Saturday, 22 January 2011

One Thousand Gifts

Something to think about...

One Thousand Gifts
A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are

Published by Zondervan
Available wherever books are sold

Come join the community taking the dare to LIVE FULLY

And a recommendation about The Mosaic Bible on Faith Barista...

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Am I trying to win the approval of men–or of God?

It’s January – and in the post-Christmas melee of an end to festivities, departure of my children back to their grown-up, independent, far from home lives and start of a new term, so back to work – I am struggling a little. So ‘little’ things become ‘bigger’ than they would do normally. In particular, a strained relationship. A once-close friend now seems distant – she has enthusiasms, so perhaps her enthusiasm for me has waned. Or perhaps I’ve done something to unwittingly offend her. Or perhaps it’s just that she’s going through the menopause. Or perhaps I’m just imagining it, and busyness is the reason that my overtures of friendship are being declined. I know I should perhaps clear the air, but then fear that, if there is nothing the matter, I will have made Everest out of a pimple, which will then cause more problems…(my friend has other strained and difficult relationships, so I don’t want to put myself straight into that category with an untimely word). So I wait. And pray.
And then I thought of this verse from Galatians 1:10:Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. This is in the context of Paul speaking out the truth of the Gospel, but it got me thinking. Who am I trying to please?
In grieving over this strained relationship, I realised my energies were going into pleasing myself. It doesn’t feel comfortable – I just want to be back on easy terms again. Instead, to please God, I need to do several things.
1. I need to love my friend. I need to keep on reaching out in support and friendship ‘as if’ nothing was wrong.
2. I need to confess any hurt I feel, bringing it to God. I am guilty of thinking more of myself and my feelings than of her.
3. I need to focus on doing what pleases God. If it is to speak truth, then I am to speak truth. If it is to do something good, then I must do that. I need to fix my eyes, not on the strained relationship, but on Jesus.
So I pray for patience, perseverance, courage and above all love. For love covers over a multitude of sins. Especially mine.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Made for more...

Great post over at Fields of Gold. Encouraging us to get on the right train of thought.

To have a friend, BE a friend. Good advice, learnt, but not always followed in the lonely days, many years ago. This is also true: To be encouraged: ENCOURAGE OTHERS. I find that so true.

So, as this New Year pulls out of the station, building up steam for the weeks and months ahead:
OUT towards others,not in at myself.
UP towards God, not down into my own troubles.
THROUGH thoughtless comments or unkind words to see a hurting person behind the facade.
BEYOND my momentary troubles to things of eternal significance.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

It's not what I do, it's why I do it...

This shook me recently, as we looking at a Discipleship Journal article by Paul Thigpen about the danger of ‘letting our love grow cold’.  Look at this:

I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false.You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.
Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. (Revelation 2: 2-4 )

Romans 12:3 reminds us that ‘The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him.’ (The Message) or, as the NIV puts it: ‘Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.

So: Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty. (Zechariah 4:6, NIV)

Hmmm. I can only understand my life - who I am, what I do.. - by what God is and by what he does for us.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Be a giver, not a taker

Or, in other words: bear one another's burdens, don't just 'dump and run'.  I've just read this article but am going to copy it here, because I'm scared the link might break (these things happen) and it is too good just to disappear...

Giver or a Taker?

January 10th, 2011 by Jen Koop

One Sunday not too long ago, a friend of ours approached me and gave me a hug. She said she had been thinking of us often and wondered how we were doing. This dear Sister has been privy to some of the heavy things on our proverbial “plate” of life.  So in response, I immediately set about telling her all that was going on, never once really coming up for air.  You know what I mean, monologue style, rehashing every last uncomfortable detail… Throwing in a, “but God is so good,” and a “despite it all, I feel so blessed” here and there for a good measure of Church Speak.
My husband, likely noticing my friend’s eyes glazing over, stepped into the conversation and asked her how things were going for her at school (she has gone back to take some college courses).  I was immediately embarrassed, realizing how focused I was on my own problems.  I had chosen to forget that those around me have their own lives and things to work through.  She gratefully smiled in response to his concern and said that she loved her classes and so the long commute was worth it.  However, the day before, as she was driving to school, she had been in a pretty bad car accident.  UGH!  She had suffered a significant scare and set back.  If my husband hadn’t asked, I would have continued on about myself, never knowing what she had been through.  Even more convicting was her faith.  There was no complaint of, “Why me?” or fear of, “What shall I do?”  She was trusting God in the details and sincerely grateful that she was not injured or worse.
I realized that I had again let myself sink into the arms of self absorption.  Believing that my time, my life, my problems are most important and imperative.  There in that self-wallowing place, we are less sensitive to the Holy Spirit and His call to minister.  There in the mire of our hearts, we are unable to love and sympathize with others since our interest is tied up in our own problems, and we are paralyzed by selfish preoccupation.  We miss the blessing of loving others, encouraging others – the very thing that will swiftly lighten the load of our own struggles.
Years ago, a dear friend of mine had lovingly committed to praying for me and my family.  We were going through a pretty wide and dry desert at the time, and I was so grateful for her listening ear and willingness to pray.  However, my fears and flesh began to slowly suck the blessing out of the love this Sister offered.  I began to see the relationship as a way to dump all my problems, describe all my woes, and explain every wretched detail of my troubles.  I chose to ignore that this friend was also living a life mottled by problems, speed bumps, and grief.  I was so wrapped up in my need to be heard, why I thought my life sucked so bad, and wanting to explain why I needed prayer and how I wanted God to answer, that I forgot to be a friend to the one who was taking so much time for me.  Worse yet, I had forgotten that we are to thank Him even in the midst of our troubles; I was missing the sweet assurance that His perfect plan will bring all things good AND bad to beautiful fruition in Christ. (Romans 8:28, 1 Thessalonians 5:18, James 1:2)
Finally, after many woe-is-me letters and phone calls, my dear Sister lovingly and courageously told me to shove it.  OK, not exactly; she was much gentler than that.  In fact, as I look back, I can’t believe how kind she was.  She spent time relaying to me how God loves us and would take care of us.  Then came the sentence that hung in my mind for months, well actually, years.  She wrote, “It is time to become a giver, and stop living as a taker.”  She told me how God had things for me to do that would bring Him glory—those good works He prepared in advance for me to do! (Ephesians 2:10)  She assured me that as I trusted Him, gave, and let Him use me as a vessel to pour out, I would be abundantly blessed in unexpected ways.
She was right.  I began to take every thought captive to the Lord (2 Corinthians 10:5) and find things to thank Him for even in the days where it seemed difficult to simply function. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)  As God gently retrains my mind and heart’s perspective (Isaiah 64:8, Romans 12:2), my thoughts are less likely to be hovering over the troubles I am experiencing.  When worries, fears, or complaints come to mind, I am better able to see through an eternal perspective and realize that they are no where near as weighty as I would like to believe. (Isaiah 55:8-9)  It is amazing how self absorption throws reality out of whack and causes us to believe we are suffering far more than we really are, or that our problems are more important than someone else’s.  I don’t know why it is so easy to slip into a proclivity of doom.  I haven’t the foggiest why self pity feels so darn warm and cozy, vindicating and right, because it isn’t; and we must take caution to avoid that lie that only leads to an ineffective and powerless frame of mind.
In no way do I intend to belittle the problems you face.  Instead, I want to encourage you to ask God to help you view these things through His eyes.  Nor would I suggest that you stop talking to godly counsel about your problems; this is so important, and the Bible tells us to bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2).  But the verse says, “Bear one another’s…,” not “Dump your troubles and run.”  Sure, it isn’t going to always be a fifty-fifty deal, but the intention is not to take advantage, spill or heap our burden on others, or assume our needs are greater; instead, we are to give, and share the load.
So… reality-check for me.  Yes, hell or high water may come, but it is nothing that our mighty God cannot handle if we only open our hearts and lives to Him and surrender it all.  God is greater! (Genesis 18:14, Matthew 19:26)  No sense in pretending anymore, dear Sister, we have never been nor will we ever be in control.  So, why not let the Almighty take the helm and enjoy the opportunity to be used of Him and witness first hand, the work of the Lord?  Being a ready and open vessel is the ultimate drown-er and squash-er of troubles; it is a divinely appointed remedy for woes.  No, those trials will likely not vanish, but your choice to focus on something or someone else will help you to keep things in perspective, help keep you from reacting out of emotion, and help alleviate the stress and strain on your spirit and physical body that comes with worry.  The best part is: our heavenly Father is patiently waiting for us to ask Him to do this work in us!  The Word says, “I can do all this through Him who gives me strength!” (Philippians 4:13)  He is ABLE!
All Scripture NIV ©2010

Be nice!

Discovering a new blog by Janelle - 'Comfy in the Kitchen' - I found this blog post from her about living joyfully, finding the good in others, being 'nice'.  She couldn't have said it better, so I won't. Here it is

Broken Relationships

I was pondering the problem of broken or strained relationships recently, and how, though Christian blogs are tremendously encouraging on personal development, inner spiritual life, and so one, I haven’t come across much help on what to do about Relationships.  And I’m not talking dating, either. No, just the difficulties with family, friends, colleagues, the neighbours… don’t tell me you don’t have problems, because we all do. I know it’s not just me.  And I think there are several reasons for that.
One is that if we live authentically, showing the ‘real me’ rather than the ‘polite’ one, then sooner or later someone is going to object to some aspect of that ‘real me’ – and possibly, even the ‘polite’ me too: there is no pleasing all of the people all of the time. Then the problems start.
Sometimes, it’s really hard to fix those. Because I can do all the ‘right’ things: like ignoring the problem and waiting for the difficulties to blow over. That works sometimes, others it doesn’t. Or I can try to gently confront the issue – wow, do some folks get upset!  For all kinds of reasons, most of which have nothing to do with me.  Or can I eat humble pie – and that can either solve the problem beautifully or lay the foundation for a road full of trouble.  It’s really difficult, because, in relationships, there is no ‘whoops, that approach didn’t work, let’s try another one’. At least,  of course you have to do that, but you also have to fix the problem that was created by the ‘wrong’ approach, and then the new approach might not work either, and then…. well, the potential for trouble is exponential.
So I realised that, ultimately, it’s all down to me and my attitude. I need to know who I am in Christ, beloved, secure. Trust  in Christ’s ability to bring healing into the situation. And let the other be whoever they are. I can’t demand a particular response. I can only do what I believe to be best, but I am not responsible for their attitudes or behaviour.
Hmmm. I might need to put that up in LARGE letters on my fridge.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Always Christmas...

Taking down the Christmas decorations this year, I realised that, every year recently, I have left up one more Christmas decoration than the previous year.  It started three years ago when I didn't take down the frieze of Christmas baubles which had replaced the kitchen curtains; two years ago the tree lights looked so wonderful that I left them draped across shelves and mantelpiece; last year a planted arrangement, complete with candle, stayed for several months. This year, greenery, fir cones and candles have kept their place and a Kenyan banana fibre ring, usually used as the stand for a clay pot, has transformed to a simple wreath with gold ribbon. The ring has been a part of my life for so long that I can't bear to pack it away into a box and so it hangs near the dining table.

My house is becoming 'Always Christmas but never Winter'.

This is the antithesis of the line in CS Lewis's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe where, in frozen Narnia, it is 'Always Winter but never Christmas.'  The suffering Narnians long for Aslan's return, which, eventually, he does and the country springs to life: Lewis intended Aslan to represent Jesus, who brings life.

Jesus came, to a lost and broken world. He created Christmas and, for Christians, life IS 'Always Christmas'.

That thought has made taking down the decorations so much more bearable. The baubles - which look SO ridiculous in the height of summer - make me smile; the glowing colours of the plants cheer me on darker days; the lights... well, just as those baubles and plants remind me of Christmas, the lights represent Jesus, the Light of the World, whose followers do not walk in darkness.  

So it's not just my house, but my life, too, where it can be 'Always Christmas but never Winter.'

Cheery thoughts for all kinds of darker days.