Friday, 19 July 2013

Five Minute Friday: Belong

“For the plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue from the Lord.”

We travelled over four hours and landed ourselves in the largest city within 1,000 kms of our small village population 750.  The city was busy and crowded and hurried and we lost our direction easily and quickly.  We went, as a family, to explore universities here in this harbour city.  University options for our first born – the thought makes this mama shudder.  We’re fish out of water, yet we tour and learn and ask questions we leave with more information, but less direction than when we arrived.  And our son, seeking his future, knows only that he doesn’t like this big city, and is more confused than before as to where he belongs in this next leg of his journey.
So we leave, and drive to what looks like the end of the world, where the line of the ocean limits have carved and cut the rock and we rest and take it all in. 

Each of us pondering quietly in the back of our mind, where will he go, how will he know, what will he be when he grows up?

I do the only thing I know.  Enjoy the few moments I have left with him and commit the rest to his heavenly Father.  He will show you where you belong, son of my womb.

It is my prayer, as you walk toward the path that is uncertain, to a calling you do not know yet, that you will trust the Lord to guide you always and lead you on the narrow road. 

“And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it.  It shall belong to those who walk on the way.”  Is. 35:8

Five Minute Friday

Thursday, 4 July 2013

A Cold Drink Please, Pt. 2

continued from A Cold Drink Please, Part 1

.....Not needing Christ makes me lukewarm......

Leading up to Uganda, I was desperate for the Lord to provide the impossible as we raised money for our trip.  He did.  I was desperate for the Lord to sustain me and my girls, protect us, keep me strong so I didn’t melt in a puddle of tears resulting from an emotional breakdown because of what I saw and experienced and ruin it for everyone else. 

Overwhelming desperation for Christ to carry me is what I experienced in Uganda.

And then, all of the sudden, I’m home.

Comfortable, safe living, full of schedules and routine.

Smooth roads with driving rules and laws enforced.

Buffered and protected by education, insurance, savings, government.

Abundant and easy access to food, water, health care and the basics of life.

So now, I don’t need Him so desperately anymore. 

I go about my life the only way I know how, but something’s not right.  I’m full.  I’m healthy.  My kids are educated and pursing dreams. 

Yet I’ve never felt more empty.

Post- Uganda, I know a desperation I did not know before.  I have looked despair in the face, seen the dark eyes of hopelessness. 

In my weakness, I have been a vessel for Christ to be love and hope to the fatherless, even if it was for only a few afternoons.  These hands and feet were His and desperate to be empty so they could be His, for one child to remember that, yes, God is good.  To remind even just one abandoned child that Jesus loves them, that He is the Father to the fatherless.  You are not forgotten.

Today, Jesus told me that I am lukewarm. 

I’m lukewarm because I live my life like I don’t need Him

I say, “I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing.” (Rev. 3:16)  I may not speak so proudly with my mouth, but my actions, as I walk each day, they speak louder than words.  And Jesus says to me that I “ not know that [I am] wretched, miserable, poor, blind naked....” (Rev. 3:17)

It is very clear in the letter to the Laodicean’s, that Jesus is less than pleased with lukewarm-ness.  In fact it disgusts Him.  “I will vomit you out of my mouth”, are not similar words to “Well done good and faithful servant.”  and are not words I want to hear.

The cause of this lukewarm heart and pulse for the kingdom is self-sufficiency.  And it’s a sign one is headed on a collision course with turning away, for these are not new words that Jesus saved for the last book of the Bible.....

The Lord says through Jeremiah, “As a cage is full of birds, so their houses are full of deceit.  Therefore they have become great and grown rich.  They have grown fat, they are sleek; yes, they surpass the deeds of the wicked; they do not plead the cause of the fatherless; yet they prosper, and the rights of the needy they do not defend. Shall I not punish them for these things?” says the Lord.”  Jer. 5:57-29

And through Moses the Lord says: “Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God.....lest – when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; when your heart becomes proud and you forget the Lord your God.... – then you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.’” Deut. 8:11-17

Self-sufficiency is a dangerous place to be.  Self-sufficiency leads to apathy toward God and apathy toward the things of His Kingdom.

But I was self-sufficient in my life before I went to Uganda, so why, all of the sudden is it an issue – I’m not doing anything differently?  Why could I walk so closely with the Lord while indulging in North American attitude of pleasure and comfort pre-Uganda, and now, as I walk the same way as before, I stand alone in the wilderness?

Because now I know.

I’ve seen the burden and despair of infinite need yet I live in the ease and comfort of abundance.  This disparaging contraction and the tension it causes, is best explained by Katie Davis, “now that I know, I am responsible.”

Jesus said the same thing.

 “And the servant who knew his master’s will and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.  But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few.  For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required;” (Luke 12:47-48)

And now I wonder what I am to do with this contradiction, this new understanding of my time in the wilderness. Jesus does not leave me guessing.  He tells me in Rev. 3:19, “As many as I love I rebuke and chasten.  Therefore be zealous and repent.”

Turn away from, go in the opposite direction, and be zealous, eager, determined about it.  Like Moses who chose to suffer with the people of God rather than enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.

Less self-indulgence, more seeking the Lord and His righteousness – this is the answer.  Eagerly, earnestly, zealously.  Like seeking a cold drink on a hot day, desperate and yearning, seek the Lord.  And all these other things He will provide - like answering my question,

"What now, Lord? What do you want me to do with this life, now that I know?"

“If my people who are called by my name would humble themselves, pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked way, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin and heal their land.”  2 Chron. 7:14

I feel a fast coming on.  Anyone else feeling lukewarm?  Won't you join me.

"As cold water to a weary soul,
so is good news from a far country."
Prov. 25:25

Monday, 1 July 2013

A Cold Drink Please, Pt. 1

Summer has officially arrived.  According to the calendar anyway.  The never-ending rain has kept us indoors, exploded the mosquito population, and is now causing fungus to grow on my freshly painted deck.  Not your typical summer which should be filled with long relaxing walks on sandy beaches, cozy camp fires and refreshing ice cold lemonade to quench a thirst from the heat of the day.

Thinking of the heat, and the lack of it, brings me back to the hot, dry days of early April in Uganda.  I remember that after a day of sitting in the intensity of the equator sun, choked dry by the dust and diesel fumes, all I wanted was a cold drink of anything.  Water. Pop. Juice.  Anything cold, to quench the thirst that yearned deep inside.  Yet all I could find was room temperature water. 

We’d drive by enormous billboards with pictures advertising “Ice Cold Coke”, yet just like many things I saw in Uganda, this too was a contradiction.  Ice cold anything was impossible to find.   To survive and not dehydrate, I’d sip away on lukewarm orange Fanta, Coke and bottled water.  And most of the time I wanted to gag.

The first thing I asked for upon returning to North America?  A cold drink please.

It’s been three months since Uganda found its way into this shrivelled-up heart.  And for three months I have struggled.  Friends used to call me a prayer warrior.  I prayed a lot and though words can’t really express what happened, I could feel the Lord’s presence in my prayers.  He breathed life and spirit and love and intimacy, empathy and compassion into my prayers.  He burdened me to pray and led my prayers.  Prayer was a beautiful time with my heavenly Father.

I used to have eyes that could see wondrous things in His Word.  Each new day His Word would breathe life, conviction and truth into these dry bones, and my ears would hear my heavenly Father speak.

Uganda changed all that.  Oddly enough, not for the better.  How does one go on a mission’s trip and return spiritually numb? 

With only the rare exception, my daily reading of God’s Word has been nothing more than seeing words on a page, lifeless.  Having eyes, but not seeing; ears, but not hearing.

With only the rare exception, my prayer time has been emotionless and empty as I rattle off more of a to-do list to God (‘cause that’s all I can seem to come up with), which then bounces back down to me off the ceiling it hit on the way up.

Yet my soul longs, it cries out, like my thirst for a cold drink in Uganda.  And I’m perplexed.  How does a mission’s trip – which began, was sustained and completed by God alone – have such a seemingly negative impact on my spiritual life, my close relationship with my Saviour?  It doesn’t make sense.  I’ve asked the Lord the question, but silence has been my only answer.

I feel like the psalmist who cried, “As a deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God.  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God, when shall I come and appear before God?” (Ps 42:1-2)  It takes all I’ve got and more to hear Him say, “Hope in God for I will yet praise Him, for the help of His countenance.” (Ps 42:5) and to this I cling.

Three months is a long time alone in the wilderness.  The silence is deafening.  The world overtakes this void and in my numbness I have let it.  Life is distracting.  The distractions are loud.  Life is busy and hurried and filling, yet not fulfilling and something is missing.  Something is wrong.  I cry out and get no answer and the current of life sweeps me away.

Today, I find a verse and I hear a whisper, a familiar stirring of the heart.  “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great a cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders, and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us....” (Heb. 12:1)

So I dig a little deeper and ask, what is hindering me from walking in the sweet fellowship of Christ I once had pre-Uganda?

Matthew (6:24-27) tells me that worrying about life will hinder my walk.  Am I trusting in Christ or am I trusting in me?  John (1 John 2:15-16) tells me that loving the world and indulging the lust of the flesh will hinder my walk with Christ. 

Jesus’ words to the lukewarm church in Laodicea are my wake-up call. 

“I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot.  I could wish you were cold or hot.  So then, because you are lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of my mouth.”  Rev. 3:15-16

Lukewarm Christianity is no Christianity at all.  And clearly, lukewarm is what I’ve become. 

“What makes me lukewarm?” I ask. 

This prayer goes beyond surface of the ceiling, reaches heaven, and there is the familiar feeling of conviction, the piercing of the double-edged sword as Jesus’ words speak clearly:

“Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’”.  Rev. 3:17a

Not needing Christ makes me lukewarm...........

to be continued