God's holy day of rest, desisting from your own ways and your own pleasure and your own word. (Okay! But we are freed from the law, aren't we? The whole Sabbath thing is by-gone, right? Anyway, isn't it more restful to go golfing, or relaxing and watching an entertaining video, or chatting with friends about the weather and about your favorite hobbies and your successes and all, while you chow down in "good fellowship" around the barbeque? Anyway, didn't Jesus say the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath? So shouldn't we be able to do want we want, what gives us pleasure and enjoyment - that's truly restful and relaxing, isn't it? And isn't every day the same anyway? What? It couldn't be that "fulfilling the law" means going beyond the law, could it? Sure, maybe Jesus was right that looking lustfully is as bad as committing adultery (though, boy oh boy, that seems pretty difficult - and unrealistic - doesn't it? Maybe He was just using hyperbole to make His point?) ... but surely He wouldn't expect us to carry that "holy day" thing into every day being a holy day?? Nah, that's just carrying it way too far... isn't it?)

And then, what do other scriptures say about all this fasting-and-prayer stuff, anyway? Let's take a look: some examples:

Hosea 10:12 says to sow to righteousness, reap with holiness, break up your fallow ground (John Wesley wrote of "fallow ground": Your hearts are as ground over-run with weeds, which need to be plowed and broken up, that good seed may be sowed in them) - seeking the LORD till He comes to rain righteousness on you!

Micah 6:8 - what the LORD requires of you is to do justice, to love kindness and loyalty, and to walk humbly and circumspectly with God.

Matthew 9:13 (s/a Hosea 6:6) - God desires compassion, not sacrifice: after all, Jesus came to call sinners!

Philippians 4:18 - Paul calls the gift that the Philippians sent to him when he was suffering, "a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God"

Hebrews 13:16 - doing good and sharing are sacrifices that please God

Joel 2:1-11 - is a warning about the dreadful "day of the LORD"- the day of great judgment that is coming... but we do not need to fear it if we will return to God with all our heart and with fasting, weeping and mourning (v 12). But this is not a ritual form of fasting and repentance! Verse 13 says, and this is key, "Rend your heart and not your garments." Then, our God who IS "gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness and relenting of evil" will "turn and relent and leave a blessing behind Him" (v 13-14). God calls all His people to "proclaim a fast" (v 15). They are to be sanctified (to be made holy, to separate themselves and come out of their unclean lives) (v 16), and are to beg God to have pity on His people and to take away their reproach and shame (which, by the way, they have brought upon themselves by their disobedience and turning away from God) (v 17-18), and beg Him to bless His people (v 19-26). And then He will answer, and be in their midst and be their God (v 27)! And He will pour out His Spirit on all mankind, and display wonders and deliver whoever calls on His Name (v 28-32)!

Matthew 6:16-18 - fasting (ritual going without food, humbling yourself, self-sacrifice, so that your prayers will be answered) is not to be a time to "look holy" to other people, by putting on a gloomy face and neglecting your appearance. Rather you are to keep it secret before God - and He will reward you.

Acts 13:2-3 When the church at Antioch was fasting, note that they were "ministering to the LORD and fasting." It was service to God, not prayers for their own benefit! And He came to them and told them to "separate for Me Barnabus and Saul for the work to which I have called them." That's just like in Isa 58:5 which says "a fast which I (the LORD) choose." Yes, God does reward us when we truly fast (with all that includes: real repentance, turning to live truly righteous lives, prayer... and fasting from food as a symbol of our repentance and of our seeking God and HIS WILL AND WAYS!). But those "rewards" are always a result of His grace, compassion, lovingkindness, mercy.... "not of (our) works (our "fasting" ... even our prayers...) lest any man should boast." We fast, in loving obedience and gratefulness, to minister to God, for His glory and honor, not for our own benefit!

Notice in Acts 13:3 that after they fasted (ministering to, serving, God), and God game them direction to set aside Paul and Barnabus - to HIS work HE planned for them - that they again fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, before actually sending them out. Fasting and prayer was clearly a regular, on-going part of the life of the church, an integral part of a daily lifestyle of "ministry to the Lord."

Oh yes... and God does reward true fasting, in His great lovingkindness and mercy and grace (because no matter how "right" our fasting and prayer is, we ourselves can never "deserve" those rewards!). Back to Isa 58:

v8: light, recovery, righteousness. The glory of the LORD will be your rear guard (protection)
v9: the LORD will answer your calls, your prayers, to Him
v10: your "gloom" will be as bright as midday!
v11: the LORD will continually guide you, satisfy you (even in the hardest places and times), give strength to you, be living water in your life
v12: bring restoration
v14: you will take delight in the LORD and He will care for you in wonderful ways!
(s/a Joel 2:21-27 and Joel 2:28f. God will pour out His Spirit and will deliver His people who call on His Name!

love walking - church day by day

June 10, 2009 (again)

On my walk I had a short chat with Jennifer and said hello to a couple others I know on the street. I saw Dan and Lily when I was driving to pay the cellphone bill, and waved, but they didn't see me.

It's a beautiful quiet evening. I'm sitting out on the porch. And I'm tired! Oh! ___ phoned and asked me for hubby and my "testimony" of how we came to the Lord... as we told it to him a couple weeks ago when he came by for soup. He wants a written version because he is putting a book together. So I printed out the relevant sections from my family story sit and from my PCS testimony. Going to sleep now - have to get up early and make something for coffee time.

Good night, Papa! Jesus! Holy Spirit! I really do love You. You are so wonderful to me. Thank You!

June 11, 2009

Isa 57:14 And it will be said, Build up, build up, prepare the way, Remove every obstacle out of the way of My people. 58. For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever (dwells in eternity), whose name is Holy, I dwell on a high and holy place, And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit In order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.

So what did I do today? Woke up 5:30 am and made saskatoon berry turnover. Took some of them to coffee time. We were talking about coffee time, and I suggested they might do it as a (free) sidewalk cafe in the summer, rather than in the back room off the alley. So they are going to go to city hall to find out if that is possible.

I was going to hand out the leftover turnovers on the way home but didn't see any of the gang out and about. Three of the guys were in the hospital for various reasons over the past few days, but are now out and about and doing better, so I'm told. That's good to hear. Thank You, Lord (answer to prayer! Yay!).

I did start my epistle study again, only it's been awhile (did some Mark, and read and took notes from the Rabbits and Elephants book in between) so I went back and read over I, II, III John and Jude again, putting a heart symbol on every reference to "love" or "beloved," and putting a rectangle around every "one another" reference. Now I am going on to I and II Peter, underlining key phrases and verses, and also marking the "love" and "one another" references there. I'm thinking I should go back later and mark "obey/obedience," "command/ment," "truth," "life," and perhaps a couple other references.

June 12, 2009

So I did go for a walkabout... and chatted with Gator and told him I am praying for him; he was happy about that. Chatted with another guy too. And sat on the grass at the park and prayed for awhile for the community.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

church adventures all over the place - and on-line games and family and church

June 9, 2009

So in the afternoon yesterday I went for a walk with my son... and a couple walks by myself. On one of them I was going by Fibonacci's coffee shop, and a guy sitting at a table on the sidewalk cafe there called me over. He knew my name, though I didn't recognize him at all. He asked about Sunday church-in-the-park... and I told him that about a dozen people turned up, and we sat around and ate cookies, and that I enjoyed it. Then he said Pastor P. is back in town... which I had assumed. That young girl was there too, so I said "hi" to her as well. (I had asked Father before I set out, to let the walk be according to His will... Sometimes I wonder about what I'm doing, so that really encouraged me...).

When I was walking with my son, he told me that he thought maybe we should be looking to buy a house in Penticton. He admitted he'd like to stay here, but also said he thinks some of our girls think maybe we are playing favorites by wanting to move to Campbell River. (I have kind of wondered about that myself, but haven't said anything about it).

So on Sunday, as I recorded before, I had mentioned to my husband about if we should pray together about God's will regarding moving, but at that time he didn't say a thing. Last night, after what my son said, I looked through the local Real Estate weekly paper and found a couple possible places here (2 bedrooms, under $200,000). So this morning I mentioned to my husband what our son said, and he said he had never thought of the girls thinking we were playing favorites, but that maybe it is possible. Then right away he just took my hand, and prayed for both of us that Father would show us His will in regards to all this!

Then we had breakfast, and then went on-line and looked at the MLS listings for our city, and found out there are actually quite a lot of possibilities.

Then we went to coffee time. Pastor P. was back from his Ontario ordination, and obviously feeling really quite inspired - and realizing that he needs to focus on the street, which is where God has really called him. Well, I myself had already wondered about all his other "plans/ dreams/ involvements" and I think that he is hearing Your voice, Father. His wife and others have also confirmed this.

Oh! I gave Pastor J. my Rabbits and Elephants book to read!

Anyway, one thing I didn't mention on Sunday (I don't think) was that I saw __ (the native one, in a wheel chair) and offered him a cookie... but he was so battered that he can't even eat. His lips are all swollen and cracked, his face all scraped, and his hands all dry and puffy and cracked and caked. He is skin and bones and his legs are just shaking. And he keeps throwing up clear foamy stuff. I placed my hands on his back and head, and prayed for him. That was quite a breakthrough for me... I can't get him out of my mind... Father, please take care of him, please heal him if it is your will, not just physically, but free him, please, Father, from the bondage of alcohol (Pastor P says that ___ really loves Jesus... oh Papa, please free him from this terrible bondage! thank You!)

And I am also wondering how the guy who had the seizure in the street is doing...

Now, since I read that book, when I go out walking uptown, when I wake up in the morning, when I'm doing my Bible reading, and other time, I find I am praying quite a lot for the people downtown... but also for the businesses, and other aspects of the city.

So at coffee time I told Pastor P. about Sunday and the cookies and the people who gathered and how we sat on the curb, and visited, and that ___ prayed for everyone. He was pretty happy about that. He said, "You know I'm going to tell your story!" Well, I didn't know that (and certainly wasn't even thinking about it) ... but I do think he was encouraged because he has felt alone, perhaps, out there.

Well, he talked to Pastor J, and then he said to the couple ladies who are always there at coffee time,that he wouldn't be very involved in coffee time any more, but he encouraged them to keep it going. He said if ___ (who is the lady who God led to start it) needed food or coffee stuff, to let him know, and she told him she'd try to get church people to bake, but she sounded kind of doubtful - she has a hard time getting anyone to bake for the coffee corner at the church... I'm afraid I rolled my eyes when she said she'd ask the church people (sorry, Lord... that was wrong!). Pastor P did say to try to get others in the church more involved...

Oh, she asked me if I go to the Sunday church-in-the-park, and said she feels like she "should do more," and maybe she could come to that too. I just told her to come and hang out and see what's happening.

Okay, what I really wanted to say, too, was that at coffee time, my husband told everyone what I said about wondering if it is really God's will if we move, and how we should pray together, as in "when 2 or 3 are gathered in My name..." and that we had prayed together this morning... and then he asked everyone there to also pray for us that God would show us His will, so Pastor P prayed right then... and at the end, just as everyone was leaving, hubby asked them again to remember to pray and they said they would. (After he prayed this morning, at home before coffee time, hubby said that right away he had a lot more peace. Yep, me too! Though I can still hardly believe he prayed like that! And then told them at coffee time, too, and asked for their prayers! Wow!

After coffee time, we went to get gas, and on the way home we drove by a couple apartment buildings in our area that have apartments for sale. "I" think it would be awesome to still be in this neighborhood!

I guess we should talk to our children in Campbell River about all this. Father, please prepare their hearts - and ours - for YOUR will! Thank You!

(I keep thinking about what I could do in the way of a little home-based business...to make a few dollars... this is more and more on my mind... but Father, is it from Your Spirit... or is it "just me"?? Please show me Your will, Father! In Jesus' name!)

Oh yes, Pastor P is having "typical teens" struggles at home with his 5 teens! Please be with him and his wife and family, Father. Please give them wisdom and Your love and care. And please be with his wife and her mom who is slowly dying (And her dad too, and her sister). Thank You, Father!

And please bless the couple who are getting married!

.... later... (Having gone for yet another walkabout, made lunch, started typing my notes from "The Rabbits and The Elephants"...)

This morning when I was walking with my son, he was telling me about when he used to play this on-line video game with a bunch of other people,and how it started as this little group of maybe 8 people that was really like a family (there were even a couple who were in their 40s that everyone referred to as the group parents!) and everybody had a good time, really got to know each other, worked together on the game... gradually more people joined in, but it still
worked well till there was about 15. Then it built up to 25 and started to be a bit awkward, people started dividing into sub-groups to chat (the officers group, the newbies with low skill levels, the people with high skill levels, the people in the middle...) and they started to complain about each other, especially the newcomers who didn't get invited to the "raids" very often... and to begin with, people had played for fun, but gradually it became more and more competitive, and a couple of the officers developed these big dreams of becoming the best group on the server (there were like 30,000 people playing in groups on this server, and their group made it up to #6!)... but to accomplish this they couldn't let the less skillful people go on the raids because that would decrease their success level... and finally (after the group got up to 35 or 50 people, many who didn't know or like each other... and some there for the social life, others to play for fun, others to play to win: so even their goals/ purposes/ dreams were different) it got to the point where the whole group blew apart, instead of having divided up into smaller groups way earlier on, which could have the family-type atmosphere of the original group.

I was really interested in this story, because it sure reminded me of the same kind of things happening in all kinds of situations - clubs, teams, organizations, busineses, classrooms, study groups... and yes, churches. The family size group is truly the building-block of society, and when things like this happen, the family/ relational dynamic breaks down, and all kinds of problems develop.

breakfasty cookies at church-in-the-park... and my pearl necklace, a provision from the harvest!

June 7, 2009

I asked Father to show me what to make for church-in-the-park - and He led me to the recipe for cookies made with oatmeal - but I used granola, because I have lots of it, and need to use it up! And it really works! Excellently! Led by Him to do so, I believe - and raisins, chocolate chips, coconut... healthy and breakfasty! I even asked Him to wake me up at His time - which turned out to be 5 am. I made 12 dozen cookies - it's a big recipe - about 3 icecream buckets full! I got over to the breakfast-in-the-park place at 7 am and only one guy was there at first, but other people kept coming and going, and then another guy came and stayed. Overall, about a dozen people came... but nobody with food or coffee after all, so everyone was happy to eat my cookies! We stayed till 8 am, and ___ came by, so I told him to pray for everyone, which He did (he wanted me to "lead church" but I was, I don't know, not exactly scared, but just didn't ... Should I have been bolder Lord? But I did visit with everyone and be there all that time).... Then I walked around uptown and gave away more cookies, almost a whole bucket full in the end. (And after all, wasn't all that really church!?!?!)

One of the things I read in the Rabbits and Elephants book was to "trust God to provide the resources" (Lk 10:4) and I was thinking about that in relation to God sending me out on the street to spend time with the people there and show them His love... the book says the resources are actually in the harvest: your provision comes from the people you are trying to reach! I thought that was a bit different approach to how church ministry provisioning is usually done! Then I thought: it's like the red jacket that street guy gave me because I didn't have a jacket appropriate for the cool morning air at church-breakfast-in-the-park - and the encouragement they give me... and even fellow-workers, like ___ who came so long ago to our Sunday Soup (church!) and keeps supporting me with encouragement now)... and even the pearl necklace (which I wear everyday along with my simple cross necklace!). To me it has been a necklace of encouragement and confirmation! ha! "a pearl of great price!" I've been receiving all kinds of provisions and resources (from the harvest!) and didn't even realize it. So I was thinking about that, and decided to check the concordance and see what the Word has to say about pearls:

- Job 28:8 the acquisition of wisdom is above pearls (and oh Father, You have been providing me with so much wisdom lately ... and so much of it has come not just from Your word and such, but from the people I'm supposedly "trying to reach" but who themselves are learning to walk with You, or searching for You - even if they don't always realize that - well, they are actually responding to Your call, eh?!?!... anyway, thank You!)
- Matthew 7:6 Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine (I've often heard people say to focus on those who are most likely to come to the Lord: and they are often thinking of those who are already to some degree living a "Christian lifestyle" ... which seems to mean that they are educated, dress reasonably nicely, hold down a job, act respectfully in a church-ish kind of way... like so they'd "fit in" I guess .... BUT this book says [and Jesus set the example!] that it is those who are really "in need of a physician" who are the "fields ripe to harvest" ... And yet, our society (and sadly, too often ourselves and our churches) too often tend to think of them negatively as dogs or swine, and that it is a waste of effort to bother giving the "pearls" of the gospel (or whatever) to people "who are too lazy to work/ people who are bums/ people who are druggies/ ..."). Who do you think Jesus was referring to when he made this statement? Hmmmm?
- Matthew 13:45 The Kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, 46. and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it. So, Jesus is that pure and precious pearl - and it is worth giving up everything we have - dying to ourselves - to gain Him: and He is the gateway, the single great pearl (Rev 21:21). Well, I was more or less wearing the pearl necklace to show appreciation to the guy who gave it to me... but now I see that it is also a gift from Father, a reminder that whatever happens in all of this, it is all about Jesus - who is our Wisdom, our gate, our pearl of great price... I am going to keep wearing it to remind myself to give Him the glory! (and it's a story to share, too! It's a great way to share the Good News, the gospel!) Yes! Thank You Father!

... later... hubby and I went out for a drive. I asked him if he'd been praying about our possible move to the island, and he said, Yes. I told him, "Me too. Did God tell you anything?" He said, No. So I said maybe we need to pray together - where 2 or 3 are gathered in His Name... and he never said a word. Papa? Over and over through the years, I've thought You were doing something (like thinking You are moving us to the island)... and then always... some kind of "block" happens.... Papa, I've been loving what You've been showing me... but Papa, I'm so afraid nothing will come of it... why does this seem to keep happening?

family barbeque, like church... and more Rabbit thoughts

June 6, 2009

Hubby and I and our son went over to our daughter and family's house for barbeque. It was awesome. We had so much fun sitting around eating and telling funny stories and memories. That is real family! (That is how church should be!). Got home around 9.

I had been reading the rest of the Rabbits and Elephants book off and on during the day, and finished it off before going to sleep - though I still need to take notes. It is having, I believe, a profound influence - I believe You sent it for me, Father, at this time... I didn't feel free to read it even after I got it, until I had done my journal/blog typing, and reflecting on what You've been teaching me. And now it's like this book was sent to tie it together for me (including all the reading in the epistles and in Mark, that I've been reading before the book!).

As I was reading before bedtime, I listed on a slip of paper some things You were really impressing on me:

Street people share and care! Boy, do they ever!

Ask God to show/ give me a way to earn my own money to share with others.

Living among those to be reached....

Prayer-walking, corporate prayer, prayer against the enemy (maybe with that guy who wants to pray?!?)

Reaching out to the 3rd world as well?

Ask people to share their stories about God!

(Oh, and last night I dreamed I was selling stuff again... And it was a good thing...)...

Rabbits and Elephants book thoughts... and a GodJourney podcast with chocolate chip cookies!

June 5, 2009

So I took a quick look at The Rabbits and the Elephants ... and the #1 thing that stands out to me is "a lot of prayer and fasting." And yes! street ministries are included! Oh - and just because a ministry is functioning in a certain place and time and group of people, doesn't mean it has to go on forever: whatever God's plans are, eh?!?! And it may well be that an "established church" (or legacy church, as they call it) would be better off to "release" people as "local missionaries" rather than trying to do "outreaches" that are still closely tied to that church group.... including realizing that these outreaches may never contribute to the size or income of that church, but at the same time may reach many people who would never come to that church... and result in real churches (gatherings of believers) themselves, who can reah ever further into communities/areas where a traditional/ established/
institutional/ legacy church never could.... But again, its all foundational upon lots of prayer and fasting!

So I do want to read the book - me methinks I should start first some serious prayer (and fasting...). (When I kept seeing that "prayer and fasting" emphasis, my first reaction - being honest here, if a bit embarrassed - was basically, "I tried that! Look at the endless hours, weeks, months, even years I prayed and prayed - and fasted - in both our former community and here... and to what avail? (not counting God's amazing work in my kids' lives... and, after all, that was His #1 assigned ministry to me at the time, though I know now that I got awfully distracted back then by "real church ministries" ... which maybe weren't so much...)) (and who knows what answers I simply may not have personally seen, or how God continues to work on those things I was praying for...! yes!) (But anyway, I have been convicted to - and given the desire to - pray in the last week or two... God timing! ... and another thing I saw was the need for corporate prayer... back in the day I (mostly...) wanted corporate prayer but ended up praying alone a lot... when Pastor P. started the new "services" on Sunday, that one guy kept saying, "We need to pray..." And so we do! Only I don't think I've seen him there the last bit... But if he turns us I'm going to button-hole him about it! Oh... Papa? Your will be done!)

... later... walk with my son. I couldn't keep up... and he thought I didn't want to walk with him, so he just walked faster... and I got out of breath and dizzy, and had to sit down, and then walk slow... and I was feeling sorry for myself, thinking he was mad at me.... (having a real good pity party, yes I was... ... sorry....) ... but along the way I met a lady walking along, looking for the bus depot, and her shoulders sagging from the weight of her bags, so I carried a suitcase for her and brought her to the bus depot! Sorry for being so cranky, Lord... when You just knew someone You love needed a hand, needed some of Your love...

Back home, rested a few minitues, then posted my blog typing on the regular blog and the church journey blog.

Then checked facebook, saw on Gerry's status that a new GodJourney podcast is posted so decided to listen to it. Listened to most of it, then one of my daughters phoned and we had a nice chat. Then I listened to the rest of the podcast - and now I'm listening to it again, wanting to take a few notes! It's called "Living Beyond the Recipe" - referring to some awesome chocolate chips they were eating while podcasting! And guess what? I was eating some of my own homemade chocolate chips while I was listening too! Felt like I was really part of the conversation, lol! Anyway, here are my notes:

- It's not just the ingredients, but how the baker goes about it too - what she's learned over the years as she's made them over and over - and there's something about the person themself who makes them. So to make them yourself that well, you need a guide, a person who already has the experience - just like in your Christian walk, you need a guide who already has the experience of God, and you watch them and walk with God alongside them. On your own, with just the recipe, you can misapply it, even with the right ingredients and well-written instructions.
- that chocolate chip recipe the baker used is true (like scripture) - and the cookies: well they are like Jesus!
- You can't live without the recipe (scriptures) but you need to sink your teeth into the cookies too! Eat the cookie, not just read the recipe. If you haven't tasted the cookies, you have no idea about what they're really about. We have to get on a journey to experience the life of Jesus.
- the cookie is more than the sum of the parts.
- it's like sitting around a table talking all about golf, but never actually going out and hitting the freaking ball!
- you can't know a person just reading about them, or even reading what they themself have written.
- God's not defined by the ink and paper. He's so much greater.
- maybe the gospel is bigger than just a recipe: it's a person: the life of God is in the reality of the Son (not in the Bible alone or even in the church).

Okay, so a couple of quotes I've picked up here and there:
"If you label it, you can dismiss it."
"By the time you pin the butterfly to the styrofoam, it is no longer a butterfly." (GK Chesterton?)
Be awfully careful when your walk/ beliefs/ ideas/ journy becomes a "movement"... we follow a Person, not an "it"...

... So I spent lots of time this afternoon reading the book "The Rabbits and the Elephants" (and have taken up prayer-walking again as I walk through the community! Yay!). I took a 1/2 hour or so break to go walk-about downtown and sit in the park on the grass for a few minutes... (and pray some) Thank You!

daily adventures with Papa

June 4, 2009

Our back (side!) yard looks so barren without the gazebo, but it will be great for our daughter and her family, especially to have a shady outdoor spot for their little one! (Our gazebo going makes me wonder what's happening... Our son's room is so barren too, without the big computer desk and chair which have also gone to our daughter ... and the spare room is nearly empty too... hmmmm... adventure!)

Father, I keep feeling as though there is something You are teaching me these days... and although I get glimpses and hints of it, I seem to be missing the core of it!

Although I've been doing lots of walkabout, especially in the evenings, but also some short ones mid-day (and even early mornings, coming and going to coffee time and church-in-the-park), it seems like most of my "street" friends have disappeared (while loads of summer folks - both locals, tourists, and transients - though not as many as I'd expected - have arrived). I even walked over to the Rose Garden area yesterday evening, but no sign of them there. Maybe the local constabulary have moved them on, to clear the way for "normal" people (locals and tourists) (AKA "hiding the problem"...).

My son wants me to make chocolate chip cookies this morning - for both coffee time - and for him!

.... later! .... So made the chocolate chip cookies. Made hubby breakfast, then went to coffee time. On the way, I was just reading Nanaimo Square when I saw "Gator" stand up rigidly, then fall backward rigidly to the ground. He started having seizures and foaming at the mouth. Those of us there (pretty much the whole crowd of "the crew") got a man to call 9-1-1 (we ran around asking a bunch of people; some didn't have cell phones, but others just didn't want to get involved...), and I stayed until the ambulance guys came and got him.

Then I went on to the coffee time. Not too many people there (Pastor P. having gone to Ontario for a few days) but then a few came by. Still had some cookies left at the end so stopped back at Nanaimo Square and left the rest of the cookies with the people there.

Came home and went walkabout with my son. Then folded laundry. Now have been sitting on the front porch doing my Bible reading. Lovely outside right now but heating up - supposed to reach 35 C. It was 11 C at 6 am and 18 by 7 am.

My son this morning said, "I must not be a very good Christian because I don't have any feelings one way or another about starving children in third world countries." So we had a conversation about that (concern for those whom we don't personally know)... but I was at the same time encouraged because he was identifying himself as a Christian. Keep looking after him, Papa! Thank You!

At Coffee Time this morning, the younger ___ was saying he wished there was something he could do for me, because he appreciated how much I care for people. And I was telling him what a privilege it is for me, especially since I have so little family here now... and then walking home, I realized, Papa, that You have given me a great gift in giving me a "new family" to love and take care of! Glory to Your name! Thank You! Praise God!

And I also realized that in arriving at Nanaimo Square exactly when I did, You were listening to what I was saying yesterday about how I couldn't seem to find any of the regular street people... and this morning You gave me a wonderful opportunity. And I did pray quietly for that guy, Gator... but I should have prayed out loud, eh? I'm sorry Papa. Please give me the boldness (and wisdom). Thank You, Father God, in Jesus' name. Amen! Amen!

Oh! While I was outside typing, the mailman came by with my new book about Rabbits and Elephants - but I didn't want to open it until my blog typing was caught up, as I really felt led to first check out what Father has been telling me the past couple weeks, before I start reading the book.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Christian ghettos?... widespread evil?

June 2, 2009

Went with hubby - and a fresh lemon loaf, yum! - to coffee time. Today ___ was talking about how it seems like evil used to be in pockets (certain people, certain locations, etc) within society ... but now it is all through (and accepted widely ... only bad to be a Christian now...)... [but we don't see it, do we? We seem to pull into our little Christian ghettos... and don't recognize when it follows us in and draws us in too, do we?)

A couple guys from coffee time this morning came over to get 5 bags of pop cans, and stayed for iced tea on the porch - lots of wild funny stories!

Do I really believe (and act on) what Jesus taught and lived? Or is it too radical for me? hmmm

June 1, 2009

Father, that phone conversation with ___ really got me thinking.

One thing I'm thinking is how muchof the conversation out there about alternative expressions of church often tends to go into the "you, me, we three" level... yes, fellowship, loving, caring, discipling among believers is really important... but what about "go into all the world and preach the gospel"... never mind Jesus reaching out to the woman at th well... and forgiving (not condemning!) the woman caught in adultery... and blessing the little children... and telling stories like the prodigal son, and the wedding feast with all the "outcast" guests and all... and the "cup of cold water given in my name," and caring for the poor and visiting the prisoners and all...

The thing is, I'm thinking, even with "house churches like in the New Testament," and meeting often during the week and eating together and all... all of which are potentially really good things... what if a) you are still just hanging out with people you feel comfortable with and not feeling risk; b) you aren't really really into prayer and the Holy Spirit and totally believing in the promises and power of God; c) you aren't truly reaching out to show God's love to others (like Paul said, being all things to all people so as to reach some); d) you aren't truly bringing the gospel to people outside those who are already to some degree living a "church culture" kind of lifestyle (people whom you feel are likely to be "successfully reached" and integrated "successfully" into your group) ...and so on....

I keep feeling as though even some "simple church" people are still bound up in "church culture" to a degree where they are still thinking methods and systems, just maybe "simplified" ones... but still not the radical life Jesus led, the sacrifice He modeled (to the point of being totally willing and ready to lay one's life down for others)

Do we really believe what Jesus really taught and lived? I'm thinking it's time to read the gospels again and make a list of what that is... and ask myself if I am really living each (or even any?) of those things?!?!? What would it mean - in spiritual, material, practical, relational aspects of my life? I'm pretty sure that at best I'm only "scratching the surface!" (if even that much....)

Maybe all this "how to do - even be - church" isn't, after all, the real point. Maybe just obeying Jesus' commands - to believe in Jesus, to love God (Father), to be filled with the Holy Spirit, to love one another, to be baptized and join in the Lord's supper to remember Him - is really the point... and with it, all else necessary in our own lives and in the church will happen as we walk with Jesus in His Way.

It is getting coolish... I think I will go home, drop off my backpack, take a brisk walk... and then sit down and start reading and listing (and hopefully check marking at least a little...)

Jesus said His followers, filled with the Holy Spirit, would do the things He did... and even greater things. Do we really believe that? Are we really willing to go that far, be that radical? For example...

Mark 1:4 (re John's baptism): repentance for and confessing of sins (which came before walking the Jesus way... we wonder sometimes why so many people "pray the sinner's prayer" but then "fall away" ... could it be that they never went through real repentance?)
Mk 1:7 mightier than John (even mightier works than Jesus: by the power of the Holy Spirit)
Mk 1:8 baptized by Jesus with the Holy Spirit (and living in the Spirit non-stop...)
Mk 1:12 impelled by the Holy Spirit to do things (boy, "impelled" - that's a really strong word... Am I impelled by the Spirit?)
Mk 1:14 preaching the gospel of God (the Old Covenant fulfilled, the kingdom of God arrived, repent and believe...)
Mk 1:17 calling others to follow Jesus (Jesus called fishermen: uneducated, simple laboring men... and taught them so effectively that later, in the Spirit, the world was "turned upside down"... when he called (1:18) they left their livelihood, lifestyles, homes, family group... why? what was it that attracted them? Is there anything in me that attracts people to follow Jesus like that? There should be, if I'm really abiding in Him, and He in me....)
Mk 1:21-22 teaching with authority (do I? I should, if I really am truly a believer, a follower of Jesus, and have His Spirit in Me, and know and love the Father, in a relationship of abiding!)
Mk 1:27 commands the unclean spirits, and they know Him and obey Him and come out at His command (In Acts: Jesus I know, and Paul I know of, but who are you? ... Am I in such a relationship with God that even the unclean spirits recognize His authority and power through me? Remember... even greater things than Jesus did! Can I even begin to imagine that in my own life?)
Mk 1:31 take people by the hand, raise them up, and heal them (well, the apostles and others had faith to heal... even napkins touched by Paul had power for healing those who later touched them... when was the last time I was used by Father in healing?)
Mk 1:35 left the house before daybreak to go to a secluded place to pray (or at least to a prayer closet...)(rising before my body wants to... or even staying up all night alone to pray...)
Mk 1:37 everyone looking for Him (do people see Jesus in me so strongly that they come looking for me, to catch a glimpse of Him, to experience His love, to hear His Word? Note: He wasn't hanging out a shingle, or advertising, or anything... He kept trying to get away, and they kept looking for Him no matter how far away He went!)
Mk 1:38 went to the nearby towns, into their synagogues, preaching and casting out demons, which is what He came for... knowing that telling them the truth, and doing miracles which would make them jealous of His power and authority, would cause them to cast Him out, and to try to kill Him (and finally succeed in doing so!)... (when I see religiosity and other problems in churches, do I have the courage to tell the truth? Am I following Jesus so closely that His authority and power shine through? Am I willing to accept persecution... from other "believers" even...?)
Mk 1:40-45 healed a leper, showing compassion, stretching out His hand and touching Him (nobody touched lepers back then! It was considered not only a dangerous contagious disease, but such touching, according to the Law, meant that the person who touched the leper became unclean themselves, and had to go through rituals to become clean, and if they "caught" the leprosy could be banished, exiled from the community, outcast... Am I willing to truly be compassionate to our society's outcasts, to actually touch them, care for them, bring healing - physical, emotional, mental, spiritual - to them?) (Kind of like Mother Theresa...)
Mk 1:45 the leper told so many people about his healing that Jesus had to move His ministry into unpopulated countryside areas, because the crowds were too large to stay in the villages and cities! (Is there anything in my life, in my service for - with - my Savior and God, that draws people even remotely like that?)

Oh my goodness! That's only the 1st chapter of Mark! What's in the rest of Mark - and Matthew, Luke, and John - and Acts, as Jesus' disciples went out to fulfill His statement that they would do the things He did, and even do greater things...??? Looking at those things in just the first chapter of Mark - is there even one of them that I could put a big - or even small - check mark by, in regard to my own "Jesus walk" ???? I have to admit I am feeling pretty much a "failure" (at least, weak, disobedient, not walking like Jesus with Father in the Spirit, not doing His works with His authority, power, compassion...)

A few other things...

Mk 2:3-12 everyone was amazed at His authority, and praised God (Do people recognize God's authority seen in me? Enough to be amazed and praise God?)
Mk 2:14 Jesus called a tax collector to follow Him (a tax collector: a reject, traitor, big time sinner - do I call "those kind of people" to Jesus - and then spend the next three years living with them daily, hanging out with their sinner friends (v15-16),etc, to really disciple them and bring them to righteousness?)
Mk 3:1-6 Jesus was angry and grieved when He saw the hardness of heart of those "religious" people (am I grieved when I see hard hearts?)
Mk 3:13-19 Jesus went up to the mountain (away from the crowds) - (do I go away from the busyness of life and service, the popularity of the crowd, the needs around me, to spend long hours alone with Father?) -
Mk 3:20-27 So many people came to the house where He was staying, that He couldn't even eat. His own family came and tried to take Him away, thinking He'd lost His senses, while the scribes thought He was possessed! (Have I experienced this kind of opposition? Even from my family? Why? Or maybe to the point, why not?)
Mk 3:31-35 when His mother and brothers came to look for Him, He said: "Whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother." (Do I really recognize and accept as close family everyone who does God's will? How do I know? Do I ask Father?)

love walking... "success" by church culture standards... or success by Jesus' standards?

May 31, 2009

Isa 46: 3 Listen to me... You who have been borne by Me from birth And have been carried from the womb. 4. Even to your old age I will be the same. And even to your gray hairs I will bear you! I have made you and I will carry you. And I will bear you and I will deliver you.

Got up 3:30 am, made bread dough, went back to sleep till 4:30 am. Then got up and made fry bread (also made cow pattie cookies last night). Went to Another Chance (church-in-the-park) breakfast and church gathering from about 6:30 to 10:00 am. ___ and __, some of my new friends, came by for a little visit and coffee out on the porch. Then I "went to our church" about 10:50, in time for the teaching & discussion (aka sermon... but not so much anymore!) and home about 12:15. Walk, walk, walk! Then had a little nap, then my daughter and her family came by for awhile. Hubby was up about 3:30 (sleeps in the day because he works night shift), and we went for a lovely walk along the beach, and sitting on benches enjoying the view. Then home and went walking with my son! Yup, I think I got my 10,000 steps in today - and then some!

Finished my Bible reading, sitting on the porch (lovely, lovely day. Got up to 29 C but very dry with a nice cool breeze off the lake. Yay!).

Then a long phone chat with ___, talking about churches reaching out to the community. She's kind of discouraged, because her church seems convinced that the way to "reach out" is to produce high-grade entertainment and programs - that it isn't worth it to even try something that has not previously been "proven successful" (by whom, I don't know..).

I'm thinking that we are to love and neighbor and to love God... and in building relationships, let them meet Father through His love walking in/through us. I like what I'm part of right now because there really is no "agenda" - not what they can give me in return (though they've been totally surprising me anyway in that regard - fertilizer for my garden, red spring jacket, pearl necklace... and so much appreciation and friendship! Wow!)... and not how they can fill the church pews (and add to the coffers or volunteer in church programs etc), and not how "good" they make "our church" look to the community (because a lot of people in the community are not impressed with them and would just like them gone or at least be well hidden), and no guarantees of "success" by most "standards" of either "church culture" or "society" or whatever...)

Anyway, finally I watered the garden and lawn... and just in time as it suddenly got dark! (Sunset was about 9 pm)

Oh, and I really am wanting - desiring - to pray again! more! Thank You, Lord! Show me what/who You want me to pray for! "Cooperate in prayer" eh?!?!

I've had a lot of thoughts about what ___ said today about "strength in the Lord" (and the troubles we can face when we reach out) (and how so many "volunteers" drop out especially in summer...) and what ___ said about fellowship and what all that means and includes.

And about what ___ said her pastor said about the woman at the well... reaching out to people on their turf... as Paul wrote, being all things to all people in order to win some (We think with awe of the thousands of people converted in Jerusalem in the early days of the church... but I was just thinking of how many people would have been there for the feast - I've heard the city swelled to incredible numbers...) (and of Jesus fed and healed multitudes, yet how when he was arrested, they all deserted him... and probably a lot of the people in the "crucify Him!" mob might well have been fed by Him, taught by Him, even healed by Him - but in the end they turned against Him because He wasn't the military leader/conqueror/earthly king they envisioned, and His Way required a whole new life that they rejected!

church all over the place... coming out of the church ghetto... acceptance and tolerance

May 28, 2009

Brought homemade raisin bread to coffee time. Hubby came this time, too. At lunch time, Colin and Pastor Colin (from the "church in the park" group) came for "Sunday soup" (or should I say, Wednesday Soup!). We all had really good conversation - total emphasis on the Lord! It is so awesome when God's children get together!

After that a dear sister phoned and we had a nice long chat, and her hubby even joined in on speakerphone after a bit. And then another sister phoned. I love this family of God!

Oh, and a friend sent me a devotional thing about "acceptance" and "tolerance" ... which, it is true, a lot of Christians tend to think of as "dirty words" in our world today. Anyway, Dorothy Valcarcel, wrote:

"One of the interesting processes that affects the conclusions we come to is what is called 'diagnostic bias.' I call this phenomenon, jumping to conclusions based on previous information that has filled our minds or become part of our life experiences... Here's what I found. In nearly every Christian book of quotes or prayers and poems, anytime the word 'tolerance' or 'acceptance' was used - it was done so in a very negative way... Sadly, we leave no room for one who doesn't agree with us 100% of the time to feel as though they can even be comfortable in our presence, when we have such limited vision....

Here's the point we need to remember when thinking about the words - acceptance and tolerance. Naomi's acceptance of her [Moabite/pagan] daughters-in-law didn't diminish her beliefs or standards. Her tolerance, or as the dictionary defines this word, her respect and recognition of the behavior and beliefs of her foreign daughters-in-law didn't lessen her consecration to God. Instead, by opening her heart and opening her mind, through respectful kindness, she gave these Moabite girls a glimpse into the heart of a [good, kind] God.... Naomi's acceptance of these girls didn't lower her standards of purity and grace. Instead, her strength in accepting these girls led them on a higher path to the God of heaven and earth....

... I thought of times in my own life when I've allowed a 'diagnostic bias'to keep me locked within the walls of seclusion where I avoided being challenged by the need to stretch my heart, to open my arms wide and to provide a harbor of acceptance where searchers could come for safety.

Let's ask God everyday how we can use His heavenly awareness to help us accept and tolerate what we don't understand before we push others away with our holier-than-thou attitude which totally misrepresents the love of the God of heaven and earth who so generously sent His only begotten Son that ALL might be redeemed."

I think that is really powerful. And I think it is something the church, as we've often known it, needs to really think about. It seems to me that more and more we've been pulling ourselves into a sort of "Christian ghetto" and, while we say we want people to come to know the Lord, we want them to come into our buildings, and follow our ways of doing things, on our terms, as we confuse our "culture" that has developed "in the church" with what Christianity really is. hmmm....

church on the street, fear vs love, Old covenant vs new, kingdom of priests

May 26, 2009

Exodus 33:7-11 says that Moses would go out to the tent of meeting outside the camp, and the pillar of God would descend, and God would speak to him - while the people would watch from their tent doors, and worship from there, as God spoke to Moses face to face.

This reminded me somewhat of the way "traditional church" seems often to function... but it's not supposed to be that way; in fact, even among the Israelites it appears it wasn't supposed to be that way: Exodus 19:5-6 "Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession... 6. and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." (note: "a kingdom of priests" - though even then Moses was a mediator and advocate! - as Jesus is for us!).

At first they said to God, sure, we'll do everything You say (19:8) ... but when they witnessed the glory/presence of God up close, they were afraid. The purpose of the fear was to keep them obedient to God's commands (to not sin) (20:20) so that they would all be priests before him (19:5-6)... but instead, because of their fear, they preferred to have God speak only to Moses, and have Moses pass on God's message (20:19,21)...and a small group of men were appointed as priests (ch 28) SO: Old covenant --> FEAR: punishment (see 1 Jn 4:18)

Under the New Covenant, God's anointing (the Holy Spirit) rests on every believer, and teaches them all things (truth)(1Jn 2:27) and our sins have been forgiven for Jesus' name's sake (1 John 2:12) so we are God's children (1 Jn 3:1) and we abide in him with confidence, not shame (1 Jn 2:28), and we keep His commands (to believe in Jesus, and to love one another... 1 Jn 5:1-3, 1 Jn 3:23-24), and are born of God and know God (1 Jn 4:7, also 1 Jn 5:18) because God manifested His love in sending His Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 Jn 4:10) and now He abides in us and His love is perfected in us (1 Jn 4:12) - and there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear (1 Jn 4:18). We love because He first loved us! (1 Jn 4:18). And we have life! (1 Jn 5:11). SO: New covenant --> LOVE: perfection (fear is cast out!) (1 Jn 4:18)

(I was reading about Hezekiah yesterday... and like most other people in the Old Covenant time, he seemed to believe that death was the end, and one could only worship and obey God in this life... though some seemed to understand more: like Job, who said, "I know that my Redeemer lives, and that I shall see Him hereafter" ... also glimpses in the prophets, etc... and in Jesus' time the Pharisees believed in resurrection, but the Saducees did not. So for a people who really weren't sure if an afterlife existed (or at least one in which they could actively worship God), the gospel brought by Jesus was good news indeed: assurance of eternal life with God for those who believe in His Son.)

I am seeing more and more how important it is to LIVE IN THE NEW COVENANT! The Old covenant is recorded for our warning against sin and death... and for our joy in realizing what God's love has provided for us: life, freedom from sin, abiding in Him and He in us. So let's not be "foolish Galatians!" (Gal 2:16 to 3:14). Understand the Old Covenant and its purposes: but live within the New Covenant!

Exodus 33:13-17 says that knowing God's ways results in knowing God and finding favor in His sight; then He'll go with You; and others will know you belong to God.

... later... On Sunday, one of the street guys brought me a red jacket that someone had given him to pass on to someone who needed one (he noticed that I have a warm winter jacket but not a spring jacket!). And today, when I was out walking, one of the guys, who makes and sells jewellery to make a little cash, gave me a pearl necklace! I never have dull or lonely walks anymore - all the folks from Peter's gatherings are so friendly... and I am so happy I can't stop smiling - and all kinds of people smile back and say hello! You are awesome, wonderful, good, loving - Papa! Jesus! Holy Spirit! Wow! I love You, three-persons-one-God~!

Isa 42:3 "A bruised reed He will not break and a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish; He will faithfully bring forth justice... 6... And I will apoint You as a covenant [a new one!] to the people, As a light to the nations, 7. to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the dungeon, and those who swell in darkness from the prison... 16. I will lead the blind by a way they do not know, In paths they do not know I will guide them. I will make darkness into light before them..." [ I think about how Jesus treated the poor and "sinners" ... and I see that reflected in our "street pastor" ... and I hope - pray - it may yet be reflected in me... please Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit - God!]

Your church in so many places and ways

May 25, 2009

When I did a quick fb check this morning, there was a notice from the Simple Church website about a new book, called something like Rabbits and Elephants. Anyway, I downloaded the free table of contents, intro and first chapter... and ended up ordering it on Amazon. It is released June 1, so should get it not too long after (and early orders apparently get a discount off the suggested retail price... though there's always shipping and handling with on-line shopping...).

Anyway, when I was reading the download, I started thinking about how, even though for the past couple months or so I haven't "gone to our church" (except the sermon part, yesterday... and I think that was from God, because the message on worship really was "for me")... still, I have been with Your church a lot... Tuesday and Thursday coffee times, church-in-the-park (yesterday was special, talking and praying with one lady whose mom is dying, and with another lady who had gone through some really hard times lately), emails to and from a friend who really shares his heart from the Word, phone calls from a dear gal friend and also calls from my daughters... so nice to feel free to bring You into my conversations with them these days! Yay! Thank You!), listening in on those podcast discussions, reading peoples' blogs and articles, reading and responding to peoples' comments on fb - all examples of "where 2 or 3 are gathered in Your name, there You are with them!"

I have started just reading the NT - above and beyond my daily seven chapters from throughout the Bible! And I started with Jude and am working my way backward, one book at a time, underlining key verses (There are a lot of key verses!). Because too often if I start at the beginning (Matthew) I get distracted... and often don't get to those final epistles! Oh, I love the chapters on love in 1,2,3 John... and all the understanding of what Your church really is, and what it really means to walk Your walk, Jesus... the Way! Thank You! Thinking maybe I'll go back to the ones I've already read, and list what You've been showing me in Your Word!

(I was feeling "at loose ends" today... and lately. I do have lots of "projects" to do, but feeling I want to spend more focused time with You, Papa, Jesus, Holy Spirit - my God! Not only want to, but must... because without really knowing You, how can I share You and Your love with others? If we aren't in continual, vital, "living love" relationship with You, and with others (with the brethren, other believers, Your church) (and reaching out to bring Your gospel to those who are lost, so they can come into salvation and this awesome love relationship with You and with Your church... in the kingdom of God/of heaven!)... well, we really are at loose ends, aren't we? I need to know You, to be in that "living love" relationship with You, always, constantly! Please! help me not to go down the "loose ends" pathway, please... Thank You!

When I "went to church" yesterday, I sat on the steps at the back, and I liked that because I could see everyone (even if most of them I could still only see the backs of their heads, and their profiles). Of course there were also "greeters" sitting at the back... but there was also another young couple sitting along the side rather than in the rows of seats. I liked how the "congregation" laughed at the Pastor's humor and joined with with his old-timey choruses... and how he gave them a good long time to greet each other before the teaching/discussion time (he's trying to de-sermon... please help him, Lord!)... but I missed the kind of interaction/ discussion/ questions/ input during the teaching time that I see in "church in the park" and in coffee times... and when we used to have "soup" (I sure hope __ comes by for soup like he said he wants to - and brings somebody with him too!).

thoughts on worshipping with music

May 24,2009

After church-in-the-park I came home and went walking with my son. Then I went to "our church" to listen to ___ and visit with the brothers and sisters. He talked about worship. He even played a couple old-timey choruses on his guitar! Of course he said that worship is more than music, but he also talked about how music does lift our spirits and help us worship Father. I've been thinking about that, but feeling nervous about it because although there was a time I loved to worship in music, it seemed like maybe Father cut me off from it because it really became a pride and performance thing for me... and it got so I could hardly play my guitar and my singing was awful. But lately I've been sensing a nudge from Papa to get back to music - really as worship - and it did seem to me that it was a message meant for me.

I came home and made lunch, then did my Bible reading. And then I got my guitar out, and played and played - easier and better than I have for so long. Thank You, Papa! If You can use me in any way with my guitar or voice, let it be - as long as I do it in worship - to Your glory! (Please don't let me be about pride and performance ... and please forgive me for my "eye-rolling" and unkind words about other peoples' "performance worship" ... sorry... maybe a combination of jealousy and self-righteousness... oh dear... sorry...)

How could I have missed this reality - You, the God who is love

May 23, 2009

Good morning, Papa! Just spent 1/2 hour reading those notes I typed last night - and hearing You... well even more, knowing Your love, experiencing You (and You are love!) ... and adding my own - Your own - thoughts to the notes... and reading a good deal of 1 John 3,4,5 ... how could I have missed this REALITY - You! The God who loves because He is love! - before: strangely, oddly, the books/epistles of John (and all the other NT references to Your love) have always seemed like a post-script, like a "PS - I love you" at the end of a rather long letter that contains, in large part, a pointing shaking finger... kind of like the little love note is there at the end to "soften the blow" of the rest, to, I don't know, make it more palatable. Well, of course, the "letter" always started with "God loves you so much that He gave His only begotten Son so (someday) you won't perish but have everlasting life..." ... so you better do this and you better do that, so you will keep Him loving you, keep Him pleased with you, keep that gift He's given you. And yet, all the time, there was always also this feeling that if I dared to stop and think that through and find it wanting... find that kind of conditional love to be wanting, that I'd be heretical, evil...

Even in my own love for my kids and for others, I found that even if they did dishonor, disrespect, disobey... I still loved them (even if, in my humanness, I was often hurt, angry, frustrated, lashing out...).... in fact, I loved them more, if anything.... I felt their pain and anger and disillusionment, and wanted to soothe them, bring them healing, take care of them, help them... be in ever deeper relationship with them... And all along, I couldn't help but sense Your presence, Your unconditional Father love, Your affection... and yet, it seemed like "Your Word" (filtered through the teaching of human "leaders" .... oh Father, I struggle with the "L" word... help me to understand it through Your eyes, in Your love... help me to love Your leaders without having the "leaders must be: ..." checklist always at my side, looking for their shortcomings so I can justify avoiding their leadership!... a little trick, by the way, that I myself devised: can't blame anyone else for it... Papa?) Anyway, it seemed that Your love, according to my head-knowledge understanding of it, was loaded with conditions... and I just wanted love that wouldn't stop and wouldn't fail when I failed...

I've been trying so hard not to be "a failure" ... a let-down, a disappointment to You... but it's always been hopeless... no matter how hard "I've tried," I've always ended up "failing."

"How can You love me when I'm so unworthy, such a failure? You gave me this great gift... [I did understand Your love in that!] ... but now I don't deserve to keep it... and not only that, apparently (oh, I dare not even say this, it sounds so ungrateful and childish and even evil, heretical... but here goes...), apparently You are just hovering there, watching me every second, ready to pull it all out from under me if I "backslide" [yes, I really did think that...]

I remember when I "went to the altar" at that camp when I was almost 13, and "gave my heart to You" (but still feeling guilty because I didn't cry my eyes out like everyone else)... I really believed I now had to spend the rest of my days with a long face, walking around in sombre old lady clothing, reading my Bible religiously many hours every day... and never breaking any of the long list of "thou shalt nots" (You know... dance; wear lipstick - or even worse, other makeup; wear jewellery or bright cheery clothes; read anything not strictly religious; go to movies; swim on Sundays; etc etc etc)... and especially, never have fun! Never be just happy! (Well! That didn't work out well, since You made me a basically fun, happy person...).

You know, Papa, over the years I have known Your love, over and over. I've experienced it, loud and clear, so many times... day in and day out. But I've always had this "fear" hanging over it - fear that if I don't line up with all the rules and regulations, somehow Your love with be withdrawn! I don't know, I grew to know Your love in such a way that I couldn't imagine how You could do that when You loved me so much... and yet... apparently it was so...

And then I read The Shack ... and whatever else people - especially theologically-minded ones who are self-appointed guardians of "truth" and lookers-out-for-heresy - well, whatever else people say about it - it suddenly opened my heart to the amazing fact that YOU LOVE ME! Period! It was like the most amazing light, beyond anything I could imagine, just came flooding in to the darkness of my sense of unworthiness and failure, and my fear of rejection, of losing Your love and affection and approval... of losing Your love.

And no, it didn't change me instantly into a perfect person... but it has been a light, a living light, that won't be pushed back, a door opened that cannot be closed, relentlessly pushing, reaching into all the deep, dark, musty corners of my life-long "knowledge about You," and slowly but surely (and sometimes instantly!) cleaning them out, bringing life and light - bringing Your love: moving me more and more and more from just "knowing about You" (and I know plenty... though it turns out that it was definitely an incomplete knowledge... and in some cases, downright wrong!) to really "knowing You!"

That guy who wrote that review said that all truth is in Your Word - referring to the Bible. But without the Truth, the living light, the living loving Truth who is You, Your Spirit living in me/us, with You, even the truth in the scriptures falls short - dangerously, disastrously really: the letter of the law kills - but the Spirit, Your Spirit, brings life! And that life - and that love! - grows and spreads in us - and through us to others, too!

1 John 4:15-21