Saturday, November 24, 2012

Ups and Downs

Wow! I can't believe how long it has been since I have been here... I will endeavour be back regularly again from now on.

The past couple of months have been filled with youth camps, sickness, job losses and gains, and other kinds of change. I have had so many things to write about and share that I just didn't know where to start.

I have been feeling weary, anxious, sad, excited, doubtful and in awe. Yes, I've been on a bit of a rollercoaster ride that doesn't look like it's going to end any time soon.

I really don't love rollercoasters or any rides of that kind at all but I realise of course that ups and downs are a part of this life journey we are all on.

God doesn't guarantee us a life without dips and bends and steep climbs. He does guarantee that he will be with us in all of it. He does guarantee that we can be overcomers because greater is the Spirit that is in us, than the spirit that is in the world (1 John 4.4). He promises that his "love never fails" (Psalm 136). He says that even when anxious, we can have His peace when we pray and praise him (Philippians 4.6-7).

Really, if I'm honest, I wouldn't want it any other way. Yes, I like it when things are smooth and I can see what's around the bend but I have met Jesus in the dips - those dark, sad, anxious moments - and he has given me peace and guidance and comfort and He is amazing. I have also had wonderful times of worship and joy and being in awe of God as I've seen young people come to know Jesus, as we've been healed from sickness, as I have been wonderstruck by creation again and again.

I don't know where you are on this rollercoaster called life. Maybe you're at the top and loving every moment. Maybe you're on the way down and have that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach and don't know how things are going to turn out. All I can say is trust Him. Trust the One who promises to stay with you. Trust the One who promises you peace that is unfathomable. I am... He is able to do "infinitely more than we could ask or think" (Ephesians 3.19-20).

(Roller coaster image found here)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

"I am"...

In Exodus chapter 3 we read that Moses was summoned by God in the desert as he was looking after his father-in-law's sheep.

Moses asked God, “What is your name?” God replied, “I am”. Some versions of the Bible put it this way, “I am and remain present”.

This God cannot be summoned – He has never been gone. He is present.

Moses was never alone. Never forsaken. God was and is present.

You and I are never alone. God is present.

I am so thankful to God for this reminder today. I don’t want to think that I can or need to summon God to come and do my bidding instead of me realising that God is here.

God called Moses to be a part of what God was doing with the Israelites. God wants to call me and wants to call you out to join him in what he’s doing. Are you willing to say, "here I am", to say "yes"?

I am also thankful for the reminder that God is here, with me, in whatever I'm going through. He sees, hears, hasn't left.

I'm so glad he is 'I am'...

This poem was given to me many years ago and it reminds me that God is here and the best way I can live is to be present, with him, now and not hang on to regrets or fear for what was or what may be...

"My name is I AM" - Helen Mallicoat

I was regretting the past and fearing the future,
Suddenly my Lord was speaking,
"My name is I AM".
He pause. I waited.
He continued.
"When you live in the past
with its mistakes and regrets
it is hard.
I am not there.
My name is not I WAS.

When you live in the future
with its problems and fears
it is hard.
I am not there.
My name is not I WILL BE.

When you live in this moment,
it is not hard.
I am here.
My name is I AM."

Wilderness #2 – A time to refocus, refresh and get ready!

Have you felt like things weren’t going as you’d planned or hoped? You thought God was leading you somewhere better than where you are and yet it doesn’t seem that way at all?

Oh I have. I have left places that weren’t so great because I felt God calling me somewhere else. However, I have struggled with thoughts that the not-so-great was better than I realised because right now is no fun at all...

The Israelites felt the same way. They were set free and led out of Egypt. God led them through the wilderness on their way to the promised land. However, in the wilderness, they started complaining and wanted to go back to Egypt, forgetting how terrible it really was.

I don’t want to be a person shaking her fist at God and complaining about where God has me when he answered my prayers to take me out of the situation I was in. It’s just that the wilderness doesn’t look like the ‘promised land’... That’s because it's not!

I think the Israelites forgot that and I sometimes do too. The wilderness was a place they needed to go through to get to the promised land. The wilderness was a place that God took them through to show them who they really were and whose they were. Perhaps God does the same with you and me...

The wilderness is where God led the Israelites after rescuing them – to protect them. The wilderness was where God showed them who they were – not slaves but a great army and people of God – they had forgotten. The wilderness was the place that God reminded them who he was – leader, protector, provider – God Almighty! In the wilderness, God was drawing them closer to himself – to strengthen and fortify them as his people. In the wilderness, the Israelites witnessed miracles – they saw God’s power first-hand. God used the time in the wilderness to prepare his people for taking the promised land – to prepare them for the battles ahead – exposing sin and weaknesses that needed to be dealt with.


Is this what God is doing with us when we are in those ‘wilderness moments’?

I want to be careful that I don’t miss out on what God has for me in these times – I want to see God for who he is more and more. I want to hear him speak and draw closer. I want to experience his provision and protection in ways I wouldn’t otherwise (oh, and I have!) - but I also don’t want to extend my stay because of ignorance or doubt or rebellion...

The wilderness season isn’t meant as punishment but as a time to be refreshed, to refocus, to get ready...

My prayer is that my heart would be soft and my ears in tune with God’s voice, that I would follow where he calls. I want to get rid of anything that will stop me from taking the land that God has for me – that would stop me from fully living the life he has for me on the other side of this wilderness experience.

What about you?

Get your feet wet

On a trip to the beach one day, to walk and chat with God, I stood on a point overlooking the sand and the water. I was contemplating my walk along the beach and back and for some reason I was thinking that I didn’t want to get my feet wet or dirty – weird for me who loves my beach walks.

I was at a crossroads with work, ministry and some relationships and had been wondering about what was next - if there was even something new to come or if I was to stay where I was. I was wanting a change but fearing what that might mean at the same time.

As I thought about not going on the walk, I heard God say to me, “Come and take a walk with me. Take your shoes off and get your feet wet.”

I was immediately reminded of two places in the Bible where God called people to get their feet wet.

In Matthew 14, Peter got his feet wet when Jesus told him to come to him on the water. He stepped out of the safety of the boat and walked on the water to Jesus. This is probably my favourite passage in the gospels.

The other passage is in Joshua 3 where the Israelites crossed the Jordan River. The priests had to go first and step into the raging river and get their feet wet before God made dry ground for the rest of the Israelites to walk on (v8). Acting in faith came before seeing the result.

 Verses 15-17 tell the story of what happened as the priests took their steps of faith: “...the Jordan was overflowing its banks. But as soon as the feet of the priests who were carrying the Ark touched the water and the rivers edge, the water above that point began backing up a great distance away...the priests...stood on dry ground in the middle of the river bed...”

At the beginning of the chapter, God called the Israelites to a new place in a new way – not the same as before. He says, “since you have never travelled this way before, they will guide you...”

God has called me out before and this day I asked God if there was somewhere new he wanted me to walk with him or was he calling me as a reminder or confirmation that I was to keep walking with him, where I am?

God reminded me of who he was and of how he can be trusted, even when he asks me to follow him where it doesn't look safe or stable. He wanted me to step out and get my feet wet again. 

I decided, again, to say yes, because I know that God is faithful. Just like the priests, taking their steps of faith and then seeing the water stop, I needed to step out into the new thing God was calling me to, trusting he would do what he promised, providing what I needed at the right time.

It's not easy to look at the raging rivers of doubt, confusion, fear, the unknown and step out into it all, hoping that we'll be okay, praying that God will do as he said. But, God is faithful. I know I'm repeating myself but it is true. If he asks us to get our feet wet, following him, he will take care of us. 

Getting our feet wet can be uncomfortable but I know that it is better to live with wet feet, walking with God, than living with dry feet, standing on the bank  wondering about all that God might have planned and missing out...

Today, if you hear God ask you to take a walk with him and get your feet wet, step out. He won't let you drown.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

A prayer from Psalm 40

Psalm 40v3 “He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.”

Lord, I want my life to reflect you – your glory. I want you to shine through me so people will see you and be ‘amazed’ and put their trust in you.

v4 “Oh, the joys of those who trust the Lord...”

May that joy fill my life and be evident to those around me – a reflection of you in my life.

v10 “I have not kept the good news of your justice hidden in my heart; I have talked about your faithfulness and saving power.”

Lord, open my mouth and give me the words to speak and share... I don’t want to keep you or your Good News hidden in my life.


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Maybe today

I have had a couple of days of feeling quite down - frustrated and angry about things being "the same"... I have not like being confined to these 'four walls' because of our financial and car situation right now. I am longing for beauty and freedom - the ocean walks and sea breezes in early mornings and late evenings...

I guess I have been grieving the loss of what was and fighting against embracing what is.

The loss, I cannot alter but what is now...can I change it?

My husband spoke to me about hope and I felt that I had lost it. Hope: the idea that things can and will change; the promise or expectation that "maybe today" God will change my circumstances. Maybe today God will provide for our needs. Maybe today God will answer and my family will be saved. Maybe today...

I need to fight against the pessimism that says, "probably not today"... I want to trust God, believe him for answers to prayer. I want to live in hope - in expectation - in anticipation of what just might be... I am sick of living with a mindset that is almost resolved to believe and see the bad, the unchanging...

Just now, God is speaking, reminding me that he doesn't change but he does change things, circumstances, people. Isaiah 59.1 says, "Listen! The Lord's arm is not too weak to save you, nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call."

In Isaiah 43.19, God says, "I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?..."

God does want to answer my prayers and he hears my cries... He also tells me that he wants to change me - in my circumstances - so that I can stand firm, have hope, find joy - no matter where I find myself.

So, I choose hope. I choose to trust God. I believe that maybe today...I will be different.

The power to choose

Sometimes I feel like I have no choices in certain situations when really I do, I just don't like the choices that are there.

Have you ever felt like you have been or are being dragged through life? I have.

There have been times when I haven't chosen things that were done to me and haven't chosen circumstances I have faced. However, God reminds me that there are still choices I can make in those situations. I can choose how I respond...

I think that I have felt that kind of choice - my choice of my response - was a 'cop out' - something to try and give me a little control in a situation that felt totally out of control and so not really a choice at all.

I write today and think a little differently.

Deuteronomy 30.20 says, "You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life."

I may not like my choices at times but I can still choose... I can choose to keep my eyes on Jesus. I can choose to love or to forgive. I can choose to find joy and to serve.

It's easier to write those words than to live them out - I know this all too well. Even as I wrote them I heard myself say, "But it's not fair..."

Choosing these things when I cannot change a circumstance, at first seems a little weak (something I hate) but somewhere deep inside, God's Spirit whispers that it's in the choosing that strength is actually found.

I have to believe this. I want to choose to believe this and live from there.

My prayer today is, "God, please help me to respond and not react; to choose love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control, not self-pity or anger. Help me to forgive. I want to trust you."

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Lives that glow in the darkness (part 1)

Recently I reread Anne of Green Gables and today I watched the DVD as my baby slept and I baked cookies (seriously! I cannot believe this is my life! More on that another post, another day...).

I have loved the story but today, as I watched the DVD, I was struck by just how awful orphans were treated. They were taken as household slaves, not rescued from their orphanages or 'asylums' as they were called in order to give them a better life and loving home..

Orphans were treated so badly - distrusted and accused of all sorts of horrible things - as if it was their fault that they had no parents. They were treated with contempt, instead of compassion.

How did it get so screwed up? My heart is just broken for precious ones like these...

Today, orphans and others who have been abandoned - those who are most vulnerable - are often treated terribly. These are the ones who are most at risk of abuse - being trafficked for sex or other forms of slavery. It's an atrocity that occurs worldwide - sometimes even in our own 'backyards'.

This is not how it's meant to be. God has a special place in his heart and his family for these precious ones. Oh how his heart breaks when he sees the injustice and pain.

Psalm 68-5-6 says, "Father of orphans, champion of widows is God in his holy house. God makes homes for the homeless, leads prisoners to freedom..." (MSG)

God tells us to look after those who are without families, who are oppressed - to be a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves and to be his hands and feet in the world, showing love and bringing freedom (Proverbs 31.8-9).

James 1.27 tells us that anyone who "sets himself up as 'religious' by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father is this: reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight..." (MSG)

In Isaiah 58.6-9 (MSG), God also tells us -
"This is the kind of fast-day I'm after:
to break the chains of injustice,
get rid of exploitation in the workplace,
free the oppressed,
cancel debts.
What I'm interested in seeing you do is:
sharing your food with the hungry,
inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
being available to your own families.
Do this and the lights will turn on,
and your lives will turn around at once.
Your righteousness will pave your way.
The God of glory will secure your passage.
Then when you pray, God will answer.
You'll call out for help and I'll say, 'Here I am.'"

God says that the kind of sacrifice and worship he wants is the kind that shows his love to the world. We can fast, pray, do stuff in church for God and yet allow people around us to go hungry, to be oppressed. God says that he doesn't honour that kind of living.

In the following verses of that passage, God says this:
"If you get rid of unfair practices,
quit blaming victims,
quit gossiping about other people's sins,
If you are generous with the hungry
and start giving yourselves to the down and out,
Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness,
your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.
I will always show you where to go.
I'll give you a full life in the emptiest of places -
firm muscles, strong bones.
You'll be like a well-watered garden,
a gurgling spring that never runs dry.
You'll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,
rebuild the foundations from out of your past.
You'll be known as those who can fix anything,
restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,
make the community livable again." (Isaiah 58.9-12 MSG)

Wow! Who wouldn't want to be a part of that?!

Sometimes we can feel overwhelmed with the injustices we see or hear about. Sometimes we can be uncertain about what God wants for us or how we can be the 'light in darkness' he asks us to be.

These passages give us clear insight into what God expects and asks but it also gives us promises he makes to those who live this way. God promises that our lives will shine. He promises to hear us when we call to him and he promises full lives.

If you want to impact the world around you - if you want to help make the community you live in new and full of life, then read these passages again. Look around you. Can you see hungry people you can feed? Do you know of people who are being exploited who need someone to speak on their behalf and help bring freedom? Do you need to stop gossiping?

We can all do something to bring light into the dark places of our world. What are you going to do today?

[We can do things on our own or with our Church communities. There are organisations, such as Watoto, The A21 Campaign, She Rescue Home, International Justice Mission that we can partner with also, as well as many, many others. Check them out and see if God may have you get involved.]

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

My unbreakable lifeline

I came across these verses today:
"God can't break his word. And because his word cannot change, the promise is likewise unchangeable.
We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go. It's an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God..." (Heb 6.17-20 MSG)
Also, "The former way of doing things, a system of commandments that never worked our the way it was supposed to, was set aside; the law brought nothing to maturity. Another way - Jesus! - a way that does work, that brings us right into the presence of God, is put in its place." (Heb 7.16-19 MSG)

Wow! For me, these words are so encouraging.

I love that God's word cannot change and so I can trust him. If God says he will do something - he will do it. God's promises can be trusted because he can be trusted.

I love that we have hope, because of all that Jesus did for us on the cross, that brings us right into God's presence and we cannot be wrenched out of it. That 'lifeline' to God is unbreakable.

This means that nothing we do or don't do, if we have taken God at his word and are in a relationship with him through Jesus, can tear us out of God's presence. We cannot work our way into God's presence and we cannot work our way out of it.


And yet, so many of us are confused or struggle with doubt. We have an enemy who loves for God's people to be paralysed by confusion, doubt or fear. Why don't we take God at his word? He cannot break it. It is unchangeable.

I have struggled with these things myself and yet today I am reminded again of truth. If God says it, it is so. That will not change. He can be trusted. He does not lie. His word is true.

No more listening to lies from the enemy. When tempted to give in to confusion, doubt or fear, I will look to Jesus. I will read and listen to God's word. I will set my heart on what is true and live from that.

I will hold on to my unbreakable lifeline that holds me steadfast in the presence of God.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

When God says 'No'...

My last post was on answering God's question to us about what we really want. I know that God has so much for us and there are things he wants us to ask him for so he can give it. 

However, what happens when God says "no"?

Sometimes when we pray, we feel that God is silent or taking too long when he doesn't answer immediately with a "yes". When God doesn't do what we ask, we think he's not listening.

Is thinking that God is taking his time or is just not listening somehow easier to come to terms with than accepting that God has said "no"?

I, and many others, have prayed for weeks for friends and their little baby. She was born with some serious health issues and needed surgery a few days after she was born. Her parents knew there were issues before she was born but thanked God for this precious life and trusted him with her. After praying and pleading with God to heal her, this precious baby died a couple of days ago in her mother's arms. God said "no"...

How do we deal with God saying "no" to us? It seems incredibly unfair. It hurts. It's confusing.

I prayed for my mum to be healed when she was diagnosed with cancer. 11 weeks later she died. God said "no".

I prayed that if I was to ever become pregnant that I would not miscarry. I became pregnant for the first time. My husband and I prayed that I would not lose the baby. I had a miscarriage and lost that baby. God said "no".

What do we do with all of this?

In the midst of anger, confusion, pain and tears, I still hear God whisper "I love you. Trust me."

In these times of "no", I remember that God is good and he is love. My circumstances and feelings - may shout something else but God IS good and he is LOVE. The Bible says so. Other experiences in my life show this to be true. The Cross shows me that this is true...

The Bible tells me that God is a loving Father. Loving someone means that there are times when "no" is the best answer to give, even if the person you're saying "no" to doesn't understand or you know that answer will hurt. God sees what I cannot. I cannot see how saying "no" to our prayers in these situations can be good for anyone right now but I can trust him.

Jesus asked God to take away his suffering before he was crucified and God said "no". The way to save, redeem, forgive and free mankind, was through the cross...

When tempted to say that God doesn't care, I remind myself of all that God has done before and of the truth of who he is. Even through my tears I look at Jesus. I remember the cross. I see love. I hold on to that and know that he holds on to me.

Monday, August 6, 2012

What do you want?

On another walk with my daughter, I began chatting with God about various things and then started to take some needs we have to him.

I was praying and asking God for help with a car situation - I was asking for the car to be able to be fixed and to be able to pay for the fixing.

"What do you really want, Renate?" 

As I prayed, I listened, and I heard God ask me again... "What do you really want?"

I thought I was telling him what I want - what I feel we need... As I thought about it though, I realised that if I was honest, I really wanted a different car - one that was reliable, not as old, had new tyres, more room for Adira and her pram - 4 doors!! I felt guilty though, asking for that.

There are many times when I think God wants us to ask him specifically for things or for people or circumstances. He wants us to be honest with him. God doesn't want us praying prayers we think he wants to hear or prayers we think others say we must. Don't get me wrong, I'm not talking about asking God for stuff for the sake of stuff but being honest about our needs and desires. You see, God already knows what we need before we ask (Matt 6.8) but he wants us to come to him and ask anyway. He loves us.

The Bible states that we "do not have what you want because you don't ask God for it" (James 4.2 NLT). Of course that same passage goes on to talk about motives, etc and we need to check our hearts regarding our desires, but God says to "ask... and you will receive" (John 16.24 NLT).

So, what do I want? If I could ask anything... If I replace obligation and burden with opportunity and desire...

I do want that reliable car.
I want my extended family to come to know Jesus.
I want to make a difference.
I want to lead on a great adventure.
I want to go on a great adventure.
I want to be brave and courageous and bold.
I want to teach, show, shape.
I want to be wanted, needed, acknowledged, appreciated.
I want to tangibly know, feel, experience God’s presence.
I want to remember.
I want to know and trust God more.
I want to point others to God.
I want to be a positive influence.
I want be a good wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend.

What do you want?

God cares about the answer. He doesn't want us praying prayers or living lives of obligation and burden. He has freedom for us. He is our loving heavenly Father who has good gifts to give his children (Matt 7.11).

Listen to God. Pray. Share your heart with him. You might be surprised at what happens next...

A way through the wilderness

Is 40v3-5 “Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting, ‘clear the way through the wilderness for the Lord! Make a straight highway through the wasteland for our God! Fill in the valleys, and level the mountains and the hills. Straighten the curves, and smooth out the rough places. Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed and all people will see it, together. The Lord has spoken.”
v9 “Your God is coming!...”

What wilderness is there that God wants me to clear so there’s a ‘straight path’ for him in my life? If I'm honest, some of the wilderness is filled with lies, deception, fear, shame, excuses... I don’t want these things cluttering up my life anymore.

What about you? Are there things hindering God from working in your life? From speaking to you more clearly?

When rough places are made smooth – then God’s glory will be revealed and all people will see it.

When we rid our lives of sin, give God our hurts and fears, his glory is made manifest. When lives that were once cluttered with shame and doubt or with excuses are clear and free of these things, people notice. God moves. Changes are evident. There is joy where there once was sadness. There is love and freedom where there was hurt and bondage.

The wonderful thing is that God can help us clear that path through the wilderness in our lives and make a straight path for him to work. We don't have to do this on our own.

Take some time today - this week - to see what things are cluttering up your life, your heart, and hindering God from working and speaking more clearly in your life. Clear them out. Hand them over to Him.

Say it again...

Psalm 136 is just one example of God repeating something over and over again. Here's an example:
v1-2 "Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods,
His faithful love endures forever."
v 4-5 "Give thanks to him alone who does mighty miracles,
His faithful love endures forever.
Give thanks to him who made the heavens so skilfully,
His faithful love endures forever." (NLT)

Get the picture? Not only does this psalm get us to give thanks to God for who he is and what he's done ("give thanks" being another repeated phrase) but every second line in this Psalm is "His faithful love endures forever".

God speaks repetitively to us - not because we fail or are dumb or are slow learners (although perhaps we can feel that way) but because he love us.

How many times do I tell my daughter I love her? More than 10 times a day. Why? Because I love her so much I can't help but tell her. I want Adira to know I love her and to have that knowledge take root in her heart so she can live from that security. How much more does God love us and want that for his children?

I do know that I can sometimes be slow to really grasp what God is trying to show me or teach me and so I do need reminders. However, I really believe, because God is love, he repeats things because he wants us to be sure - to be able to really know and understand and live out of the reality of who he is and how he acts - how he loves us.

I don't tell my daughter I love her so many times a day because I think she doesn't understand or because she's dumb. I tell her because I love her so much and I cannot help but tell her! God loves us so much more than we can comprehend and wants us to know and live in the security that his love brings.

The next time you feel that God is saying something to you over and over - maybe through his word or others - thank God that he loves you so much he needs to - wants to - tell you again...

[What are some ways that God speaks to you 'again'? What are some of the things he says? I'd love to hear from you.]

Saturday, July 28, 2012

An observation

Sitting in a cafe one morning, reading and praying as usual (my gift of 'time out with God and a coffee' from my husband)... A lady comes into the coffeeshop who is very demanding and rude – no ‘please’ or ‘thank you’. When the lovely cafe owner asked if the lady was ok, the lady was a little taken aback and looked down and muttered something about having been rushing around that morning. It was a poor excuse but perhaps she was shocked that someone would ‘call her’ on her bad behaviour (however nicely and politely it was done).

My first challenge came when I wanted to give her a dirty look for behaving so badly and God said to show love. My second challenge came when I heard God tell me to watch my own behaviour. How do I treat others when I’m feeling flustered because of something that has nothing to do with them and yet because they're there, I may take out my frustrations on them? Forgive me Lord... God challenged me a third time about finding joy in him, regardless of the circumstances I find myself in.

I want Him to work in me first. That morning challenged me about how I come off to others sometimes. As always, it’s about me and God and it wasn’t about that lady – God can speak to her.

I was reminded of a scene from an episode of the sitcom “Everybody loves Raymond” where Andy, one of Ray’s friends, asks Ray “does Debra realise how she’s coming off to others?”. Debra had just yelled at Ray in front of his friends...

Sometimes I just want to vent or go my own way and don’t think of anyone else or how I may be perceived by others. People might observe my life at times and not think much of Christians or of God and I don’t want that. While I don’t want to live my life worrying about how I ‘come off to others’ by living to please them, I do want to live to please God so that when people observe my life, they see love and joy and may seek God for themselves.

Be still

Psalm 46 (NLT):
"God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear
...God’s voice thunders and the earth melts! The Lord of the Heavens Armies is here among us...
He causes wars to end...
Be still and know that I am God! I will be honoured by every nation. I will be honoured throughout the world.
The Lord of the Heaven’s Armies is here among us...”

Many of us would be really familiar with v10 ("Be still and know...") but here, in context, it doesn’t seem to be a passive ‘being still’ – for the sake of ‘being still’. It seems like a command from God to sit at his feet in awe of and in honour of him (look again at the rest of that verse and the previous verses). It seems that this reverence of and awe of God is not at all something passive.

I think it's a command to stop running around – to stop striving – to stop being afraid. 

Look at the world around you. Hear God, whose voice thunders, and know him. Know that God is here...

I want God to reveal more of himself to me. I want to know and live everyday like the “Lord of the Heaven’s Armies is here among us...”

How would my life be different if I truly lived this way?

Would I live more freely? Courageously?

Would you?

The 'in-between'

"Some days he will lead me besides still waters. Other days he will lead me to lush fields. And still others, he will lead me on the narrow, muddy path that connects them. Through it all, God is always the Good Shepherd." (Margaret Feinberg - Scouting the Divine)

I read this and thought, 'perhaps that's where I am now' - in the "in-between".

There are times where I don't see the still waters and where I can't remember the lush fields and all I know is the narrow, muddy path... Have you ever felt like that? Maybe you're there too.

What God is showing me at the moment is that I just need to keep my eyes on my 'Good Shepherd'. I need to trust that he will lead me where I need to go.

When I fix my eyes on Jesus, my Shepherd, I know everything will be okay. He promises to 'never leave nor forsake' me. In the Bible, Jesus tells us that he is the Good Shepherd - that his people, his sheep, know him and his voice and will follow when he calls. He promises that as the Good Shepherd, he lays his life down for his sheep and that he came to give life in all it's fullness (John 10). That sounds like lush fields to me.

There is an enemy, however, who wants to steal, kill and destroy that life. When we focus on the narrow, muddy path - or our lack or hard circumstances - instead of Jesus, we can think that our Shepherd is lying or is anything but good. If I focus on the path, all I see is what I lack and can start to feel afraid. I can be tempted to stray off the narrow way and try to find my own 'pastures'. More often than not, this just leads to frustration or ending up in trouble.

Matthew 6.33 (MSG) tells me, "Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find your every day human concerns will be met."

I am reminded that focus is important - not just what I am focusing on but Who: "Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed - that exhilarating finish in and with God - he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever..." (Heb 12.2-3 MSG).

So today, although it feels like this narrow, muddy path will never end, I lift my eyes, fixing my eyes on the Good Shepherd, trusting the One who leads me.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Freedom to keep going

 Right now I feel weary and worn out. I have been thinking about making some changes. I have been wondering about how to make choices and what will happen if I make the wrong one.

This is the reminder and the challenge that God has put before me:
Gal 5.1 “So Christ has truly set us free...” v6 “...what is important is faith expressing itself in love.” V13 “...don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love.” Gal 6.9 “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”

Reading Galatians 5-6, I feel like God is saying to me “don’t give up”. He is reminding me that I’m free but that I need to make choices – that what I choose will either serve myself or others – the enemy or God.

I know that when I'm tired and feeling worn out, I can be tempted to make selfish choices. I also know that God promises his strength in my weakness.

Still, he says "choose". He will not make the choice for me and no one else can either. Who will I serve?

I won't give up. God has placed me here and has called me to accomplish his purposes and he's given me all I need to do that - in his strength. I choose God. I choose to serve him and to serve others. I choose to stay.

Thanks for the gentle reminder God, for the challenge to keep going and the promise.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

What or whom do you fear?

What are you afraid of? I have to admit that there are often many fears that crowd my mind - what ifs often take over: What if we can't pay the bills? What if something was to happen to our daughter? What if I can't lose all the weight I want to (will people, my husband, think less of me?) sometimes goes on and on..

"Do not fear". I hear God speak. Still my mind runs wild with questions, worries, fear and then I start to cry.

"Do not fear." Again, God speaks and cuts through the thoughts whirling around in my mind. How many times do I need to be reminded, challenged, rebuked?

Only fear the Lord...
Psalm 34.9-10 says “Fear the Lord, you his godly people, for those who fear him will have all they need... those who trust in the Lord will lack no good thing.”

I need this reminder - often. Fear is something that I struggle with and it seems as often as I give it to God, another fear comes to take its place.

Recently I was reminded that if we fear anyone or anything else, we give that thing or person too much authority or power in our lives. What or who we fear, is what or who rules over us - what we have given authority and power to in our lives.

For example, if I fear not having enough money, then that fear  is what is ruling my life instead of God. However, God is the provider and has promised to meet all of my needs according to his riches in Jesus (Phil 4.19). Wow!

God promises that if we fear him, the only one deserving of that authority in our lives, we will have all we need and will lack nothing that is good. What a promise!

Psalm 34.4-5 says, “I prayed to the Lord and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears. Those who look to him will be radiant with joy...”

God has asked me again today - "Renate, do you trust me?" Again I have to say, "I'm sorry for my fear. Yes, Lord. I trust you," and then leave all those fears and worries and questions with him.

What is it that you're afraid of? Take all your fears to God - he will free you and you will find peace and joy.

The Pelican

As I was walking with Adira, I started thinking of financial needs we have at the moment and began to feel overwhelmed...

I started to pray, asking God to provide. Before I got through my 'list' of needs (and wants), a pelican flew overhead. It was like God saying, "don't worry, I've got it under control".

To understand this, you need to know that pelicans have long been a sign of God's love and care for me. A friend of mine sees pelicans as her sign of God's provision also.

I don't live near the ocean at the moment and haven't been able to visit my Dad in a while who does live near the ocean as well as a river where many pelicans like to hang out. I miss my walks there - the sounds and sights of ocean and river life.

I have always felt God's presence more strongly or best when I'm wandering along a deserted beach or that particular river but I know that God hasn't left me or is more silent just because I live in the country right now. Every now and then God reminds me that he is watching, caring, listening, loving, speaking - no matter where I am - by sending along a sea breeze that reaches me even out here or a pelican that seems out of place...

Matthew 6.30-33 says, "If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don't you think he'll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I'm trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving. People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met" (MSG).

So, I stopped running through my list of needs and thanked God that he hears and provides and once again placed my trust in the one who knows my needs and promises to take care of me.

What are some of the ways that God reminds you of his love and care?

This place is not my home

The other day, as I was coming back from a walk, I was thinking about the next house inspection and all that comes with renting a place to live instead of buying and living in our own home.

I thought about the fact that we have house inspections every three months and although I know we look after the place well, I am always stressed that somehow, the inspector will find something to complain about and I often worry about losing where we live.

I thought about the fact that renting means I can't put pictures up because we cannot put picture hooks in the walls. We can't have a dog, which I would love, because pets are not allowed.

In a way, I feel like we can't put down roots in this place.

I asked God if we'd ever own our own home and the answer I got was a 'no' - maybe that was a 'no for now' or a 'no, not ever'. I certainly can't see how it could be possible anyway, but then I'm not God.

As I thought about these things, God reminded me that earth is not my home. This house, a wonderful provision from God, where we live, is not my home. Heaven is home. We are just passing through this place..

I think that through the circumstances in which we live right now, God is showing me that it's okay for things to feel temporary or even a little unstable - in fact, it may be how I should feel. If I get too comfortable here, perhaps I will neglect the call that God has on our lives to 'go and make disciples' (Matt 28.19). Perhaps I will be so comfortable that I won't 'set my heart on things above' (Col 3.2)...

Right now, I run to God for stability and know that I have a permanent home in heaven. And that is enough.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The journey continues

 Wow! I cannot believe how fast the past 8 months have gone!

I started this blog 2 months after my daughter was born, thinking that I'd have plenty of time to continue. She is now 10 months old and I haven't been here for most of that time.

I have thought of writing many times and God has been showing me so much but getting here, to the blog, has been hard. Okay, so not really hard...My priorities shifted.

I have fallen in love with my daughter and with being a mum. I never thought that it would happen but the moment I knew I was pregnant all of that changed.

God has blessed my husband and I with such a precious gift. God is showing me more of himself and I am getting to know Him all over again in a way I may not have, had I not become a mum (see my last post for one example). It's amazing. God is amazing.

A passage from Isaiah has continually come back to me over the past year or so when I think about all that God has done and look to what's next:

"I am the Lord, who opened a way through the waters,
making a dry path through the sea...
But forget all that -
it's nothing compared to what I am going to do.
For I am about to do something new.
See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
I will create rivers in the dry wasteland...
so my chosen people can be refreshed."
(Is 43.16-20 NLT)

So, here we are. Ready to continue this conversation, this journey.

Let's see where God takes us.