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Showing posts from February, 2009

Struggles and Strongholds

I've been exploring new blogs and found one with two thought-provoking questions:

My biggest struggle/stronghold is _____________.
My biggest struggle these days is about how I relate to my husband, Tom. I used to think he was the reason for all our problems but I'm beginning to see that at least some (and perhaps many) of the barriers between us have been built by me. I have a big attitude problem and I think the root of it is fear. Not all fear is justified. A lot of it comes out of experiences that have nothing to do with the present.

How would my life look if I no longer struggled with _______? What if I was completely free from ______ through Christ’s power… *Try to give some very specific ways your life would be different if you no longer struggled with your above named stronghold*
So, what would my life be like if I could relate to him in healthier ways? If I could banish the fear and bad attitude? The thought merits scrutiny.

Well, I'd be freer to be me. We'd…

Love--God's, Others' and Mine

I just finished reading my son's latest blog entry from a couple of days ago. He quotes Henri Nouwen:

"The love that came to you in particular, concrete human friendships and that awakened your dormant desire to be completely and unconditionally loved was real and authentic. It does not have to be denied dangerous and idolatrous. A love that comes to you through human beings is true, God-given love and needs to be celebrated as such. When human relationships prove to be unliveable because you demand that your friends love you in ways that are beyond human capacity, you do not have to deny the reality of the love you received. When you try to die to that love in order to find God's love, you are doing something God does not want. The task is not to die to life-giving relationships but to realize that the love you received in them is part of a greater love." [The Inner Voice of Reason, p. 28]

That's got me thinking. My "[not so] dormant desire to be compl…

Expecting Miracles

Expecting Miracles: True Stories of God's Supernatural Power and How You Can Experience It by Heidi Baker and Rolland Baker was a disappointment. It was interesting enough that I read through to the end, but it was simply a series of blog posts that seemed very matter-of-fact. I guess I expected more drama or at least a dramatic telling of miracles. It's hard to catch the awesomeness of miracles when they are blithely covered in a single sentence such as "The God who has raised at least 53 people from the dead among our churches in Africa...." p. 89

Their work is extensive--based in Mozambique but spreading around the world--and includes the caring for hundreds of orphaned children, preaching, healing and more. They come with high recommendations from people like James Goll, Jackie Pullinger and John Arnott; and when I mentioned the book to a friend, she was very familiar with who the authors are and what they are doing and had the highest praise for them. It…

"That's me!"

Can you imagine the problems there must be when all (or most of) the women in a country wear the same thing with only their eyes showing? I follow the blog of an American woman, married to a Lebanese who lives and works in Kuwait. She says it's amazing how little kids know every time, which woman is their mom. Check out her blog. It's very informative. I really enjoyed this picture and the post that went with it, which you can find here.

Ash Wednesday

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. I didn’t grow up in a liturgical church and the church I attend now most certainly isn’t liturgical but there is something about the traditions of Christianity that appeals to me. The Church calendar is a way of keeping before us the story of Jesus, the story of the Church throughout the ages and the need for repentance and sorrow as well as for joy and celebration. I don’t always observe Lent but this year I would like to.

I like Wikipedia’s explanation of the day because it doesn’t assume the reader knows anything about it and it includes a variety of perspectives and ways of observing the day. In Bible times, fasting, sackcloth and ashes were an integral part of grieving (Wikipedia references Job 42:3-6, Numbers 19:9, 19:17, Jonah 3:6, Matthew 11:21, and Hebrews 9:13), so it’s no surprise that early Christian leaders chose ashes as a way to symbolise our grief and sorrow at the ways we have turned from God.

In some traditions, palm br…

Where's the Dialogue and Understanding?

Dialogue between Christians who affirm homosexuality and those who don't "has to be open and it has to be honest....Ideally, we come together and understand each other before the end of the day -- or however long it takes." So Soulforce member Jarrett Lucas is purported to have said to Trading Markets.com October 2, 2008. Soulforce is a gay activist group who was touring various Christian schools to gain support for their point of view.

I agree. We need to be able to dialogue about these things and, even when we come to different conclusions, to treat the other side with respect. Sadly, that isn't happening.

ProtectMarriage.com on October 13, 2008 reported that a supporter of the Californian Proposition 8, distributing lawn signs, was attacked by someone who accused him of being against gays. The victim needed 16 stitches under his eye. Is this how we come together and understand each other?

According to Exodus International, NBC-4 of Maryland reported that students who…

To End All Wars

Life was brutal in the prisoner of war camps carved out of the jungles of south-east Asia. The Japanese treated their captives as expendable, forcing them into harsh and dangerous labour fueled by scant rations of rice and little else. More than a quarter of all prisoners of war held captive by the Japanese died while interned.

The morale of the living was non-existent as "death called to [them] from every direction." Starvation, exhaustion and disease degraded the men to selfishness, hate, fear and despair.

The prisoners were stripped of their humanity and reduced "to levels lower than the beasts," until one man set an example for them all. His friend was sick and dying so he starved himself to give his own food to the friend. The friend became well but the man died, having given his very life for his friend. From his example, the officers began to use what resources they had to help the sick, at a loss to themselves.

The climate of the camp shifted.
Selfishness…

Seeking God in Silence

Last night I agreed to speak at a women’s retreat in May. When I told the organizer about my experience with contemplative/centering prayer, she expressed an interest in the women trying this method of coming before God.

The idea is to sit in silence and stillness before God in both mind and body. So, this morning, when I opened Connecting with God: A Spiritual Formation Guide and saw the title of the chapter I’m starting today, I smiled to myself at how God brings things together. The title? “Seeking God in Silence.”

In the fifteenth century, Thomas à Kempis wrote:
In silence and peace a devout soul makes progress and learns the secrets of the scriptures. Only in silence and peace does a devout soul find floods of tears in which it may wash and cleanse itself each night. The further the soul is from the noise of the world, the closer it may be to its Creator, for God, with his holy angels, will draw close to a person who seeks solitude and silence.*The authors of Connecting with …

God in Circumstances

The assignment in my reading of "Perceiving God in Circumstances" in Connecting with God says to interview a couple of people with the following questions and then to answer them myself. I'm going to do it a bit differently. I will answer the questions here and then invite you to copy the questions, erase my answers and put in your own answers (they don't have to be as long as mine) in the comments or, if you want to put them on your own site, give a link in the comments and link back to here.
How did you choose your vocation?
I suppose I've had a number of vocations in my life. My current one is writing. I started a diary shortly after my eighth birthday but it was Dwight Rose, my teacher for grades nine and ten, who aroused in me a love of writing by the way he taught the subject and corrected our work. A few years after I returned to God I picked up my writing again but only for the purpose of journalling, praying and studying my Bible. I had a sense then…

How to Receive Love

Good morning, friends!

I use iGoogle for my home page and one of the many gadgets I have is the "How to of the Day." I usually ignore most of the gadgets but today one "how to" jumped out at me: "How to Receive Love." Usually the "how to," provided by wikiHow, has instructions for more concrete things like "How to Use a Bench Top Bandsaw" or "How to Make Candy Airplanes," so "How to Receive Love" is an unexpected thing to find. It caught my eye because I've been becoming more and more aware of the difficulty I have in doing this.

How does someone receive love? Perhaps a better question to ask is, "Why do people have difficulty receiving love?" This wikiHow explains:
When it is hard to receive love for fear of the consequence of letting down your defenses, it might be that you are hiding behind cynicism, pride, or trying to remain too emotionally strong, so that you don't have to face the possibl…

The God of Evil

"...there is no situation--no breakage, no loss, no grief, no sin, no mess--so dreadful that out of it God cannot bring good, total good, not just "spiritual" good, if we will allow him to."*Catherine Marshall wrote this after her beloved husband died unexpectedly at 46 years of age. That knowledge and belief was neither an immediate thought upon his death nor an easy thing to accept but she kept her ears open to God during her grief and listened to what he told her.

One thing she did at God's request was to list everything in her life "that seems less than good, that you would like to see changed." She filled five pages. Then God told her to praise him for every item on the list.

Wow! I tried that just now and though I was able to praise God despite the bad things, I found it hard, if not impossible, to praise him for the bad things. How does one do that?

Marshall had trouble with this too. When she asked God about it, he answered, "I am Lor…

House: The Only Way Out is In by Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker

I love novels that make me think. House is one such book. Two couples become stranded at night on a back road in Arkansas. The inn in which they take refuge turns into a house that seems alive as it changes its inner configuration at will. Consider the following quotes and the questions they aroused in me:
She'd been abused as a child, but as an adult she'd embraced that abuse by becoming an active participant. (p.325)How does one embrace their childhood abuse as an adult? How was she an active participant? How does one stop embracing the abuse and ending her current participation in past events?
She'd become promiscuous and inviting, and she thrived on the power that she held over men. More importantly, she allowed that power to shape her identity.... She didn't hate Pete or what he'd done to her. In fact, in many ways she was Pete. (p.325)
What power have I allowed to shape my identity? How am I like the one who has hurt me the most? In what ways? How can I …

Revealing our Doubt, Despair, Sadness and Fear

“Ministry is...a mutual experience.... [Jesus] wants Peter to feed his sheep and care for them, not as ‘professionals’ who know their clients’ problems and take care of them, but as vulnerable brothers and sisters who know and are known, who care and are cared for, who forgive and are being forgiven, who love and are being loved.... Laying down your life means making your own faith and doubt, hope and despair, joy and sadness, courage and fear available to others as ways of getting in touch with the Lord of life.”*This is a difficult thing to do. Most of us don’t want others to see our doubts, despair, sadness and fear. We cover them up because we’re afraid they disqualify us from any role of leadership or ministry. But we are all fallen, broken sinners. The Bible portrays its heroes as flawed people, yet they were given mighty roles in God’s mission for his people. Surely God knew what he was doing.

I’ve been taking a course on a form of prayer that requires the recipients of pra…

Saint by Ted Dekker--Love

Another topic that hit me in this book is the connection of worthlessness to the ability to give or receive love. I see myself being described here:
"I think I know what he meant," Kelly said. "You don't feel loved. Your mind is too preoccupied with your own worthlessness to accept love."

"I know that you love me. How can you say that I can't accept love?"

"Why do you need to ask me, then?"

"To know, to really know."

"Exactly. Because you're unsure."

"I wanted to hear you say it."

"Why? To reassure yourself, which is the same as asking to know. You can't believe I love you because you're absolutely certain that you're unlovable." (p.298)Is this why I've spent so many years thinking my husband doesn't love me? I'm beginning to think so. I remember a conference I went to where a styrofoam cup was used to illustrate our capacity to receive love. The speaker held the cup…

Saint by Ted Dekker--Imagination

Of the books I bought last weekend, I said Saint would be the first I would read and it was. I finished it yesterday. What an incredible story! I want more. Thankfully, there are sequels.

Carl has lost all identity except what has been fed to him through the manipulation of drugs, torture and the intensive demands of two people who hold his life in his hands. He's being trained to be an assassin--the best in the world. If he succeeds, he lives. If he fails, he dies. He cannot fail.

Towards the end, I found some thoughts to ponder.
"The day a faith loses imagination is the day it dies." (p.282)
It's an interesting idea. Is my faith in God dependent on imagination? If so, what would that imagination entail? How would it be exercised? Leanne Payne talks about the importance of having a "holy imagination," something we use to "practice the presence of God." What would happen to faith if one had no imagination? Children are full of imaginatio…

More Books

I have a hard time resisting good books and I just finished spending an entire weekend promoting my own book in YWAM's bookstore at Missionfest in Manitoba. The cool thing about books for sale at Missionfest is that they are books often not available in regular Christian bookstores so this is a good opportunity to stock up on books with a missions theme. While that's true, YWAM has more than just books on missions so I got a varied selection.

House: The Only Way Out is In by Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker
Both are excellent authors so this has to be a good book.
Thoughts after reading.

Saint by Ted Dekker
"I'm a captive, deep inside Hungary--no one knows I'm here. I can put a bullet into a ten-inch target at 3,000 yards. They tell me that I'm the best sniper in the world. Sometimes I sit in my dark hole for days without moving so that they don't hurt me. I can kill a man with my bare hands. I only know a few things about myself. My name is Carl. They cal…

Look, Daddy!

I cannot, I dare not trust him. It’s too scary—much safer to withdraw inside myself. If I don’t, I will be misunderstood, handled roughly, hurt. The barriers stay, I can’t relax. If I let my guard down, I will be belittled, destroyed, nothing. Who am I apart from others? I’m far too dependent. He, they define my worth.

I’m four years old. Everyone tells me what to do. I don’t have too many thoughts of my own. Am I allowed my own thoughts? It’s time for evening worship. I don’t understand what is read or what is said but I may not move. I have to be there and I must be still. When we pray, how should I kneel? What is the right way? Do I sit on my ankles or keep my body straight? The last choice is hardest so that must be what’s right. Everything hinges on me doing the right thing. I must do what is right. But what is right? I don’t always know, so I guess.

I’m a year and a half old. I jump, jiggle and jerk until my crib bumps the sink. Look! I know how to make the…

He Wants Me

It happened again. I didn’t want it but it reared up unbidden, unwelcome, unaccepted. Why, why, why?

That’s what they ask me. “Why?”

I close my eyes to search for pictures, thoughts, feelings. Why? I feel incomplete, empty. I need to consume and cannibalize to fill the emptiness. I need to be one with the other, to be connected.

“Why?”

I become four again, lying on a top bunk, chin propped on my hands, looking through the studs of the unfinished wall to the hallway, through the door into the living room where the adults sit and talk. I’m left out and excluded, not wanted, afraid and insecure.

Betrayed! In that hallway I told Mom about my imaginary friend but Mom argued about the name. I shared and wasn’t believed. I withdrew into the safety of my mind but still I feel empty, a huge cavity inside me. Surely someone could love and want me but there is no one. Vulnerable and alone, is there no one I can stuff into the cavity, make them a part of me?

Sister! I trusted her! But she…

IHOPrayer and IHOPancakes

I figured that since I was going to spend several days at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, that it would be fitting to also visit the International House of Pancakes--a place I've never been before. It's amusing how people who are unfamiliar with the one assume the other is what you mean.

IHOPancakes serves up good food in a friendly fashion. All-you-can-eat pancakes was on the menu and the waitress who served me the first time remembered me in my subsequent visits. "How do you want your eggs," she had asked that first day. When I'm at home and cooking eggs, I will break them into the pan, break the yolks and then turn the eggs before they develop any brown crustiness. How do you communicate that to a restaurant? "Over-easy with the yolks broken," didn't seem to compute so the waitress said she'd have the kitchen prepare them the way she thought I wanted them and if they didn't turn out right, she'd have the cook re…

The Hotel Disconnect

I've been home from my trip for a few days and many things are swirling in my head. My travels were divided like this:
Two days driving to a little town in the Missouri OzarksEight full days (plus the days of arriving and leaving) spent with a very dear friend and the addition of another friend on some of those daysThree full days in Kansas City to spend in God's presence at the International House of Prayer (IHOP)
Two days driving back home to WinnipegThe time I spent with my friends was perfect in every way. We spent time talking, playing games, talking some more, visiting a couple of quaint little towns, talking, shopping, playing more games and we even had a few times of comfortable silence. God is so good. I met both women online and have known one for 8 1/2 years and the other for about six. This was the third time seeing the one and the second time with the other but no one would have guessed. We are simply good friends.

It was hard to part but I was also looking for…