Seeking His Face

I’m not a big socialite. But when I do venture out into the masses, I usually don’t go just for something to do. I go with a purpose. I am seeking someone or something.

If I go to a party or a gathering, there is one person I will seek out. I scan the crowd looking for the face I am seeking. I listen for their laugh and the timbre of their voice. I may be searching for my husband, my sons or a friend.

When we seek, we look until we find, don’t we? We are purposefully looking for someone or something in particular.  Children seek out Easter eggs on Easter morning.  They eagerly look until they find the brightly coloured sweet treats.

Today’s verse of the day from biblegateway.com was from Hebrews 11:6, The Voice. Without faith no one can please God because the one coming to God must believe He exists, and He rewards those who come seeking. (emphasis mine).

It was the last part of the verse that caught my attention. He rewards those who come seeking.

It struck me that all I have to do is come seeking Him. I don’t have to be anything else. We think we have to have cleaned up our mess first before we seek Him out.  We believe we need to at least try to have it together before we go to God. We tell ourselves we need to have solved our problems before we seek His face.

We have to be perfect.

But it doesn’t say anywhere in that verse or in the bible, that we have to have it altogether to come to God. To look for Him. To seek Him out.  The ill and infirm sought Jesus out.  Those who had blown it and those who were socially unacceptable came looking for Him. Those who had doubts came to Him.  He welcomed them all.  He didn’t turn them away.  He could handle it all.

We just have to come. Seek and you shall find him. (Mat 7:7)

If we had solved our problems or cleaned ourselves up, we wouldn’t need Jesus right? We’d be patting ourselves on the back.  We would be thinking we did it ourselves.  Our pride would tell us that we can handle it. No need to bother the Almighty. We got this.

It’s a big lie that we believe. Satan likes to keep us feeling like we are not good enough so we don’t seek God.  If we do manage to make some small progress bettering ourselves, then we believe we don’t need Him. It’s a vicious cycle.

However the verse from Hebrews is simple, Believe He exists and seek Him out. And he’ll reward you.

There may be other rewards but the main reward is Him. I AM, present in our lives.  His presence trumps everything else; the unsolvable problem, the explosive mess, the unredeemable relationship, the life that looks unsalvageable. His presence turns it all upside down and makes it workable. So the impossible is possible with God.  (Luke 1:37 The Voice)

All we have to do is seek His Face and He does the rest.

Lent: Learning to be #Beloved

Lent has begun. I skipped pancake Tuesday because well, I hate pancakes. Too much sweet and honestly, it’s breakfast for supper which I despise.

However, I decided to join Margaret Feinberg in reading through the Book of John and colouring and doodling my way through her book Beloved: 40 Days in the Gospel of John. I went through the New Testament with Margaret a few years ago during Lent, which I really enjoyed.  This year’s idea intrigued me.

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To be honest, I haven’t participated in Lent recently. Bible reading had become a chore and a have-to-do and so I stopped. What was the point if I was just going to be fake about it, right? So I read when I felt like it but mostly I didn’t engage in daily devotions. There I admitted it.

By the end of 2016, God was nudging me. It was time. I picked up Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. I had read it before and liked it. It appealed to me. It was short but meaningful. A good start for a prodigal bible reader.

I’ve kept it up too because at some point you have to stop going by feeling and instead go by faith. But I felt the need for more.

Then, I saw Margaret’s book and decided to order it and work through it for Lent. I liked the idea of marking the text in colour and the creative aspect of working my way through scripture. I hoped it would help me to love reading God’s Word again or at least ignite a spark.

Margaret admitted to starting early because she was so excited so I admit I cheated a bit too and read the scripture through yesterday and started to circle the verbs in red. I was in a bit of a panic because I wasn’t sure I could spend that much time in the Word. I doubted myself as I read. What was a verb again? (Hello, English major here!) I thought to myself, “I can’t do this! It won’t be perfect!” But I made myself start.

I’m glad I did because today was not a good start to Lent. I was grouchy. The basement has a leak that we can’t find. It rained all night. Life happens and I forgot about Lent and reading Beloved.

I saw the email in my inbox after dropping the boys off at school. A reminder. I realized I didn’t really want to do the day’s reading. I wasn’t feeling it. Ironically, Margaret has suggested asking ourselves at the end of the day’s reading, “What do I most need to read but least want to hear?” Welllll today I just plain didn’t want to read God’s Word, any part of it but it’s what I most needed. Maybe not a great way to start Lent but for me, today, it is what’s happening. It’s what’s real.

The good news? God meets us in our very real places. Once I got reading and marking and colouring, I had fun! It’s the best time I’ve spent in God’s Word in a long time. It was just for me. No studying for a message or any other agenda. It was just time for me and God. I felt lighter for it.

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I’m pretty sure I’m going to be challenged by both scripture and the discipline of sticking to the readings, this Lent season. I have let these muscles atrophy. But already I have learned that God doesn’t expect perfection. (Thank you Margaret for making that point!) I don’t need to mark up my book perfectly to learn from it. I just have to do it! He graciously and generously fills in the rest.

What are you doing for Lent this year? It doesn’t have to be complicated. I think if you just take the step forward, He’ll meet you wherever you are. Because that’s His character and He loves you so very much.

Here’s a link to find out more about Margaret Feinberg’s Beloved study for Lent.

 

Forget the Pity Party, It’s Time to Join the Real Party

It’s been one of those mornings. It started with a list of things I hadn’t done. I hadn’t gotten the reeds for my son’s musical instrument so he couldn’t play. The rabbit’s nails need clipping and we’d been reminded for weeks. Three to be precise. I could see the invisible shake of my son’s head.

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The conversation took on a life of it’s own in my own mind. I know he’s thinking to himself, “What is wrong with you? You can’t even get it together! I am never going to be like that!” In this imaginary conversation I began to defensively list why things weren’t getting done. Thankfully I kept it to myself.

I dropped them off and drove home feeling very inadequate as a parent and an adult. I sat down to read a blog that’s supposed to encourage but instead I walked away defeated and guilty.  I felt like the worst mom ever. Ever read something that’s supposed to lift you up but instead you feel like you got sucker punched?

Things were spiralling downwards pretty fast and I had a headache to boot. The day was about to go in the toilet. Ever have one of those days? Maybe today?

But wait! There is good news!

There are some days where God decides that He’s going to intervene immediately. Today was one of those days. I hope it is for you too.

I sat down to read Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling. These were the opening words:

“Be on guard against the pit of self-pity. When you are weary or unwell, this demonic trap is the greatest danger you face.” (p.56)

She goes on to say that by praising God and thanking Him, we can combat those feelings and stay away from that particular cliff. That by staying close to Jesus (remembering He is near, knowing His Word and keeping it on our lips) we keep our distance from said cliff.
Wow! It was like God was snapping His fingers in my face and telling me to wake up and get with the program! Not only was He telling me to stop feeling sorry for myself but He gave me a recipe to win over it.

I stopped and looked at my situation. God had brought healing and wholeness in my life through different people and courses. My mothering had changed FOR THE BETTER. The path set out before us is totally different than one ten years ago. I am thankful for that. Then God reminded me that I have some very good friends and kind people all around me. I am thankful for them. That today of all days, I am surrounded by blessings from God.
Gratitude crashed that self-pity party. You can’t be thankful and feel sorry for yourself at the same time. It doesn’t work.

It was also a reminder that some days God wants to celebrate with you and He’s not going to put up with lies and garbage. This weekend is a big celebration here at our house. It’s Book Launch weekend and the real party plans are in place. I have much to be grateful for and God reminded me of that too. It’s not a time to get wrapped up in fear and self-pity. (It’s never a good time for that!) It’s a time for festivities and God wants to join us in those times too.

 

I believe He delights over us with singing at all times, good and bad, but how much sweeter must it be in the good? (Zeph 3:17) He wants us to let go of self-pity, fear, feelings of self-loathing and just celebrate Him and what He has done for us! It’s a time for joy and I want to be a part of that! The blessings are many if we look for them and put aside our own pity parties.

 

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I’m proud of the accomplishment of pursuing a dream. But the real celebration is the faithfulness of God. Ten years is long time. I would have quit but He had a plan. The unravelling of this plan and the excitement of being able to witness what HE is going to do is plenty excuse to throw a party!

What are you celebrating today with God?

The Inadequate Lie

Inadequate. The word keeps rolling around my brain. I ask myself, “Does anyone ever get to the point where you ever feel adequate?”

I’m not sure to tell you the truth. We feel inadequate in so many areas of life at different times. We feel inadequate as parents when our children struggle or have issues. We feel inadequate when we don’t get the promotion at work. We feel inadequate even when we have no control over the situation.

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I was diagnosed with diabetes this past year. The doctor just looked at me, puzzled. I should not have diabetes. I have no precursors except one. It’s in the genes so to speak. I felt inadequate sitting there in her office, because for no apparent reason, my body was letting me down.

The Inadequate Lie. That’s what I’m calling it.  Because it’s a lie that you are inadequate. That I am. 
I have been dancing around this word, trying to write this out for probably a month now. Because not only have I felt inadequate with my health but that word has been shouting at me for the better part of the last five months. Probably longer but it became all CAPS IN THE LAST FIVE MONTHS.

Ironically, just as my book has been published, I have struggled with feeling inadequate as a pastor’s wife, as a writer, as a Christian. This does not make me ungrateful. I am so thankful for the opportunity that God has provided to get His message out there. It is so badly needed. I believe in the message. But I have to wonder about the messenger. Which makes me feel like a bigger fraud because this is the precise message of the book; being called to a role or a place and you feel like the biggest, ugliest square peg in a very delicate round hole.

It can be anything or any role, not just a pastor’s wife. Maybe you feel inadequate as a parent, as daughter or son, as a caretaker, or whatever job you may be working in right now. Maybe you feel like you’ve been called to a city or town that feels so alien you’d think you were on a different planet. We all feel it sometimes. Like there is no way we will ever measure up.

The Inadequate Lie manifests itself in times of both success and failure. It doesn’t matter how many accolades, songs of praise we’ve heard, we still feel less than. Or we know failure is knocking because we’ve done it so many times before. The Inadequate Lie has power because we continue to be sucked into these cycles of lies. We fall for the whispers every time and as long as we believe them, we will feel inadequate regardless. The lie will win even if reality says otherwise.

I read a memoir, Atlas Girl by Emily Wierenga. We had a lot of the same dreams for our lives. Yet she said when her name was on a book, it wasn’t enough. I’ve never forgotten that line. She still felt inadequate. What’s the dream that you had that in the end, wasn’t enough?

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It is at this point that God stands waiting. He’s waiting for us to turn to Him. We’ve reached the pinnacle of what we define as success. Or we’ve sunk so low, there’s no place else to go. We have come to the ends of ourselves. We know it. So does He. And He waits for us.

If we want to get beyond the narcissism or the pride or whatever it is, there’s only one place to turn. He created us in His image. He is the embodiment of truth. If we turn to Him in all our feelings of inadequacy he can take those things and refine them until they are bright and shiny, turning lies to truth.

What is the truth? The truth is He is I AM. And always will be forever and ever. I AM is greater than all our successes, our failures, our measuring sticks. Even though He is bigger than anything out there, He grabs our hand and pulls us into the adventure, allowing us a glimpse of Him. It isn’t about our inadequacies. It isn’t about publishing books. It isn’t about being the perfect parent or child. It isn’t about the latest promotion. It’s only about Him. Those things are of this world, although we may be called to them, they will never be enough. Only He is enough. Like a blanket, I AM covers everything else.

And the good news? The Inadequate Lie loses. We are not inadequate. I AM gives us the power to do what He’s called us to do. We are ENABLED by His Spirit to move mountains, write books, sing songs, parent children and prodigals, and become who we were created to be. It is the Enabled Truth.

What We Should Be Fighting For

Dear Bride of Christ (aka the North American Church),

The church is the beloved Bride of Christ.  God’s plan to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ.  Yet here in North America, you make me sad. As the world continues to get more confounding, I find you do too.
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I don’t understand all the fighting. In case you aren’t active on social media, with Christmas Day falling on a Sunday this year, there has been a growing disagreement amongst believers in North America over going to church on Christmas Day.  In one corner, we have the Go To Church or You are Bad. In the other corner are the If You Don’t Go to Church You Love Your Family More. Does it really matter?

Is there a right or wrong here? You do what’s best for your family. If you’ve got twenty dinners to attend on Christmas Day and going to church is going to wipe you out, is it sinful to skip it? If going to church will make the day even better, does that mean you love your family less?

I admit, I started to get swept up in it too. It’s so easy to make swift judgements and proclamations. But why does it matter what someone else is doing? Why are we fighting about this? Is it really going to matter when we stand before God whether we went to church on Christmas?

It got me to thinking as I thought about this more…The fighting might be an issue. It’s a stupid thing to fight about and the joke’s on us. There are people who look at the church and chalk it up to one more thing Christians do that makes absolutely no sense. Especially at Christmas! Why would they want to come among a group of people to celebrate love and peace when those same people can’t seem to get along and aren’t very nice in the process? It makes me sad because the church was meant to be so much more. We are the Bride of Christ. Instead it seems in North America we tend to fight and judge and turn on each other too much of the time.

Now I’ve been in ministry long enough to know that this is not every church or every Christian. Some are doing it really well. But others….

If we are in a fighting mood then here’s what I think we as the church should be fighting for:

– all the children who are starving in the world. The children who forage in the dumps for a crust of bread. It might be the only meal for the day. If they’re lucky.
– the widows and orphans who are fighting to stay alive. Every. Single. Day.
– those who are alone, depressed, alienated and lost.
– those who are suffering because someone they loved is no longer here.
– those who are sick and hurting.
– all the people who live in nursing homes and never have a visitor.
– those who have so much stuff they can’t see what they really need.

Who’s fighting for them?

Beloved, we are the ones who have been given the task of bringing the Good News of God’s love for his people, to those around us. It’s inside us to give that gift not in a pushy, self-righteous, I’m right you’re wrong way. It’s inside us to give that gift in love, in relationship, in humility.

Christ left his Father in Heaven to come down and be here with us. This is astoundingly good news and yet we are fighting about whether it’s right or wrong to go to church on Christmas Day, among other things?

We are given the task to be the hands and feet of Christ. What would happen if we as the church actually did that on Christmas Day and on into the new year?

It doesn’t have to be much. Maybe it’s a kind smile along with helping to shovel snow for an elderly neighbour. Or some extra cash given without strings or a tax receipt to someone who needs it more than we do. What if it’s being kind to someone who doesn’t deserve it but probably needs a good dose of love right about now? Or putting down our phones, or work or books, and being engaged with our children? How ‘bout seeing someone who feels invisible?

Maybe, just maybe, could we set aside ourselves for a minute, and go, be the Bride of Christ to those around us? Mirror Jesus to those who are begging for just a glimpse of hope this Christmas and new year.

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
Micah 6:8 NIV

My 2016 OneWord Fail

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This is not a blog I really wanted to write. It’s an admission of failure. Wait, that doesn’t seem like the right word. More of an I didn’t try all that hard, maybe.

I did that whole one word thing this year, remember? My word has been TURN for 2016. Its a good word and one I felt was chosen for me. There was a promise of hope attached to it. I believed it was a good way to filter the year.

Except I didn’t do that.

Honestly? I got good at writing about turning and figuring how it should play out but then I would back away. Turn away. TURN was supposed to be about change for the better. It was supposed to be about growth. An opportunity to TURN and open myself to a few things I found difficult. I ran from it, taking giant steps backwards instead of moving ahead. I didn’t really want to change.

I wasn’t just running from those difficult turns, I was running away from the One asking me to TURN to these hard things. I wasn’t sure I trusted Him anymore.

Back in January, I read these lines from Louie Giglio’s book, I Am Not But I Know I Am, which I’ve gone back to on and off over the year. He writes, “No matter how crazy the plot line of our sinful choices, God twists our turns into an occasion to show that He is better still.” (p. 83) I had underlined the word” turns.” That was my focus. Looking at that quote again it’s the last part of the sentence that stands out to me today.

I think I should have underlined “He is better still.”

We can only run for so long and then we hit a wall. We can’t outrun God. We think we can but really do we want to? Being able to outrun God would signify we were lost, never to be found. Thankfully nothing is hidden from God. Ever. We can try and hide but we won’t succeed. He knows our comings and goings, our every thought. Psalm 139

TURN has been narrowed down to this one question for me: Do I believe “He is better still?”

Giglio is talking about how God redeems our mistakes, redeems us and through it all shows the world, He is more than our messes, more than us. He is God Almighty, I AM. But more than that, He is the best gift we’ll ever receive.

I know that He is I AM. I have a solid Sunday school background behind me after all. My question is more personal. Do I trust him enough in my own heart, in our relationship, to be I AM in my life? To trust him with the crap, the suffering, the hurts, the joys, the adventure? Do I think “He is better still” than all the sins I love to hang on to? Because if I did, I’d let them go, wouldn’t I? Do I think “He is better still”, than all the successes and achievements I can garner? They would mean little if I did. Do I think “He is better still” than the wounds I like to nurse? I’d let Him heal them if I did.

I know what the answers should be to those questions. We all do. The question is, are we willing to live them out? And there it is. Free will. He won’t make us. It’s up to us.

Will we choose to TURN to the difficult and hard places or will we run? For me it’s not a one time answer, this is a daily thing. I have to choose everyday, which is why my answer to the question has to be Yes, “He is better still.” If it’s not, I will always choose me.

And that friends, has been my ongoing battle with the word TURN.  Obviously I’m not done with this word.  It’s going with me into 2017 although I’d love to kick it to the curb!  Instead I can see it morphing into something else.  I’ll guess I’ll have to wait and see.

If you chose a word for 2016 how did it go for you? What were your battles and your successes?  I’d love to hear about them!

Turn Home

Home. What is your reaction to that word? I imagine there are as many different responses as people reading this blog.

What got me thinking about home was the study of the prodigal and a very poignant scene in a book I read a few months back.

The prodigal ran away from his home.  He demanded his inheritance and left home to go live the way he wanted.  Eventually the money ran out and he was feeding pigs.  Realizing he would be treated better at his father’s house as a servant, he returns home.  Hid dad welcomes him with open arms and won’t hear about him working as a servant.  He is restored to his place as his dad’s son.  The story is recorded in the gospel of Luke 15 if you are unfamiliar with it.

In the novel I read, the main character was forced from her home.  Many years later, she is weeping and someone asks her why is she crying? Here is the quote from the novel Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas:


‘“Because I am lost,” she whispered into the earth. “And I do not know the way.”
It was what she had never been able to tell Nehemia – that for ten years, she had been unsure how to find the way home, because there was no home left.” (Heir of Fire, by Sarah J. Maas, p.281)

That scene has stayed with me for months because I understand exactly what this character is expressing. When we can’t find home, we are lost. Have you ever felt that way?

After many moves and as I age, I’m learning home is not really a place. I’ve lived in many houses, not all have been a home.

We put a lot of emphasis on the physical home here in North America. We are told in countless ways that the places we live need to be up to date and nicely decorated. There’s a certain standard to live up to. I agree that living in a place you find nice, goes a long way to making it a home. But it’s not the main thing. I think we have it all wrong.

I believe home is whatever we give our hearts to. That saying, Home is Where Your Heart Is, is true. That’s why it doesn’t necessarily have to be a place. It can be a person, a job, a dream. We lose sight of the fact that these homes are all temporary.

We can get lost in them. We lose our way from our true home. God created us with a longing in our very beings to be in a relationship with Him. He is our true home. I heard a speaker in the summer talk about how we should not inspire children to want to go to Heaven. Because heaven is not the prize, he said. God is.

Making our physical homes, our spouses, our jobs or our ministries our homes sets us up to get lost. We put our hope in things and people only to get disappointed. We become disillusioned and we wander away from the source of our true home and hope.

Sometimes like that character in the book, we can’t find our way back. We are lost. All we really want is to go home but we can’t find it anymore. How do we get back?

We make it harder than it is, I think. In the story of the prodigal, the son turned towards home and found his dad waiting for him at the end of the drive. God is the same. If we turn to Him, He is there. Waiting to welcome us home.

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