Arise

Over the last few years there has been one message that has rung in my ears like church bells echoing on a Sunday morning across the city.

Get up. Arise.

Like get up out of bed? Off the couch?

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Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Yes..and no. If sitting on the comfy leather couch has been your posture since – well you can’t remember when – then yes it’s time to get up and at least go for a walk. What I’m talking about is more spiritual than physical but can be both. 

I’ve been laying low spiritually for some time which I don’t think is a sin. There are seasons for everything and sometimes an Off season is exactly what the doctor ordered.

This was different. I felt like a dog who’d been kicked one too many times and was staying in the corner, licking his wounds. Then I stayed there in defeat, in disbelief and in doubt. 

I believe God allowed me to sit there. He knew I needed to rest physically, emotionally and spiritually. He knew I needed time to wrestle through a few things – and accept that I might not get any answers. 

But the longer I ruminated, the more the fear, the hate, and the resentment took hold and instead of working through my issues, I quit. I isolated myself because I didn’t really trust anyone anymore. I’m not lying when I say I’ve been practicing social distancing for many years now. Way before the edict came to stay six feet apart, I would cross the road to avoid contact with other pedestrians. I’m not kidding.

I was done – with everything and everyone. If I didn’t engage then I couldn’t be hurt. If I didn’t try – I couldn’t fail. So I stayed down because it was far easier than standing and fighting.

Ironically I’d read a novel about five years ago that had this epic scene where the heroine was down for the count but she was the only one who could save her kingdom. As she lay on the ground, the people who cared for her came to her in a sort of dream, calling her to get up and fight. That scene has stayed with me all these years. I researched similar callings in the bible because as I’d read this novel by Sarah J. Maas, I knew God was using it to speak to me.

It would be great to say I obeyed and got up. But this is real life and it’s been a challenge because it’s so much easier to stay down. Satan is purposeful about making it that way.  He’s thrown every excuse at me to justify why I don’t have to arise.

But the call of God is louder than Satan’s. Over the last few months and now as we shelter in place, His call is like those church bells – ringing across the miles from heaven to earth. 

It’s time to get up.

What does God want me to learn in all this? What does he want the church to learn? What does he want communities to learn? The world? The planet? 

I don’t know but if I stay sitting in that corner in defeat then I’ll never find out. Its time to get off the couch, out of the corner, and show up. 

I don’t know what getting up means for you because it’s different for all of us. Our stories are unique and God deals with each of us in an individual way.

Some of you are already up and at it so keep going! Bravo!

For some of us it might mean using this time to reconnect with our spouse, our kids or other friends and family. Those relationships are worth fighting for.

It might mean reconnecting with God or investigating who he is. Establishing a real friendship with Him – He created us for a relationship with Him first and foremost.

Maybe it’s joining some of the awesome services on Sundays or getting outside if you can at this time and soak in His creation. Capture nature’s beauty with our cameras instead of selfies.

It might mean letting your soul breathe after a busy season. Which seems contrary but you can’t get up if you’re burned out. 

Perhaps it means getting on your knees and praying for this world, for our health care workers, our government, the sick, and the church. All these people have families that stand behind them so pray for them too.

This time is a gift and God is calling us to use it – however that looks in your life.

It’s spring which I don’t think is a coincidence. Spring represents a time of renewal and rebirth. It’s a great time to arise.

Arise, Jerusalem! Let your light shine for all to see. For the glory of the LORD rises to shine on you. Darkness as black as night covers all the nations of the earth, but the glory of the LORD rises and appears over you.  Isaiah 60:1-2

Finding Our Way

As a child, getting lost in Woolco (not a typo, and yes it dates me horribly) or Sears was my worst nightmare. As a mom, the thought of a child lost, could keep me awake most of the night. Feeling lost is scary. The unfamiliar feels threatening and the cold fingers clenched around our hearts makes it hard to breathe. Being lost isn’t just a physical condition; we can be lost but in the line of vision of a loved one, a friend, a family member. How many of us feel lost on a daily basis but we are within reach of someone we know?

Our world no longer looks like it did. We haven’t got a clue what the next step is let alone a five year plan. 

Or every day is the exact same as the one before it and we feel invisible in the mundane chores of making meals, cleaning up after kids, soothing hurt feelings or scraped knees. We are lost in the ordinary.

Perhaps, decades after walking down the aisle, the bright shiny newness of a marriage is long gone and we have retreated to our own lives and worlds. Is there a way out of invisibleness?

Hitting mid-life but feeling like we haven’t even begun to make our mark. But we’re “old” now and doesn’t the world belong to the young? Where do we go from here?

We just want someone to notice us. To invoke sense in this crazy place, called earth. So we turn to social media and post, hoping to get a bite. We try new mediations, new diets, new anything, just as long as it changes up the old. We look for direction everywhere but come up empty.  

In this quest of being found, are there answers? Or a map? A map would be really good right about now. The answer is yes.

The first part involves a belief. I found this quote one day reading. I see myself in Susan May Warren’s words. Do you see yourself?

“Because she’d refused to believe she was important to Him. She’d been trying to get his attention, but already-always-had it…She had it whether she had logged miles for the gospel and saved hundred of lives, or if she simply wiped toddlers’ noses and did mounds of laundry. She had God’s attention because she was His child.”  (P. 300, The Perfect Match, by Susan May Warren.) 

Believing we are his child and that he pays attention to us, is perhaps the first step to finding our way. For some of us, this may be the hardest step because it means dealing with a lot of lies we have believed up to now. It’s going to take some work but it’s crucial if we really want to find our way.

Jeremiah gives us the next step. 

This is what the Lord says: 

“Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.”  Jeremiah 6:16

We stand at a crossroads trying to figure out which way to take. We ask everyone who passes by or maybe we keep quiet, trying to figure it out on our own. The thing is, there is only one person who knows the way, who has the map but too often, he is the last one we seek. Sometimes it’s because we haven’t trusted we’re his child to begin with. Perhaps  we’re mad at him or we want control of our lives. There are so many reasons and distractions that steer us away from him but He is our Way.

Ask for the ancient paths, which according to my NIV study bible, means the “tried and true ways of Judah’s godly ancestors.” This has worked before.

Ask where the good way is. Then walk in it. Ask, ask, walk; to find our way out of the dark, the confusion, the bitterness, or whatever else is making us feel lost or invisible. The result? Peace for our souls. And a map Home.

The Definition of Great

“You’re going to do great things for God.”

Words, spoken as encouragement to many young leaders and Christians, seem harmless but in my experience, are better left unsaid.

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Graduation from Tyndale with a Masters of Divinity

My husband and I have heard these words from well-meaning people. However, they’ve haunted me over the years. I’ve spent hours trying to figure out where we went wrong. What we did wrong.

After examining our lives, our decisions, our hearts, there’s no one thing or decision to point to and say, “Aha, that’s the exact point, where things started to tank.” We prayed and followed where we felt God was leading. 

That’s the part that gets me. Maybe you can relate. Do you ever feel like you’ve said yes to God only to have him say no to you? 

You’ve loved God, tried to live out his Word, yet you wonder what happened to the great things you were supposed to do. Looking around, you’re surrounded by toys, dirty diapers, and a stack of dishes in the sink, waiting patiently to be washed. Or your church attendance isn’t near what you’d hoped this far in, even though you serve God and his flock faithfully. Your blog has never gone viral. You didn’t get that promotion which would help you give more. Halfway through life, why bother, seems like an appropriate question.  

We get to this point because, in part, we have bought into the lie of this little “encouraging” phrase. When someone says, “You’re going to do great things for God,” what we actually hear are the words you’re and great. Maybe it’s just me and my own narcissism, but as I watch churches topple, I think not. 

We have a problem because we make our lives and our ministries about us. The truth is God is the great I AM, he doesn’t need any help from us, but we like to convince ourselves that he does. The sun comes up every day without my help. It sets every night without you saying one word. Read Job 38 to get some perspective. And in all that glory and awesomeness, He chooses to include us in his plans. It’s a privilege not an inherent right. 

 

What does “great” mean? We need to define it because our definition of great and God’s, are vastly different. My mind goes immediately to David and Goliath great. Great equals success, fame, applause.

That’s not God’s definition. Jesus explains it in Mathew 20:25-28. He’s talking with his disciples. He reminds them how the leaders lord their authority over the people. Then he says, “Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave– just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (emphasis mine)

In God’s economy, greatness isn’t about church attendance, membership or budget numbers.  How many people are attending the conference you’re speaking at or the ministry you’re running isn’t what he’s counting on. It has nothing to do with fame or money. Greatness is not as the world speaks it. As I define it.

Greatness is serving others. Feeding them, sheltering them, loving them even when it costs you. It’s standing up for God’s truth and being willing to follow Him until the end, even if it involves a shipwreck or two. (Read about Paul.) Or worse. (Read about any of the apostles, Stephen, to name a few.)

The world may declare your stack of dirty dishes and diapers, unimportant. The small church who faithfully serves God and others may not get noticed because well, it’s small. Finishing strong in unpleasant circumstances may still be considered failing to most. The world calls us losers because we don’t live up to their standards but it’s a lie. 

Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. 1 Cor 1:27 NLT

Next time you want to encourage a young pastor, ministry leader or new believer, forego the “You’re going to do great things for God” speech. Instead, find a personal way to encourage them and then start praying for them.

 

Related posts Successful Failures about the prophet Jeremiah.

In the Spacious Place

After the decadence of December, I like the simpleness of January and February. The white snow, and blank calendar spaces soothe my soul because those blank spaces signal the arrival of Hope. Hope you’ll change. Hope circumstances will change. Hope that the coming year will be different. The new year is still bright and shiny.

Wide open spaces provide room to move, think and breathe deeply. Busy schedules, phone calls, texts, appointments, to-do lists eventually crowd us, we lose focus. We run like hamsters on a wheel, getting nowhere. There’s no space in our heads, hearts or days to think, reflect or pray. When we don’t make room for those things, it becomes challenging to implement change, and to grow. Hope shrinks.

But in these early days of the new year, hope abounds. Our calendars, our ability to say no, are still in our grasp. Change can happen, right? It’s not too late. 

David writes about wide open spaces in Psalm 18, after God delivered him from the hands King Saul, whom David had served faithfully. I can only imagine the sting of that betrayal. David pens these words:

He brought me out to a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me. Psalm 18:19 CSB

In the New Living Translation (NLT), it reads: He led me to a place of safety; he rescued me because he delights in me.

God delivers David to a spacious place or safe place. I don’t know about you but I loathe crowds. Open spaces equal safety. Sometimes God does deliver us to a spacious place. He removes the obstacle, the relationship or sickness. 

Sometimes he does not. That’s when we feel like the world is closing in, don’t we? Breathing becomes hard. But God did not abandon David to his trials. His presence filled those caves David hid in. He ran beside David as he fled Saul’s insanity and wrath.

God doesn’t always remove the circumstances or the people, but God still delivers us. It doesn’t always show up in the form of physical change but rather in a shift in our minds and hearts when we make room for God to live there. 

He rescued David because he delighted in him. He feels the same about you and me. His love for us came in the form of his one and only Son, he’s our proof of how God feels about us. He rescued us for all eternity but he’s still in the business of delivering us to a spacious, safe place, today. Right now. Even if our blank spaces and hope seemed to have fizzled already, he’s still there, in caves, the hospitals, the boardrooms and living rooms, waiting to rescue us. Will we make room for him to deliver us to a spacious place? 

When The World Changes

Do you remember a time when you entered a new phase in life?  Suddenly you felt like you were living on another planet?  I remember bringing my second son home from the hospital on New Year’s Eve Day, happy to be home but as my twenty-two month buzzed around me, oblivious to the new baby, I wondered where I’d left my sanity and what planet was I on? 

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I love my boys but the reality was that my world had changed drastically since I’d left my house two days earlier.  The old one had been busy but this one felt chaotic and I could feel resistance rising up in me. Adapting to change wasn’t, and still isn’t, my specialty.   

Have you ever had a similar experience?

It happens over and over in life, doesn’t it? Seasons change. Kids grow up.  We have losses and gains.  Our family is in the midst of big changes in almost everyone’s lives.  What planet did I just land on?  It’s no longer familiar and I feel resistance rising.  Fear grips my heart.  The unknown taunts me.  Excitement fills me as the promise of new things take hold.  It’s confusing, isn’t it?

How do we find our legs in this gravity-less new world?  

An anchor.  We need an anchor to hold us true and steady.  Honestly, I don’t think I need one.  I can stay on course, I tell myself, only to discover I’ve drifted.  The longer we let ourselves wander, the harder it is to get back.  

An anchor will hold us.  We don’t have to work to stay in place.  We are tethered.    If we spin off into space, that cord will draw us back. 

That’s who Jesus is.  He’s our anchor.  If we let him anchor us, the world doesn’t stop spinning by but we do.  We are held fast in the chaos.

He also gives us room to roam but if we get too far he gives us a tug, reminding us he is there.  

It’s our choice whether we decide to hold to him, our anchor, or cut him loose. I’m finding for myself, that as the world gets crazier, an anchor is a necessity.  I am not reliable or consistent enough to keep myself firm but God is.  

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.           Heb 11:1

From Ruins to Peace

You know the feeling.  That sinking feeling that comes when something is not where it’s supposed to be.

While writing my book Whole, I lost a completed chapter.  It disappeared into cyber space, never to be seen again.  It was my chapter on Esther, and I must admit I was pretty pleased with it.  It also represented hours of work.  And it was gone.  

At that point I wanted to quit.  I felt defeated.  But my friend and my husband cheered me on and so I got back up and started again.  In the end, it was a better chapter than the one it replaced.  

I tell you this because quite often we get to the point where we are enjoying smooth sailing in our lives and then the unthinkable happens. That sinking feeling rises up from deep within us. Disaster strikes, sickness sets in or the downward spiral just gets out of control.  Whatever it is, instead of enjoying the fruits of our labours, we are looking at ruins.  Instead of a forward momentum, we feel like we are moving backwards.    

I’ve been reading the book of Haggai in the Old Testament and it’s got a good word for those of us who feel like this today.  Who are looking at rebuilding and quite frankly feel like quitting more than anything.

In the book of Haggai, chapter two, God’s temple has been destroyed and has sat in ruins.  His people have been running about making sure their own needs and lives are running smoothly while God’s house sits in disarray.  The dust blowing through the abandoned site.  He wasn’t happy with his people and He tells them to get to work and rebuild.   

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He exhorts them to not be timid or hold back because He is with them.  “I’m living and breathing among you right now.  Don’t be timid.  Don’t hold back.”  (vs.5 Message)  

He tells them he’ll supply everything they need because “I own the silver, I own the gold.” (v. 8 Message)  

When we are staring at the ruins of what used to be glory, we can tend to forget about God. Maybe that’s the reason we are staring at a pile of rubble.  We’ve removed God from His rightful place and glory.  But He is God and He wants His rightful place in the centre of our lives.  He wants us to remember Him and put Him first.  Why?   Because he is living and breathing amongst us.  We may feel defeated and dead but the God of Angel Armies, as he is identified in this passage, is alive, ready to fight for us.  We need to put down our idols and see Him.   

Not only is He with us but He owns everything so we don’t need to be timid or afraid about getting back up, following wherever he is leading.  Our circumstances may not change, but we can expect great things of our God.  We can expect His glory.  We can count on His faithfulness to see us through whatever ruins we need to navigate, rebuild.

But that’s not all He says to those unruly people of His!  God then promises the Israelites, in verse 9;  ‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the Lord Almighty.”  Haggai 2:9 NIV

When we come to the place where all we see is ruins in our lives and we need to rebuild, we can remember He is with us.  He will supply what we need because he owns it all.  And he will take those ruins and make it even better than before.  And in that place of rebuilt ruins, He will bring peace.

When It’s the Wrong Season!

It’s April 17th and it looks like blizzard out my window. Yesterday was the first snow day of the year for the kids…in April. We spent the weekend huddled inside while snow, rain and freezing rain pelted our house for two full days. Friday and Monday were just starter and finisher days. Four days of foul weather and now today, snowing like it’s January.

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April 17, 2018!!!

I’m not sure about you, but that’s how life feels lately. Like a never-ending winter season. Now I love winter, maybe not as much as I used to I’ll admit, but I still enjoy the winter season. January is my birth month so I’m a snow baby. But sometimes when you are expecting spring and winter shows up again, even the most avid lovers can feel a little discouraged. I’m not only talking about weather here.

How many times have we dreamed about something, only to get something else completely different?

How many times have we assumed this or that, only to find out that our assumptions were wrong?

How many times have we gotten the wrong season, when we expected, no desired, a totally different one?

My first instinct is to resist and complain about the unfairness of it all. I don’t want to make lemonade out of the lemons life hands me. Really I don’t.At.All.

I think I deserve a good pity party and indulge myself in it.

This really accomplishes nothing beneficial. For me or those around me.  All it really does is make me more narcissistic, bitter, and angry to name just a few. I hide more.

Maybe I need to find a different response. I’m not saying be a Polyanna. I think there is something to being authentic about the troubles we face in our lives. We don’t need to be fake or lie to ourselves and those around us. Perhaps instead, we can acknowledge those troubles but not let them define us. Not let them master us or our days. I’ve let that happen too much. You?

I’m learning that if I let my focus stay on Jesus, that this is a good defence against that type of reaction. I used to think Jesus deserted me in the struggles and hardness of life. I didn’t want to admit it but deep down that is what I believed. He’s been telling me otherwise over the last year. That actually in the suffering, he steps closer to us. He may allow the difficulties, the sorrow but he doesn’t abandon us. He walks us down those lonely, rough roads. But if we let the hardness of the situation blind us by keeping us so inward-focused, we lose sight of him and we think we are alone.

But we are not alone. Ever.  Sometimes we just need to lift our heads, open our eyes and take a look around. He’s there beside us, holding us if need be. He breathes hope into us and instead of hiding, we can take a step towards living.  This is beneficial for us and for those around us.

It sounds easy but it’s not. I know. But maybe, just perhaps, today, we can take one step and just look up, away from the snow, the circumstances, the mess we may be in and look for Him.  He’s there waiting for us to see Him.  To breath life back into us, to give us hope.

If your road is a good one right now, still look up and see His goodness. Wherever you are today, look up and out. Sometimes a different perspective makes all the difference.