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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Platitudes and judgement

I am fed up with spiritual platitudes and nice-isms. They don’t work for me. Instead they communicate judgement and rejection.

“Take your frustrations to God.”

Are you saying I don’t already do this?

“Where is your joy?”

Are you saying that simply because you detect frustration that there is a lack of joy in me?

Seeing through these phrases, all I can see is judgement. Don’t deny it and dress it up in any other language. This is exactly what comes through. By saying these things it creates an atmosphere of insincerity. These comments send the message: don’t be honest and open with me. Wear a pretty smile and all will be well. Keep your frustrations between you and God. Don’t share them with me. Don’t be real with me. Instead, just be like ______________(insert story of missionary who didn't get frustrated when all went against him) – bumble along with thoughts of ‘all will be well’. That’s fine for him, but God (I am sure of this) makes room for all His children – not just the happy-go-lucky merry-on-my-way ones. David, Jonah, Jeremiah, Isaiah and even Jesus faced frustrations and from what we can tell from Scripture did not necessarily gloss over them and hide them from others saying, ‘I have given all my frustrations to God so I won’t have to burden you with them.’ Yes, they did give them to God, but they also, it seems, shared them with those around them.

We talk a lot about ‘community’ and if you really want to know what it is, just start sharing your deep frustrations with others. Not the gossipy ones that damage another person’s reputation. Not the frustrations that are ‘kosher’ like the superficial frustration of teaching a kid to potty train (genuine, yes, but not something one is about to wrestle with God over). I mean the battles of the heart – battles for joy, contentment, self-control and honesty. Tell me to follow in some missionary pilot’s footsteps and not be frustrated and I may deck you. Just giving you fair warning.

If my luggage goes missing - no big deal. God supplies my need. If I am sleep deprived I trust God to meet my need too, but instead of just having a lack of clothing or equipment like the pilot I am dealing with lack of a basic human need. There is no comparison – and we shouldn’t be comparing anyways. Comparing in this category is false – not apples to apples. It is merely judgement.

Honesty in relationships is crucial. If you say, 'Why don't you take your frustrations to God first?', I will feel like you are attacking my spirituality.

If you tell me to be like some missionary who breezed through the hardships of life with ne'er a frown or inner turmoil, I will feel like you are telling me to be like someone else.

If you tell me to keep my frustrations between me and God I will feel like you don't want to listen or know me: You are telling me you don’t accept me with my frustrations - you want a plastic Sarah.

If you tell me these things, I will see you as trying to coach me, convince me that I’m not joyful, content or handling my frustrations spiritually. If you cannot bear to hear my frustrations and confuse my frustrations with me, you might instead try to hear, empathize, and understand. If you give me spiritual platitudes, I will lose my patience.

Perhaps a little soul searching is in order.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Don't be a control freak - Trust God Part 2

The happiest Christians are those who have relinquished all rights and yielded themselves entirely to Christ. Can you think of ONE thing that is truly your 'right' as a Christian? I can think of one: to boldly enter the throneroom of grace to find the help we need! There aren't many more than that!

"But," I hear people say, "I have the right to do what I please with MY spare time." Really? When I got married, this was perhaps the hardest area for me to address in myself. When I was single generally I had complete freedom as to what I did in my free time - watching T.V., reading novels, surfing the internet. Funny, isn't it, how we often end up marrying someone SO opposite from us?! These three activities were not merely a preference issue to my husband, but on occasion he viewed them as moral issues (like, it's morally wrong to waste time)! (Hope Sam doesn't mind that I share this - don't worry people - he has totally changed and these were just some of those minor - or major - things we had to figure out in the early years of marriage)! Because of some of these issues (not because I agreed but in deference to his conscience), I chose to give up my 'rights' to use my free time how I chose. Many of you may balk at such thinking, but our marriage has been the better for it (and in time he changed many of his views on these things - like having a healthy theology of leisure). Choosing to relinquish control over 'my' time enriched our marriage and taught me to find my satisfaction in Christ - not in my freedoms, preferences and desires.

"Well," some may say, "at least my extra money that I worked so hard to earn - money left over after paying bills etc. - at least that is mine to do whatever I want with - mine to control..." As a Christian, can you truly say that? Even our money is a gift from above. Is it truly 'mine' or is God trying to use me as a vessel - to bring this material blessing into someone else's life?

Again, I must say that when we relinquish control of every area of life and trust Jesus to meet our needs, we will find deep satisfaction in Him and release from the burdens that come with control. If I must control every aspect of my life, from how I eat, to how I use time, to how I use money, then if I am unhappy or dissatisfied, I bear the weight of responsibility for my displeasure. But if I have given complete control to God, I am free from such burdens! Will He disappoint me? He beckons me to find my complete satisfaction in Him - am I willing?

Do I think that if I maintain control in just one area of my life, that I'll be happier - more satisfied? How foolish of me if I do! My view of God must be minute if I cannot even trust Him to fill me up inside, to minister to my deepest needs.

Have you discovered areas of your life that need His control? Do you feel a weight of responsibility for your own happiness and satisfaction in life? Why not pray with me now the following prayer?

"O Lord, You are the Great God Who created the Universe! In Your wisdom You have placed me here for a time. I confess that I have such a twisted view of things. So often I think I'm the center of the universe and think my happiness should be a priority. I confess that I so easily take the reigns of my life and try so hard to steer it where I want it to go. Please release me Lord from this huge burden of control. I now surrender to You - take the reigns of my life and fill me with You - fill me with joy in Your presence. Lord, I now trust You for all that is to come. I place now into Your hands all that I am, all that I have, and all that I hope to be. May I be willing to relinquish control to You in every area of my life, even when this means surrendering to the will of another.
Forgive me I pray. Help me to live as Your child, content in Your presence. I love You my Saviour, my dearest Friend.
In Jesus' worthy name - for Your glory I ask these things, Amen."

A song we used to sing in Hong Kong went like this:
"Father I place into Your hands the things that I can't do,
Father I place into Your hands the times that I've been through,
Father I place into Your hands the way that I should go,
For I know I always can trust You."

Don't be a control freak - Trust God Part 1

Okay, I'll admit, a few of my blogs have been merely transferrals of my pre-blogging days. It seems I have the writing streak in me because anytime I get irritated with people I try to figure out what it is that is bugging me and I begin to write my own lectures to them - either in a notebook or now, in this blog.

Well, it seems that I've been around enough irritating people to give me fuel for many many pages of writing! As I analyzed what was wrong with people I think I basically narrowed it down to one thing: discontent. I would not be far off the mark, because complaining (which is basically the outward display of the inward truth of discontent) was/is SO grievous to God! One of our oft-quoted verses is 'When the people complained the Lord was displeased and He sent a plague among them...' So, I had set out to write a book on the matter of contentment because it seemed the Christian book industry had overlooked this topic. I can understand why. Why market contentment when discontent is what drives buyers to buy? Hence, my blog.

The word happy often can go hand-in-hand with contentment but it seems that spiritual people take offense at the use of 'happy'. 'Oh, happiness is connected to happenings, but we can have joy even if the happenings are bad.' Whatever. I like the word happy and I'm about to redeem it. Further to that I am going to freely use the word unhappy to describe the state of discontent rampant in our culture, and especially in the people that annoy me the most.

If you want to be unhappy, just try to control every aspect of your life! Not only will this cause discord in your earthly relationships but its a sure way to butt heads with God Himself. Let me tell you of one experience I had with control in my life. As with many things pertaining to women, it was in the area of food.

I was 18 years old on a summer missions trip in Nicaragua and Mexico. Now, like most college girls, I was keen to keep my figure at least presentable (oh for a dose of that these days....but I digress). I liked having full control over my diet - I enjoyed our college's salad/pasta/potato/soup bar especially, and I could minimize eating heavy fatty foods from the cafeteria by mainly having salad and veggies. (This is provable because according to my college records I weighed only 5 pounds more on exit than on entry!) I guess I didn't realize I had a control problem until the summer I went on this trip. Even though it wasn't a requirement for the trip they easily could have had us sign a statement that went something like this: 'As a short-term missionary my goal is to be a witness for Christ, to communicate His love to others and to reach out to them in any way that I can. This involves laying down my life for others, giving up all my rights so as to win as many as possible. I hereby sign away the following rights:
- the right to use my time as I wish
- the right to eat the foods that I choose
- the right to eat WHEN I choose and the amount
- the right to keep my body trim and healthy by controlling what I eat.
I relinquish any rights I may have to anything regarding food. This is important because food is such a means of showing acceptance to the people you minister to.
- I give up my right to bathe regularly
- my right to privacy
- my right to a comfortable bed and a good night's sleep
- my rights in general.'

Okay, the list could be more extensive than that, but the last one covers the bases. It would be easy enough to sign such a statement, but much harder to put into practice.

The crises came day after day when I had ongoing gastro-intestinal issues, interspersed with vomiting. A big problem was that I had a milk sensitivity at the time that would cause me to throw up or acted like drain-o on my gut! Every dish they would drizzle (or drench) with a thing called 'crema' - like a heavy cream gone sour. We were told that these people equated food with acceptance - the extent to which you accepted (i.e. ATE) their food - that was the degree to which you accepted them. Therefore, if you were to leave anything on your pre-served (i.e. no portion control here!) plate, that meant you did not fully accept the people. (I am just so grateful I didn't end up going to some other far out place where we might have to eat cockroaches, snakes or other such delicacies!) A few times I had to excuse myself before I hurled in front of everyone (NOT a good time to have a weak stomach) - and I began to lament the fact that the food I was having to consume was fatty, unhealthy and would ruin my figure and general well-being. I had lost the entire rights to my diet. (This was a huge blow to me - it affected me so much that twice on the trip I had panic attacks - unexplained occurrences of hyperventilation that came up at the oddest times - it could have been due to other stresses as well...)

I had to learn to shovel spicy food, cream doused food, abundant food, sometimes tasty food, sometimes questionable food, into my mouth and swallow before it could burn, gag or sit on my tastebuds. I had to learn to expand my waistline to accomodate another plate of food just two hours after a feast at one location, (after having lunch one day we visited some others who wanted to feed us too - and refusing would be offensive so we had to gobble up - yum yum!)

It was a crisis for me because I had no control over my diet or even my own body. I could argue that maybe I could have just told them how sick I would get eating this food and that it didn't sit well with my stomach. But that would have put MY desires above theirs. It would have communicated non-acceptance. It would not have been Christlike. He gave up all His rights as a King to be born in a smelly stable, to live and die in abject humiliation.

And here I was resisting giving up my rights to an enjoyable diet. Not even to mention that ninety percent of the world would have been grateful for a bite to eat, and here I was 'suffering for Jesus' by shovelling mounds of food into my already well-fed body.

Going through this experience helped me to see that any time I think I'm in control, God must laugh. I am so deceived to think I have control of anything. My very next breath is dependent upon the sustaining grace and loving will of my Heavenly Father. He keeps my heart beating and all the functions of my body working - and I am a fool to think I am the master of my life.

I titled this 'Don't be a control freak - Trust God' because any time I trust in anyone else (mostly myself) I have been miserable and sorely disappointed. Knowing that God IS in control is a great assurance to me that I CAN trust Him, for He will only do what's best.
'Oh, for grace to trust Him more!'


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Gratitude

"Let's have an attitude of gratitude, and fill our hearts with praise,
'Thank you Lord!' we'll say to whatever comes our way
and with our attitude of gratitude, our lives will tell our friends,
That something special happens
When Jesus lives within!"

This is part of a song from a kids tape I used to listen to (by Joni and Friends - if you want to reflect on gratitude just take a look at her life and be amazed!).
We try to teach kids manners - please and thank you - but it's an entirely different thing to cultivate gratefulness. We can say 'thank you' and not mean it, but since God knows our hearts there's no point in thanking him unless we deeply sense a debt of gratitude towards Him.
As the song above says, 'something special happens when Jesus lives within.' Does something special happen when Jesus lives within? What is that special 'something'? It could be many things, one of the most important being gratitude. Are you grateful?

A few years ago I got sick frequently, and one case in particular stands out in my mind. I had a bad cold, sniffly nose, headaches, sleeplessness... we all know how miserable it is to be sick. But this went on and on! I'd get better for a day or two, then be sick again for a week or two. It lasted about 3 months, and I began to sulk. I was depressed and wondering why God was allowing me to go through it. With everyday illnesses we often just look to the physical and think we'll get over it in a few days. Because of the idea of being a 'Job's friend' we've completely disconnected any notion of sin from the idea of sickness (i.e. thinking God is judging because of some bout of illness!) (By the way, there is a good reason for this thinking, since Jesus healed the blind man and set the record straight that his blindness had not come from any person's sin but to show His own glory). But I don't think we always need to make that separation. In my case, as I began to sulk I began to wonder if God was trying to tell me something.

As I continued to sniffle, I got more and more desperate. I saw the Dr. a number of times, only to hear the most discouraging news ever: 'it's a virus, so drink lots of water and get some rest.' (blah blah blah etc etc etc... - in other words: 'sorry, we can't help you'). I prayed, 'Lord, please PLEASE help me to get better - NOW!' When He didn't instantly heal me, I began to pity myself.

Self-pity is the opposite of gratitude. There is ingratitude - the absence of gratefulness, and there is self-pity which is even more of the antithesis to gratitude - much further down the line! Many of you must be amused that I could, that I WOULD pity myself over a mere cold! While others face huge burdens and trials in life, I sulked over being tired and uncomfortable. Can you imagine?! I think the lowest point was when I lost all sense of taste and smell - for over 5 days! I'd never experienced this before - the texture of food without its taste is, simply put, unappetizing. So I went to the internet to look for information on my 'condition.' (This, while the Lord sits patiently by, waiting for me to discover Him...) I was even more discouraged by what I found there. Did you know that a bad cold can permanently damage your sense of smell and taste?! How horrible! This knowledge made me hit rock-bottom. (I love food - the enjoyment of it colours my world - the thought of never tasting again horrified me!)

I say all this in relation to gratitude because it demonstrates how living without it can be a detriment to true happiness.

Just at that time I got an email about a tragic attack on a girl in South Africa. The gun shot her somewhere in the neck and she was in recovery - with great difficulty eating, swallowing or tasting. She was patiently, joyfully enduring this trial, while I in my comfy life was sulking. This email began to alert me to the fact that maybe my sickness was more than physical. Maybe God was trying to tell me something. But He needed to speak even more loudly...

One evening as I lay in bed, miserable and depressed, having no desire to read, eat or do anything of value, I flipped on the radio. It was a program on Moody radio of instrumental music. I immediately recognized the tune of one of the song being played, "He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater, He sendeth more strength when the labours increase...for out of His infinite riches in Jesus, He giveth and giveth and giveth again..." As the words played out in my mind, a lone tear escaped my eye - and was soon joined with many others as the words of the 2nd verse played on...

"When we have exhausted our stores of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we've reached the end of our hoarded resources,
Our Father's full giving has only begun.

His love has no limit, His strength has no measure,
His power has no boundary known unto men,
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus,
He giveth and giveth and giveth again."

Here I was sulking, and God still met me in my need! He could have left me to wallow, but He lovingly, gently lifted me out of my sorrows and encouraged me despite my unwholesome attitude.

With this encouragement, and many tears of remorse, that evening I was able to smell and taste for the first time! In some sense this was a work of God, but I'm never one to ignore the physical either. I realized that the tears I was shedding were doing a work of unclogging everything and washing out the gunk that was making me so miserable. And yet I, for one, cannot manufacture tears. God had to work in my heart to bring a healing physical response! A wonderful woman I know once told me that the tears we shed from chopping onions contain different body chemicals than the ones we shed in grief - and that the genuine grief tears actually remove unhealthy components from us! (Thanks, Carol Eldon :) )

Within minutes of confessing my sinful attitude of ungratefulness to the Lord, I began to smell things - oh how wonderful it was! I ran to the kitchen and opened the spice cupboard, just to be sure!

I realized how blessed I was - even if I forever couldn't taste or smell, there are many who can't see, walk, think or hear. There are so many with broken families, heartaches, financial burdens, job stress. I have SO much to be thankful for.

Complaining, self-pity and ingratitude have no place in the life of a Christian. At least they have no place in the life of a truly happy Christian. (Yes, someday I'll write a blog on redeeming the word happy which seems to have fallen on hard times!) Are you happy? Are you grateful? Why not list all the things for which you are grateful and thank God for each one? Often as I drive I'll see a lovely sunset, a row of pretty trees, geese flying in a row. I thank Him spontaneously for these beautiful sights - and relish the thought that maybe He put them in my path just so I'd enjoy them. And after my sickness episode, I now (often daily) thank the Lord for each night of rest without coughing, for each meal I can fully enjoy, for each day that my sinuses are clear and for each breath I can take with uncluttered lungs. Living with this daily 'attitude of gratitude' has helped lift my spirits and given me an overall joy and contentment as I go through life.

What can you thank Him for today?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving - for real

As it is the day before Thanksgiving I thought I should share what my impressions of Thanksgiving have been throughout the years.

Growing up in Hong Kong and attending British schools, it was not customary to have a day off for Thanksgiving - a purely American celebration (and, just a bit anti-British if you think of why they had a Thanksgiving in the first place). However, though my parents were religious about school attendance - and I mean religious, (you had to have a provable condition to miss school), they saw the importance of religiously celebrating Thanksgiving.

I am grateful today for their prioritizing this 'holiday' (read: holy day) because it has profoundly impacted my life.

Because one forms views and ideas of what it must be to be an American in the 'home'land when one grows up outside of said homeland, I formed my ideals around the ways we celebrated as a family in Hong Kong. I wrongly assumed we were just doing what all Americans do for Thanksgiving. It was much to my shock, and dismay, that I discovered that most American homes do not have a clue what to do on Thanksgiving. So, let me enlighten you, in case you didn't have the privilege of experiencing a true Crutchfield Thanksgiving.

My Mom allowed us the day off school - which was cause for great celebration until we realized we were not off for relaxation, but for WORK. And work we did - from morning 'til late afternoon - peeling apples, chopping celery, washing pots and pans, setting tables, making place cards, going over our memorization/piano pieces one last time...etc. I don't think we were that excited about the work - okay, we definitely weren't, and my Mom endured all sorts of complaining from us (one of the cardinal, seven-deadly-sins in my opinion!)

Once everything was in place, and maybe a little before, the guests began to arrive. The guests were intentionally from all over the world - Australian, Canadian, British, Chinese, Filipino, Dutch - probably a whole slew of others I can't recall just now. One by one they'd come and marvel at this new experience of what a traditional American Thanksgiving was all about.

We sat them at the table and bowed for prayer and tucked into the scrumptious meal. If you know my Mom, I am not kidding you - it was SCRUMPTIOUS. She is more or less (okay, more) a gourmet cook. We never had just one pie, most usually we had 3 - apple, pecan and pumpkin. And cool whip? Noooo - fresh whipped cream.

After the meal had been thoroughly enjoyed we all gathered in the living room. Now was the part of making it a real thanksgiving. First the person who had previously been assigned, opened the gathering with a few words of introduction and proceeded to tell/read their own re-telling of the first Thanksgiving. Children listened with rapt attention; adults marveled at the harsh experience of the first settlers to the land we call the U.S.A. Often there was quiet reflection of how our lives are so easy compared to theirs - and yet we so often complain.

After the story-telling, we would go around one by one and share (short or long) whatever we were thankful for in the previous year. In between sharing times, Mom would prompt one us kids to get up to perform our piece. This would be a bit like a recital - music pieces, poetry, Scripture or a song to sing. This would be our part to play.

And that, my dear friends, is what it means to celebrate Thanksgiving.

It was so sad for me to discover the true American way is just to eat a lot and kick-back and watch sports on T.V. How lame!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Caleb's Query

The other day Caleb was asking me if God is always gracious. I said, 'Yes, He is.' Then he asked if God is always just. I said, 'Yes, He is.' Then he said, 'Is God unchanging?' I said, 'Yes, He is.' Then he wanted to know how this can be possible - he views graciousness as being a little bit unjust. And then, if He is truly unchanging, well, how can He be doing both the grace thing and the just thing all at the same time!? Very confusing - not just for a 10 year old.

We discussed it a little bit and I said, 'Caleb, I have the answer. Do you want to know what it is?' 'Sure!' he said.

'The Trinity.'

At first he thought it was a joke - kind of like where my Dad asks, 'If a chicken and half laid an egg and a half in a day and a half, then how many pancakes would it take to shingle a doghouse?' (If you want the answer, ask my Dad).

But it wasn't a joke - in that genre anyways.

Here is my answer:
Caleb, if God punished another person for our sins - a person other than Himself - wouldn't that be terribly unfair and unjust!? Of course it would. If God just forgave our sins because He's nice and kind and wants to do it, would that be just? Of course not. If God left us to flounder in our sins and provided no way of purification, would that be gracious to us? No. So, the answer is both the Trinity and the Gospel. If Jesus were not God, taking on Himself the punishment for our sins, it would be not only impossible for Him to die for our sins, but also incredibly unjust for God to do that to someone other than Himself. If Jesus, being God, voluntarily takes the punishment for our sins, in obedience to the will of the Father (but He is somehow one with Him), then we cannot accuse God of being unjust. By Jesus death on the cross for us, and Him being a person within the Godhead, we see both His unchanging nature full of grace and justice. This is both the Gospel and the Trinity at work! So that was my answer to him, in a nutshell.

What would you have said?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Anxiety

Worry. Fear. Guilt. Woulda, coulda, shoulda - what ifs... Do these rule your life? What causes us to have anxiety issues?

On the personal front we have worries that nag at our thoughts: what might others think of me if they knew XYZ? We have guilt: 'I shouldn't have________, I wish I hadn't __________' We have regrets: 'I could've done things differently. We have fears - of the unknown: 'What if I/he/she gets sick? What if I/they face pain or difficulty? What if God moves us from this place? What if my circumstances change? What if something goes wrong? What if I fail?'

Fear, anxiety and worry must be universal to being human. I, for one, thought I had enough worry-ers about me that I thought I could take a pass - I thought, 'I don't struggle with this!' But, having children, especially having them living inside your own body for a while, lends itself very naturally to fear, worry and anxiety.

I wonder, what does God's Word tell us about this? How should one who takes hold of God's Word as true deal with the natural fears that arise in life? What are my - or your - fears and worries? Why do any of us worry who also believe that God is sovereign, good and powerful? I suppose a short answer to this is that I fear even His GOOD will may involve pain or suffering for me or/and those close to me. While I understand suffering can be and often is good, it is still troubling to consider when the thought of any kind of discomfort is...well, discomforting!

His good will and sovereignty did not spare even His own Son from the worst of all suffering. What does that mean for us? I argue these thoughts back and forth in my head - He is King, Ruler of all - it is His right to rule and do as He pleases. There are scenarios that we all face or hear of that make us shudder - a foster child is returned to a homeless, unstable parent for example. Is God still in control?

I know the Bible does say, 'Do not be anxious.' But I always like to answer command verses with a question: How?
And thankfully, God's Word is not silent in answer to my query:
Perfect love casts out fear.
In everything...present your requests to God.
Give thanks.
Consider the lillies of the field and the birds of the air - they don't slave away at stuff and yet God takes care of them (loose Sarah translation).

As for regrets and guilt - didn't Jesus pay for all our sins on the cross? If we preach the Gospel to ourselves every day, it may go a long way to curbing fear, worry and guilt. The Gospel - the truth that Jesus died to save me - removes guilt.

Worry and fear challenge us (who experience such on occasion) to examine our hearts to see what we REALLY believe. It's easy to say, 'God is good, sovereign and powerful, and can be trusted.' If we say and believe it, fear will not rule us.

We might say, 'I believe Jesus loves me.' But when we fear or face true sufferings we are challenged in this belief. Will we hold to the truths we claim to believe or collapse in panic and fear?

I daresay it is the responsible, high-functioning types who struggle more with worry and fear. I am not this type, but as I grow in these weaker areas of mine (responsibility, namely!), I do find anxiety increases too! Perhaps we come to rely on or feel a sense of self-accomplishment when we undertake and succeed in managing life. Then, if something doesn't go right, we feel guilt. Instead of acknowledging Him in all our ways, we take upon ourselves burdens we were never meant to bear.

In ultra-responsible mode, we can easily slip into 'self-on-the-throne' thinking - and how disconcerting to discover, as we go along our merry-controlling-way, that we really have little control over the tiniest of details.

Perhaps it is physical sickness that alarms us the most - the healthiest of all people still get sick and even die. (I've heard the statistics for death - 100% of people of all time and history, except for those living today, have died.) People who abuse their bodies with poor diet and unhealthy habits (or, as some would have it, enjoy their bodies while they last!) often outlive those who are meticulously concerned with adequate sleep, exercise and nutrition!

Did worry/compulsive fear/neurotic control make any difference for the cancer patient who followed every regimen possible, but still succumbs to an illness that was unconquerable and perhaps God's merciful exit for him/her from this decaying world? I would say worry and fear rob us all of joy, life and peace. It wastes our days, hours, energies! It distracts us from living. It detracts from the glorious sovereignty of God.

It is commanded that we NOT fear - do NOT be anxious. IF we take this command seriously we must tackle it from all angles. It doesn't help to just 'try harder' not to worry - it won't work!

We need to ask what we fear, and why. Where are we failing to believe the truths we pretend to adhere to?

Read this verse from Revelation 1:

Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father — to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.

From these verses we see:
1. We receive Grace and peace from God.
2. Jesus' resurrection gives us confidence in Him as ruler over the kings of the earth. (All you who are into politics, this should give you a measure of comfort - how often are politics at the root of many of our fears and worries!?)
3. Jesus loves us - and has freed us from our sins (goodbye guilt and regret).
4. We can live confidently knowing we are here to serve God.
5. In all this, God is glorified forever.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Anger in Parenting Part 2

I posted on the dilemma of anger as a parent back in July. I just read a great blog on why it is right for us to be angry when injustice is done (by Bryan Hodge at www.theologicalsushi.blogspot.com).

I was glad to hear back from so many of you on the subject - some with verses and reminders and general ideas on the matter.

I don't know if there is a one-size-fits-all approach to this. So much of parenting seems to need constant nuanced adjustments - like steering on a road. Each kid is different and some can hear through the blunders and others require perfectly measured doses of child-sized wisdom to be applied to their hearts.

So that raises the question - do the easy kids (who get things quicker, take it in sooner, respond to your input promptly...) somehow get the brunt of it? Do they get short-changed because they weren't being squeaky wheels?

I am realizing that anger in parenting is/can be definitely harmful and sinful. How can I expect my children to display self-control if I don't model it for them? I am reminded of the verse about teachers being judged more harshly - every parent must shudder to realize that verse is talking about ME. We are all teaching whether we like it or not, realize it or not, or rise to the challenge or not. This is perhaps the main reason I needed to marry someone so much better than me on all fronts except cooking, writing and piano playing - otherwise there would be little hope for my kids!

I am just throwing these thoughts out there - exploring the territory. Do you struggle with anger at your children? I am noticing, after examining my own heart that some of my anger is merely frustration - impatience at their childish ways. And I am convicted because 'the fruit of the Spirit is...patience,' and 'Love is patient.' If I get irritated because a child's lack of quick obedience (perhaps slow obedience - 2 year olds are especially slow, in case you haven't noticed!), I think my frustration boils into sinful anger. Better to patiently call the child to a higher standard, implementing any disciplinary measures you've established, and move forward in love. Can you see Jesus getting irritated with a slow-to-move child? I just can't. He patiently sat with the children, possibly putting aside other 'significant ministry endeavours' in order to be with them.

I'll continue to come back to this topic - as I'm sure my parenting skills will need much more honing in this area!

Tell me what you think of anger as a parent - the good, the bad, and the ugly!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Hannah's Trust

Can she feel my love for her?
Does it wash over her in waves of emotion,
the way it washes over me?

She rests in my arms,
Content -
Fully relaxed - fearing nothing, aware of nothing
But the gentle rocking,
the warmth of my body
and the sound of Grandma reading the train book to Andrew.

I wonder if this is why we are told to have faith
as little children do.

She fully trusts all her needs will be met.
She rests peacefully, neither sorrowful for the past,
nor anxious for the future.

In hunger, she cries - and is fed.
When restless, she murmurs and a bleary-eyed Mommy
Lifts her from her lonely bed.

This is what it means to trust -
to know and rest in the confidence
of future comfort.

Let this rest be mine, I pray.
This peace,
this hope,
this trust,
All because I am loved -
With waves that wash over me
From a Father Who loves me
as His precious child.

On a side note...a poem I wrote while teaching English

During the whole time I was day-dreaming about Sam I was also taking classes to be certified in TESL via Cambridge University's program in Hong Kong's British Council. I was also teaching little kids - 3-6 year olds and high school kids conversational English. The little kids had worksheets to practice reading and writing. I was just sorting through a folder to give Timo one that wasn't falling apart and came across this one I had for the young children who could read. I had filled it in to show them how to write sentences with particular words. The first one is basic:
bat, sat, hat, mat, fat, rat, that, cat, mat:

There was a bat who sat
On a hat on a mat,
Then a fat rat sat on that mat -
But the cat ate the rat
That was sitting on that mat.

Then, the next list of words was:
sing, ring, thing, bring, sting, king

Here's what I wrote:

I want a ring,
Then I'll sing.
What a thing, to have a ring.
Bring me a ring, but without a string.
The ring won't sting,
And the king with the ring
Will make me sing, For he'll bring me that ring,
And I'll think him a king.

Hee hee.

How I met Sam - Our first 'dates' 3

On that walk home, I asked one question, and the rest of the time, Sam talked. I asked him to tell me about his life.

He began with growing up in Zambia, and told me about his family. He had three older sisters (who doted on him with all manner of affection one would expect from having three older sisters). I don't remember all he told me, but he did tell stories of his growing up years. It sounded like he came from a wonderful family - stable, loving, nurturing and who sincerely loved the Lord and sought to serve Him with all of their beings.

He talked of going off to boarding school at Sakeji, when he was just 5 years old. It sounded absolutely horrifying to me - thinking of a little tyke going away for three months at a time! At least for his comfort he did have loving big sisters to cry on and look after him.

Then he told of coming to the U.S. to live for a while, because his Dad had developed some headaches and needed medical attention. He was 12 when he left Zambia - his first time of really living in the U.S. as before he'd only come for visits.

By this time we had arrived home, and there was still so much more to be told. We went up to the roof of our house which has an open ledge that if you climb over the wall you can sit on (and not inch too close to the edge if you're afraid of falling). We sat in the pleasant evening and I continued to listen to the story of his life.

I was starting to dream a little...as reflected in this poem...Click here.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

How I met Sam - Our first 'dates' 2

I wasn't going to be so rude as to say no I won't, but I did have an internal battle going on.

I had told myself I would not date - that I was determined to not let myself fall down the slippery slope of emotional entanglements. This sounds quite silly and reveals something about me which I'm not too shy to share publicly! That at the core I was scared of being hurt - of loving without being loved in return. I recognized the weakness of my own heart and sought to protect myself by remaining aloof from male companionship. However, against my better judgement, I often failed. I couldn't help but to be openly curious. (Curiosity and I have a love/hate relationship!) But it was troubling nonetheless to break one of my personal rules about going on dates. I told myself this was merely being a good hostess and that was the extent of it.

Anyway, we got to the mall, and we began to walk around. Contrary to what my Mom had said, I didn't know of a lot of places to go, and was not that familiar with eating establishments. We wandered a bit and finally found this Korean BBQ place, which happened to be extremely crowded at the time. That was fine with me - I didn't want any kind of 'intimate' setting. Let it be crowded, if only for my own comfort - I thought to myself.

It was so crowded that there were no tables vacant. But no problem - just cram onto a table that's already occupied - that's the way they do it there! So, we find two open seats and plop down and order the food. Then there's an awkward moment when Sam and I look across the table at each other - with noise, hustle and bustle and chaos in the background - and realize that we are really in each other's company ALONE. (Later he told me he suddenly felt quite awkward too). But we made the best of it, chatting about nothing of consequence.

After supper we walked to the bus stop and after waiting 5 minutes realized it might be a lot longer since buses don't run so frequently in the evenings. I offered that we could walk home - it was a little more than a mile away (I'm estimating). He said that would be fine.

And the setting was beautiful - fall Hong Kong weather - not too cool or too warm - a glistening river to one side that we walked along, then over a bridge, then through some high-rise neighborhoods and along a pathway until we reached home.

We often joke now (since I am known to talk too much) that this is the one time in our whole history that I allowed Sam to talk. In fact, he did talk. He told me basically the story of his life - sort of the highlights - and I didn't interrupt and just listened. I should probably try it again sometime. (Listening, that is).

For one who didn't plan to date, things were getting interesting! Click here for next installment...

How I met Sam - Our first 'dates'

I will continue to tell our story - can't believe I've only gotten as far as one week into it - with 32 parts. So I guess that was all like Chapter 1 and this is Chapter 2 - or some such thing.

If you've been following along, I shared some of our emails so you get the picture of what our communication was like.

The second weekend following the burglary, Sam again needed to be picked up from the train station. I don't think I was driving in Hong Kong yet, so my Mom was going to get him. Of course I was a little excited about him coming a second weekend. I wasn't sure how often he'd come, or what our friendship would amount to, but it was a warm and pleasant thought to have a friend - even if our friendship would be minimal - around for a day or two. I also did not anticipate the underhanded, crafty ways of my Mother (for which I am now quite thankful in retrospect - who knows, without her gentle suggestions, we may not be where we are today!)

What am I referring to? The set-up - as I like to call it.

Now, Sam had no interest in dating, or dating ME, at this point. We were just becoming friends. We went to the train station, he hopped into the car. We started to drive off - it was a Friday or Saturday evening, around 6 p.m. After initial greetings, Mom turned to Sam and said, 'Have you had any supper yet?' After a two-hour commute to get to Hong Kong, and no time to eat - he had not had supper. You would think we'd whip up a PB & J or something. But oh, no. Not with my Mom's shenanigans.

'Oh, why don't I just drop you off over at this mall - Sarah knows of a few great places to take you - and you can just ride the bus home. Sarah knows the way.'

And so began our first date. Which freaked us both out a little.

The Story Continues - Our First Dates, Part 2

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Logan Family Prayer

May we be as fruit-bearing trees planted by the life-sustaining
water of the Word of God.
May the Living Word be on our tongue, in our hearts and
Be our truest Guide in life.
May we be rooted and established in the love we realize in the
Lord Jesus Christ.
Let our purpose be to know, love and serve our Creator with
Ever-increasing joy and devotion.
We ask You, our Father, to bless us as we daily live for Your honour.
For the glory of our risen King:
Amen.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Marriage Thoughts - for those who bother

I've always said there's two kinds of people in this world - those who bother and those who are bothered. I'd like to be neither. Unfortunately I fall on the side of a botherer much more than a bothered person! Pity those who have to live with me! Therefore, my preliminary comments are made to those with my particular kind of weakness (and as much a reminder to me as to anyone else who will read this):

1. When told you are bothering, or when someone is nit-picky and wants you not to do something, or to do it a different way, try not to be defensive. Try to see beyond how a thing is said, and begin to wonder if this added information/input/request could be helpful to your further growth and change. Do not take others and their botherances personally.

2. Consider how you might accommodate those who are bothered by you and the things you do. Once you have done due dilligence and sought to improve, do not live in anxiety or self-discouragement for not living up to others' standards and expectations. In God's strength, try to consider others' needs and preferences, but in the end, live by faith, not by self-evaluative striving which puts you at the center of your world and leads to self-reliance.

3. When you cannot live up to others' expectations, or fail miserably, more than once, rest in God's unfailing love, acceptance and joy over you. Seek to be content and joyful in Him.

4. While growing in contentment, also pray for yourself that your contentment would never lead to sloth, self-indulgence, pride, inconsideration towards others or any other weakness that may be lurking around the corner. At the same time if you spend too much time in self-evaluative thought you may end up staring at your navel all day and never doing or becoming anything of blessing to anyone but you. Pray for yourself, and then get on with life and serving others.

5. Don't get into the 'woe is me' self-absorbed pity-party that you may feel like having. Remember there are many faithful examples both in Scripture and in Church history of failing 'saints' who learned joy and contentment and peace in any and every situation. Others have gone before and dealt with the dissatisfactions of others. Have they all 'stood up for themselves'? Or did they meekly submit and endeavour to please those about them? Or did they do both at different times? Trust God to give wisdom in this.

6. Respond to those who blame, accuse, are annoyed, nit-pick with love, gentleness and grace. Do not return an insult for an insult, but rather with kindness. Do not always deflect others' input as being negative - even if it is. Forget about the way something was said and look to the heart of it. Pray about others' annoyances and their growth in faith (to trust God to help them with their dissatisfactions). But for the most part, leave the others' growth to God in His time. You cannot be their personal 'Holy Spirit'.

7. Do not - DO NOT - think of yourself as a victim or martyr. Think of Christ instead who was both, but never without full control of Himself or the situation. Do not think you are more noble than others. Scripture teaches us to esteem others as BETTER than ourselves. "Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought but rather think of yourself with sober judgement in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you." Basically, don't be proud - condescension, patronizing, 'I'm better than you' thinking will seep out of you in ways you are unaware of and which are highly distasteful and upsetting to those around you. You may think you are discreet in your inner judgements but they do leak out in subtle ways that you may not be able to see yourself.

8. Live free in Christ - but never use that freedom to indulge the flesh - 'but rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love.' Yes, you are free to do and act and say things in a whole variety of ways - but are you doing all these things in a spirit of loving service to others? (Ouch - I don't like reading this, writing this or even thinking this). Unfortunately, I do struggle in this area. I love being free in Christ. And sometimes I am tempted to use it for selfishness - so therefore it is not true freedom because I am not using it to serve others in love.

9. You cannot change those around you. And you cannot depend on them and their behaviour/speech to make you happy. Your joy must be rooted and grounded in the love God has for you - live and breath that love as your daily breath! Let your heart be joy-filled, even if those around you are not. Let peace and joy radiate from you. This may make you more tolerable to others. And it may not. Grow in the secret of 'being content in any and every circumstance.' This includes coming under others' judgemental (and irritating, might I add) eye.

10. Pray and ask God to show you where you need to grow and change. Take others' criticisms and carefully consider where there might be truth that needs to be heard and heeded. Keep your conversation with God going at all times - when you hear negative input from others - pray - when you want to yell something not-so-nice back - pray - when you want to list all of that person's faults - pray instead - when you want to become a perfectionist and please everyone around you - pray and seek to please God instead - when you wallow in self-pity and discouragement - pray - when you think you've endured enough and can't take anymore - pray and ask God for His help and strength - when you think it's time someone appreciated all the good things about you - pray and reflect on the fact that you are nothing without Christ - when you are angry at being mistreated - pray, and deal with the mistreatment appropriately - when you want to give up - pray and say, 'I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.'

And that's just for starters...

Heaven

What will I do when I get there?
When I leave the shadows of this earthly sphere,
And arrive at the place reserved for me there -
What will be my occupation - How will I serve
My God, my Maker?

Will He give me talents unknown here,
To magnify His glories in verse and song?
Will I paint His beauties with skill untold,
Or simply worship Him - will it never grow old?

Will my tongue be unleashed with His fathomless grace,
Will I be struck dumb to behold His face?
He hasn't shown me how great it will be,
But still - I imagine the splendour to see -
And wonder with wandering thoughts of that place -
How I'll spend all eternity praising His name.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Mommy-hood - My time, my days

I don’t want to be one of those people who looks back on the earlier days of mommy-hood and wistfully says, ‘I thought what I had to do with my days, my time, my energies were so important that I shoved my kids aside in favour of the things I wanted to accomplish…’ I’d like to realize that now, and willinginly give my time and attentions to the brood of kids that gather around me throughout my days. I was just raking leaves outside with Timo while waiting for his bus. I realized that every day I will have to take a few minutes of my day – my time – and do nothing but wait for his bus. I could ignore Timo while doing this and read a book instead. I could talk on the phone and try to keep him occupied while we wait. Or I can take up the rake, the crayon, or the little hand that still willingly holds mine and give him my full attention and time, and I can choose to reject all the other things calling for my attention. I just hope I do this more each day, and that slowly I won’t even recognize that I’m giving anything up, but that the greater joy, greater calling I have is a much better use of my time than even something as noble as folding the next pile of laundry. Yes, these other things need to get done, and in my case with ever increasing dilligence! But they don’t need to be in the forefront of my mind when a precious 5 year-old is willing to rake leaves alongside me (and in that case, also doing productive labour)! I hope to cherish these few years and times I have with my kids, so that I won’t be looking back, regretting that somehow the computer, the supper, the laundry, the phonecall, the clutter, the need to pick up, the schedule – that all these were somehow more important than looking into the darling faces of my children and willingly giving them myself – my attention, love, time, nurture, care and companionship.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Make Me a Captive Lord

This is probably familiar to most of you, but in case it isn't I want to share it here - one of my favourite hymns.

Make me a captive, Lord, and then I shall be free.
Force me to render up my sword, and I shall conqueror be.
I
sink in life’s alarms when by myself I stand;
Imprison me within Thine arms, and strong shall be my hand.

My
heart is weak and poor until it master find;
It has no spring of action sure, it varies with the
wind.
It cannot freely move till Thou has wrought its chain;
Enslave it with Thy matchless love, and deathless it shall reign.

My power is faint and low till I have learned to serve;
It lacks the needed fire to glow, it lacks the
breeze to nerve.
It cannot drive the world until itself be driven;
Its flag can only be unfurled when Thou shalt breathe from heaven.

My will is not my own till Thou hast made it Thine;
If it would reach a monarch’s throne, it must its
crown resign.
It only stands unbent amid the clashing strife,
When on Thy bosom it has leant, and found in Thee its life.

by George Matheson


Incidentally, another of my favourite hymns is 'O Love that Will Not let me go' which is also penned by Matheson. If anyone could speak to poverty and anguish of soul and a need for experiencing the healing, all embracing love of God, it was he. He had become engaged to be married to his sweetheart and at some point became ill. Before he was to be married, it was found that his illness would mean the loss of his eyesight - permanently. Upon hearing this news, and realizing her future spouse could not engage in meaningful, productive labour, his fiancee broke off their relationship.


Dealing with rejection is painful and difficult - I'm sure we all can attest to that. But I am inspired by the things Matheson wrote in the midst of deep pain. His words speak of heavenly, unfailing love. He tells first hand of God's embrace that is both bondage and freedom at the same time: 'Enslave it with Thy matchless love, and deathless it shall reign.' This sounds strange to unconverted ears, I suppose. But it was not a foreign concept to Paul who considered himself a bondslave of the Lord Jesus, and who also spoke of using our freedom to 'serve one another in love.'


Let Matheson inspire you too:


O Love that will not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.

O light that foll’west all my way,
I yield my flick’ring torch to thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.

O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.

O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Shepherd Hymn

Our Father God and Shepherd, Who guides us in Your ways,
Who tenderly directs us in paths of truth and grace -
Though often times we suffer, beset with many fears,
With patient hope and firm faith, help us to persevere.

In mercy love and patience, You hem our lives with peace!
Your rod and staff bring comfort though disconcerted we
Forget Your Father's heart is set on our holiness -
You draw us back to Your fold - to pastures of Your rest.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Appropriate Hymn for our times

I was just trying to sing Hannah to sleep.  (Yes, I've taken a hiatus from blogging - we added Hannah to our brood two months ago!) Regarding my absenteeism from this blog - I just thought I'd mention that I don't make it a goal to just fill space on here. If I have something significant enough to say, I will - believe me, I will! Often I have lots to say but would get in trouble if I said it all. So perhaps an anonymous blog will be started soon. I can't say. It seems Hannah has a bit of colic, so I don't anticipate any regularity with blogging though I intend to at least get back to it and finish the saga of meeting Sam.
I intend also to do a hymn of the day/week/whatever blog regularly, since there are so many gems fallen by the wayside that I'd like to highlight.
I regularly make comments about how I feel about hymns, music, and worship in general. I'll just throw this out quickly because it has irritated me and I finally figured out why. It is the old line that advocates of contempo-pop-worship music people throw at me: "Well,the really good hymns stick around, and the rest, well, there's a reason no-one sings them anymore - they weren't any good - if they were we'd still be singing them, so the good ones have stood the test of time."

It's best if I don't answer people who tell me this because my red-headed temper might get the better of me. I'd like to say, 'Oh, really? You mean that to make something worthwhile it must be popular and approved by a new generation whose ears have been tuned to the equivalent of modern art as far as music goes? Since Shakespeare is so hard to read and understand why don't we just chuck his works out too - you know, let them rest on a shelf somewhere...' I get irritated because I write music and words to old words and old music (I can't seem to write both words and music in the same song), and yet, because I am un-ambitious, anti-self-promotion, and in general not the driven type, no one will probably hear my music or read much of my words, and yet I don't feel that makes them less valuable. Popularity and wide exposure and acceptance cannot be our gauge for measuring value, even when it comes to something as delicate and personal as music/lyric preferences.
So much of what has become popular has become that way because of marketing, drivenness and opportunity. What I mean is, a fairly good musician writes and plays his music well - it gets noticed - he is driven to market and manufacture his stuff - he finds/comes across appropriate opportunity for such an endeavour - he learns the ropes or has agents who do it for him and voila - popular music on the rise. It is sometimes just a lot of luck combined with personality and opportunity. (You theologians out there know I don't believe in proverbial luck - just had to clarify). So that means a depressive type who doesn't get out there to manufacture his stuff isn't going to get much press. Does that make his music less worthy?! No, of course not. And so it is with older hymns that have fallen by the wayside. Some fall out of use for good reason - they weren't that great to begin with (think: 'Climb, climb up sunshine mountain' - doesn't get more fluff than that!) But that certainly can't be said for all the older, less-known, less-popular hymns. Think of 'Depth of mercy can there be mercy still reserved for me.' How many of you knew that before some group re-made it recently? Thanks to them more of you recognize these words and I applaud such efforts. How many of you knew that 'Before the throne of God above' came out of the little Believers Hymnal and was written over a hundred years ago? If I didn't have my calling to be fully present with my kids in the home, and had spare money, time, energy and effort I could be out there manufacturing re-written hymns too - and I'd get to pick which ones! And I'd have a personal staff of musicians and administrators to do all the stuff I can't. And I'd have time to do it, and drive and energy and all of the above. But that is in dream-world. I am not about to do such a thing. And yet that does not make the old forgotten hymns any less valuable, important or artistically worthy. So, be well informed folks, don't give me the line 'we only sing the ones that stood the test of time...' or you might get wolloped in the face. Yeah right. You only sing the ones made popular by the musicians you like and follow (and I'm glad some of them bring these to life again!)

Here is the hymn I just came across and think it is appropriate for all the OWS people, and the rest of us too who watch with wonder, curiosity and puzzlement.
Whew. Glad that's off my chest. One less bee in my bonnet.
Apparently Beethoven wrote the music for this. We know the tune to other words: 'Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness.'


Where cross the crowded ways of life, Where sound the cries of race and clan, Above the noise of selfish strife, We hear Thy voice, O Son of man!

In hands of wretchedness and need, On shadowed thresholds dark with fears,
From paths where hide the lures of greed, We catch the vision of Thy tears.

The cup of water giv'n for Thee Still holds the freshness of Thy grace;
Yet long these multitudes to see The sweet compassion of Thy face.

O Master, from the mountainside, Make haste to heal these hearts of pain,
Among these restless throngs abide, O tread the city's streets again.

Till sons of men shall learn Thy love And follow where Thy feet have trod;
Till glorious from Thy Heav'n above Shall come the city of our God.

- F. Mason North

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Valley of Vision - The Trinity

Prayer to the Trinity, adapted for children

Three together in one, One, but still Three - You are God Who saves me!

Father in Heaven, Son Who delights the Father, and Spirit Who never ends,
I love You as One Being, One God in three different persons -
and I love You because You bring wrong-doers to know You and to become Yours.
O Father, You have loved ME and sent Jesus to get me back from the mess I've found myself in;
O Jesus, You have loved me and even became like me when You lived on earth, and still fully understand and exist as a real human person, You gave up Your life by shedding Your blood to wash away all the bad in me - when You did this You took Your own pure goodness and covered over all the ways I fail so often;
O Holy Spirit, You have loved me and entered into my heart, and planted there an unending tree of eternal life - You have shown me how wonderful Jesus is.
Three Persons and One God, I bless and praise You, for loving me when I really deserve no love, and for loving me with such great love I can't describe it, so amazingly, so powerfully - You rescue those who wander away and bring them back and lift them up!

O Father, I thank You that because of Your freely given and great grace - a gift really - You have put me in Jesus' hands, to be His sheep, His precious jewel, His treasured property.
O Jesus, I thank You that because of Your freely given and great grace, You have accepted me, taken me to be Your specially loved child, and securely hugged me tight;
O Holy Spirit, I thank You that because of Your freely given and great grace You have shown me that Jesus is the One Who rescues me, You have put the faith I need to grow right inside my heart, You have won over my angry, stubborn heart, and made me a child of God forever!

O Father, You are on the throne and still You hear all the things I think and ask of You,
O Jesus, Your hand is always open to receive mine and to listen to all the things I ask,
O Holy Spirit, You are willing to help me when I'm weak, to show me how much I need You, to give me words when I have none, to pray when I can't, to give me strength when I can't cope anymore - even when I give up on praying!

O Three-personed God, even though I can't understand everything about how you are three and One, You Who command all that goes on in the universe,
You have told me to ask You for all the things that are in my heart and that concern Your rule over everything.
Let me live and pray like a child who has been immersed in all You are.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Valley of Vision for children

I sometimes pick up the collection of Puritan prayers and peruse its contents and am very blessed by it. Then I wish the language were just a bit more readable for a wider audience. So I decided to re-write some of it for the sake of simplicity and comprehension. I wanted it to be something a 10 year old can understand and an adult who gets tripped up by thee's and thou's can grasp. Here is the first one:

The Valley of Vision

Lord, high above me and holy - gentle and stooping to reach me,
You have brought me to a valley where I can see clearly,
where I live in a difficult place down below, but see You clearly high above;
sometimes trapped by mountains of sin, I can still see You are wonderful and glorious!

Let me learn from you even when things are puzzling -
that the times I am down in the depths, then You are able to lift me up,
that to be low is to be high,
that when my heart is breaking you can heal it,
that the sorry and sincere spirit is one that also rejoices and is glad,
that when I repent I have victory,
that to be without the things I want is to have an open hand to all You give me,
that to bear the cross that You call me to, also means You'll give me a crown,
that when I give I receive so much more,
that the valley of difficulty sometimes clears my eyes so I can see what really matters.

Lord, if I am deep down in a hole and look up, I can see a star in the sky,
and the darker the hole, the more brightly I see those stars;
Let me find Your light when things seem dark all around me,
Give me your life when I lose mine,
Your joy when I am really sad,
Your grace and forgiveness when I have done and thought so many wrong things -
Let me find such great treasure in You when I feel like I have nothing,
Let me see how great, wonderful and glorious You are, even when I am down in the valley.


Forgiveness Part 3

How To Forgive

I realize I tend to just muse out loud here on my blog, and sometimes I just throw my thoughts out, drop them like a bomb and run for cover. Sometimes I fail to address how some of my observations can be remedied. After writing the last bit I thought, 'Okay, I've said my bit, had my gripe about lack of forgiveness, and could say lots more, but some people genuinely struggle to forgive. What hope have I offered them?' And I repented and decided to write some more.

How can we forgive - big things or little things? I believe there are two main ingredients that must precursor forgiveness. Take a look at the following verse:

“If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”

from Luke 17

Now, let's for a moment lay aside the part of the repentance - because much of what we have to forgive is stuff people never repent of. There are other verses that tell us to forgive that do not mention repentance! Look at the last part. What did the apostles ask for when they were taught this hard-to-digest truth? Faith! In order to forgive we need faith - and possibly an INCREASED faith. Forgiveness doesn't just happen in a vacant heart. It comes from a heart of faith. A faith that trusts God to deal justly with our grievances and sufferings. How could Jesus endure scorn, shame, abuse, and rejection without stewing in anger and resentment (like most of us would!)? Read in 1 Peter:

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

“He committed no sin,
and no deceit was found in his mouth.”

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

from Chapter 2

From this passage we gather that Jesus is our example and calls us to trust His Father when treated unjustly. This goes directly against the grain of human nature. We read from Luke 17 last night as a family, and Caleb, who is 10, said, "This doesn't make any sense!" And we said, "Exactly. Much of what the Bible teaches goes against what we would naturally think is fair and best." So, how do we forgive? We entrust ourselves to Him who judges justly and release others from the debt we feel they owe to us. In fact, it goes a lot further than that, but that is a good starting point. It requires faith - that's why the apostles said, 'Lord, increase our faith!' - because up until this time, going on what the law seemed to indicate, there wasn't a whole lot of instruction about forgiveness. I noted that in the 10 commandments there isn't one saying we must forgive. This is something that was radically different about Jesus' teaching. They were used to 'an eye for an eye' and 'a tooth for a tooth'. Kind of like the pound of flesh in the Merchant of Venice! And I think much of our Western identity is founded on those exacting principles, and hardly any of it on Christian grace and forgiveness. Let's learn to reject the cultural values that are directly opposed to what Scripture teaches!

The second element I believe is essential for one to forgive is humility. Philippians 2 instructs us to in humility consider others better than ourselves. Romans 12 tells us to not think of ourselves more highly than we ought. I am not meaning to propogate a 'worm theology' that diminishes our great worth and dignity in the eyes of God. I am meaning to propogate a lowliness of heart and mind and spirit when it comes to our interactions and relationship to others. We must revel in the great esteem we have because God loved us enough to send His Son to redeem us! But if we revel rightly in this great truth, it will also result in great humility before our fellow brothers and sisters! That God needed to send His Son to rescue me from the filth of my sin and wretchedness should make me a lot softer, kinder, more forgiving of the slights done to me/against me by those I rub shoulders with! At the root of unforgiveness is pride - plain and simple. Perhaps that is why the Amish are so good at it - because the highest sin they disdain is that of pride! When we refuse to forgive we are really saying, "I am better than my offender. They owe me. I cannot relinquish them from my condemnation. I am in the place of judge and jury. I withhold my self, love, mercy, kindness and grace from this person because it is my right. I am on the throne!"


Faith and humility are starting points. To forgive we must recognize that in myself I am nothing, have nothing, can do nothing, can be nothing. Only by God's grace do I take my next breath. If I deny these truths I may slip into unforgiveness because I think I am master of my own life.


There is much more to be said. But I'll let that sit for now.