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.