Other days it just ain’t workin
The good, the bad, the right, the wrong,
And everything in between
Life is a journey! I think we’ve all heard “life” made reference to in a number of metaphors or similes. However, I think it’s safe to propose that we could insert any number of other words in place of “life”. Marriage, a career, and yes, PARENTING!
The word “journey” (as stated in the Mirriam-Webster dictionary), is actually defined as “the travel or passage from one place to another”. It doesn’t really include a description of how that journey takes place, i.e.. easily, with much difficulty, quickly, slowly, etc. Just a basic knowledge that one will get from point A to point B as a result.
I’ve managed to ramble sufficiently so I’ll come to the the subject of my ponderings of late! A struggle I seem to have a hard time letting go of…what makes a good parent, who is actually responsible to judge who good kids are, why are some parents so obsessed with how screwed up other people’s kids are, is there a right and a wrong way to parent and quite specifically what is God calling me to in my own personal journey as a parent.
Someone on Facebook shared this picture today. At first I just scrolled past it as I have MANY shared pictures but I came back to it a few minutes later and actually looked at it and then read the caption and I laughed…
Someone, somewhere captured the essence of AGAPE love in this silly little cartoon. On Christianity Today Agape is defined as…”Agape is selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love”… If you check Wikipedia it says… Thomas Jay Oord has defined agape as “an intentional response to promote well-being when responding to that which has generated ill-being.”
Regardless of exactly which words you use to define AGAPE, the insinuation is the same. No matter the situation, no matter how you feel at the moment, you intentionally sacrifice something of yourself to put the person you “love” first. While it’s pretty self-explanatory it just reminded me that this is how I feel about my children, this is how I feel about my husband and thankfully I feel fairly confident that this is how God feels about me.
Where have I been you ask…or maybe you don’t! Either way the truth is that I have had a multitude of things I could have blogged about over the last months but I haven’t really felt the desire to sit down and hash it all out via bloggo-sphere (not sure that’s an actual word but it came to mind). Life has been full and rich…full of great moments, family memories, laughter…rich with teachable moments, reflection, understanding and revelation. Lately I’ve been reminded of the fact that God has created me to be who I am and if I believe that, then I must honor that God has indeed created others to be who they are. In acknowledging that fact I feel that it’s opened a whole new set of questions and feelings of inadequately understanding our Creator. If I started listing them it’s unlikely that I’d be able to stop. In this realization I’ve become somewhat aware/disappointed in how Christians today are extremely judgemental and black and white in their view of the world. I know what I’ve been taught over the years in church about what’s right and wrong but I have also lived in this world for 33+ years and become a mother in this world. There are very few things in this world that is black and white and as such I think it’s fair to say that we must be willing and ready to navigate these muddy waters with care and empathy. More often than not I see a world full of people screaming out to be heard, listened to, loved and validated. Many of them have lived their lives being marginalized and their opinions squashed and as a result they lash out with their views. When their values are threatened, they attack and they don’t care who stands in their way. What I find myself wondering is how would God call us, us being those who have engaged in a personal relationship with him, to act? Or better yet what would Jesus have done? Would he have stood on the latest, greatest corner (ie. facebook, twitter, blogger, etc.) and yelled for the world to hear what he KNEW was truth. Or is his example much, much more difficult…personal relationships with those who then invited him to speak truth into their lives. I realize that Jesus had a major advantage in that he knew when a person’s heart was ready for acceptance but the amazing thing is that when we opt to develop deep, meaningful relationships with those around us we become aware of when they’re ready, sensitive, and actively seeking for truth to be revealed in their lives. I also recognize that some might say that Jesus did in fact stand on his proverbial soapbox, as he spoke in from of hundreds at a time but no where in those accounts were those people bashed over the head with his message. I’m determined to keep exploring how these ideas/revelations swirling in my head affect my daily faith journey. How to best live out God’s truth while honoring that he’s created an entire world of individuals walking their own walk, discovering who they are through their own set of trials, strengths, weaknesses and most importantly, valuing how God has chosen to reveal himself to them without judgement.
In November I posted about an upcoming interview that I was preparing for as part of my job. I spent hours preparing, pouring over the “right” answers to the questions that may be posed, talking to the people I trust to help guide me in my spiritual growth and then trusting that God would guide me to answer appropriately.
Yesterday dawned bright and clear, I was feeling nervous but extremely hopeful! I’d spent the night before re-reading my study notes with confidence that I could answer the questions they threw at me with some sense of confidence. I arrived at my destination with plenty of time to glance over my notes one last time and then relax. I was greeted and introduced to the four individuals who would conduct my interview and the usual pleasantries followed. I gave them a synopsis of my life, my family, my journey to my current position…then they dove right in.
This is about where I’ll end the commentary and say that I am so thankful that my guarantee of entry into Heaven was so much easier than facing this panel of individuals. I’m very glad that God has given me the reassurance of salvation beyond my futile efforts at remembering references down to the chapter and verse or memorizing word for word large portions of scripture or the entirety of scripture. I am a proponent of scripture memory, there’s no question about that, but I will be the first to admit that it is not my strong point and from the first question asked of me I felt frozen in place by my inability to answer correctly many of the questions initially asked.
I feel blessed that God honored my desire to serve him and the prayer that I prayed as I drove in, that He would allow my passion for the children I serve and my love for Him to shine through despite anything I might say. That answer to prayer was my saving grace when it came down to the wire. I can celebrate that I was successful in fulfilling the obligation I had, to meet those specific requirements as part of my employment but I was reminded again, through this process that God is gracious. That He alone holds the knowledge of the world, that He has no expectation of any human being to accurately and adequately explain who He is and what His purpose is. That faith is much simpler than that and as believers we can hold tight to His ability to reveal himself to us in many, many ways. One of the verses that will be forever burned into my brain (mainly because it was one of the many that I could not direct the panel to) is Hebrews 11:1 and it reaffirms to me my responsibility to God but also the basic truth of everything I stand for.
My beliefs and knowledge of scripture may come into question (by those both for me and against me), I may be asked to explain what has led me where I am today, somebody may want to know whether my theology is correct or incorrect and really I’m okay with being held accountable and questioned but what I am most relieved about is that the ultimate judgement and questioning comes from the One who created me, the One who knows me inside and out, the One who loves me more than anything else. My hope and joy remains with the One who is PERFECT!
The last few weeks I have been pondering an idea that is far from new! It is a truth I have held dear since before I can even remember consciously embracing it. Followers of Christ accept a basic principle the moment they recognize the authority of the Holy Spirit in their lives…it’s the knowledge that Christ came to die for our sins and wash us clean.
A verse that I looked up before I even started this post was 1 Corinthians 6:11, “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. ” The main reason that I began thinking on this truth afresh is because of a beautiful song that I love to listen to. It’s called “Washed by the Water” by Needtobreath.
The thing I love about this song is that it reminds us that life is filled with difficult situations but through these times we find redemption. I think part of it for me is also looking at this idea with a new perspective because of where I live. I know that might sound a bit odd but living in this area we see A LOT of rain. Sometimes I get frustrated by the dreariness it brings but thinking about it from the perspective this song encourages I see how rain also cleanses us. Rain can be horrible, devastating, terrifying but it can also be pure, clean, and refreshing. The funny thing is that I have been thinking about this off and on over the last month as we all patiently wait for Spring to arrive in all its glory. But on the days that rain seems the weather forecast for the whole day, I do take a moment to celebrate all it does for us…then I started reading this great book by Francine Rivers, “Her Daughter’s Dream” (c. 2010).
A part of this rings true to my own life but what struck me was one particular exchange:
“They walked along the beach together, not saying anything. Boots didn’t seem worried about the blanket. When they turned back, she bent and scooped up a stick, twirling it in her hand like a baton. ‘You’re eating yourself up with guilt and worry, Carolyn, and it’s got to stop.’ She stopped and jabbed the stick into the moist sand. ‘Write down every sin you’ve committed right here in the sand. Let it all out.’ She walked up the beach onto dry sand, spread the blanket and sat. ‘Take your time!’ she called out. She lay back, arms beneath her head, and crossed her ankles.
Carolyn barely managed to write a few words before a wave came and washed them away. She wrote more, and the waves came in again, erasing her words. She wrote and wrote, and each time the sea came and swept away her confession. She didn’t know how long she bent to the task before she finished. Her feet were numb from the cold water. She tossed the stick into the surf and watched it carried out. For the first time in weeks, her chest didn’t feel like someone was sitting on it.
‘Finished?’ Boots called.
The picture to the left reminds me of this exchange. Having read it I was reminded of the many times I struggle with understanding how to let go of the wrongs in my life. Either done because of my sinful nature or against me. Either way my human nature instinctively clings to remembering each incident as if to disallow God’s redeeming grace to cover and cleanse these wrongs.
As I reflected on this amazing new visual I envisioned myself in the shoes of this character. Stepping onto a beautiful, perfect scene created with such unique talent and power being marred by the imperfection of my words scratched deep into the earth. The ugliness it creates, such a tragedy to gaze upon. But the water comes to return this pristine panorama to its original beauty. The water is healing and redemptive in nature. It actually does wash away the words and the sand returns to the way it was.
I was so struck by the reality of this analogy. Then I thought more about the last few words. I realized that each day brings its challenges and each day I will likely be at the edge of this water writing the sins I’ve committed and each day the waves will wash them away. BUT…what I can find complete and utter safety in…is the words spoken on the cross…the words that have new meaning for me as I realize that although I know each day is test in my faith I no longer need to question whether or not I will find redemption…”IT IS FINISHED”…spoken by the man who gave His life to secure my cleansing and give me a life eternal.
I realize water is a metaphor for the blood of Christ but what I LOVE about this world we live in, is that our Creator has made ALL things to bring us back to Him…to remind us of the relationship we need.
The next time you feel yourself down in the dumps during a rain storm, play that song and spend a few minutes worshiping. You’ll find your spirit uplifted and your perspective renewed.
I am desperately trying to catch up on my posts so I will follow this up over the next couple of days with some Christmas posts!
But today I just felt the need to write about the amazing service we had this morning. For some of you who attend you will probably have your own take on the experience and for those who have never participated in “washing feet” it will hopefully trigger a desire to find ways to wash the feet of some unsuspecting individual:)
To start I should give you some background regarding what’s been on my mind as of late…I have been wondering if the job I do makes that much of a difference. It’s not that I don’t believe God is at work in the hearts of children but for those of you have any contact with kids you know that the evidence is so rarely visible that it really makes one wonder what exactly they’re catching. I’ve been doing a study of 1 Samuel and have been so incredibly blessed by the reality of who God is in my personal life so I have not questioned that I am where God wants me but I still so desperately needed some tangible proof that God was using me and today was that day!
Our senior pastor is constantly coming up with great ideas to involve our children (which makes my job so much easier) and his wonderful wife has committed herself to various sundays of assistance in the children’s program. Together their desire to see growth in our children has blessed me in ways they will never know…today as Pastor Tim preached on the passage of scripture where Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and how he calls us to “wash the feet of those around us” I was struck by how so many of us do just that but how we could do it so much better.
At the closing of his sermon he asked for a few minutes of quiet and I ran downstairs to get the kids (kindergarten to grade 5), as I had been asked to do. The children came upstairs quietly and walked to the front of the sanctuary to observe on the floor. Although they had not participated in the service I could see their eager, curious stares as Pastor Tim asked 6 youth to come to the front and sit down in the seats set up at the front and put their feet into the basins. He then asked for 6 individuals, who felt led, to come and wash the feet of these youth. I could feel the emotion welling in me as people started to come forward. At this point I knew tears would fall, not just from me but from many people, men and women, who were feeling the presence of the Holy Spirit in that moment. The kids watched with attention and curiousity…one precious kindergarten girl, leaned to me and asked, “why is it just the adults who get to do this?”. I offered for her to come with me and wash someone’s feet and in turn have her feet washed but she shied away a bit and shook her head. I let it be and saw that few of the older boys were getting a bit antsy, but it wasn’t that they wanted to go play…they wanted a turn.
I was moved as the children began scooting forward, eager to participate and trying to overcome their hesitation, uncertain if they were really “allowed” to be a part of this beautiful ritual. I sobbed, tears that I can’t really identify, they weren’t sadness or joy or relief, it was more of such an overwhelming feeling of God’s presence that I didn’t really know what else to do. I felt affirmed as my feet were washed (not just with the water but with tears of friendship, love, prayer and heartfelt appreciation) and in that moment the uncertainty of where I am at, was lifted. Then I had the privilege of helping the children as they began to come forward. I washed a pair of feet…I helped as the kindergarten girl, who wasn’t certain before, brought her friend forward and asked if they could wash each other’s feet. The children giggled but weren’t silly…they were moved and in their child-like faith laughed as I’m sure our Father did as He watched these precious little beings worship Him. Siblings began washing feet, mothers were washing the feet of their children and vice versa. I saw grown men swipe tears away from their eyes and others smile with such victory at this simple gesture of love towards their fellow congregants. I was humbled by the expression that this simple ritual was to so many people.
As the service came to a close and I sat at the front listening to the beautiful music I sat with another sweet girl, she is the child of one of my closest friends…I’ve known her since she was 4 and hope to know her for many, many more years. I have been blessed to walk with her mother through the many trials that parenting brings, giving and taking wisdom as God allow us to share it with each other. As with any parent, I know there have been times of pure frustration in parenting this special child but as she sat with me, tears were streaming down her face and she looked up at me and said, “this is so cool”! Again I felt the hand of God placed on my life for that moment in time. I hugged her close and felt such a great joy at the family that I have been blessed with. An immediate family, including a husband who shares my faith, an extended family with a heritage of faith and the family of Christ that will one day reach my children as this particular day reached this child’s heart. I asked her if I could pray with her and she enthusiastically nodded her head. I can honestly say that the words were not my own…the Holy Spirit was with me as I spoke over her and called on Him to bring clarity to who she is, understanding of the gifts He’s given her and protection over her life.
It was such a great morning of reminding for me the power that the Holy Spirit has. It’s not about me…it’s not about what I can accomplish…it’s about being obedient to the call He has placed on my life in this moment of time. To know that when I feel tired, He is strong…when I feel overwhelmed, He is in control…when I feel uncertain, He has a plan. Although, as our pastor pointed out, our culture really doesn’t require the washing of feet, the metaphor can so easily have been transplanted for today’s society. It means putting aside your own needs and desires to meet those of others and “wrapping the towel around your waist” to serve others.
Thank you Lord, for this day that You have made. Let me rejoice and be glad in it!
It’s such a conundrum being a Jesus-follower. I want to live my faith, I want to trust God’s will, I want to follow His word but everyday my humanity paralyzes me from doing so. I think, what if He gives me what I pray for, what if I ask Him for an opportunity to live out my faith and He presents it and I fail! God is gracious…I know that, but graciousness has to have limits and when I ask for something and He gives it and then I ignore it how could He possibly continue to extend grace. Maybe this makes sense to you, maybe it doesn’t but as I continue to read the bible in combination with “Irresistable Revolution” I find myself hesitating to pray for an opportunity to live the life of such amazing sacrifice because I know it has many more implications for the long-run than just feeling good because I gave something to someone in need.
Today I read 2 Corinthians 9. I didn’t actually check if it was in my scheduled reading but I figured I’d just go with whatever chapter was next after my last reading (it actually was purely laziness in not wanting to trek up the stairs to get my daily reading pamphlet). What was more funny though was that in my laziness God spoke to me…”12. For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have. 13. Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. 14. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what they need. Then there will be equality.” Powerful hey??? Paul was extolling the Corinthian church for their generosity despite their poverty. Honoring their sacrifice for the love of God and each other. What if we did that. What if just our one lowly town decided that for even a week we could sacrifice a portion of the immense wealth we have to assure that every homeless, starving person on our streets could eat, dress, sleep properly. Could you imagine the effect that would have? It’s crazy cool to imagine but a whole other thing to live out right?
Here are a few more challenges I saw over the week from Claiborne’s book:
“I had come to see that the great tragedy in the church is not that rich Christians do not care about the poor but that rich Christians do not know the poor.” (p. 113)
“Many spiritual seekers have not been able to hear the words of Christians because the lives of Christians have been making so much horrible noise. It can be hard to hear the gentle whisper of the Spirit amid the noise of Christendom.” (p.127)
“I heard one gospel preacher say it like this, as he really wound up and broke a sweat: ‘We’ve got the unite ourselves as one body. Because Jesus is coming back, and he’s coming back for a bride, not a harem.'” (p. 145)
For even if the whole world believed in resurrection, little would change until we began to practise it.” (p. 150)
“I’m convinced that God did not mess up and make too many people and not enough stuff. Poverty was not created by God but by you and me, because we have not learned to love our neighbors as ourselves.” (p. 169-170)
So much truth in each little nugget of a statement. Do you see why I can feel the push to trust God and take the gigantic leap of actually living out this biblical truth of loving my neighbor as myself but at the same time feel my heart’s thunderous beat in anxiety over what might come of that? I know God is great, I know He is merciful, I know He will supply for me even as He takes care of the birds of the air and lilies of the field. But then I hear the booming voice of my greatest enemy, my own doubt, telling me…”but what if He isn’t and doesn’t”.
I found the prayer below from a blog of an author that I’ve been reading lately. This prayer was written for her kids but as I read it I realized it’s something I need to pray for myself before I can pray it for my children. So as I read it I changed the “you’ll” to an “I’ll”. It was a just a neat reminder to me of how much I need my heavenly Father and that only once I’ve discovered that truth can I really begin passing it along to my children.
By Lisa T. Bergren
I pray you’ll get caught doing things wrong—before they get too big
I pray you’ll fail—in things that don’t matter
I pray you’ll have to say you’re sorry—and get really good at it, so that when the time’s right, you can always find the courage to say the words
I pray you’ll cry, really hard—so you feel free to express both tears of anguish and tears of joy
I pray you’ll sweat—and learn what it means to work really hard for something you want or to reach a goal or to cross a finish line
I pray you’ll get lost—and discover you have the Compass within to help you find your way
I pray you’ll get weary—enough to know that you can’t do everything on your own strength
I pray you’ll give up—and rely on God for your strength
I pray you’ll experience unanswered prayers—and discover deeper, wider trust
I pray you’ll feel foolish—and realize we’re all nothing, without Christ
I pray you’ll suffer heartbreak—and grow in the discovery of how your Creator can use all things for good
I pray you’ll be shattered—and be reborn in the Spirit
I pray you’ll be near-sighted—unable to see anything but God, right beside you
I pray you’ll be far-sighted—unable to see anything but God, right there on the horizon
I pray you’ll lose a job—and know that your Provider is ever present
I pray you’ll brush up against death—and recognize that this is not the end
I pray you’ll have to wait—and learn the value of patience
I pray you’ll be deaf—to all but the Father’s voice
I pray you’ll be scared—of living without God in your life
I pray you’ll take crazy risks—and dare to adventure where your Shepherd leads
Thankfully my excitement for God’s word has become even greater and the freedom I am feeling is amazing. I love how in choosing a relationship over duties I feel a connection deeper than I’ve felt in a long time.
The thing that intrigues me the most is how in these times of communion with God life can still get pretty ugly around us and yet the peace that passes understanding can be so all encompassing that we really can take great steps forward. I have often wondered how people whom I consider very wise in the ways of the Lord can have such tragedy invade their lives on a regular basis? How does one really cope with that and keep it together, all the while rejoicing and praising God for his goodness? This week has brought a little glimpse of that into my life. Although it isn’t really tragedy but rather deep, personal struggles that a family member faces I feel God’s presence and peace in a way I’ve never felt before. I hear the words of scripture and see the faith of people through the centuries and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is alive and bursting when one of his children chooses life over and over!
I have kept reading daily with the rest of my congregation and everyday brings a new nugget of information from texts I have read numerous times in my life.
Matthew 5:28 “because she thought, ‘If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed’.” How amazing to me that the mere touch of Jesus’ robe would bring healing that she had sought for a lifetime. What would be different in my life if I had faith that great.
Mark 26:13 “‘I tell you the truch, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.'” How many times have I heard the story of the woman who sacrificed a year’s wages to honor Jesus. Her story has been told for centuries and still is in memory of her!
Matthew 27:52 “The tombs broke open and the bodes of many holy people who had died were raised to life.” I have NEVER actually read this scripture before or at least not SEEN it with eyes open. How awesome must that have been?
Mark 6:51&52 “Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.” WHY??? How could these men who had given up everything for Jesus and seen him perform miracle after miracle have hardened hearts and still not understand who he was? Yet day after day I am surrounded by God’s miracles: my children, his creation, the love I still have for my husband after almost 11 years of marriage, a fully intact extended family who loves him wholeheartedly, and yet I often doubt how he will provide for some of our financial needs. Really how much do I need to see before I believe he is all-powerful?
What I love the most is that in all this I do feel his love, his disappointment in my lack of faith but forgiveness for the sinful nature that controls me. I hear his reassurance in the story of his miraculous birth and death on the cross for me and saving grace so that one day I may share with him a communion beyond this life!