Thursday, 30 August 2012

God will make a way

Remember the song by Don Moen: God will make a way... ? The lyrics go like this:
God will make a way
Where there seems to be no way
He works in ways we cannot see
He will make a way for me

He will be my guide
Hold me closely to His side
With love and strength for each new day
He will make a way, He will make a way

Do I believe it? It doesn't feel like it when I'm at the end of my rope, the end of the road, staring down a dark blind alley...I know I am still on the road - I haven't wandered off into the bushes. I can look behind and see how far I have come. That is encouraging and affirming.
Yet when I try to gaze forward into the murk, my heart cries and wails like a baby that it can't SEE. My brain starts to shout like a toddler: I WANT I WANT I WANT! I WANT to know what's going to happen. I WANT to know that things will turn out well.
My DEMANDS blind me to God's purposes.
Then they blind me to God himself.
I am in grave danger. Danger of losing belief in a good God and good, great purposes.
I stand on the edge of Unbelief. Then my eyes open and I see the danger, and I am terrified.
I can't see the good that is coming but I have a horrendously clear view of the bad.
I squeeze my eyes shut. I turn to the Bible. I listen to the Spirit. I cry out to Jesus.

Deidra, blogging over at The Middle, has great insights about delays. About how setbacks are set ups for something better when it seems that life has stopped. As she says: 'That thing that’s become stale, that place with no forward movement, that dream you’ve let die because it didn’t look like anything was happening—those are the places He’s working on. He’s stopped traffic now to create safer, easier, better travel later. Don’t get all worked up and overheated. Don’t assume that because you’re still now you won’t be moving later. He is always working on our behalf—in ways we can’t see, in places we don’t understand. He hasn’t forgotten you; He knows right where you are. He has gone before you to prepare the way.

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. – Isaiah 43:19 (NIV)'
  So I HAVE to believe because I cannot see. I have to have that 'teetering on the edge, heart in mouth' feeling to really believe.

I need to feel like that. I need belief, not sight. I need faith. In God's ways, not mine.

At the moment I'm in one of those places where it seems as if I'm not moving at all because the way in front is dark. It's not physically life-threatening, like cancer. It's not emotionally devastating, like a relationship break-up.
It is spiritually debilitating. I am in a dry place where there are no flowing streams or gushing springs, not even a trickle of run-off between rocks. Just a couple of muddy puddles and marshy places where the air  is stagnant. A place where I am trying to dig a well, building into lives which have not tasted living water.
It seems as if there is no one to give me a drink as I labour, growing increasingly thirsty.

Don Moen's song continues:
By a roadway in the wilderness, He'll lead me
And rivers in the desert will I see
Heaven and Earth will fade but His Word will still remain
And He will do something new today

So as I believe in Him, in His goodness, in His promises, as I trustingly put my hand in His to lead me forward, HE will lead me along the road and HE will open my eyes to the water flowing in others' lives. It is not my labour that will refresh them, it is not for me to feel the burden of well-digging or to exhaust myself in doing.

I need to remember that I am not Mrs Fix-It-All but Miss Obedient-to-God.

What does the end of your road look like? Can you take that step into the darkness? Can I?

 This is the link to Bonnie's inspirational post on this topic.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Hazardous discipleship. Risky obedience.

I don't consider myself as living dangerously. A comfortable Western life style, where the only danger in my life is whether my bicycle might come into contact with a car during the few miles of my daily (slow) commute.

So I didn't consider that even my faith might be hazardous until I read Lisa's link up post in response to Ed's new book.

Leaving her church was hazardous. Wow! Me too!

I didn't, perhaps foolishly, consider the hazards and dangers when my husband and I responded to a call to leave our (very comfortable) church home to go to help out at a tiny, traditional, Anglican church.

I am shocked to discover that it has already been three years since we did so. Even though two years ago I blogged about our struggles there, and last year had even more encouragement, this 'new' church life still seems hazardous...

I know that 'going' to church is to meet together with others to praise and worship God, and to encourage each other, as it says in Hebrews 10:25 Yet I find that, even setting my mind and heart to worship God, the music does not encourage me to do so. I can't sing very well, so struggling to sing ancient hymns with a handful of people who hear every wrong note is an ordeal. After the service ends, the majority of the congregation escape quickly from the (thousand year old) building. A few stay for coffee, and they are the 'church' we are trying to build into.

It doesn't feel particularly risky - not in an adrenaline-fuelled fear type of way. The danger is more insidious.

I risk losing my joy in worship, so much so that now, though initially I listened to modern worship songs at home, I struggle to regain my joy.

I risk losing my joy in fellowship. Interactions with others at church - many of whom seem to be more interested in the church fabric and infrastructure than in living lives as disciples of Christ - can be draining.

I'm teetering on the brink.

So this idea of 'hazardous faith' has had the effect of alarming me, opening my eyes to the dangers. I hover on the edge, gazing into a pit of Apathy and Discouragement.

Adrenaline kicks in. I open my eyes, ears and heart to worship. I look at nature, I listen to worship music, I read the Bible more, I follow Christian blogs. I gain joy from good, God-centred conversations over coffee - at church and at other times too.

So I echo the Psalmist:
But may all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who long for your saving help always say,
“The Lord is great!”
But as for me, I am poor and needy;
come quickly to me, O God.
You are my help and my deliverer;
Lord, do not delay.

Living the Life. Hazardously.

I shared My Hazardous Faith Story as part of a synchroblog connected with the release of Ed Cyzewski and Derek Cooper’s new bookHazardous: Committing to the Cost of Following Jesus.
Read others' insight into costly discipleship at In a Mirror Dimly here.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

A letter...

Dear God,
I'm trying this - writing a letter to you - because Bonnie has asked me to.  Her blog always inspires and challenges me, so I try to respond when I can.
This letter feels as if it should be a book.
It's simply this:
How do I live the life you want?
I've just re-read Ian Morgan Cron's Chasing Francis, about St Francis of Assisi.  I've been reminded of the necessity and benefits of living a simple life. Frugality, simplicity, generosity, humility, grace, freedom...
And I look at my life.
I look.
I see attempts to live simply.
I see an endeavour to be generous.
I see a gaining, sometimes, in humility.
I see a small devotion to things of you: to encouragement from others, mainly through writings; to worship music; to calls to prayer.
Most of these things exist outside of my 'church' life.
My church to which I am called meets in an ancient building once a week. It sits mostly in silence apart from prescribed responses. Words of hymns, sometimes choruses, substitute for worship.  A small part of my church meets with me after the ritualistic liturgy is completed, even, at times, over a cup of coffee.
I love the people of my church. I crave to live with them in a way which would honour you.
Yet our church life is confined to an hour on a Sunday, if that.
I long to live in and with my church, so that my world life is not separate. I long to 'be' church to others.
But how?
Answers on a postcard, please.
Love from Angie

PS Two answers come to mind:

1.  Hebrews 12:2 'Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.'
2. The prayer of St Francis:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Probably enough.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Clearing out the junk...

Loved this post from cantcookalick - about clearing out junk: "I’m a stuffer. I don’t deal with things at the moment. I find a way to laugh when I want to cry and stuff the problem way down deep. I will deal with it later. Why waste an opportunity to laugh? So, down to the basement it goes. Until someone finds the way through the door and stands in the middle of my junk and says, “Why do you keep all this stuff?”
That happened recently.
Scared me to death. Honestly, I didn’t even know half of that junk was down there.  I braved the walk down the stairs and took a look around. What I found was not pretty. Old emotions that were yellowed and worn. Hurt that was quietly growing in the corner. A past that no longer fit the woman I am trying to be. Space that was created for more. Cluttered by the less than life.
Everything in me wanted to run away, back to the safety and laughter of today and slam the door, lock it tight. But, that’s the problem. Stuff in the basement is not out of sight out of mind. It is always looming like a tenant that shows up just when you want to be alone. The noise that interrupts your quiet. The darkness that threatens your light.
Sometimes, it takes somebody surprising you and showing up in your basement, to realize you need to tidy up a bit. The trust issues that block the door lose the fight and your junk makes it’s way to the top floor.
Some people will judge your junk. Others will pilfer through it and try to find something they can use. Most will run away and be frightened by your junk. A few may even try to bring over some of their junk.
But, God loves me and all my junk. Especially that which I’ve tried to hide in a blue Rubbermaid tote in the corner. He’s not afraid to lift the lid. Honestly, he already knows what’s in there. And, He’s willing to help me and you sort through and decide what goes and what stays.
But, you gotta open the door…"

So we're talking about REAL junk. Hurt growing in hidden corners. Boxes labelled Unforgiveness. Piles of  perfectionism. Anger gathering dust in the corners. The mouldy smell of bitterness...

A talk in church this morning centred on how many of the Pharisees and even the disciples didn't 'get' Jesus. They just didn't understand where He was coming from, what he was talking about, let alone his mission to bring the kingdom of God to his people...

I'm no different. I often don't 'get' Jesus. I don't 'get' how to walk the walk, how to live the way he showed and taught me.  But I do know that my junk clutters up any little glimmer of heart-understanding I might have. And I do know that not only do I need to clear the junk out, I need to beef up my housekeeping with regular cleaning...

Saturday, 11 August 2012

The Small Things That Keep Me Close...

Sarah Markley has just written another wonderful little bit of inspiration. Pay attention to the words she puts in bold, and especially this latter part of her post:

"When I don’t feel like reading the Bible and I go months and months without cracking its pages, I seem to fall back to prayer and meditation like they are old friends. The idea of studying a child’s laughter or why a bird builds a nest near my dining room window comes easier to me because I’ve done it before and God has spoken to me through these things. I’ve practiced it with my own hands. The years when sermons seem dry and Bible studies bore are the years I find myself picking out a single verse and meditating on it over a kitchen sink full of dishes, my arms half deep in the soap. And to be alone, to be silent in communion with God is ever preferable to me over many other things.
I’m not at all against church. I love church and I love my church very much.
But at the end of it all, it won’t matter what church we’ve gone to or how many women’s Bible studies we’ve attended.
It will matter, I believe, how we let Him infuse our days with Himself and how we allow ourselves to be taught by the little, beautiful things in life. And I think it will matter, at the end, how we choose to live with Jesus every day.
What are the small things that keep you close to or bring you back to Jesus? How have you seen God in daily life lately?"
Encouragement to keep close...

Monday, 6 August 2012

A confession...

I began to blog partly out of a need to reference inspirational articles. I needed somewhere to store them where I could retrieve them when I needed to. Often, I think I'd be best off just 're-publishing' - rather like 'retweeting' - every inspirational blog I read. Don't really need to blog myself when there is such wonderful stuff out there.
Today was one such day. A hiccupy, teary, 'whoops' day which reminded me of the need to receive encouragement, to store it on my blog as well as on my heart - because I forget too easily. A day when I needed to read this.
Several months of stress - husband ill, a  busy school year, adult children flown the nest, unkindness from a friend resulting in the loss of friendship (her choice, not mine), and struggling to serve out of my comfort zone in a small traditional church - have left me tired and surprisingly lonely. I have much to be thankful for and to take joy in - my husband's health is now under control and he is back at work, and I am enjoying the summer break from school, to mention just a couple of lesseners of stress - but I have found social interaction hard work. I've felt alone, even worthless, and my joy seems to have disappeared. For today, anyway.
So Ayla's words of encouragement were very timely. A good reminder that I cannot - must not - depend on circumstances or others for my joy.
I pray that I learn the lesson PROPERLY in my heart.
Then there was double whoops, as I was reminded to 'look to Christ and remember just how precious I am in His eyes' over at Messy Marriage...
Hmmm... lessons to learn indeed.
(I'm thinking I may still be needing to add to this post...)