"This is the day which the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it." ~Psalm 118:24
It is SUCH a beautiful day today and my heart is filled with songs & praise & joy! Our world is still covered with snow, but the sunshine is warm and its melting rapidly. This brings me joy. The sun is sparkling over the snow like a million diamonds. This brings me joy. The birds are singing in the trees, I even heard a chickadee. This brings me joy! My son is outside playing with his grandpa and I hear laughter. This brings me joy! My mother in law is making home-made chicken noodle soup for lunch and we're invited. This brings me joy too!!
I'm listening to the song "Beautiful One" on GodTube. Its one of my favourites and it encompasses me today! Some of the lyrics:
Wonderful so wonderful is your unfailing love
Your cross has spoken mercy over me
No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no heart can fully know
How glorious, how beautiful you are!
Beautiful One, I love
Beautiful One, I adore
Beautiful One, my soul must sing
I'm flipping casually through the Psalms and so many verses are jumping out at me to bring me more joy this morning.
"Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name." Ps 103:1
"My heart is overflowing with a good theme; I recite my composition concerning the King; My tongue is the pen of a ready writer." Psalm 45:1
"From the rising of the sun to its going down, the Lord's name is to be praised." Ps 113:3
"It is good to give thanks to the Lord, and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; To declare your loving kindness in the morning, and your faithfulness every night." Ps 92:1-2
"My heart stands in awe of your word. I rejoice at your word as one who finds a great treasure." Ps 119:161-162
And this one is why I love rejoicing & being in the great outdoors so much...
"Let the heavens rejoice and let the earth be glad; let the sea roar, and all its fullness; let the field be joyful and all that is in it. Then all the trees of the woods will rejoice before the Lord." Ps. 96:11-12
I just know that all of God's creation is in constant praise of Him (all except us humans) so its always a good reminder to me.
I hope your day is filled with some rejoicing as well!
I hate that I have not blogged for a whole week! We had family visiting from out of town & it was wonderful. I was sad to see them leave today.
However, my sweetheart also left today and we have been reading Purpose together so I'm thinking I should take a bit of a hiatus until he returns (as we were only sharing the one copy)
So we may not finish our 40 days of reading at the end of Lent but we will get it done together.
We finished up with Chapter 16 so I have a couple days to summarize up
Purpose Day 14: When God Seems Distant
This chapter was particularly good for me, because I am often finding that God feels distant to me, even though I believe that He is always there, I just constantly am seeking more obvious evidence I suppose.
God is real, no matter how you feel. The deepest level of worship is praising God in spite of pain, thanking God during a trial, trusting him when tempted, surrendering while suffering, and loving him when he seems distant.
Big fail on my part here. I think I close within myself first & foremost when suffering or facing trials. I do seek him out eventually, but I think my first reaction is usually anger & blame.
The most common mistake Christians make in worship today is seeking an experience, rather than seeking God.
Well, this really did hit home to me because as I seek God, I think I'm expecting him to do something, something obvious so that I will "just know" that its from Him.
How do you praise God when you don't understand what's happening in your life and God is silent? - Tell God exactly how you feel. - Focus on who God is, his unchanging nature - Trust God to keep his promises - Remember what God has already done for you.
Jesus gave up everything so you could have everything. Never again should you wonder what you have to be thankful for!
What an amazing reminder that is!!
Purpose Day 15: Formed For God's Family
God wants a family, and he created you to be a part of it.
The whole time I read this chapter I thought of the old camp song "Family of God"
"I'm so glad I'm a part of the family of God,
I've been washed in the fountain, cleansed by his blood.
Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod
I'm so glad I'm a part of the family of God."
This chapter was very straightforward about our inheritence into God's family and how we'll be with our spiritual family much longer than our physical families here on earth. It reminds us that our relationship with other believers should be very important.
Purpose Day 16: What Matters Most
Life is all about love.
This chapter really hit home to my husband and I. We often find ourselves struggling with friendship relationships, struggling with Christian relationships, struggling to love mankind in general.
Learning to love unselfishly is not an easy task. It runs counter to our self-centerd nature. That's why we're given a lifetime to learn it.
This is more about husband-wife relationships, friend-to-friend relationships, this is pure love, like what Jesus has for all of us. No wonder we all struggle with it, but it is to be the most important ambition of our lives here on earth. It is lasting, it is eternal beyond death and it leaves a legacy afterwards.
The best expression of love: T-I-M-E
How true this is. If you love someon deeply, you will give them your time and desire theirs. God gives us all his time, oh how he craves for us to give him some in return.
The best use of life is love. The best expression of love is time. The best time to love is now.
Not just our hearts, not just our minds, not just our spirits, not just our bodies... all!
God is pleased when our worship is accurate. God is pleased when our worship is authentic.
I know that everyone worships God in different ways, but there are still some "rules" as to what qualifies things as worship - repetitions & an empty heart just mouthing the words, or mentally checked out... those are neither accurate nor authentic. If we aren't worshipping with all of ourselves, we aren't worshipping.
Worship is your spirit responding to God's spirit.
I like that! As we are reminded that worship is NOT about ME, its our natural reaction to God, its something we must WANT to do, that comes out of us in response to God's awesomeness, his greatness.
There are many ways people draw near to God, because we are each unique individuals.
In his book "Sacred Pathway", Gary (Thomas) identifies nine of the ways people draw near to God:
(maybe you can find the one that you identify with the most)
"Naturalists are most inspired to love God out of doors, in natural settings. Sensates love God with their senses and appreciate beautiful worship services that involve their sight, taste, smell, and touch, not just their ears. Traditionalists draw closer to God through rituals, liturgies, symbols, and unchanging structures. Ascetics prefer to love God in solitude and simplicity. Activists love God through confronting evil, battling injustice, and working to make the world a better place. Caregivers love God by loving others and meeting their needs. Enthusiasts love God through celebration. Contemplatives love God through adoration. Intellectuals love God by studying with their minds."
Which one jumped out at you? The first definitely defines my personality. I LOVE being outside, surrounded by peaceful nature. I get overwhelmed with God's awesomeness when surrounded by his creative beauty. I wonder sometimes if that's why I can get depressed & feel distant from God at certain times of the year. Or even if I stay in one place too long. If I can't get outside into that reflective beauty, or if the beauty gets old to me, I know I start feeling stagnant. I know thats how I"m feeling right now, up north, because the cold & snow has kept me indoors. Not that I don't find beauty in snow, but I can't go somewhere new & quiet & surround myself with it, with God. And back where we used to left, the places I found still & beautiful seemed unspecial after being in them a million times. I was seeking a new natural setting in which to meet with God. I hope our next life adventure allows me to find these places again, but in the mean time, I am trying to meet God in new ways & new locations as common as my livingroom. However, I still crave to be out in some wild beauty with every fibre of my being.
You don't bring glory to God by trying to be someone he never intended you to be. God wants you to be yourself.
Well, "Be Yourself" is a phrase that has been hurled at us since we were old enough to understand it. And it stands true in our relationship with God. You may admire other Christians, but you were never intended to be anyone but you and that's the YOU that God loves & seeks.
God is please when our worship is thoughtful -> If worship is mindless, it is meaningless.
God is pleased when our worship is practical -> Real worship costs. You cannot exalt God and yourself at the same time. Its not always convenient or comfortable.
We shouldn't worship to be seen by others, or even to please ourselves. Its all about God.
Yeowch - truer words have never been written. Our relationship with God is all based on our choices, limitations and blockades. He's there, ready & willing & so desiring it. The one-sidedness is probably felt by him too. Aching for us to open ourselves to him, be willing to get to know him & love him.
I must choose to be honest with God. Bitterness is the greatest barrier to friendship with God.
Not everyone is a "bitter person" but I think we all harbour some bitterness from time to time, and when we direct that bitterness at God, and hold it against him, how can we develop our friendship beyond that grudge?
Expressing doubt is sometimes the first step toward the next level of intimacy with God.
God wants to know when we're doubting, angry, faithless etc? He knows already so he would much rather we express it to him than carry on a conversation pretending that we aren't having those feelings. Many in the Bible expressed these sorts of feelings to him and were still considered "friends of God" (David, Job, Paul)
I must choose to obey God in faith. I must choose to value what God values. I must desire friendship with God more than anything else.
Catching up - haven't had time to get my thoughts into blog form this week but I'm still keeping up with the readings. PS All words in italics are direct quotes from the book.
Becoming Best Friends With God
God wants to be your best friend.
Seems like such a simple phrase but in a world where many friendships are so one-sided it sort of feels this way with God too - I'm not mature enough to recognize his side sometimes. And, my mortal brain has had a hard time grasping the trinity when I pray. I don't always know who I should be addressing and it feels confusing.
How do we become God's Friend? Through constant conversation. -> He wants more than an appointment in your schedule
I do try to talk to God throughout my day but I also like a set aside quiet time that I can focus on it more.
Practicing the presence of God is a skill, a habit you can develop.
Through continual meditation -> thinking about his word throughout your day.
You can't love God unless you know him and you can't know him without knowing his word.
These definitely go hand in hand. What is a friend but someone you know better than a stranger? And how do you get to know people? By speaking with them, hanging out, asking them questions, learning about them, their character, their past, their hobbies, etc. We can't be God's friend without getting to know him too, not just always talking about ourselves.
Surrender is a negative word in our day and age. My husband and I discussed how it made us feel to think of the word 'surrender' and both of us felt negatively towards it. You think of defeat, losing, giving in... but surrendering to God is so much more than all of those incorrect assumptions we have about it.
Its the natural response to God's amazing love and mercy. Offering yourself to God is what worship is all about.
I kind of get 'surrendering in worship' but I think of it as those special intimate moments, and God wants our surrender in our every day lives.
There are three barriers that block our total surrender to God: fear, pride, and confusion. That desire - to have complete control - is the cause of so much stress in our lives.
Complete control! This is me. I am so afraid of handing over the reins to God, afraid that his choices won't line up with what selfish me wants.
Surrendering is not for cowards or doormats. Surrendering is not repressing your personality.
I can still be ME and surrender to God? Well, not repressing my personality but it definitely has a few flaws that are getting in the way of me surrendering.
Surrendered people obey God's word, even if it doesn't make sense.
You let go and let God work!!
Instead of trying harder, you trust more!
Letting go is the hardest part... letting ALL the way go! I tend to turn things over to God and then keep pestering him to see where he's at with it, see if he's swaying it in my direction yet.
The blessing of surrender: peace, freedom and experiencing God's power in your life.
You cannot fulfill God's purpose for your life while focusing on your own plans.
After reading Day 10 I am reminded of how MUCH I need to "let go, and let God". And once again, my fave but often ignored Proverb comes to mind.
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will direct your paths." Prov 3:5-6
Its interesting that when I read this one yesterday I was having a little pity party for myself. I was having one of those 'lip-out - woe-is-me - I - only-want- my-way' sort of moments and I was feeling blue. Funny how the reading was about making God smile!
The smile of God is the goal of your life. Ooops, couldn't even focus on making myself smile let alone God.
God smiles when we love him supremely. God made you to love you, and he longs for you to love him back.
All the examples from today's chapter referred to Noah - the one person loving & obeying God. Can you imagine our world getting SO BAD that there is only ONE godly person left on the planet. Heaven help us if it ever gets that bad again!
God smiles when we trust him completely... having faith that he knows what is best for your life.
I have a hard time with the 'completely' part. I'm so selfish that I want to trust him, but I know I definitely hold back where I think I have control. My pity party for example, is me not trusting at all. Me being bugged that I'm not getting my way in MY time frame.
God smiles when we obey him wholeheartedly.
Noah is a great example for this one. Build a giant ark nowhere near the sea? Ok Lord! Because its going to rain? Ok Lord (hmm, I wonder what rain is) Get two of every animal? Sure! (what the heck is a platypus?) He had total obedience even though I'm sure his faith may have waivered over the 100+ years of building this giant boat and being teased by everyone in sight, including likely his family. Oh to have faith & obedience like Noah did!
God smiles when we praise & thank him continually.
Ooops, another epic FAIL here. Whining & snivelling in my pity party... making a big deal out of SUCH a small deal... should have just been thanking God for all the blessings I DO have in the moment (and there are lots) instead of the one I was wishing for.
God smiles when we use our abilities. God also gains pleasure in watching you enjoy his creation.
This makes me happy to know that God is happy when we are enjoying his creation. I'm such a lover of being outside in beauty, in the wilderness, in a valley, on a mountain, by a lake or on the edge of an ocean. There is so MUCH beauty that he made for us and when I can be surrounded by it is when I feel closest to God.
So, while my faith & obedience isn't as big as Noah's yet, I DO desire to make God smile!
You exist for his benefit, his glory, his purpose, and his delight.
This statement should make me feel honored & special, but why does it make me feel like a Muslim wife? Its my stubborn heart that tells me I belong to ME. I guess its the way of the world that drills into us women that we are nobody's property and that we remain independant. How far we've come from what God designed. And not just wives, men too. What man would consider himself someone's property, existing for only their benefit? We really have to adjust our way of thinking to wrap our heads around this thought.
He wants you to enjoy life, not just endure it.
Ah, this makes me feel a bit better. Not as a slave, but as someone who wants the love, and loves back in the same way. Where life is God's pleasure for him AND for us.
Bringing pelasure to God is called worship. Worship is far more than music. I get hooked on thinking we are "worship singing" and the rest of life is not worship. Worship can & should be in every act we do, not just how we sing.
Worship is not for your benefit. God's heart is not touched by tradition in worship, but by passion & commitment.
I like that statement. Too many Christians & churches are wrapped up in tradition & legalism that there is no passion, no life left in their worship... mundane, repetetive, solemn. How can a heart be free to worship with rules & traditions getting in the way?
Worship is not a part of your life, it is your life... doing everything as if you were doing it for Jesus.
Ouch... even menial tasks, like dishes, and bookeeping? Definitely not what I've been doing. Not that I'm doing them with a bitter heart, but just doing them because someone has to, not because I'm out to please anyone, let alone Jesus. Maybe those mundane tasks won't be so difficult if I can do them for Jesus.
It's all for him. Without God's glory, there would be nothing. It is the essence of his nature, the weight of his importance, the radiance of his splendor, the demonstration of his power and the atmosphere of his presence.
In our selfish day & age, it's hard to grasp that everything that is everything is for God's glory. And without him, there is nothing. Everything! Nothing! I think my mortal mind is too small to wrap around this.
Creation reveals our Creator's glory. We are commanded to recognize, honor, declare, praise, reflect and live for his glory. When anything in creation fulfills its purpose, it brings glory to God.
I have to admit that I have a hard time feeling like I'm COMMANDED to give God glory. I'm so selfishly independant (or so I think) that I get all bristly when someone tells me what to do, or insists I do something. But how can I feel this way when I am nothing without God. I guess when we pretend that we are something without him, we don't feel the need to give him glory because we feel we don't need him. I really need to "get over myself".
In what ways can we give him glory?
By worshipping him By loving other believers (I suck at this) By becoming like Christ By serving others with our gifts By telling others about him (I suck at this as well)
But, now I know there are definitely things I need to work on, and that they are important. It won't be easy, immediate or perfect...
Living the rest of your life for the glory of God will require a change in your priorities, your schedule, your relationships and everything else.
Compared with eternity, life is extremely brief. Earth is only a temporary residence... don't get too attached.
While I can't say I agree with all the thoughts from chapter 6, I do have to agree that I'm feeling much more awakened to the fact that life is brief. With a live earthquake app on my iPhone, live feeds covering the nuclear disaster in Japan and the 100s of terrible pictures of the destruction of the earthquake & tsunami, yes, life IS brief here on earth, and it can be taken from us in a heartbeat.
Its easy to forget that the pursuit of happiness is not what life is about. We are preparing for something even better.
I'm glad to know its normal for us to feel "discontent and dissatisfaction in life - longings that will never be fulfilled on this side of heaven."
But I don't agree that we can't find love & beauty & be thankful for all God created for us on this earth. He did create it to be our home for our mortal lives, I don't think that should be taken lightly like its just a hotel room we are passing through. Yes, we will still need to treat it respectfully, in gracious thanks, but I think we can also be in love with its beauty, be in love with its people and still have our future eyes set on heaven.
How does one change, to be an ambassador of heaven and not of earth when earth is all we know! I'm very attached to the beauties of this earth but I do know & understand that they are only a fraction of the beauties and wonders of heaven. I still have fear on this earth of all the unknowns that it can throw at us, especially this week with its earthquakes, tsunamis, wars & nuclear melt-downs. I know there will be none of those fears in eternity but they still deserve respect here.
When asked to think about what my life metaphor would be, the one word that came to mind first is: adventure. I'm not sure if that is a great definition but I do know that it does define & explain a lot of things. And perhaps its why I'm not very good at staying in one place, in finding contentment. I like to seek new things, new places, new people & even new things, although "things" aren't that high of a priority as change in location & experiences.
Life is a Test You will be tested by major changes, delayed promises, impossible problems, unanswered prayers, undeserved criticism, and even senseless tragedies.
I would say I have noticed and experienced all forms of these tests in the last few years and unfortunately, I've probably failed at many of them in my lack of faith, my impatience and my anger at God for allowing such things. I feel weakened when I feel God is being silent, that turns to weaken my faith & then build up resentment.
I know God wants us to pass these tests and grants us the grace to handle them, but I do see myself failing miserably at them in hindsight.
Life is a Trust Our time on earth and our energy, intelligence, opportunities, relationships and resources are all gifts from God that he has entrusted to our care and management.
Ugh - I know I'm sucking at being a steward as well. Not so much in the 'save the world & protect our children' sort of thinking, but those words RELATIONSHIPS and OPPORTUNITIES are probably where I'm failing the most because I don't let people in, or rather, I feel like there is a lack of people who are interested so I quit trying to force the issue or it feels one-sided.
The more God gives you, the more responsible he expects you to be.
Well, if I want to be blessed with gifts & rewards & more joys, then its time to find it within myself to pass those tests, be a better steward & live my life metaphor in a way that has eternity in mind!
Got two days to catch up on today as we were travelling this weekend so I didn't make the time to blog, but we did (my husband & I are reading together) read Day 4 on Saturday and took Sunday off while we drove all day, resumed Day 5 today.
Day 4 - Made to Last Forever
This life is not all there is! You have an inborn instinct that longs for immortality. The closer you live to God, the smaller everything else appears. Your priorities are re-ordered... when you live in light of eternity.
There's lots of things I should be considering trivial in light of eternity but I don't think this means we should stop living, stop enjoying this world, or our hobbies, or our friends, but I do know I need a better balance.
Especially in light of what's going on in Japan, I think its a good reminder that our life here on earth is fleeting, its not within our own control and that we do need to make best of the time we have here on it, as it could be gone in an instant.
I'm not good with people and the last few years have definitely made me more cynical & bitter towards people, being let down by too many or expecting too much of others. While I long for relationships, I relish in my hermit-ness. Its like I want to be around people & make new friends, but don't make the effort to get out of my comfort zone enough.
I'm realizing that if I want to learn to have relationships, quality relationships, with other people, I need to spend more time persuing my relationship with Jesus. Only learning to love, and BE LOVED by him, can make other relationships real, blessed and have purpose. If I can't talk to Jesus, well, about Jesus, and about myself, especially knowing he already knows the good, the bad, and the ugly, how can I learn to talk to others & share who HE is when I haven't taken the time to find out enough about him. My relationship with him should be my priority.
Then, when I get to the other side of this life, when eternity begins, I won't have missed out on all the opportunities to have that relationship with Jesus, and I will have found some confidence in sharing with others all the wonders & benefits & joys of this relationship with him as well.
What is it going to be like in eternity with God? Frankly, the capacity of our brains cannot handle the wonder and greatness of heaven. It would be like trying to describe the Internet to an ant. It's futile. Words have not been invented that could possibly convey the experience of eternity.
Even in my lack of priorities for this life on earth, the thought of heaven & eternity still excites me. I'm a big fan of Randy Alcorn books and the way he describes & interprets heaven. Its like thinking of all the best & most wonderful sights, experiences, senses and beauty that you can possibly imagine here on earth and then multiplying that wonderfulness by a bazillion. I think of all the beautiful places I've hiked or would like to hike, and then think that God has created for me a hiking environment more beautiful, more awesome than any of those I've seen here, and He's made it just for me because he knows how much I'll love it, and love him for it. That kind of love, creating that kind of beauty, overwhelms me a bit, but I know I am only just touching on the edge of wonderfulness, confined by the limits of my mortal brain.
So, I do like thinking of this world, and its wonders, as a staging room for the wonder of eternity... but I do think I'm slightly focusing on the wrong thing. What am I doing in this staging room that is at all purposeful or beneficial in light of eternity? Maybe I need to start there first!
Today's chapter was much more in-depth. What Drives Your Life? It was broken down that there are 5 main things that drive people. Here are some of the quotes I high-lighted from each.
1. Guilt We are products of our past, but we don't have to be prisoners of it.
2. Resentment & Anger: This one stung a little bit because I know it applies to me. I'm do hold on to things from the past, sort of enjoying the angry little memory, like a martyr, reminding myself that this thing happened and allow myself to have a small pity party with it. Learn from it, and then let it go.
3. Fear Fear is a self-imposed prison that will keep you from becoming what God intends for you.
4. Materialism Desire to acquire Wealth can be lost instantly
5. Need for approval: This one gets to me too. And many of us I am sure! I hate when I think someone else is disappointed in me, when I know a choice I am going to make is going to make someone else sad or mad or indifferent. I am often affected by what others might think and have often made choices hoping that they will please the other person, even if it doesnt please me. We allow expectations of others to control us Peer pressure - what others might think.
This chapters goes on to list the Benefits of Knowing Your Purpose:
1. Gives meaning to your life Hope is as essential to your life as air and water.
2. Simplifies Your Life Without a clear purpose... you will tend to make choices based on circumstances, pressures and your mood at that moment.
3. Focuses Your Life You...keep changing directions thinking maybe this time will be different. If you want your life to have impact, focus it! Stop trying to do it all. Do less! Prune away even good activities and do only that which matters most. You can be busy without purpose, but whats the point.
4. Motivates Your Life Purpose always produces passion. Its usually meaningless work, not overwork, that wears us down, saps our strength and robs our joy.
I can attest to this last quote. I dont believe anyone should work in a job that they hate. I do know that there are times that we gotta do what we gotta do to get by, but in the long run, working day in & day out at a job that you dislike, or worse, a totally boring job, is NOT worth it. I have quit jobs in the past because the boredom was eating away at me. I did not want to get out of bed and face one more boring day. But a job you love, or even like, is far more motivating than one you dislike.
5. Prepares You For Eternity Living to create an earthly legacy is a short-sighted goal You were put here to prepare for eternity.
So yeah, todays chapter gave me LOTS to ponder as I wonder what truly motivates me and how I can change it to be motivated & driven by Gods purposes & not my own.
You are not an accident.
You are alive because God wanted to create you!
God made you so he could love you.
While the theme of this chapter is rather simple, it left me with more questions than answers.
Why does God's love hurt so much sometimes?
I get that God is the creator and doesn't make mistakes, I get that he designed this world for us, a perfect intelligent design with all our specifics in mind, but I constantly struggle with "God is love".
I'm sure everyone struggles or questions God when there are innocents suffering? I understand my own sin & what I do deserve for the choices I have made, the wrongs I have done. God's ultimate display of his love for us was Jesus, pure & perfect, sacrificed for our wrongs. That's HUGE love...
But... what about suffering children, starving people, especially people of faith, families that love & obey & worship God, why is there such extreme pain for some? Loss of a child, a spouse, a life, a dream? If we are alive cuz God wanted to create us, why is there so much hurt & pain for so many of us?
This, I don't understand. I know all things have purpose... I just don't understand them. This always leaves me with a bit of fear, fear that my loving God can still allow hurt for me, and that this hurt was already forethought long before I was born, just like all the blessings, joys & challenges of our lives were. I can only assume, that like a loving father, he is also weeping when we are too.
So today is the first day of Lent and the first day of reading The Purpose Driven Life! Chapter 1 is titled "It All Starts With God".
I've read this chapter a couple times now because in its simplicity, the message within is hurling rocks at my head trying to get me to remember "Its Not About Me".
Some quotes that stood out to me today:
"The search for the purpose of life has puzzled people for thousands of years. That's because we typically begin at the wrong starting point - ourselves. We ask self-centered questions like What do I want to be? What should I do with my life?..."
"You won't discover your life's meaning by looking within yourself."
"You must begin with God"
"...life is about letting God use you for his purposes"
"God is not just the starting point of your life; he is the source of it."
While we sit here on the cusp of making another majour life decision, we keep asking ourselves, What do we want? Where do we want to go? etc. We are so bombarded and overwhelmed with the decisions that WE need to make, and while we beg & plead for God to show us His will, I guess what we have been asking is Please reveal to us what we want so we know its from you. But I'm thinking now that we're asking the wrong questions.
We have wars in Libya in our face all day long, earthquakes here, flooding there and recession everywhere. Its not hard to become caught up in the world's problems and wonder where we fit into it. Where are our reminders that life is about living for God, not ourselves? How can we step back without feeling callous to what's going on in the world to ask God where he will have us fit in to the grand picture?
Its Not About Me... so this is my journey to find out what it is about!
I've been longing for something to read during this boring cold winter in northern Alberta. I didn't bring a lot of books with me so sifting thru our meager pickings on the bookshelf I came across The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. This book was a church-small group - Bible Study sensation in 2002 & 2003 where Christians were picking up copies by the dozen, partnering & grouping up with others and spending 40 days going thru the chapters of this book.
I had noticed that I dog-earred the book on chapter 26 and never went much further. If I recall, 2003 was sort of a sucky year in my life so maybe my 'purpose reading' got thwarted with life's overwhelming moment and shelved.
However, with all the choices & thoughts going on in our little world up north here right now, it seemed VERY appropriate that I picked this book up again.
And coincidentally, Lent starts tomorrow. While I know most people give up something for Lent, I've decided it will be much more worth my while to start this new habit and go thru the 40 chapters. Lent itself is actually 46 days I believe but the Sundays are not counted and therefore, it is 40 days long. Exactly the number of chapters in this book.
I did a sneak peak of the first couple chapters already, and it was reminder enough that I NEED to be reading this book right now. Perhaps I will blog about it as I go thru it. If you are out there actually reading this & want to join me, dust off your copy (or find it in a store) and share your thoughts with me as we seek God's Purpose for our lives together.
"old things have passed away; behold all things have become new." 2 Cor. 5:17b
I've often written in the past of my love for old barns & buildings. Rustic, weathered wood, or pitted, grainy stone, these things attract my camera lens over & over again.
This barn near Osoyoos, BC has always been one of my favourites and I have many images of it from every angle, in every season, and every time of day.
When I visited Europe, I was in awe of all the old buildings, cathedrals, castles, and homes there. I could have taken pictures day in & day out and still found more & more to photograph. There is so much beauty in old architecture.
When I see things like old barns being reclaimed by the elements of the earth from decay & neglect it always makes me a little sad. However, I'm not mourning the memory of the building. I have no idea (usually) who lived there or owned that particular building, no particular personal attachment to its history... it just makes me sad to see something I would love to photograph falling into decay so that photo opportunities won't be there anymore. Sounds a little selfish I guess. However, those that know me well know I'm NOT a sentimental person.
Neither am I impressed if something new is built in its place. Not that I'm against progress or "moving ahead", because I'm all for that, but if it isn't replaced with something of equal beauty, it makes me sad too.
All this to say I've been thinking about souls. I know a lot of people with beautiful souls, people who do not know the Lord. I can only imagine that if they do come to Christ, their soul would only get more beautiful! I also know many Christians with ugly souls. And I wonder what happened when their "old soul" passed away? Was their soul always this ugly? Did their "new soul" become beautiful upon its recreation but the decay & neglect of time turn it ugly, broken down and ruined so that nobody could care to see it or bother trying to save it?
And I wonder what my own soul looks like, to others and to Christ? Is it a thing of beauty, or was it replaced with something that started off somewhat nice but decayed to ruin beyond help? Or is it like the old barns & buildings... once a thing of beauty, facing a lot of hardships & decay but still a thing of beauty in the eyes of our Beholder? I know its not shiny & new anymore, it probably has a lot of weathered dents & dings of years gone by, but I hope that it is still something of beauty, despite the passage of time.
This small chorus has filled my heart to overflowing today. I'm not sure why but I'm singing it over & over. Perhaps its just something the Lord needs to hear from me, or perhaps its something I need to hear. Either way, I'm uplifted & full of praise today!
"Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God." Psalm 42:11
It is no secret that I dislike January. Every year I feel restless & start to question everything. I get cabin-fever, Vitamin D deficient missing the sunshine, discontent longing for spring and just generally BLUE.
Yesterday was no exception. I feel like I woke on the wrong side of the bed and could not find a way to make the day better. I was an impatient parent, a grumpy wife and stayed sour within my head all day long. I felt cooped up, sad, lonely, bored, miserable. I'm longing for Spring in the south and dreading the long cold winter of the north.
I know I get this way every January. Its when we think we need to make new life plans, or start talking about travelling to some place warm. We spend a lot of time evaluating things, wondering why we are where we are in all aspects of life.
I woke this morning praying that today would be a better day. I'm not feeling it yet. I'm playing worship music over & over in hopes to inspire an attitude change. I'm paging through the Psalms, hoping to read that one verse that will transform my heart. There are many uplifting verses in Psalms, I see them, I read them... but today I do not feel them. I continue to read, to pray, to meditate... I know that He is right beside me, despite my mood, probably with His arms around me speaking comfort into my deaf ears.
Open my ears, Lord, that I may receive your comfort. Change my heart that I may receive Your joy and peace.
"Blessed be Your name when the sun's shining down on me, when the world's all as it should be, Blessed be Your name."
Its cold! Very cold here in northern Alberta! While our family to the south is getting dumped on by snow, we're getting hammered with cold temps! I'm quite wimpy when it comes to the cold so needless to say, I don't go out much in it and the extra cold of the north makes me more of a hermit. It makes me a bit homesick for southern BC and its mild temperatures.
But a day like today, despite the cold, still uplifts my heart. Though you can't really see it in the photo, EVERYTHING is sparkling in the northern sunshine today. The whole world around us is bright, brilliant, beautiful and I'm feeling blessed!
The sun brings life, vitality, growth, renewal...and that's how its making me feel today! Thank you Lord for the sunshine on this icy cold day!
It is no secret that I've been waiting & desiring to hear the Lord's voice. I feel like I've had a lot of questions for Him this past year and that I've been desiring to hear His direction. I often hear other people say that God spoke to them, or that they knew it was from God that they were going to do something, say something, etc. How I desire this!
I know God speaks to us in many many ways, sometimes quietly, sometimes loudly. Through people, through dreams, through Scripture, through songs, through our thoughts. Why do I feel so tone deaf to hearing it? I know God isn't the problem... I'm certain He's tried to reach me many of these ways but I feel like my ears are shut and I can't recognize the word of the Lord. Its making me sad, no sorrowful, because the longing only grows.
So, I just happened to notice this book on our bookshelf yesterday. We're having a tough time up here in northern Alberta and compound that with the fact that its January and we're smack dab in the middle of the Winter Blahs! And I'm back to earnestly desiring God's voice. So what choice did I have but to pick this book up. Perhaps this is one of His ways of communicating with me, saying READ THIS BOOK! I'm talking to you right now! Open your ears!
The first chapter I read lastnight is called "My Sheep Hear My Voice" and parallels Jesus as our Good Shepherd and He knows us and we know Him by His voice. It gave all these examples of how God may have communicated to us in the past and how He is trying to reach us now.
I'm starting to realize the problem with my God-deafness. I'm only waiting for the answer to my questions, meanwhile, I'm missing out on the rest of the conversation. God has been telling me lots of things, wanting me to listen to all the other things He needs for me to hear, but I have shut them out, waiting to hear the answer to just one question.
It showed me the example of how I tend to pray, like I'm leaving a message to God on His answering machine and waiting for Him to call me back with His answer, hanging up before He gets a word in edgewise... never pausing to listen if He has anything else to talk to me about.
I'm missing on the best part, the friendship, the communion, the relationship and treating God like a 'question and answer' survey that I've put in the mail & am eagerly awaiting its response.
So I asked God to show me something in the Bible that I needed to see. I always struggle about where to start reading so I just picked one of my sticky tags & pulled it open. It fell open to the last chapter of Hebrews and the first chapter of James. I wasn't sure which was supposed to be for me so I read them both, paying attention to verses I've underlined in the past.
But it was the verse that wasn't underlined that is jumping out at me. "But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased." Heb 13:16. Now, I'm not exactly sure why this verse is relevant to me today. I feel like we barely have enough to get by let alone excess to share right now, but yet, its still sticking out at me. I can still "do good" and perhaps there is something that I have need to share that will be a sacrifice. Anyways, I'm not sure why but I'm holding on to this verse for now as an indication that it may be something God wanted me to know.
I also asked God to bring someone to mind who might need prayers or blessings and immediately a good friend's face came to my thoughts. I don't know what her needs may be for today but I will believe that this is a thought from God that I need to pray for her.
Wow, that really wasn't so hard to hear the voice of God afterall. While He may not be answering this huge question on my mind, I asked Him a few simple questions and had the answers in front of me. So I'm going to keep reading this book and try to keep the communication lines OPEN, not hanging up before He has a chance to tell me what I need to hear (not just what I WANT to hear).
"My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him." Psalm 62:5
It takes a lot of faith to go fishing! You stand on a shore or in a boat, put out your line & wait. If you didn't think you might get a bite or catch a fish then it would be pretty pointless to stand there. You believe you're going to catch something. Some days you come home with a great haul, other days you're skunked without even a nibble.
Faith feels like that to me sometimes. If I didn't believe God was going to respond to my prayers, then I would be praying in vain. Sometimes I pray for a big answer, other times I just want a nibble. God can come thru in big obvious ways, like the fish in your hand. Other days, I feel skunked, like He isn't listening at all, I'm empty handed.
That's when I wait, and wait. I do believe He is there, and that He will answer, but I don't always know when. And, sometimes, I just get tired of asking, tired of praying, ready to walk away as my patience wears thin. Sometimes its hard to find the faith that He's going to answer, or that He's even listening.
Lots of people walk away from a good fishing spot, tired of waiting, finally believing that there just must not be any fish there. Maybe they've fished there multiple times and left empty so now they're believing maybe there are no fish in the whole river and they give up fishing for good.
I don't want my faith to get to that point, where I give up on it for good. I will hold to the hope that God is there and I will continue to seek Him, even when it feels like He is silent.
"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me." Psalm 51:10
It is a new year and its time for a change here. I have been away from blogging for over 5 months. In that time we've left the relative comfort but discontentment of our life in Osoyoos and moved 100s of miles north to La Crete, Alberta to be with my husband's side of the family.
Many things have changed for us in the last few month and we've faced many challenges and experiences both good and bad. While we are feeling somewhat settled into life in ths northern town, its becoming obvious that our hearts are still not settled.
I've spent the last 5 months dealing with God in many different ways. Anger, ignorance, fear, pleading, blame, love, thankfulness, and wonder. I don't know which emotion was the biggest for the final half of 2010 but its my aim to start 2011 differently.
Not only are we going to try and live a healthier more natural lifestyle in 2011 *hint: new blog coming* but I feel its really time to focus on getting our souls healthy too, finding our way back to that loving God, Abba God, Prince of Peace, not anger, oppression or discontent, the God who is our refuge, our Strength and our Shield, and actually trusting that HE IS these things because we've spent too long feeling the opposite.
My prayer for the new year is not only to hear His voice, as is always our desire, but to feel His LOVE, to feel His Peace, to see His Beauty, to know His Forgiveness, to trust He will Provide and Sustain us, calm the Anger & Bitterness that can take hold, to accept His Grace and Mercy, and to remember all the things we are Thankful for, that we are Blessed with and have 2011 be the year of Joy, Hope, Peace & Love. I know those 4 words are cliche, especially in this season of the year, but it is my desire for them to reign all year long.
So, here I am, January 1st. Lord, Create in me a new heart & renew my spirit!
Love of the outdoors, hobby photographer, aspiring writer and now, the job that takes up all my time & passion - mommy! Something I never knew that I couldn't live without :) I love my son! I love my husband! I know I'm blessed!