Friday 30 April 2010

wondering about this "working with our own hands"...

Acts 20:34 You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me. 35. In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’
36. When he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all.

I’ve been thinking, wondering about this “working with our own hands” rather than just depending on “the flock” to “support us” (financially). I have wondered, should I go get a “real job” (like work at Tim’s or McD’s or something, lol!) and “give away all my writing for free”?

And yet, You seem to be saying to me these days that You have given me this gift of expressing my relationship with You in writing – and have given me this particular journey with You – to at the same time “minister” to others, and also “to minister to my own needs” … by literally “using my own hands” to write!

So… I believe I will continue to listen to You and see where You take me in all this. And I’ll keep writing – in all the various ways You’ve given me. You’ve given me this wonderful 3 months “separation package” from my last job, to get started on really focusing on my writing (or at least to get away from the need to “have a real job” at present, to do that). So, I will keep on writing… and learning… and sharing… and trust You to provide through these gifts You have given me… at least until such time as You might bring along some other kind of “working with our own hands” adventures.

truth... bound by Your Spirit ... inheritance now, present tense! Wow!

April 30, 2010

Father, I want to use my writing to share my relationship with You. But sometimes I feel kind of guilty when I find myself talking to my “audience” when I’m “supposed to be” in “focus time” with You. And yet … we are family, aren’t we? And the dinner-table – the banquet table! – is large, and we are meant to feast and converse together, eh.

(Sitting here outside. A neighbor and his “baby” – little dog – just passed by, and we share a cheery hello. The cat in the next unit’s back yard was also just saying “hello” too. Everyone in the complex swears that that cat really does say “hello” rather than just “meow.” The sun’s withdrawn at the moment, and rain is threatening, but the friendliness of neighbors and pets – and this time with You! – provides lots of sunshine anyway). (Okay, girl, focus! Lol!) (Wondering what else is going on in my life? Check out my blog.) Anyway...

Acts 20:7 On the first day of the week when we were gathered to break bread… 22… now, bound by the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, 23. except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me, 24. But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.

So! I am okay, Papa, after all, with sojourning here – or wherever You send me (yesterday I was feeling sad again about not living in my dream ocean-side cabin…). “Bound by Your Spirit” – by my free choice. Glorious freedom, that is! Yes! I can live without my cabin by the sea! (Though a little vacation some place like that would be nice, lol!).

Acts 20: 27 … I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God. 28. Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. 29 … after my departure savage wolves will come in among you… 31. Therefore be on the alert… 32. and now commend you to God and the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

See Papa! I want TRUTH! That’s why I have tended more and more to stick to You and Your word, and avoid “other books” and ideas presented by people. And yet, from time to time You do send both people and books (blogs, magazines, etc)….

- sometimes to open my eyes more widely to the truth, and
- sometimes to keep me on the alert!

Sometimes I do struggle to know which of the two it is. Which is why I MUST turn and ask You… why I must be “bound by the Spirit.” And I really do notice that when I don’t do that, even for a short period of time, I do find myself becoming confused. And yes, endangered by “perverse things.”

I must have Your Truth! I must have Your Word! I must have YOU! So yes, I “commend myself to You” and “to the word of Your grace” because I do want to be build up, and to receive the “inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”

The inheritance NOW, in the present! Walking in love relationship with You, growing in Your grace, sharing Your love with others, knowing You more every day. As well as the eternal inheritance – with You forever – too.

(I think that sometimes we – the church, at least here in “the west” – have become so enamoured of the “heavenly inheritance” that we’ve lost sight of the awesomeness of relationship with You here and now. The kingdom of God IS with us and in us. Present tense, now and continuing. Truly! Thank You!

In the past, Papa, You know I mostly read the book of Acts as a “story” that took place in the past. I saw it as “teaching some valuable lessons” but not so much as relating too strongly to my own journey with You, and the journey of Your church today with You.

But now, more and more, I see it as YOU ACTING WITH YOUR PEOPLE. And I am so longing for me, for us, Your family, to be “bound to Your Spirit” and journey with You, sharing You together, sharing the good news – Your good news – as your family did in the days of the apostles.

No more “just stories.” I am seeing it as the LIFE of the church, of Your kingdom. In an ongoing, present-tense experience, meant to be lived out and shared in the lives of all Your children. What was “then” is really part of what is “now” – ongoing present! And what “they” experienced, we also can – will! – experience, if only we are “bound to Your Spirit” as they were. (That realization came to me just now – from You! Thank You! Joy!)

Wow! Thank You! I love You, I do! And You love me, love us. And You do want us, also, to be part of this on-going journey, bound to Your Spirit, living in Your guidance, Your power, Your love, Your family life, and building Your kingdom with You. Wow! Cool! Thank You! Amazing!

can't it be like that today?

April 29, 2010

Acts 19:8 … speaking out boldly … persuading them about the kingdom of God. 9 … reasoning daily .... 10. This took place for two years so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks. 11. God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hand of Paul.

… 17… fear fell upon them all [when the sons of Sceva tried to “use” Jesus’ name, and were overpowered by the possessed man] and the name of the Lord Jesus was being magnified. 18. Many… believed… confessing and disclosing their practices. 20. So the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing. 21. Now after these things were finished, Paul purposed in the Spirit to go to Jerusalem.

Can’t if be like that today, Father? (I’d be willing to “reason daily” – writing, and conversing, speaking). But Papa! Your will be done!

(Yes, I am sure it can be like that…)

Wednesday 28 April 2010

thoughts on "security" - how it is based on Your love - and on how we read things - and jump to conclusions - and the role of fear?

April 27, 2010

I’m back to reading and note-taking from The Misunderstood God by Darin Hufford. I grew up in a very strongly Wesley-Armenian understanding of our security (or rather lack thereof, according to a lot of teaching I sat under as a child)… but in the past 10 years or so have encountered much teaching from a Calvinistic perspective (principally from Baptist and Reformed perspectives).

My personal experience, in my walk with God, has leaned more and more toward a “secure relationship” with my Lord, as I have come to understand, with great joy, that HE LOVES ME!!! But at the same time, I have continued to feel confusion over these varying viewpoints, wondering how so many Christians could be so divided on “theological issues”.

As I have read Hufford’s book, I have been challenged to really seek the Truth. I am not sure that I agree with everything that Hufford says, but I have begun to see more clearly how different believers mean different things even as they use the same terminology – and thus have become willing to really try to understand what people (the writer, in the case of this book) are saying, rather than jumping to conclusions based on my own presuppositions and definitions. I have also realized, as I have been reading the book for the second time, that it is wise to read the whole thing, before assuming anything. The first time I read the book, I got so upset a few times, that I skipped whole sections. I was therefore rather surprised this time, as I determined to read the whole thing, that some things I had “assumed” the author meant when I read a particular sentence or paragraph, were absolutely not what he was saying at all.

Interesting – we do the same thing with the word of God, on a regular basis… oh dear..

Anyway, I would like to quote a few passages on the whole “security” question, and also include some of my own comments and thoughts on that (and a few other topics)… HERE GOES:

p. 125 Your Father… is the expert record shredder. Everything He touches becomes like new. There is no such thing as an “unpardonable sin” when you’re in the family. This particular Scripture applied strictly to the Pharisees who were trying to discredit Jesus by knowingly attributing His works to the devil. They were nonbelievers, not Christians.

You are precious to Him, and when He looks at you He sees only the picture of His perfect creation…

God also doesn’t define your future by your past. He has not records of your past, so your future is free and clear.

p. 136 You need to know right now that if you have ever opened your heart to God, you are safe. Nothing you do will make you any more ready. You are going with Him when He comes because you are His child. Nothing you do will ever cause Him to leave you behind.

The nature of love is that it expands. All things of God expand. Living together without a promise of absolute security requires an intentional constraint on the heart…. if you don’t believe your relationship with God is secure, your relationship with God can’t grow. Without an unbreakable covenant, you’re merely “living together” with God, and your spiritual fulfillment will be stunted.

Security is free, open space all relationships need to grow. You have that in God… (p 137) Your relationship with god and your security with Him can never be taken from you. The moment you lose sight of your security, you will cease to grow spiritually. God calls it a promise, and you can believe that.

The starting point of all true relationships is the knowledge that we will never be abandoned – our experience of love will never be taken away for any reason. This is the foundation of relationship with God, and therefore, the very foundation of faith…

My friend, you must believe in unconditional love if you want a true relationship with God. What other kind of security is there if it’s not total and absolute?

p. 148 When [God] looks at us, it’s important to know that He is not “hopeful” for what we could become, but of who we are in the “eternal future,” what we will become and already are to Him outside of time. This is the truth that God rejoices in, and this is the name by which He calls us.

p. 150 The truth is already in you. It’s in little children. When you hear it, it should be something that you know in your heart to be true.

(COMMENT: Yes. But oh my goodness…. There is all this other “stuff” – teachings from my past – that argues against it… and I feel like, “Do I dare to believe what is deep in my heart? Could it possibly be true? Oh I hope… but… what about…??”)

p. 156 God protects you because He loves you. Not because you are being good and following the rules… [His protection is] never used to manipulate or control…

Know for sure that God will never, ever lift His hand of (p 157) protection from you! Your security is sacred to Him…
…. God will never cease to support and grow our hearts regardless of what is thrown at the flesh. God will never override the heart to save the flesh. Everything He does is for the heart because that’s the part of you that lasts forever. Love always thinks this way. It’s all about the heart.

p. 167 It’s difficult not to make assumptions about the heart of God from the actions of His children. And we all are ultimately conformed to the image of who we believe our Father in heaven is!

I believe that the entire concept of “backsliding” is built on an inner belief that God closes His heart off to us when we make mistakes…. Before they know it, they have assumed a life emotionally separate from God for several years because they believed in their heart that God turned His back on them when they sinned.

When we feel we can’t approach God with confidence and boldness, we’re declaring that we don’t believe God (p 168) always trust. When we find ourselves performing for God in order to prove our trust -worthiness, we’re showing that we believe we have to earn His trust…. Anytime we feel closer and more accepted by Him because we followed the rules, we’re showing our belief that God does not always trust.

p. 173 Don’t ever think that God will stop trusting in you if you mess up. Your actions have no bearing on His perfect trust in you: He is the author of trust and openness. Rest in that and rejoice, because your Father in heaven loves you, and love always trusts!

p. 177 Hope that’s attached to truth is vital because it’s designed for the long haul. It’s the assurance of the prize at the end of the race. Faith is what causes you to take each step along the way. Our hope must be in the truth at the end of the race. That truth is what makes the race worth running. If that truth is in question and our hope is not sure, it comes merely a wish or a dream…

p. 179 …. It’s impossible to love people and purposefully cause them to question whether or not they will make it to heaven when they die. When we do this we are tampering with the most precious thing God has set before them. We are calling the prize at the end of the race into question, and we are covering it with doubt and uncertainty.

… [instead of being given assurance and security in Christ] we are given mountains of theological and doctrinal points we are supposed to put our hope in…

[COMMENT : I have often thought it would be great to get a Bible College, or even better yet, a Seminary degree… But now I am glad You have given me something far greater – relationship with You! Loved by You and loving You! Taught and guided by Your Spirit! Knowing You! Thank You for answering the prayer of my heart, not of my mouth…]

p. 180 If you are a Christian and you don’t believe you are secure in Christ, you have no hope. All you have is a wish and a dream. Until you know for sure that you belong to God and you are going to be with Him when you die, you will remain in a state of constant hopelessness. Everything in your life will waver, including your faith.

p. 182 If we imply that God might turn His face from one of His children for something, we are creating a chain reaction of tiny explosions that get worse and worse down the line of our theology….

p. 192 And with us, God ensured it by giving Himself up for us from the very start. Christ’s death not only atoned for our sin, but it proved His love. To… reveal the Father’s heart to the world, Jesus had to show us that He’d die so we could live.

Because of this, there is no doubt that God will persevere with you for all eternity. He has already given up Himself for you…. Living in the heart of the ones you love can happen only if you die to yourself…. Men will never understand their wives and women will never understand their husbands until they stop living for themselves and start living for the other person. Death (that is, self-sacrifice) is the very foundation of every true relationship in the world. Until you give up your life, you will never find it…. And the Apostle Paul said, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.”


At the end of the book, Hufford says he has been blackballed and rejected, and his words misquotes and taken out of context by many Christians and ministries. Well… I kind of was in shock when I first read it… but I re-read it after asking You to show me truth… and I do see far more clearly what the author is saying … although I still do not necessarily agree with every single point.

I’m no sure about everything.

But I do understand security much better now! And see that if You are love (as Your word clearly says, and as is totally the experience of my walk with You), then Your children must be secure …

(though I still hear little voices on my shoulder arguing… fearful voices – and in Your love there is no fear – so what does that suggest about the source of the voices, eh?!?)

For so long I have had this “disconnect” between my experience of relationship with You, and what You teach me in Your word – and “doctrines/ teachings/ theology” I had had pounded into me since childhood. And much of that teaching has led me to believe that if I turn from those particular doctrines, even if I see them in a somewhat different way as I learn more of You, I co so at the peril of my eternal salvation! Oh dear… there’s that fear (dare I say, manipulation? ) again…

Father, can it really be that simple?

I mean – the whole thing about Your love? Wow. I want it to be true.

It seems so … awesomely lovely… perfect… safe… SECURE… right!

The child in me certainly wants to believe it. And my personal experience with You – and what I read in Your word – sure lines up with it….

But wow… I see how it threatens those who’ve dedicated their entire lives to… well… to complex doctrines and theology and stuff.

For them, I can see… it’s all too… free!!!

When they’ve put so much effort… time… money…. commitment… sacrifice… into “following You” – and then to be told that You just want them to accept Your love – freely – and for free… just be “in love” with (in) You… and as the inevitable outcome of Your love, love others, too…

Too easy? … not fair? …. Must be wrong, surely? … And yet…

My HEART tells me (and my experience with You, my experience of Your love) tells me clearly, surely, certainly! That it really is that simple… And even the “dying to self” part – hard as that seems – even Your death on the cross – is really “simple” – a simple decision, the only possible choice, if LOVE really IS … if YOU really ARE….

Patient (long-suffering) – kind – not jealous (not envious) – doesn’t brag (does not boast; vaunteth not itself; is not rash) – not arrogant (not proud; not puffed up) – doesn’t act unbecomingly (does not behave unseemly; is not rude) – does not seek its own (is not self-seeking) – is not provoked (is not easily angered) – does not take into account a wrong suffered (thinks no evil; keeps no record of wrongs) – does not rejoice in unrighteousness (does not delight in evil) – but rejoices with the truth – bears all things (always protects) – believes all things (always trusts) – hopes all things (always hopes) – endures all things (always perseveres) – never fails!

Wow! For God so loved the world … God is love … We love God because He first loved us and gave Himself for us… A new commandment: love one another … as a little child! …

1 Jn 3:1 See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we would be called children of God….

1 Jn 4:7-8 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love… 12. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us… 16. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him… 17. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world [already!] … 18. the one who fears is not perfected in love… 19. We love, because He first loved us.

Monday 26 April 2010

So what does this all mean in my relationship with You?

April 25, 2010
(Note: this is a summary, a final reflection of the previous 5 postings – you’ll probably want to read them first, because this one won’t make a whole lot of sense without them!)
Well, it has taken me almost 2 ½ hours to work through, with You, just 24 pages of the book. But oh boy. You really have challenged me to think clearly about what I’ve been taught, what I’ve presumed and presupposed – and to compare it to what You have BEEN (actively involved in relationship with me) in my life … and of course, how all that actually lines up with what Your word says.
Yes, I want to be Christlike. I do want Your essence, Your love, Your truth, to be in me.
So… I have some things still to think about, talk to You about, listen to You about, like:
- that whole issue of security? Papa?
- The author’s statements that we can basically do whatever we like, enjoy, dream of (as long as we are truly in relationship with You and are growing in Christlikeness – as opposed to Christ-impersonation – because we will, in freedom, then choose that which reflects and is an outcome of Your essence!) (Is that right?)
Oddly enough, although I have very often “sought Your will” and “been willing to give up all my dreams” and such – what I find, over and over, is You fulfilling those dreams in my life, after all. But fulfilling them in ways far more wonderful and amazing and joyful and awesome than I myself could have planned or imagined. And You do provide. All of which makes me all the more eager to be in Your will.
Round and round and round.
My experience, is that for me, after I have come into relationship with You, Your will has been wonderful – more and more and more so as I have known You more and more. I suppose there was a time, long ago, when I felt to some degree that Your will might be oppressive or something… but now “Your will be done” is, for me, a glorious statement and request. Awesome!
As You Yourself taught Your disciples to pray (and lived it out before them every moment) “Your will [Father] be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Yes, “God’s will be done” is a wonderfully good thing. Thank You, Lord. Amen.

God lets you make whatever choices you want? He wants you to use your will? He desires your independence?

April 25, 2010
In The Misunderstood God,” Darin Hufford writes (page 102):
“The fact that He created you and me with choice is evidence that God is “you-seeking.” He waits for your choice in any situation, and once you make it, He accepts it, good or bad.”
Okay, I can see that. Sort of. He doesn’t hit you over the head and force you to withdraw and change your choice to His choice. Because if He did, then effectively, you would not have had a choice at all.
Hufford adds: “He stays with you all the way, no matter what.”
See, here is where I have trouble. Because, I suppose, I was not brought up to believe in the security of God’s children. And I have to admit, I can still worry about that sometimes. Oh Father. I want to KNOW YOU. I want to KNOW TRUTH. Please.
Hufford goes on:
“God’s will is that you use your will. He gave it to you. He delights in it. He loves the way you think and reason. Wherever you go and wherever you end up, He will be there with you. When you ask God where He wants you to go or what He wants you to do, His response is, “Where do you want to go? What do you want to do?”
Ummm… My will is good? Really? What about “Your will be done?” Of course, we are made in Your image… and I suppose that includes being made with a will… Oh my goodness, that’s a new thought for me… Father?
And… woh! Do we really have that kind of freedom? Doesn’t Father know what is best for us? I know that You “love the way I think and reason.” You wouldn’t be encouraging me to carry on these conversations with You – and others – if You didn’t. But – will You really be with me wherever I go? Even if I take some “wrong turns?” This doesn’t mean, surely, that You will be pleased if I make choices that are outside Your character?
Hufford continues:
“His Spirit will never overpower you and your choices… You were created in His image, and part of that image is having choice… When His Spirit lives within you, you’ll have self-control…”
See, that’s what I mean. I do have choices. But if I abuse my freedom by making choices outside those that are within the parameters of the “fruit of the Spirit” (the Spirit’s parameters of course still give me a huge amount of space, an enormous number of possibilities – because it includes all the choices that reflect God – and God is IMMENSE!!!)… anyway, if I make choices that are in the image of the enemy rather than in the image of God, then I am no longer operating in freedom, but in bondage – again, as I was before I was in relationship with You – bondage to sin. Isn’t that right?
Hufford says:
“Believe it or not, love desires your independence. Independence is the very foundation of free will, and your freedom is the image of God in you.”
(Oh my. So how does that line up with what I’ve been told so often: “Sin is independence from God”? Father?)
But I do have to agree – emphatically – that “your freedom is the image of God in you.” And the image of God in me does influence – joyfully – the choices I make – in freedom! Hmmm… another of those round and round and round relationship things that boggle my little finite mind! But fill my heart with joy!
Hufford sums up (p 103 - 104):
“Everything is different now because of what Christ did! We are now family members… It’s imperative that God’s heart now be viewed as a Father’s and not a dictator’s. Fathers are not self-seeking.
Be aware also that becoming Christlike is not a process in which we train ourselves to “impersonate” Jesus. Becoming Christlike is the process by which we allow the same essence that motivated and drove Jesus to also drive us in life. It’s the essence of Christ – His character, not His personality or mannerisms.
… This is essentially what being Christlike is about: being driven by the same power that drove Christ, namely love.”

God's purpose is for us to be His sons and daughters?

April 25, 2010
Okay, this I get! Hufford writes in The Misunderstood God (page 100):
“God does have a purpose, but that purpose is not for us to be servants and messengers for Him. His purpose is for us to be His sons and daughters, and out of those relationships, we become the message.”
That is right! (Isn’t it? Papa?)
We’ve confused purpose and outcome – or perhaps once again – surely – it is a circle of life, of love, that goes round and round and grows and produces joy and love and happiness for everyone in that relationship! Eh? (see the previous blog entry, about the round and round stuff!)
Hufford goes on to say (page 101):
“What is the one thing all good parents want for their children? They want them to enjoy life… joy and contentment … God’s heart is the same way. He’s not pleased when you’re in bondage or personal anguish, and He loves you through the struggles and difficulties in our lives.”
That is right. We are “in this world” and we will have struggles and difficulties. But if we are living in the freedom and love of relationship with our Father, we will not be in bondage to those difficulties. And He will love us – serve us, care for us, encourage us, uplift us, carry us – through them. He will be with us always, loving us, His children, with perfect Father-love!!! Wow!!!
Hufford also writes:
“Though our love for God is extremely important to Him, we also need to understand that God is not a needy love junkie… He will never be moved or manipulated by promises of dedication and adoration. Your love must always be free, just as His is… God’s love is not concerned with what He can get; He’s concerned about what He can give. This is the essence of love, and it paints a perfect picture of His heart.”

God wants to "use us"? His gifts are for your joy? It's okay to accept compliments?

April 25, 2010
In The Misunderstood God,” Darin Hufford writes (page 99):
“When we say that God wants to “use us” in some way to further His purposes… It’s as though we think He sees us as pawns in His big plan, and whatever way He can use us for His own means and purposes, He will.”
Okay. Here’s where I get annoyed. Sometimes this writer seems to really paint everybody with one big brush stroke. Maybe that is what “use us” means to him – but it sure doesn’t line up with what it means to me!
To me it means “Let me help. Let me serve because I love You – and love serves, remember? Let me be part of the great adventure! Thank You!”
Hufford continues (page 100):
“The gifts He has given you are never to be used at your expense. He does not want you to be used by anyone, and He will never use you. Your gifts were given to you for the purpose of bringing joy to your life, not for the purpose of serving Him or furthering His cause.”
But…. Serving Him with His gifts does bring me joy!!! I don’t feel “used” at all! “Use me, Father” is in no way that same as “He is just using you…”
Hufford goes on:
“You happiness is His cause. If you have joy and contentment, the radiance of Christ will shine through you, and His presence and existence will speak for itself. He gets glory and is happy when you are free and at liberty. Your gifts were given for this purpose.”
Yes! See, it’s a circle. It starts with Him offering me His love. But when I accept Him, my greatest joy is found in being free to serve Him because I love Him! And the relationship continues… and He continues to love – and serve – me… and I love – and serve – Him! And we both have joy together. And around and around and around it goes!
(But boy oh boy, I can see a lot of people shouting “heresy” when they read that last quote. It is hard to stretch our mind beyond the way we’ve always “thought” or “interpreted” or “presupposed”. God is so big. And we are so small. Oh dear. We do want Him to fit comfortably into our tiny boxes. Christ-impersonating does seem “safer” than Christ-likeness, doesn’t it? But when we go that route, we miss out on HIM. And when we miss out on Him, we miss out. Period.)
Hufford then says:
“He gave you these gifts in the first place [because] He wants people to think highly of you and respect you. He loves it when folks are drawn to you and when they are amazed at how gifted you are… Every father who loves his children thinks this way.”
What? It’s okay to graciously accept admiration and compliments? Surely not! And yet…
That is true about human fathers. BUT we are sure not encouraged to think about our Father God that way. “Give all the glory to God!” we’re always told. Well, how about “share it,” enjoy it together, you and your Father? Hmmm? Even that goes too far? Too prideful?
And yet… If we say that we should not accept any “glory” but should give it all to God… then is it therefore wrong for a human father to be proud of his children and happy to see them admired and respected and praised for their accomplishments? Hmmm?

Christ-likeness vs Christ-impersonation? God wants you to be happy?

April 25, 2010
In The Misunderstood God, (page 95-96) Darin Hufford writes:
“Our mind-set is…”He must become greater, and we must become less.” Our selves must be drained out and become conformed to Jesus. Our modern-day view of Christlikeness is tainted by a belief in a self-seeking God. We’ve come to see Christ-likeness as the same as being Christ-impersonators, and so we live in a world of competition where people do their best to impersonate their personal idea of Jesus. Sadly, many of us lose our own identity in the process.”
When I read that the first time, I really wondered about it. But I think I see what the writer is saying. It is interesting – we, as different members of the Christian community, use the same words and phrases to mean very different things, even things that are almost opposites. So when we read something, we immediately assume the writer is using the words/phrases in the same way we do. And we then assume that he/she has drawn wrong conclusions about the whole concept.
So I read this chapter over again, because my first reaction was – no way! But I think, on re-reading, that maybe he is saying:
Christlikeness = the real essence of relationship with Jesus – joy realized through relationship with Him – the purpose of our being
Christ-impersonators = shallow, copying outward behaviors, without getting into relationship and taking on Christ’s character. My efforts based on my ideas about Jesus.
I believe that we MUST be conformed to Jesus. What is tainted, I suspect, is how we interpret that….
A couple pages later (page 99), Hufford writes:
“God’s first concern is your happiness and fulfillment. His desire is to give you abundant life. His gifts are to enhance your life and bring you the most joy possible.”
Okay! When I first read this, I found myself thinking, “Wait! That’s not correct theology, it is”? And yet – my experience in my relationship with Father tells me that happiness, fulfillment, abundant and enhanced life, and joy, are exactly what He has given me. Those are exactly the outcomes I have gained in relationship with Him….
Hufford goes on to write:
“His kingdom is not about Him; it’s about you, and it does not benefit Him one iota until He sees that you are receiving that fulfillment.”
Well!?! Of course, there wouldn’t even be a kingdom if He hadn’t created us. And He certainly did create us so He could express His love in relationship with us, His creatures. So… maybe this IS right? Papa? Really?
Hufford continues:
“We’ve been trained to believe that God gets a kick out of calling us in the opposite direction of where we want to go, as though it’s always a test to see if we will serve Him over the things we desire. Love simply does not think that way. It doesn’t look to be served. Love serves, remember?”
I wonder. Did I really used to think that way? Yes, maybe, before I really decided to accept Jesus, because I wanted to be cool, and I figured that following Jesus would end any chance at coolness. And I guess there have been times when I’ve felt like I’m forbidden to “have fun” … And I know that I’ve experienced some of the kind of “training” the writer speaks of, which is probably a good part of the reason it took me so long to turn to Jesus. But …
In the past while, my experience has been that GOD LOVES ME! God wants what is best for me! God actually is pleased to see me have fun and joy in my life. God does want me to use to full potential the gifts He has given me. God encourages me, helps me, guides me … oh my goodness! Then that means… God serves me!!!
Oh my. That last phrase is amazing. It almost sounds heretical. And yet… Jesus Himself said He came to serve … and He proved it, over and over and over…
And when we receive God’s love, we too long to serve – Him and others – willingly, joyfully, with awe and wonder and dancing – because that is true: love serves!!! Therefore, God serves. (And it has nothing at all to do with “deserving it.” Nothing. Zero. Zippo)
Hocus pick! Praise God! You are wonderful! I love You!

reactions and questions... from reading "The Misunderstood God" book

April 25, 2010
I really do need to return G’s book (The Misunderstood God) by Darin Hufford. So this morning I photocopied the notes I had take so far (a couple journals ago) and will try to finish my note-taking now. When I first read the book, some of the writer’s statements really kind of knocked the wind out of me. But now as I re-read, I am beginning to understand more clearly what the author is saying.
We do come to all of life’s experiences – including the ideas of others – with our own preconceptions, no matter how broad-minded we pride ourselves on being.
I realize as I read this book again that I really was meant to read it TODAY. As I’ve said before, I don’t hold much stock in “coincidences.” And this is definitely another of those times. What I am reading really does follow up on the “gas miracles” memories (check out my last blog entry)… and my feelings of nervousness, even helplessness, related to my “writing business” (check out the previous blog entries!).
Although I did read the entire book before, there are things I don’t remember. I know when I read the book the first time I was caught up in – even shocked by – the author’s attack on the negatives that religion has fed us – and felt that he had pretty much missed the positive truths of Your love for us – for me!
In the next couple or so blog entries, I’ll be posting some of my questions and comments.
(If you want some input from the writer himself, check out The Misunderstood Godwebsite.)

5 am musings: criminal minds

April 25, 2010
Yesterday I watched an episode of “Criminal Minds” with hubby. In this episode, a teenage boy reaches out to a “profiler” for help, because he is struggling with increasingly vivid fantasies related to killing women. In the show, the young man tries to commit suicide, as it seems to him to be his only alternative to giving in to his homicidal thoughts.
And I was left wondering how many people (I am willing to bet it is a lot, maybe most people at one time or another in their lives) feel themselves feeling “driven” to do things that are obviously morally unacceptable. How many people, I wondered, have these “hidden” drives/desire/fantasies, and desperately need help, even want help, and try in various ways to reach out for it. But either are afraid to come right out and ask for help, or if they do gather the courage to seek help, find their fears realized, as people react with criticism, ridicule, disbelief, judgment, patronizing, rebuffing, ignoring… Then the person ends up either going ahead with the negative behavior, or chooses self-destructive ways to avoid/inhibit it, such as turning to substance abuse, alternative negative behaviors, even suicide.
Clearly, to Christians, this kind of situation is one of the reasons that God has given us “one another” in the church. “Confess your faults one to another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed,” we read. Yes, healing – not only from physical ailments, but also emotional and mental – and spiritual. And yet, how often do we make ourselves available to each other, to listen sympathetically without judging; in love. How often do we really pray for each other, truly support each other, stick by each other on an on-going basis? That really requires us to become vulnerable ourselves, and also to be willing to give up “our time.” Oh, and how many of us are willing to become vulnerable enough to reach out to the rest of the “family” when these difficulties enter our own lives?
I wonder how many “fine Christian people” in any typical “loving Christian church” are actually struggling? I wonder how many are unable to access the love of God that is meant to be made available through their “brothers and sisters in Christ?” Hmmm…

Questioning the gas miracles...

April 25, 2010

So I posted the “Gas Miracle” story to the on-line writers group, in response to the “gas” challenge… and got an interesting response:

“I read it with interest Norma. Once we get more people into these, you will see what a difference it makes to everyone's writing. I'll be sending my next assignment on a different post. I'm cutting it off before its finished, I think it may take on a life of its own... :)

So, was someone sneaking gas into the tank??”

And I thought about that question… And responded in turn…
Well… locking gas cap, one key, which was always in my pocket … and I didn’t tell anyone about the “gas problem” until it was all over … and with a family of 8 people (me being THE driver) living in a trailer from which the car could be seen from all windows, someone would have noticed if the car suddenly disappeared…
I know. I asked that question myself. And a lot of other questions. But none of them raised possible answers.
I’m a pretty down-to-earth, pragmatic, take-care-of-things-myself, find-practical-solutions kind of person myself.
And yet – or maybe because of – that, I’ve had a few other similar “inexplicable” experiences like this through the years.
God using spectacular means to get my attention? Perhaps.
Perhaps “miracles” happen regularly, and we just don’t notice them, because we’re too busy, or more likely, because we don’t want to. Noticing such things raises uncomfortable questions, don’t you think?
Yesterday I was watching a Nat Geo program on TV about the findings of the Hubble Telescope. Amazing. Spectacular. Pretty unbelievable, really. Did you know those scientists, looking for answers that would fill in the gaps in their theories (and help prove them) found themselves having to, in some cases, develop new ones. Remember, in school, we were taught that the universe’s expansion is slowing down, and will likely some day stop, and maybe even start retracting? But now – it seems that it is actually speeding up its expansion – and some day, that will lead to the universe “ripping” and destroying itself. And did you know that in the “dark” parts of the sky there are hundreds of billions of galaxies? And that not only is there a lot of “dark matter” that exerts huge gravitational pull … but that 2/3 or so of the universe is made up of “dark energy” that actually holds the universe together? And so on… and on… and on… And the photos themselves, of stars and planets and galaxies, and black holes … are just amazing, unbelievable themselves…
And the scientists were rattling on about the “evolution of the universe” … funny, they used the phrase, “what power?” to ask about what could be holding it together… well, dark energy, then… but still, that question of “power” makes you wonder… And the thing is, thoughtful people have been wondering ever since our long-past ancestors looked up into the skies, and around them on the earth, and under the waters … and it just seems like every time we think we have a reasonable answer, something comes along that doesn’t fit the old “facts” …
And then when we look inside at ourselves? Physically, of course, that’s a wonder in itself. But emotionally, mentally… spiritually?
Do you ever feel (as I felt when I watched that program) that we live in a time of so much “information” that we are glutted? I will always remember as a child watching an amazing display of aurora borealis over Okanagan Lake in the dark night stretch of road between Summerland and Peachland. I experienced a miracle. Then I watched a TV program with photographs of the universe … and while it was awesome, it seemed to me much more as just some very interesting information. Too bad.
But every once in a while, that “miracle?” question really does strike me again. Of course the overwhelming wonder every time I hold a tiny new born child. Or experience love and friendship. But then there are those other things, those inexplicable things that are… well… miracles?
You can check out some of those experiences at Miracle Stories
(And yes. To me, the greatest miracle. Knowing God. And that makes every moment a miracle.)

The "gas" word challenge: "Gas miracles!"

April 22, 2010

In the spring of 2001, my first grandson was born. He was two months premature, and spent the first several weeks of his life in hospital. We lived in Keremeos, and every morning I would drive my daughter to the hospital in Penticton so she could be with her little son. Then I would go home to do my work and care for the rest of the family; and in the evening I would return to Penticton to pick up my daughter and bring her home.

Several days a week I would also drive to Ashnola to tutor a home-bound student. Besides all this driving, there were shopping trips, appointments, school league soccer games in various nearby communities, parent-teacher interviews, and all the other “mom’s taxi” excursions common to a parent of five teenagers.

All this coming and going took place in a 9 seater gas-guzzling station wagon of a rather elderly vintage. While the gas mileage for poor battered old Betsy was actually quite reasonable for a vehicle of her size and age, it definitely was not cheap. And we simply did not have any extra cash in our already thinly-stretched budget for these extra twice-daily trips between Keremeos and Penticton. To top it off, Betsy’s gas gauge had given out, so we never knew for sure when the gas was running low, although the odometer plugged along merrily, recording the endless kilometers spinning away under her tires.

Now it happened that this was a period in my life that had brought me to the end of myself. I had been raised to be independent, self-motivated, organized, self-reliant, responsible: “I can do it!” was my self-sufficient rallying cry. But now I had come to a point of such desperation and hopelessness that I actually began to reach out to my Creator, Who had long been holding out His hand to me.

At first this desperate reaching out was reserved for life’s big matters, things like attempted suicides in my family. I still thought I could take care of the no-sweat small stuff. But now even the small stuff was becoming overwhelming. For example: how on earth was I going to be able to drive two round trips to Penticton every day so my daughter could care for her tiny boy?

And so I cried out for help with this gas problem. Yes, I made helpful suggestions: Maybe someone could be sent along to loan us some money? Maybe someone could lend us a car that was more economical on gas? Maybe someone could offer my daughter a place to stay in Penticton? Maybe… maybe… maybe… But my helpful suggestions seemed to be met with utter silence.

Life was busy and chaotic, and the days flew by as I drove my daughter back and forth. Then suddenly one evening I realized, “Oh no! I haven’t put gas in the car in over a week. Surely the gas tank must be empty, running on fumes. The car has never gone anywhere near this far on one tank of gas!”

I jumped into the car and drove the kilometer or so to the gas station, praying frantically all the way that I wouldn’t run out of gas before I got there. Every little bump on the road and every little shudder from poor tired old Betsy assured me that I would never make it.

But amazingly, I found myself rolling into the gas station and pulling up to the pumps. I only had $10, and past experience taught me that a single round trip to Penticton and back would require at least $15 worth of gas. Maybe I could borrow an extra $10 or so from someone tomorrow? Dear God?

I started to pump the gas, watching carefully to be sure to stop when it reached the $10 mark. But suddenly, “Click!” The gas pump stopped. I pressed down on the handle, a few more cents registered on the pump, and then with another “Click!” the pump stopped again. A spurt of gas gushed up from the tank and splashed onto my hands. It did seem that the tank was full. But how? I’d already driven what would normally be at least a couple, or even 3 or 4, tank-fulls. Yet now the tank was apparently full with only $7 worth of gas!

I was literally shaking. What was this? A gas miracle? Do such things exist? More likely, an air-lock in the tank? I went into the gas station and paid the $7, then drove home. The next day I drove my daughter into Penticton again, praying under my breath all the way. One moment I was thanking God for providing a miracle. The next moment I was frantically begging Him to just get us there and back without running out of gas. I coasted down every slope, trying to save gas. But in the end, I did get there and home, and back to Penticton and home again in the evening. And so I continued to do, again and again, for several days.

Finally, my husband’s pay cheque arrived in the mail. Our budget was $20 for 2 weeks worth of gas. I drove down to the gas station, but decided to go to the drug store and bank first. When I came out of the drug store, the car would not start. It was completely out of gas. What to do?

“God, where are You? Why are You letting this happen? Don’t You care?” Tears were starting to trickle down my cheeks when a man drove his truck out of the adjoining lane. He stopped and asked if I was okay. I explained that I was out of gas.

“No problem!” he responded cheerfully, and got out a very small can of gas. He poured most of it into the tank, but the engine would not start. He opened the hood of the can and poured the rest somewhere into the engine – and finally it turned over. This helpful gentleman told me to drive up the hill to the gas station, and he would follow me just in case I ran out of gas again.

Up the hill we went – slowly, very slowly, behind a large truck. Halfway up the hill, it stalled, and we had to stop behind it. We started up again, and then had to stop at the intersection. I was sure we’d never make it. But finally, I was able to cross the highway and pull into the Hilltop Esso station. The engine died again just as I rolled up to the pumps. I put in the $20 worth of gas – and drove for another full week or so.

One of my children earned some money and gave me $10 one day. I decided I would use it for gas on my way home from my tutoring job. I drove back across Red Bridge and swung onto the highway, starting up the final uphill grade before the road slopes back down toward the Fas Gas station at the western end of Keremeos. Just as I neared the top of the slope, the car engine spluttered and died. Praying fervently, I kept my foot off the brake and let the car roll. It came to a full stop on the very top of the slope.

“Oh dear God, help me!” I cried out. And then slowly, very, very slowly, old Betsy started to roll down the hill, gradually gathering a bit of speed. As I came up to the station, I was able to steer off the road, and the car coasted up and stopped, without my braking, right in front of the pumps. I put in the $10 worth of gas. And drove several more days.

And so it went, right until my baby grandson was brought home from the hospital, and the Penticton trips were no longer necessary. And at that point, old Betsy went right back to her usual gas-guzzling ways.

I spoke about this experience to various acquaintances. A few agreed it had to be a miracle. Others, especially those with mechanical knowledge, just shook their heads, looked at me as if I was slightly crazy, and told me that it was impossible, that I must be mistaken about the mileage or the amount of gas or both.

I know I was not mistaken. But they were right about one thing: it was impossible. At least it was impossible for me, or for any human for that matter. But obviously it was not impossible for the Creator Who called the worlds into being. Who cares about His children. And for Whom gas miracles are definitely possible.

I'm back! New grand-daughter!

April 26, 2010

Just a short note before I start catching up! April 19th was the birth of my first wee granddaughter. I spent the next several days having fun with her 18 month old “big brother” while mom and dad spent their days with her at the hospital. The little family is together again at home now, and I am indeed catching up!

Sunday 18 April 2010

more thoughts on "preaching" ... and YOUR will and guidance ... and the importance of scripture...

April 18, 2010

Acts 16:6 They passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia; 7 and after they came to Mysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them… 9 A vision appeared to Paul in the night … “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10. When he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

(See… I so often tend to “worry” because I do want to “preach the gospel” – and while sometimes the opportunities are wide open, other times it seems very clear that it is not the time or place. So I just be friendly, or move on, or whatever. But at the same time I wonder if I’m just not “bold” – and yet, when the time is clearly right, I have little or no problem. So I am thinking (again) that we need to really listen to the Spirit before we “go and preach the gospel.”
When I was growing up, we were really encouraged (pushed) to learn “the four spiritual laws” or the “ABC’s of salvation” or whatever; and then go out knocking on doors, or walk up to all kinds of random people on the street, at work, at school, wherever. And “present the gospel” and get them to “pray the sinner’s prayer” and “give their hearts to Jesus.” Seldom did we see them again…. Hmmm… so much for discipleship…

And if we were rebuffed, I guess we were supposedly being “persecuted for righteousness’ sake.” Someone I looked up to used to say to be nice and polite to “door to door gospel – or, especially, cultic – salespeople. Because if one were rude to them, it would give them reason to “rejoice” and record “brownie points” in their notebooks. But if, on the other hand, one invited them in for coffee, this would keep them safely off the street… And maybe even build relationship, by which one could end up introducing them to real relationship with Jesus, and discipling them.

Now, I’m thinking that last bit might be a good thing… but I’m wondering if the rest of the advice was a bit more “doing it man’s way”?? I thought at the time that it was pretty smart, but now I wonder. Hmmm… NT scripture does say to NOT invite teachers of wrong doctrine into your house…)

Acts 16:14 … Lydia … a worshipper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul

(There again: “the Lord opened her heart.” It really is YOUR work. We need to be hearing Your voice, and speaking when, where, and to whom You are preparing. Paul and company went there, led by God, not just leaping in according to their own whim – or even their own research or whatever. Interesting: God even forbade them to teach in certain places [v 6] so they kept on traveling, and ended up where and when God had already prepared hearts.

So, does this mean we don’t just “preach” wherever, whenever, to whomever, but instead seek always to be in the leading of the Spirit? Sure sounds like it!)

Acts 17:11 Now these [the Bereans] were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. 12. Therefore many of them believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men.

(See: the scriptures ARE important. Over and over in the NT church, we see the scriptures appealed to – in fact, mainly OT scriptures! – and how they pointed to Jesus. It’s not just about “sharing my journey.” Searching the word of God IS important. And also note: they did so daily, not just once a week at “Sunday service” or “Bible study group” or whatever. They met together daily, ate together, shared the Lord’s supper together, even worked together day by day. And people like Paul taught daily, too, in marketplaces, rented halls, homes – not just in synagogues on the Sabbath, or just in the weekly gatherings of the church on the “Lord’s day.”) (see Acts 17:17, 19 … 18:3-7)

Acts 17:24 The God who made the world and all things in it… 25… Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; 26… He made… mankind to live … having determined their appointed times… 27. that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Hi, though He is not far from each one of us; 28. for in Him we lives and move and exist… 29. Being then the children of God… 30… God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, 13 because… He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed… raising Him from the dead.

(Good gospel, eh!!!)

Acts 18:9 And the Lord said to Paul in the night by a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent; 10 for I am with you, and no man will attack you… for I have many people in this city.” 11. And he settled there a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.

(See! “the Lord said…” It’s God’s work, and He guides His children where and when and to whom they should preach. And “I have many people in this city.” It’s God’s preparation of hearts!)

18:21 … taking leave of them and saying, “I will return to you again if God wills,” he set sail…. 28. [Apollos] powerfully refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.

(Yes! Again! God’s will and direction … and, again, strong use of Scripture)

Saturday 17 April 2010

are our churches anything like the New Testament church??

April 14, 2010

Acts 13:1 Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers… 2. While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, Set apart for Me Barnabus and Saul for the work to which I have called them. 3. Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. 4. So being sent out by the Holy Spirit….

(This doesn’t sound much like most churches I’ve been part of… You were so much in control, and the church wanted that!) (Papa???)

(I would sure like to be set apart by You, Holy Spirit… and know it, like they did!)

… 12. Then the proconsul believed when he saw what had happened, being amazed at the teaching of the Lord.

(Over and over, belief came out of a combination of preaching and signs: which are both included here in the term, “the teaching of the Lord” … once again, You were in control!)

… 52. And the disciples were continually filled with joy and the Holy Spirit.

(Can that be said of us? Of me? … I want it to be… please? Holy Spirit? Father? Jesus? Please!)

… 14:3 Therefore they spent a long time there speaking boldly with reliance upon the Lord, who was testifying to the word of His grace, granting that signs and wonders be done by their hands…

(Father, Papa – why does it seem like You don’t so much “grant that signs and wonders be done” by our hands today? Some people say that was just in the early church to get it going – and they even think that anything like that nowadays has got to be evil, actually… I don’t believe that, because I have seen Your power!!! But I wonder – is it because we just do not rely on You when we speak? (even if we “speak boldly” which we don’t much – well, I don’t much, that’s for sure – and a lot of our “bold” speaking is from our own efforts, I’m thinking…)

…14:21 After they [Paul and Barnabus: apostles, preachers/ teachers, encouragers, disciple-makers, church planters (of new believers, not of transplanted “fish from someone else’s aquariums”)] had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22. strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. 23. When they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.

(more about how we do not seem to do things very much: reaching out to unbelievers, making disciples, strengthening, encouraging, entering the kingdom through tribulations (ha! we do not want tribulations! We don’t want the cross for ourselves…), the church planters appointing elders (having prayed with fasting) and then commending them to the Lord (reliance on You – again!), and then moving on… coming back occasionally (or writing letters) to encourage them..)

…24ff (and then moved on to other locations)
…26ff (and then back to their “home church” from which they had been “sent out” at the direction of the Holy Spirit – and brought back reports on what “God had done” with them)
…28 (And then spent a long time with the disciples at their home church – until they were sent out again)

…15:28 For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…

(always: reliance on YOU!)

Barnabus: son of encouragement .... I want to be a daughter of encouragement!

13 April 2010
Acts 11:17 …. Who was I that I could stand in God’s way? … 20 … began speaking… preaching the Lord Jesus. 21. And the hand of the Lord was with them…23… he [Barnabus] rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord; 24. for he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And considerable numbers were brought to the Lord.

Lord God, You know that lately I have been thinking a lot about Barnabus – “son of encouragement.” Because, Lord God – Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit – that is truly who I want to be – an encourager. I even was wondering if there is a feminine form of the name, that means “daughter of encouragement!”

Every morning when I am out walking, I smile at everyone (always have, it seems… perpetual grin on my face… even if it used to embarrass my kids some) (although I guess I did go through a cranky teen stage, because I remember my mom telling me if I didn’t stop frowning and start smiling, I would get permanent frown wrinkles!).

But Lord – You came into my life – and the frown was just wiped out by the joy You brought – even in the rough times, even when I was worried and feeling hopeless and helpless; I couldn’t help smiling a lot… that is Your joy, alone! Anyway, I always see people suddenly smile at me – and realize that I was smiling at them. Smiles are catching! I also say a cheery “Good morning!” There is this guy who I often pass when I’m out walking, who is always alone. At first, I’d smile and say, “Good morning,” and he’d move away to the side, look down, and walk quickly around me. And for awhile, when I was coming toward him, he’d even cross over to the other side of the street. But yesterday our paths crossed again; and before I could even say, “Good morning,” he looked me straight in the eye and lifted his hand in greeting! That was so cool. Even a little bit of a smile, and he didn’t move to the side. Wow! Thank You, Lord!

Oh, and on the way to street breakfast on Monday, I ran across R and H, and when I got to the gathering place, there were D and L, and pretty soon a couple other folks came by, and we all were standing on the street corner having a great visit. And just as on Sunday, lots of people turned up… so I certainly wasn’t lonely! Thank You!

So yes… I want to be Your DAUGHTER OF ENCOURAGEMENT! And yes, I especially want to “encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord!” (Acts 11:23).

And look how that turned out for Barnabus: Acts 11:26…And for an entire year they [Barnabus and Paul] met with the church and taught considerable numbers; and the disciples were first called Christian in Antioch.

Cool! I’d like to have that kind of experience… and be able to teach about You like that!

Difficulties at street church... or ???

11 April 2010
Woke up tired today! Hubby bought a package of disks of the first season of Beverly Hillbillies for $5 at Walmart… and we sat up till 11 pm last night laughing hilariously at the antics of Jed and family … and then I was up at 5 am to make cow patty cookies for street church breakfast. (Oh come on, cookies are good for breakfast – especially ones that have whole wheat flour, oatmeal, coconut, peanut butter, milk – and chocolate, which everyone knows is very good for you! What? Sugar? Well… hey, they’re 90% healthy, right? And oatmeal is breakfast food, isn’t it? Lol…)
This past week (weeks, at least a couple), have been difficult at street church. There have been several “incidents” – guys just acting “crazy” (at least one ending up in the psych ward at the local hospital), and Pastor P reacting – kind of over-reacting, compared to what I’ve seen before. Since a number of local church pastors offered to be a “board” for him, and recommended that he turn his personal street outreach into a non-profit “society,” I think he has been under a lot of pressure.
It seems like these “church-y” board members, who really are well-meaning, and excited about “reaching out” to a part of the local population which has not been “reached” by “churches” in the past, are laying demands on him that just are not in sync with what Father has led him to do: build relationships with street people and others who are “on the edges of society,” and live the Jesus-life with them – which has resulted in many of them coming to know and walk with Jesus themselves. I think the “pastors” on the “board” are pushing for more “structure” because that is what they “know.” They want to “help” and to “be involved” but it seems they cannot picture doing things outside the “structured approach” they are familiar with.
For example, in the past, “street church” or “church in the park” has really been that. But they think it would be “more effective” if it were “a mission” which seems to mean “held indoors” – and apparently that means preferably in a “church facility.” While it is nice, in really cold winter weather, to have an indoor space available – even the “street people” appreciate that – most of the street church guys and gals feel more comfortable outside in the park when the weather improves – and it certainly “reaches out” more effectively. So as the weather has improved significantly lately, with the arrival of spring, the street church folks were eager to get back to the park, and indeed, we had “Easter street church” back in the park, much to everyone’s delight. Everyone, that is, except the “board” and a number of “church people” who were quite perturbed, and wanted it back “indoors.” The “church” who generously shared their building over the cold winter months were quite disappointed, as they are happy to be “involved” in “outreach” by sharing their building. So today we were back at “the church” although we only used the indoors for the washrooms and for making coffee… everything else was outside on the “church lawn” …
Still, even though we weren’t where we’d really like to be, this morning there was a strong sense of joy and praise and freedom, and of the Spirit of God in our midst – and a bunch of people who haven’t come for some time turned up… so maybe Father is asking us to meet other parts of His church “in the middle” so to speak… Papa???
And even though I was (initially at least, a bit) disappointed at myself, kind of, because I just didn’t seem to have opportunities to really talk about Jesus – although a couple of us sat down at the piano and enjoyed singing “Amazing Grace” together (which we couldn’t have done in the park, lol… at least not the piano part…), and I did try a couple times to “steer” conversations a bit, but it just didn’t happen (well, obviously, because it wasn’t Your plan, eh! Oops!)… I even wanted to talk to M about my Bible study idea – but it just seemed like this was not Your plan, Your time.
On the other hand, all kinds of people were talking to Pastor P (and K, and some others) about “spiritual things,” and asking for prayers… Well, Father, I just think You didn’t mean for me to “preach” this morning, but to be a friend … and we surely did have lots of natural, friendly conversation… the kind of conversation You would have with friends, eh? Thank You!
Jesus, I really want to follow You. Love You. Believe in You. Live the Jesus life.
I want to study Your words. I want to really get into the gospels and hear You and see You. (And hear and see Father too – because You are His exact image, and there’s nothing You say or do or think that is not from Father – and I want to hear Your Holy Spirit too – because He is Your Spirit, God’s Spirit. Woooo!)

Saturday 10 April 2010

"sharing my walk" rather than "preaching the word"??

10 April 2010
Interesting! Acts 10:40 God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He become visible 41 not to all the people but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God… who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead… 11:1 the Gentile also had received the word of God
[that is, they received the good news of peace through Jesus, preach by witnesses… and confirmed by God through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon those who preached the message.]
Okay. So, apparently (in this case at least) the apostles did not “use the scriptures” to point Cornelius and his group to Jesus. But Peter’s mention of “the prophets” certainly referred to the scriptural record. And it is quite likely that the Roman centurion, Cornelius, as a devout believer in the Jewish God, would be aware of the Jewish (OT) scriptures and law.
And our “Christian scriptures” (NT) were actually written by these “witnesses” – including Peter himself. So, while, our own walk/ journey/ experience with Jesus is a testimony/ witness we can certainly use in “preaching the good news” to others, so also is the written witness of those who actually knew Jesus during His time here on earth. And, in fact, their witness has a level and aspect to it which ours cannot, since they not only had walks similar to ours (after Jesus’ ascension), but they also had a “physical walk” with Jesus which we, now, do not have in our earthly lifetime.
I mention all this because I think that sometimes the concept of “sola scriptura” has been taken to an extreme which refuses to recognize anything but a reasoned explication of scripture (therefore setting aside the role of the Holy Spirit in teaching believers, and yes, setting aside one’s own personal walk as a witness to Jesus), no doubt in fear of anything that isn’t clearly rational. On the other hand, there has been (likely in reaction to the aforementioned extreme), a recent swing to the opposite extreme, where scripture, if recognized to any degree at all, is only seen as a “backup” to “sharing my personal walk with Jesus.”
I have recently heard from people who I really like, and who I know really do want to share Jesus, make comments such as these:
“The Bible is really just a group of written-down experiences of people who walked with Jesus/God. And they happened in times and cultures that have a lot of aspects we don’t relate to. So while it doesn’t hurt to read scripture, what is more important is for us to share our own experiences, which are more understandable for people today anyway. And remember, even your experience and my experience won’t be just the same, so differences in how we present Jesus are normal and nothing to really worry about.”
“You don’t need to do Bible studies with people to help them to grow in their walk and know how to live as a believer. You just need to walk with Jesus yourself, and tell your own stories, and show God’s love to people in practical ways, and they will understand, and learn to follow God and live in godly ways like you do.”
“Church sermons and Bible stories are really just repetitive teaching, and keep people from getting out there and living their faith. If you sit and listen to Sunday morning sermons, by three or so years you will have learned all the Bible stories, and after that it is just repetition. What you need to do is get out and walk the walk, and then you’ll really keep learning, knowing God more and more, and others will see Him in you, and come to Him.”
“ If you really do want to use the scriptures to teach others, and to learn more yourself, you don’t need the Old Testament. It just gets you all bogged down in rules and regulations that don’t apply to us anyway. Just stick to the New Testament, and best of all, to the gospels.”
The trouble is, what I see happening in these lines of reasoning, is a lack of depth. People do come to know Jesus. But knowing based only on present experience, and particularly on one’s own personal experience, and perhaps the experience of one or two mentors, is shallow because there is a lack of understanding.
Look at this in terms of a marriage relationship. My husband is a First Nations person. He is also a believing Christian. He is also leary of “church activities.” I realized those things very quickly by simply observing the color of his skin and the information on his “status card;” observing that he prayed to the Lord Jesus with great love and devotion; and the fact that he avoided most church activities. And if I had stayed at that level of knowing my husband, I would have probably drawn some “logical” conclusion such as “First Nation people who are Christians are leary of church activities.”
Now, if I were a new believer, and the person who shared Jesus with me was my “example of Christ” – as I could have generalized my husband to be an example of “First Nations people” – and I just accepted their life example as I saw it at that point, and accepted their little story of their relationship with Christ as a valid and complete enough lesson about what it is to be a believer, and accepted their declaration that “my walk” so far is also valid and complete enough as it is, and that it isn’t necessary to go digging into all those old scriptures… I wonder what conclusions I might start drawing about relationship with Christ, relationship with other believers – and even what the Good News Jesus came to bring us really is.
Going back to my relationship with my husband, over the years I have learned something of his history, related to his avoidance of “church activities.” Some of what I have learned, has come from him. He has told me a bit about his experience at a church-run “residential school” as a child. But he hasn’t told me much, because it was not a positive experience, and he cannot bring himself to dig up old pain. And if I had left it at that, no doubt I could now conclude that “First Nations people who are Christians are leary of church activities, which has something to do with painful residential school activities.” Another “logical” conclusion perhaps, but, as I’ve learned, not the full truth, by any stretch.
Over the years, therefore, I have investigated other sources of information about residential schools and their life-long effects on the children forced to attend them. And on the parents who lost their children. And the cultures where family life was destroyed for generations. And I now understand that many very evil things happened in those places (and some good things, too, to some children in some of the schools), in the name of “church.” And that therefore my husband’s personal perception of what “church” really is, has been very colored by his own experiences – just as my perception of “church” really is, were colored by my very different childhood experiences related to “church” (again, some good, and some not so much, though I didn’t see the “not so much” parts as, well “not so much” until much later).
At any rate, I have learned from other residential school survivors, and from comments made by people who taught in those schools, and from government and church documents, and from school documents, and from school graveyards full of nameless grave stones, and from accounts of history and culture of that time in our history, and so on. And because of what I have learned from going beyond the bit of his story which my husband has been prepared to share with me, I have actually come to know him a lot better, and it has had some pretty important, deepening, growing effects on our relationship, and on our family, too. For example:
- I have a better understanding of “where he comes from” and why he makes certain choices.
- I have greater empathy for him, and for his family (who at first kind of drove me a bit crazy)
- I no longer nag at him to get involved in “church activities”
- And in consequence he no longer gets annoyed at me and clams up even more; in fact, he has started to open up and share more of his story with me, letting down his “walls” so that I know and understand him better; and he listens to me, too, and understands more about me
- I have been open to finding other things (other than church activities) that we can do together
- And I’ve been beginning to see the truth about some “church activities” a lot more clearly – and consequently have begun to get a healthy little dose of leary-ness about them myself
- We argue less, and confide and discuss more
- He actually supports me more in the “church activities” I continue to be involved with
- Because we have grown closer, our family relationships have also grown and developed
So, getting back to this question of putting scriptural knowledge and understanding way into the background, in favor of just sharing my personal walk, I can see that getting that background knowledge (as some folks view scripture these days), I can actually deepen in my relationships with God and other believers. For example:
- help me understand and empathize with others in the family
- help me not to draw false conclusions
- see how people’s experiences alter their perceptions: and realize that altered perceptions can sometimes lead people away from the truth, or lead people to see realities they had been blinded to. In either way, I am encouraged to…
- be drawn closer to Truth
- help me realize that just because another person – even one I admire a great deal and care for – believes in a certain way, that way is not likely to be the whole truth
- makes me long for Truth…
and since Truth is a person, Jesus (God incarnate) … drives me to seek Him. And He chose to reveal Himself through experience and teachings given to mankind over a long period of time, and written down in scripture…and through His own words/ teachings given, in the flesh, by Jesus, here on earth, and recorded in writing by His “witnesses.”
So, although I love and value my own experience of knowing Jesus, and learn from the experiences of others, in what they share with me and what we live together, I still want more… and my Lord has given me that “more.” And a really key part of it IS scripture.
One last thing, the Holy Spirit – Christ’s own Spirit – is given to us to “teach us all things” that Jesus taught… to help us to understand all that Jesus was really saying, to hear His Truth right from Him – and our closest “primary source” is His words, recorded by those who knew Him, lived with Him, watched Him, listened to Him, interacted with Him. (Oh yes, His words and actions, of course: because there is a lot of truth in that old saying: actions speak louder than words! And actions turn words into living reality).
(Wow! That whole discussion, line of thought, came out of reading just half of one verse of scripture! Well, one verse in context of the chapter before and after, of course. And related to where God has been, taking me in my “walk with Him.” Anyway: scripture, guided by the Holy Spirit – and yes, I do ask for His guidance when I read scripture – really is important!)
(And thank You, Father, for that “confirmation” from Your word, from You, to my “I’ve been thinking I would really like to start a Bible study…” musing this morning).

Wanting to start a Bible study....

April 10, 2010
I’ve been thinking I would really like to start a Bible study – on the beach or in the park probably – for my street friends. And for anyone else who would like to join in. Papa?
(It’s good to feed and clothe the body, and we already do share Jesus in conversation and in discussion on Sunday mornings in our street church gathering… but I really do see a need for more in-depth-knowing-You through the truth of Your word. Because there is so much spiritual confusion out there in our world.

Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit - I want ALL of You

April 9, 2010
There have been times in my walk, over the years, when I was more focused on Jesus…then later on the Holy Spirit… and more recently on Father (after I finally learned to appreciate my own earthly father, poor guy…)
Trouble is, sometimes I am feeling that this current Father emphasis is not “balanced.”
I’m wondering – Who are we really supposed to be “in relationship” with? God, obviously – Father, Jesus, and Holy Spirit. And when we are “focused” on one-of-the-Three-in-One, obviously we are at the same time in relationship with All.
And yet, I feel as though too much “focus” on One of the Three-in-One can end up with me “losing out” on the potential of “full” relationship. As, clearly, the Three Persons of the One do in some way play particular roles.
Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit – One God yet Three Persons – I do want ALL of YOU, all You have to offer. Please. Show me Your way. Let me walk with You: All-One, and Each-in-All as well. Thank You.

Preaching the gospel....

April 8, 2010
Acts 8:5-6 Philip went down to the city of Samaria and began proclaiming Christ to them. The crowds with one accord were giving attention to what was said by Philip, as they heard and saw the signs which he was performing… 8. so there was much rejoicing in that city….
[no doubt because of receiving Jesus (v 12 “the good news about the kingdom and the name of Jesus Christ”), but also because the enemy was clearly being overcome (v 13 “signs and great miracles taking place”) by the power of God’s Spirit (v 17 “then they – the apostles: authority – began laying their hands on them, and they were receiving the Holy Spirit”), through the believers, including the new ones…]
Acts 8:35 … beginning from this scripture he preached Jesus to Him.
[start with what people know… or think they know… use the scriptures! Not just “my experiences” – but both. Right? Father??]

church in the PARK ... or wherever... however... You want it...

8 April 2010
1 am… woke up and can’t go back to sleep…
I sure was looking forward to church-in-the-PARK again… though I guess at least being outside the church building, in their front yard, is alright… Am I just in my comfortable pew/ tradition mode?
Papa, it seems like… I don’t know if this “board” of traditional church pastors is such a great thing for the street ministry… I mean, as “elders” for doctrinal purity, and for prayer support and such, maybe it is a good thing… but as direction for the “practical” purposes of the “mission” … maybe there at least needs to be a representative or two from the “street” side, eh? (I guess the “board” is necessary from a “legal, society” point of view…)
But boy oh boy… spiritual, Godly, Spirit-led things sure can quickly get tangled up, distracted, even “led” my man-made stuff…
I sure need to be a lot more in prayer – a lot more in Your word – a lot more in Your Spirit, led by You…
For this whole “street church” thing. But ALSO for “my business” … for my whole life… oh, it is so, too, easy to get distracted!
When things get “out of hand” like they have a bit lately –
Why don’t we just stop and pray – instead of trying to handle it “our way” … or running away (or threatening to – and getting caught in the bluff…)
Well, I can pray…
(And Father, please help me pray every day for the Word Guild…
And just generally pray every day! And read Your word every day… so I can really be abiding in You…
Because, boy oh boy, “abiding” can go from real to theoretical (to not at all, even, maybe) so fast and easy, unnoticed!

a Mary kind of morning

7 April 2010

So after that Mary time at Your feet this morning, I threw on my clothes, inhaled a slice of toast-and-jam and rushed off. I arrived at street church breakfast without even the thermos of hot water (for cocoa and tea) that I always bring, or the fudge that I had baked and put in the fridge for this morning’s gathering.

I listened to some “worship music” on my MP3 player on the way (which I haven’t done for many months). And even sang along a bit. Which I also have not done for a very long time. Sang along to the bits that helped to draw me to You. Like the song that was about walking with You, every day. And the song about the freedom found in You alone.

And when I got there (outside, grey and chilly when the wind came up), I helped do the simple little setup. Cereal and milk, and the boiled eggs and deviled eggs I brought the other day, and coffee and juice. Which only took a moment of two of simple serving, but still needed and appreciated.

And then I sat in a lawn chair and started to chat with those who came by. And this one guy was telling me about getting mugged and beaten up a few days back. And how bad things seem to happen one after another. And I was able to share, from his experiences, and from my own experiences, too, about how, when we come to the ends of our ropes, and there is nothing we can do, ourselves, to fix or solve our problems, then we are ready to turn to You. And so we can see that our piled-up-problems, when we are able to look back at them, are really a blessing. Because those seeming terrible problems and difficulties can really take us out of our self-sufficiency, and point us to You.

And later, one of the guys came over and hugged me and told me, over and over, how much they all appreciate me being there, and “what I do for them.” And I was able to thank him – thank them – for being a family for me now that so much of my family is grown and moved to distant locations. I said, “I feel like a mom again!” And he laughed and said, “But I’m probably older than you.” Then we compared notes, and discovered that we are the same age. “A very good year!” we agreed. So we decided we are twin-brother-and-sister in You. I was very happy.

And Pastor P gave me a ride home, for which I was grateful. Because it really was chilly-breezy-damp out, and I’d gotten really chilled and tired. And on the way he told me it is amazing how much the guys that come to the street breakfast respect me, even more, he said, than they respect their own families. But Papa, Jesus, Holy Spirit! It is YOU (in me, as it just happens to be in me that they happen to be encountering You), that they are seeing and respecting, isn’t it? Yes! Thank You!

After I got home, I tidied up, as my little grandson will be coming over for a visit while his mommy and daddy go to an appointment. I love that little guy, and can’t wait to see him. But I did need to do some child-proofing around here. 

And then I sat down for a little snack and warm cup of tea. And I flipped on the TV, and there was a program in which they were talking about a gathering of First Nations peoples in Ottawa this coming June, which will be an “I forgive” response to the Canadian Prime Minister’s apology to Canada’s Aboriginal peoples some time ago.

And they were talking about how hard it is for the First Nations peoples to make this kind of response, and yet how it is necessary. And just watching the discussion brought up some pain, and yes, anger, in myself. My husband is also a residential school “survivor,” and the effects of that experience have not only affected him but to some degree, our family’s relationships as well. And I realized that I too have anger in respect to this, that I need to let go, that I, too, need to forgive.

But, perhaps, I at the same time do find it a little easier to accept many “street people” for who they are and where they are at, because I have experienced (through my husband, and his family, and his people) some of that incredibly deep pain that comes out of abuse and prejudice and “colonial” arrogance and so on.

Father, You do have purposes and plans for each one of us. You do prepare us for where You want us in the work of Your kingdom. And so it is true: the pain we go through can turn out to be a blessing, not only for ourselves as we open ourselves to You and experience Your forgiveness, grace, mercy, love. But also it can turn out to be a blessing as it spreads out, through us, to others, and through them, to still others in turn. And so Your amazing, eternal love reaches out to all the world. Totally available. If only we will accept it. Thank You. I love You, Lord.

Thank You for teaching me today, in all the places You have taken me. Thank You for opening my heart to hear and learn – and to long to pass this knowing You to others.

for whom, to whom, why, am I writing?

7 April 2010

In my journaling lately, in terms of conversation with You, I have actually found myself thinking about and writing for the “blog audience,” instead of focusing on our conversation. For the audience’s, dare I say, entertainment. Wanting them to agree with me, nod their heads approvingly. And yet, that is not what You have called me to, is it?

I’m called to know You – and in my journey, my walk with You, to let others see a bit at least of what that relationship with You really looks like. Even when it isn’t always pleasant and agreeable, in the world’s (maybe also in religion’s) way of thinking. Maybe especially when it isn’t.

Forgive me, please, dear God. And keep my eyes, ears, heart, where they belong:

“Looking unto Jesus.” (Hebrews 12:1)

loneliness ... Mary vs Martha mode ... relationship with You vs all that serving

April 7, 2010

Good morning, Papa, Jesus, Holy Spirit! Good morning, “my Lord and my God!”

I feel perhaps a little like Thomas this morning. The past few days – or even longer – I have kind of felt like a lot of the time I’ve had blinders on my eyes, and earplugs in my ears, and my heart wrapped in, muffled, by some kind of light-blocking curtain, when it comes to my relationship with You. Though certainly there have been bright moments, of course!

But this morning I sense Your sun, Your light, is shining again clear and bright in my heart, and that the blinders and ear plugs are removed. It is not that You have been absent or even hiding from me, I know. Perhaps I have just gotten too caught up in my “new business” planning. And caught up in trying to “figure out,” on my own, how that should happen and where it should take me. And even more critically, perhaps, trying to figure out, on my own, about where I “belong” in terms of the street ministry and all.

I said a couple days ago that I am lonely. And it’s true, I have been lonely. But I’ve been thinking that it is loneliness for human interaction. I’ve felt that my interactions at the street ministry have become rather shallow and less meaningful – that, like Martha in the gospel story, I’ve gotten so caught up in “serving,” that my interactions with the guests have become only mere snippets of conversation as I rush by.

Which is why, I expect, that I feel this longing to really sit down with Your word (and my journal) open and right at hand, and really, really talk and learn with the brothers and sisters. Or go back out on the street (away from the breakfast table) and sit and visit right there on the benches in the downtown square, or on the grass under the trees in the park. Or on the sidewalk, where people are sitting with their hats out longing for a handout…

But are really needing relationship – God’s love! – with You and Your children. And to hear those words of Peter and John: “Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.” Not only being fed and clothed and housed, and even being brought into physical and mental health and wholeness. But walking in wonderful, eternal relationship with You.

Maybe I am also lonely for friendliness, for just simple things like inviting people once again onto my front porch, and yes, into my home. That’s why, I’m sure, I was so happy when R walked me home the other days, and even came inside for a few minutes for a chat. And why I keep, hopefully, putting out an extra lawn chair when I sit on my porch to read and write in the sunshine. And how thrilled I was to get those pictures yesterday of some street friends who really had become special friends, and often visited in my home – but something happened in their lives, and I haven’t seen them for a long while now.

And yet, even in all that, I see now that I am still caught up in Martha mode, for truly I have gotten so caught up in “serving the guests” I’ve lost track of You, the chief Guest, indeed the one and only true, real Reason for the gathering – for the party! And yes, for the serving.

I have lost track of being Mary, spending much time at Your knee, listening, learning, growing to know You more and more: the important thing, the needful thing, the thing without which the serving becomes, well, about serving, instead of being about You.

When You walked this earth, You constantly, without fail, withdrew and spent personal, focused time with Father. And You also spent focused time with Father and Your disciples. So that, when You were out there in the crowds, “serving,” You were where You knew Father was – and You were doing Father’s work (and You had prepared the disciples to do Father’s work too), seeing and loving with Father’s sight and love. You had Father with You all the time, and You constantly recognized Him, walked and worked with Him.

But You couldn’t have done that, could You, without first having Your relationship together, as always being the number one thing. Relationships, to grow and deepen, must be invested in. Especially relationship with You. Because all other relationships are actually diminished so incredibly if there is not a living, loving, growing relationship with You as the foundation. Without You, all our other relationships can really only be dim and shadowy. Imitations really, of the real relationship with You for which we are created. Yes?

Oh Father, I am sorry. Please draw me back to be Mary sitting at Your knee – and inviting others to be there also, together. Yes, with tummies filled and bodies warmly clothed. But always with the purpose of drawing others into Your love, into knowing You.

Father, honestly, I myself find it difficult to know at what point one steps out of Mary’s shoes and into Martha’s. It happens so easily, and seemingly out of such good intent. But Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit, You know. And You can and will keep me there in the Mary place if only I ask. And yes, I am asking. Please. Thank You.

…. Oh my goodness, it is 6:20 m. And I am still here, sitting in my comfy bed, still in my jammies, empty tummy. But I really have had some Mary time with You, Jesus. Some Jesus time with Father! Some my spirit with Your Spirit time. Yes! Thank You.

I need to get dressed, eat, and leave, all in the next 10 minutes. But only if I am walking every step of this day with You. Otherwise there really is no point. Keep me with You alone, dear Jesus, Holy Spirit, Father – my Lord, God, Savior, King, Creator. Thank You. Amen.

practical / spiritual fellowship ... and balance ... and "how we do things" ....

April 6, 2010

I am struggling with “church” again… or should I say, still…

M phoned me today to say how awesome it was to have me at church-in-the-park on Sunday, how it “took the edge off” to have a woman at a gathering that is often mostly men. And that was encouraging for me, and I do love going…

BUT … oh Lord … much as I enjoy baking and serving and visiting, and even hair-cutting sometimes, not to mention the many friends/family I’ve grown to know and care for and all –

Still, I feel left out when it comes to “spiritual” things. Like Pastor P seems to feel that the “spiritual” end is his thing. And that this is his ministry and maybe he feels that we are trying to take over or change things (he has said it is hard for him sometimes; he was doing this alone for 4 or 5 years, and now he suddenly has people coming alongside, and things are changing. Yes, I can see how that would be hard to adjust to. Maybe other people’s ways of witnessing and sharing don’t seem to fit, or seem to be in competition.)

Father, I long to share, teach, disciple. I want to sit down and chat with people out on the street, not just, well… serve food, you know.

Father, R and M are praying for a wonderful, big building, to get a “real mission” going. But Papa, I am still scared of how easily that sort of things leads to “structure.” And I don’t see why we can’t meet outdoors when the weather is okay. And why we can’t meet in people’s houses, maybe (but it seems like there is this thing about a person’s home being their private spot for their family … and a fear of what people might bring in … or take away when they leave … etc). Or maybe someone might have an empty storefront or office space (there are a lot of those these days) we could just borrow when the weather is nasty, if we promised to keep it clean. Or something. You managed those ways. So did the early church. So does the church in many parts of the world today. But apparently not here. Apparently not in “our culture.”

Maybe I should just try to find a “simple church” that would accept us … or start one? How simple is a simple church? Where is the line drawn between simple church gatherings and structured “churches”?

Papa??? (I feel kind of sick. Tummy pains again. This is not right. Help me to trust You completely, please. To rest in You.)

Father, I really crave fellowship. Is it possible that “practical fellowship” can become too extreme, just as “spiritual fellowship” can become so? Can you help us live the balance You desire for us? Please?

(And please help me not to be critical).