Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Help Me...again, and again

Salvation isn’t a one-time event so I don’t know why we are surprised when things get tough for us.

Okay, first let me clarify, when I say salvation isn’t a one-time event, I don’t mean you have to continually ask Jesus into your heart, as if the first time didn’t stick. I was obsessive about it as a child – thinking every time I sinned, I needed to start from step 1 again. That isn’t what I mean. Salvation as defined by dictionary.com is the act of saving or protecting. Take for example, Hebrews 10:39 which says, “But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.” The word ‘saved’ is a present participle verb, which means to be continually saved. As in, we need to be saved and then saved again and again.

I didn’t intend on giving a grammar lesson because it isn’t my point but I didn’t want to lose anybody in the opening. What I mean is this: I’ve observed others (and caught myself doing it, too) to expect we’ll sail past temptations now that we’re Christians as if it were easy, peasy, lemon squeezy. It is simply not true and I honestly don’t know where that kind of doctrine originates.

On Monday nights, I attend a “healthy living” group hosted at my church. It’s our own version of Weight Watchers, and time and again, women confess to struggles they are having with addictive eating behaviours. I get it, I’ve been there too but more and more I realize we need to play an active role in our own development – be it spiritual, physical or emotional. I can ask Jesus for help but unless I’m able to make a choice to move towards wholeness in mind, body and spirit rather than wallow in self-pity I will remain in the pit I’ve let myself fall into.

The problem mindset (as I view it) is to expect once we’ve made a decision to improve eating habits and promote a healthy lifestyle the rest will be easy to do. We are surprised when there is resistance, and we need to call on Jesus again and again in our distress. It’s not only in areas of eating and food but also in spiritual disciplines or emotional responses. Recognizing the problem is not the same thing as having the problem go away. The problem will not go away until it’s been mastered.

Paul writes to the church in Galatia for them to help each other carry the burdens for another (ch.6, v.2) but each one should carry his own load (ch.6, v.5). We can use each other as support but it can’t stop there. We each have a part to play.

Am I making sense, here? Sometimes I want to give people’s head a shake and say, “Come on, you can do it, but you gotta do it. It’s a battle of the wills, God gave you one so you can make a choice – choose the right thing.”

Each decision is a choice; sometimes the choice seems so hard, nothing short of heavenly assistance and salvation will suffice.  It’s okay. Go ahead and ask for salvation, again and again. If we didn’t need it, Jesus wouldn’t be making intercession for us still (Romans 8:34). Self control is part of the fruit of the spirit – if we lack the others, why wouldn’t we think you might lack self control as well?

If we ask, we will receive because salvation is ours – again and again.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Psalms for Sunday, XLVI

My energy is depleted and my strength is zapped. Many people say, “What a hard thing the Lord has made her to do.” They question if I have heard from the Lord. They say I am zealous, as though it were a curse word. I am misunderstood and profaned.

But the Lord is my strength and his hand holds me upright. When I am weak, He is strong and will give me grace to fulfill the word of the Lord. My heart is for the Lord and all that he loves, I will pour out my life; even to the point of death.

I would travel a 1,000 miles by foot, if the Lord asked me to do it. He makes my heart glad and I rejoice at the mercy of God. Who am I that the Lord should be mindful of me? And yet, I am loved and counted as one worthy because of his great sacrifice.

Can you hear the sound? There is rejoicing in heaven and it makes my heart glad. For joy, my Jesus went to the cross, and now my joy is made full.

The day of my vindication is coming, but that I will not rejoice in. I rejoice my name is written, the hand of the Lord has written my name, like a tattoo on his hand. I am remembered by the Lord.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Fertile Ground in a Spiritual Barren Wasteland

Hands down, summer is my favourite season. I love the warm weather; having pedicures and wearing flip flops. I love not having to bring a jacket just in case and I love a change in routine. I thrive on having the option to sleep in (even though I don’t) and have my Man do all the cooking (i.e. barbequing). I love days when the only thing I accomplish is finishing an easy summertime book by the pool. I love my birthday is in July and I stretch out the celebration for the whole month. 

On the West Coast, we’ve started to see signs of summer. Yes, I know many other parts of the country have been experiencing summer for a while already. It hasn’t been a particularly cold winter/spring but it has been rainy and I love to see and feel the warm sunshine. We have a few trips planned – to visit friends in Winnipeg, gather with friends in Whistler and spend a week with the York family in Bamfield.

Yes, summer is a sweet and enjoyable time and I’m looking forward to it and yet I have a confession…my soul feels as barren as prairie plains in February. It doesn’t make sense. The light, easy breezy, summertime feeling I am enjoying is incongruent with the melancholic feeling in my soul. 

I’m not someone people would describe as given to extreme mood swings. Generally I am at home in my sanguine personality; even when I’ve experienced negative life events I retain a love of life that is consistent with the sanguine personality. So why, is my soul downcast within me? 

What troubles me most is my spiritual barren wasteland always follows an intensely close experience with the Lord.  I wonder if it’s just me. Somehow, I don’t think so. I think experiencing melancholic valleys in our spiritual journey is more common than we care to admit to one another.

So what’s a Christian to do, when their soul feels lifeless? The first thing we should do is go to Scripture. But since I am already confessing, I will confess that it’s not the easiest thing to do, at least for me. When I don’t feel like God is close to me, the last thing I want to do is spend time in Scripture. I feel like a fraud; it doesn’t feel right. After a little bit of self-talk (okay, a lot of self-talk), I can convince myself just because I don’t feel God’s presence, past experience has taught me He is always with me. I also remind myself I’ve chosen to believe God at his word and his word says that he will never leave me, nor forsake me. 

Scripture can be elusive, foreign and inhospitable at times but one place to find every gamut of human emotion is in the Psalms and when I’m feeling melancholic, Psalms 42 is my go-to.  The Psalmist echoes my feelings perfectly. The joy of meeting with the Lord, the hunger for the feeling to return, and yet the question of why? Why can our own spirit betray us? Finally, the last verse is where I cling, “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God.”

Secondly, accountability works but often instead of confessing to each other, we withdraw. The writer of Hebrews encourages us to not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let’s encourage one another [and be encouraged by others] and all the more as we see the Day approaching. The writer knew that our natural tendency is to remove ourselves from the company of other believers.  Fight the tendency and become involved with someone else. Having or being a mentor is a great place to start. Mentoring helps to keep me focussed. Even if I’m not the one experiencing the Lord at a given time, hearing first-hand knowledge from someone else is encouragement which my spirit craves. Aside from mentoring, there are a myriad of other ways to build accountability into your life. The crux is to try something. 

Although this is my journey I’m sharing, I’m certain there are others who relate. Progress may be slow through the barren land, but the fertile land of summer will return, just as surely as the summer follows the pattern of seasons in nature.   

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Can I Tell You Something?

I offer reviews – on books, on products, on experiences. I write online or verbally offer my opinions. I’ve been known to butt my head into a conversation by strangers if I hear them making a consideration in a store of certain products I’m familiar with. I live with the philosophy, “If it’s good for me, it’s good for others.” Jesus is good for me, and I know he’s good for others.

The problem is many people have only heard about Jesus and they didn’t like the execution of the sales pitch, because it felt like a sales pitch. I don’t like to be preached at, and I don’t suppose others like it any better. That’s why I leave the convincing to the Holy Spirit, I simply create an atmosphere where the Holy Spirit is welcomed and leave the presentation to the man himself – Jesus.

I love outreach but my outreach is different in the past few years than it was previously. Before I would feel it was my job to make compelling arguments to convince the mind – Jesus wants to touch the heart. Change the heart and the attitudes change. It’s simple.

When Mormons or Jehovah Witnesses come to my door, I invite them in – not to debate but to develop a relationship. We establish that we are both people of faith and I invite them to share their testimony. I don’t debate, and I don’t go to Scripture (although I know Scripture, I am not trained as the young missionaries are to debate). When they have told me their testimony, then I can share my testimony. I never make them feel like “me vs. them”.

For example, the last time Mormons came to my house, I shared with them that I do what they do – street evangelism. At this point, they are still smiling. Then I start to explain I call them treasure hunts and I explain what they are. God gives me clues, such as names of people, or what they are wearing, and then I get words of knowledge about areas in their life that are difficult (physical or emotional pain). When I find the treasure God wants to touch, I approach them and start a conversation, asking them about the areas in their life the Lord showed me.

As I explain this, I am inclusive with the young missionaries and speak as if I assume they share my experiences. Of course they don’t and I start to see their smiles shift a little. It’s a beautiful thing because I know the Holy Spirit is at work. Then I ask if I can pray (and I have been given favour and grace to pray with some Jehovah Witnesses as well). I simply invite the Holy Spirit to touch them in the same way I feel and know the Holy Spirit.

I make it a habit – a lifestyle – to ask the Lord when I go out, who does he want to connect with and I keep my eye open, ready to act when the Holy Spirit prompts. When I see someone highlighted, my “pick-up line” is, “Hey there, I’m Andrea. Can I tell you something?” I’ve NEVER heard a no response to my question. When I’m given the go ahead, I proceed I encourage them with the words God gave me to share. Sometimes I pray, sometimes I don’t. I’ve been asked if I’m a psychic or if I’m reading their thoughts, and I simply tell them God loves them and knows them and I wanted to share something with them that will encourage them so I ask God who to look for and what to say.

I love to see how people are lit up because Jesus came near. And the best part is I don’t have to convince anyone, my job is to be a witness, not a sales person.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Psalms for Sunday, XLV

I am ready for battle; the Lord himself has dressed me in armour.

The armour, it looks too delicate for a weary, long-drawn battle but it is enough. On my head, I have my knowledge that I am already saved. I know who I am, and I know whose I am.

In my preparation, I lean against the breastplate of my Lord, and our hearts beat as one. His righteousness covers me and guards my heart.

My waist is adorned with beauty and truth. Truth holds me up and disallows me to be uncovered. Truth is intricately woven but remains uncomplicated; even a child knows truth.

Although my feet lead me into battle, I carry peace. It’s good news and I am called one of the sons of God.

My shield is strong and mighty; it can withstand opposition because He has let me see the end. I have faith, and he is faithful – the One who leads me into battle.

I take up my weapon, the rhema of God. By the sword I cut down the enemy and plunder his camp. The captives are set free and our army grows.

As I march into battle, I stop and prepare my stance. I am ready so I lay down as one who loves. I am loved and so I can love. It disarms the enemy and the battle is won – just as my Lord proclaimed.

I can’t, he can, so we will. The victory is secure.

Friday, May 18, 2012

How Do I Love Thee?

Today is my wedding anniversary. I’ve been married for 16 years and I’m still the luckiest woman in the world. I don’t often write about my Man but today I want to honour him.

How do I love him? Let me count 16 ways.

  1. My Man’s a hottie, ‘nuff said.
  2. My Man has a terrific sense of humour – dry, witty and slighty sarcastic.
  3. My Man will eat anything I put in front of him and sincerely give me thanks.
  4. My Man is an incredible father – truly, this is probably the sexiest thing about him.
  5. My Man has amazing patience.
  6. My Man can make or fix anything.
  7. My Man is excellent at making eggs, especially Eggs Benedict.
  8. My Man regularly expresses his love in a million acts of service.
  9. My Man can converse easily with everyone. I’ve never met someone who didn’t Gary was an all around good guy.
  10. My Man loves adventure (we went sky-diving for our 3rd anniversary) but also knows how to relax on the beach.
  11. My Man makes decisions well.
  12. My Man gives long and amazing back rubs – even after 16 years.
  13. My Man will go places he doesn’t want to go, just because I ask him to.
  14. My Man has above average intelligence and he’s always my first choice partner for a game of Trivia Pursuit.
  15. My Man is learning the guitar. I love a man who plays guitar.
  16. My Man loves me more than I deserve and it’s my joy and my delight to return his ridiculous love.

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