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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Hymn of Worship

To the tune of 'Take my life and let it be'

God my Father, Master, King - Sovereign over everything,
You have brought me to this place - shown Your mercy, love and grace
You are worthy of all praise.

In Your presence here I stand, bold because Your child I am.
Honoured, treasured, I have come to Your throneroom Holy One.
My devotion You have won.

I am Yours - take all of me - that my life may holy be,
You will end what You've begun until You proclaim, 'It's done!'
Through the work of Christ the Son.

Prayer for a Friend

Today it was for you I prayed
Asking that you'd always be
Trusting in our Father's hand,
Guarded by the truth that frees.

It was with you in mind I asked
For joy, guidance, comfort, hope.
That at all times, in all ways,
His surpassing peace you'd know.

Knowing He will answer me,
For ofttimes He as before,
I pray in faith and believe
That He'll bless you more and more.

He knows my concern for you
As my sibling, as my friend -
And for you my heart He's filled
With His love that never ends.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Contentment Part 5

It's easy enough to talk about contentment with the big things - life in general, focus on our eternal riches, thinking about how good our lives may be compared to those who live with less, contentment in parenting, marriages, relationships, material possessions etc. - the list is endless. It's the little things that drag me down.

Lest you think I perpetually sail above life an inch off the ground with my head in the heavenlies (sometimes my head is very clouded actually), I am really prone to struggle in the same ways as everyone I know. If I think I don't sure enough a day or two later I regret thinking such, as I stumble over the same WAFfing as anyone else (that's my code word for Worry Anxiety and Fear). And tacked onto that is this area of contentment.

What little things?
Things like: a kid who didn't complete homework on time, someone who used the last of the coffee creamer, someone else who insists on fussing over things I don't want to be fussed about, people who annoy me, little irritations like not shutting the garage door all the way or tracking in snow (or mud or sand or whatever it may be wherever you live), a kid who intentionally spills every drink you give him for the fun of it, kids who do dumb things in general, a baby that doesn't give me rest when I want it... the list here is endless too.

Can I be content when those around me disappoint me? When they don't agree with all my noble, (and highly intelligent and well developed might I add) opinions? When everything is taking longer than it should (in my internal clock frame-of-reference that everyone should know exactly what that is)? When a kid is being a kid? When my patience is tried? When my energy is sapped? When resources are low? When grace (on my part) seems to have run out?

Well, can I really be content with the little things that fly in my face and challenge my agenda of non-complaining contentment? Really? Can I have peace in the chaos?

Yes, a thousand times YES. And if I have to say it over and over - if only to myself - I still believe that yes, contentment and peace and serenity are to be had even in this household of three bedrooms and 8 people (that includes Sam, Me, Mother-in-law, Caleb, Priscilla, Timothy, Andrew and Hannah).

How? Well, as Paul said in Philippians 4:11 (one of my lifetime favourite verses): I have LEARNED in whatsoever state I am (which includes Illinois, I might add), therewith to be content.

I emphasized 'learned' because he wasn't born that way. I'm sure it was something that came through spiritual growth and struggle. How could he learn contentment if he never had anyone irritating him (and we do have recorded for us that he got irritated with others - to the extent he dropped the guy from his next mission trip!) - or if he never faced deprivation? Now there's a positive spin to things - no matter how bad your life may be - in the big disasters or the little day-to-day ones (that can slowly wear one down if we don't continue to put on the Lord Jesus who gives us His grace when our storehouse is empty), contentment can be learned - in fact, without the struggles of life, I daresay, your contentment is merely a temporary, unchallenged state of being. (That isn't to say life must always be a constant struggle - just our struggles aren't wasted if we grow in inner peace and contentment). And the source of our contentment cannot be side-stepped here.

You see, it is all well and good to talk about peace, serenity, serendipity, contentment, and an inner shield to all the irritants of life. But there is no point in talking about it in terms of our effort, self-will, philosophizing enough to figure it out - mustering it within our will-power to become a peaceful pollyanna soul. There is no point to that because I cannot manufacture my own peace. It will always crumble - or merely be a pretense or a self-hypnosis. There must be a giver of peace and calm. There must be a source of contentment outside myself, because I AM NOT A GOD UNTO MYSELF. If I were I would become a self-worshiper and that is empty and vile (sorry to put it so bluntly. okay, I'm not that sorry).

Where can I find true joy and contentment? From the One who said, "Peace I give you, not as the world in God, trust also in Me." You can read this in John 14 - the peace chapter.

Don't try to be content. Seek contentment instead in a joy-filled relationship with the God Who made you and knows your struggles and irritations, hypocrisies and quirks - and Who loves you in spite of yourself. It is that very thing - in spite of myself - that makes His love so wonderful. If I come to the end of myself and realize I can't be the peaceful, calm person I wish I could be, I am at the beginning point of true contentment. Because then I can come needy and helpless to the throne of grace and find mercy to help me in my time of need. And confidently I know He will give it because He says, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.' And if I have Him I know I can never be discontent because He is ALL I need.

I just need to live that way.

Here are a few verses of a great hymn, Dear Lord and Father of Mankind:

O Sabbath rest by Galilee,
O calm of hills above,
Where Jesus knelt to share with Thee
The silence of eternity,
Interpreted by love!

With that deep hush subduing all
Our words and works that drown
The tender whisper of Thy call,
As noiseless let Thy blessing fall
As fell Thy manna down.

Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.

Breathe through the heats of our desire
Thy coolness and Thy balm;
Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm.

And that is my prayer - that through the clamour of my life and the temptations to whining in my own soul, that I would listen to His still small voice of calm - and seek for Him to Breathe to my heart through the 'earthquake, wind, and fire' and find my joy and rest in Him.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Happy Birthday to my Blog

A year ago I began to blog - and have enjoyed this endeavour.

It is a simple blog - straightforward, no frills, no techie extras. (I did add the swimming fish for a while for fun but thought better of it later). In fact I am on the low level of techie-ness for which I must apologize. I try to link things sometimes and it doesn't turn blue. Oh well, thanks for reading anyways!

I know it is quite a random and eclectic blog - hymns, theology, parenting, recipes, rants - you name it. I could do multiple blogs but I like to keep it simple. No ads, no glamour, nothing more than words on a template. That's what you can expect to find here.

Now for some stats:
Here are the top 10 most common countries that have read my blog this past year:

United States
United Kingdom
Hong Kong

In the last month I've also had hits from Sweden, India, Argentina and France. I remember seeing a hit from Qatar and Latvia - unusual and exciting.

I would love to know/hear from people who read this - what you like, what you don't, what you'd like to see more of. More family news, the continuation of my adventures in meeting Sam, more recipes, less ranting, more pictures (I'd have to figure that out a bit more)?

I wish I could know each person who reads it and where they are. It's fun for me! Thank you for being my cyber-friends.

Contentment Part 4

The second difference between me and one who does not live by faith in Jesus is in our purpose. Now, I have to be very careful here. I don't want to pretend that others who don't believe as I do have no purpose - on the contrary I believe many 'good' people out there live very purposefully - directed by their own belief systems as to what their purpose may be. That said, and I may be wrong in saying this, but most people - and sadly, many Christians too - live with their only purpose being focussed on this life. Many people's driving purpose in life does not extend beyond this life here on planet earth. And very often, the focus of most of our lives can tend towards gratification of self (being self-seeking). I have a purpose for living that goes beyond me (including my successes and failures and performance) and beyond this earthly life. (I will grant that for greenies - they too live beyond themselves, aiming to make the planet a better place for all who come hereafter!)

Even in the mundane busy-ness of child-rearing I can remind myself of my eternal purpose. Child-rearing isn't just a chore - but an opportunity to bear fruit 'that will last' (John 15). What am I talking about? Let me explain.

Sometimes I feel like my days accomplish nothing of lasting value. Meals are made and eaten, clothes are washed only to be soiled and washed again, grubby hands are wiped only to be re-deposited into a pot of dirt, and floors are swept only to become muddy again. Children are corrected only to be naughty again. Stories are read only to be read over, and over, and over again. Does any of this accomplish anything? What am I doing here? What is my purpose in all this? It can all become very meaningless if I don't remember my purpose.

I have been called to motherhood. This is my area of service - how can I bear fruit in it? Galatians 5:22 lists the fruit of the Spirit which are mostly attitudes or the overflow of the heart. These can be cultivated no matter how mundane our tasks. And as I invest myself in raising these children, as they grow and hopefully mature into godly people, these efforts of mine will not have been wasted. If my children grow up to live lives that please God, then my purpose will be accomplished (as far as motherhood goes). I am participating in God's kingdom - in His purpose as I tackle the tasks I am given each day. I don't need to have some flashy title, or even be recognized as a super-mom (which I'm not) - I am content to simply work towards the eternal purpose I have in Christ - to bear fruit for His eternal kingdom. And to grow into His likeness in all things.

When you see those without hope, and without purpose and without a glorious future to anticipate with eagerness, it must spark a least a glimmer of gratitude and joy in your soul. Be grateful that our redemption gave us so much more than salvation from our sins. This should move us not only to respond in praise and thanksgiving to our Great God, but to also share this hope, joy and purpose more gladly with others. In sharing our lives with those around us, we should infect them with a vigorous curiosity that will not be abated until questions are asked and answers are sought. We should, by our very purpose, be stimulated all the more to 'go into all the world and preach the gospel...'

Take a moment now to thank God for the spiritual blessings we enjoy in Christ and especially for our eternal hope and purpose. Pray for those you know who don't share this hope, and pray for boldness and passion to take up the opportunities God gives you to share His love with others.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Who Says Happiness Can't Be Bought?

Our sermon this week gave me pause to consider something I had never considered before. The title of the message was: What is The Heart of a Generous Person? and the link is here:
(Not sure if my linking will work, but if not just copy and paste).

At one point in the sermon he told about how people had generously given of their resources to enable some teens to go to camp - and how this time for them would be spiritually enriching and potentially life-changing. He said that during their time there half of the group had made life-changing decisions and been won to Christ. This was all in the context of talking about generosity and our hearts being in the right place.

At that point in the sermon I suddenly realized that happiness can be bought after all. You see, it made me happy to hear of these lives that were changed. I rejoiced in the expansion of God's kingdom. I had my own share of joy over these whose hearts now join with my own in worship of our Lord. And while this is all a result of God's work in their lives, God had given the opportunity for us to put our resources into this work and be partners together with Him in the task of building His kingdom. So, if we put our resources into HIS work, and the results of HIS work make us happy, then, I daresay, happiness CAN be bought.

Just put your money in the right place.

Because, if I go out and blow $100 on some frivolous items that bring me a smile and that I can enjoy (which of course isn't wrong, and I have to say that clearly here because I have a great distaste for legalism), or if I put that same $100 into eternal riches - which one will buy me the most enduring happiness? The stuff will eventually rot, break, decay or collect dust. Eternal riches - lives changed, hope restored, the lost redeemed, fruit being borne of difficulty - all these will not rot, decay or break - because when God starts a work, He completes it (need I remind you that an oft-quoted favourite verse is actually related to finances? Philippians 1:6 'He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it...' is part of Paul's thank-you note to the Philippians who supported him in his missionary work...but I digress).

So, go out and be generous and buy yourself some happiness - of the sort that lasts.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Link to our family photos!

If you click on the picture you can see it better!

What I have that some don't... Contentment Part 3

As I look at my life of late (okay, my whole life as a matter of fact), I realize I take a lot for granted. I am mostly confined to the house with my heel-nippers gallavanting about the place vying for my attention or intervention. I am plenty busy - more than I generally like to be - and try to keep a certain inner calm amongst all the rushing here and there and doing stuff that needs to be done. During my endless days and the depletion of my strength on a daily basis it is so easy after a few wearying days to feel the stirrings of discontentment in my soul. How would I handle these stresses, these longings for quiet, for solitude, for time to myself if I could not entrust these desires to my great burden-Bearer? I don't mean to brag or gloat or compare, but I do wonder how others weather the storms of life without an anchor for their souls such as I have!

If I stop for just a moment to remind myself just how blessed I am - per Ephesians 1 - my grumpiness and discontent is cut short. My spiritual blessings are so weighty, so full, so rich! For one who has revelled and basked in amazement at God's love and grace, it just can't be fitting to find myself complaining, snappy, bitter and self-absorbed.

What do I have that some don't? The list is extensive, but the two that stand out most in my mind are Hope and Purpose.

Hope is a blessing that is so easy to take for granted. Look up some references with the word hope and begin to be refreshed by all you can take in via God's Word.

1 Peter 1:3
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead...

Romans 8:23-25
Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.

Romans 15:13
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Those are just a few to begin with!

Probably the biggest difference between me and one without hope - and without God in the world - is that I have such a glorious future that I can eagerly look forward to. I can bank my whole life in this world on the one that is to come. On the days when I'm not sure what I have to look forward to (other than the end of diaper days!) I cannot help but to remember that no matter how long and tiring my days may be, or how trying my circumstances, I can cling to Jesus in the wonderful hope of seeing Him face to face one day.

Heaven should inspire the greatest restless contentment possible within us. The knowing, the longing, the hope and future joy of being fully redeemed and glorified in the presence of God, unhindered in worship before Him - this should blast away the cobwebs of discontent that gather around our withering souls!

2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Do you ever feel jealous for those who know their days on earth are coming swiftly to an end? Please - I don't need any reminders that such jealousy is a sign of depression! (I've heard that many times and given it great consideration... but I still maintain that is is okay and spiritually healthy even, to have an outlook of joy for the life to come!) You may think it is ridiculous to think such a thing - to be jealous of the suffering of another (remember it is temporary suffering!). Perhaps it IS ridiculous - but what I mean to say is that each day we live, whether suffering in our flesh, our souls or not, we are each day one day closer to seeing Jesus face to face.

Sometimes my heart is restless - for heaven, for wholeness, for all wrongs to be made right. This is a REAL and true hope - this hope belongs only to those who are in Christ. This hope is secure - not a wishful thinking - but a confident, joyful knowledge and longing all wrapped into the same heart.

Priscilla Owens penned one of my favourite hymns:

Will your anchor hold in the storms of life,
When the clouds unfold their wings of strife?
When the strong tides lift, and the cables strain,
Will your anchor drift or firm remain?

It is safely moored, 'twill the storm withstand,
For 'tis well secured by the Savior's hand;
And the cables, passed from His heart to mine,
Can defy that blast, thro' strength divine.

It will firmly hold in the straits of fear,
When the breakers have told the reef is near;
Tho' the tempest rave and the wild winds blow,
Not an angry wave shall our bark o'erflow.

When our eyes behold thro' the gath'ring night
The city of gold, our harbor bright,
We shall anchor fast by the heav'nly shore,
With the storms all past forevermore.

We have an anchor that keeps the soul
Steadfast and sure while the billows roll,
Fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
Grounded firm and deep in the Savior's love.

In the next segment I'll move onto the other blessing I have in Christ: that of Purpose.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Let me spill the beans...or release a bee in my bonnet

I have a secret. I'm going to get it out in the open here and now and just be done with it.

Here it is:

I am FAR worse a person than you think I am.

I am not saying this to be self-denigrating. I am not eliciting sympathy, flattery or anything of the sort. I am merely putting this out there so we'll all be on the same page. Even if you are one of my critics, this statement is still true. If you think I'm self-absorbed, you're right, but probably I'm more than that - narcissistic even. If you think I waste time, you're right, but more than you know. What I'm saying is, no matter what light you view me in (and I know, for most of you, it's positive), you are probably far too generous is your estimations. Granted, I'm more than a little nutty - extremely bizarre and unique might qualify. But I'm not referring here to my idiosyncrasies, of which I have more than a few. I am referring to all my own worst qualities, and even the good ones which are only displayed by the grace of God.

I can't get very far without referring to grace. I was itching to get it out and had to endure that whole first paragraph with out it. You see, lately, and for much of my life, I have had some very direct people tell me exactly what they think of me (in my more negative modes) and it has been a most unpleasant experience. I am sure most of my readers rarely experience these painful episodes, but in case you too experience the harsh criticisms of others, let me walk you through my journey as I continue to process the lambastings I occasionally receive.

First I take it all in. Oh, my - does he/she really think this of me?! That's horrible! To describe me - ME of all people, in such a way! It takes my breath away. Slowly, very slowly, I begin to realize that these initial thoughts are steeped in self-love, self-respect and pride. Then I say, "Lord, You know I am all those things and fact, you know me inside and out, and you know I am far more wicked than this person has just described." Does this make me shrink to a pea on the floor? No. Because this is not the end of the road. If I stopped there I would live the rest of my days in abject shame and humiliation.

In thinking this through with my heart open before God (in the spirit of the Psalmist who said, '...all my thoughts lie open before you') I imagine God looking at me and knowing the wretchedness of my heart and I realize He must keep me from even seeing beyond the surface of my own failings, because if He allowed me to see more or even close to a smidgen of the amount of failings in my life I would spend the rest of my life is severe depression (with a 'woe is me' expression plastered perpetually on my face). Speaking of 'woe is me' it was wonderful to hear in a sermon last week that though Isaiah said this of himself when in the presence of God, we who are redeemed by the blood of His Son do not need to have such an horrific, self-debasing expression in His presence because we stand before Him as righteous - as righteous as His Son! What a privilege!

If I just stopped at thinking of my failings I would be of all people most miserable. Any issue in my life that fails to be confronted with the gospel of God's grace is an UNredeemed issue. The issue of my imperfections must come to terms with the reality of how God sees me. Does He rub my nose in my sins and failings? Does He wag His finger in my nose and say, 'see, see here Sarah, you filthy rotten sinner...'? No, a thousand times NO!

You see, I am His child, and all those icky things in my life that I have failed to do or that I have wrongly done are paid for by His shed blood on the cross. So, the secret can be out: I AM worse than you think. But no matter - because it shouldn't be something you pay much attention to anyways. In fact, thinking on others' faults and failings is a gruesome pastime and best left to...well, the accuser of the redeemed for one.

The gospel truth of redemption is a healing balm for my sin-sick soul. It should be for yours too! The natural reaction to criticism is often self-justification. But that is not a gospel-based reaction. The reaction needs to be, 'Oh yes, I am as bad as you say and worse. But Jesus died to pay for my sins and for yours too (like the sin of unfairly criticizing others, for one), and so we need not dwell on the topic.' That would be the first step. The second, in my heart anyways, is to work on keeping bitterness and anger at bay before I fall into another pit of unholiness.

You see, in all I have said, my goal is to encourage us all to not miss the grace of God - in all our dealings.

"See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many." Hebrews 12:15