Light…

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C.S. Lewis once said, “I believe in Christ like I believe in the sun – not because I can see it, but I can see everything else.”

I find that quote so very helpful. Jesus is the light by which I see all other things. That is what it means to live this life of faith. I don’t even know if I have all that much to say about that…maybe I just need to let that quote exist here on the blog. Maybe it will inspire you. Maybe it will help you understand your own journey. Maybe it will help you understand how you see the world.

Maybe this is a night where few words say more.

 Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”
John 8:12 NLT

Complex…

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I have often struggled with the idea of Lent. I think this is because, historically, Lent was a time when you couldn’t sing happy songs, when you couldn’t eat tasty foods and when you couldn’t wear bright colors. All of this was because you were meant to be participating in the sorrowful sufferings of Christ…so how could you possibly sing or eat or dress in joy? You were meant to be in mourning.

But my experience of faith is that things are not so hard-and-fast. In a time of mourning you may find yourself smiling or laughing. In a time of despair you may find yourself giving hope to another. In a time of brokenness you may experience healing. Life is kind of messy and emotions don’t stay in neat little boxes. Nor does God allow us to experience only one emotion at a time. God made us more complex than that.

So while I appreciate the idea of taking a season to remember all that Jesus has done for us and all that it cost Him to do it, I find it very difficult to impose what sometimes feel like false restrictions in order to do that remembering. Because that isn’t true to the beautiful, messed up, paradoxical life each of us is living.

For me, this winter has been brutal. I have struggled with illness after illness and while none of these illnesses were debilitating in the long run (it’s been two stomach flus bookending a wicked boomerang cold that came back just when it felt like it was on its way out), they have knocked the stuffing outta me and taken some precious time away from me. That’s been tough. I’ve shed more than one tear over that this winter.

At the same time, there are some very exciting things happening at St. Andrew’s, Brampton, where I serve as Associate minister. Our G.R.A.C.E. Group network is coming along, we are making strides forward. You see? Even in a time of struggle, God is at work, birthing something new and beautiful in our midst.

This passage from Hebrews reminds me of this “life doesn’t fit into neat little boxes” theory of mine:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.
Hebrews 12:1, 2 NLT

Because of joy, Jesus disregarded the shame of the cross. Because of joy, Jesus went willingly to lay down his life for us. Because of joy – and shame and suffering, and death and new life – we know what it is to walk through this life as a beloved, cherished child of God, never alone.

I am thankful, even in a time of struggle or a time of mourning or a time of remembering suffering, for the fact that God made us complex enough to experience more than one emotion at a time. I am thankful that on the cross, joy and sorrow meet. I am thankful for the new things God is doing in our midst.

Source…

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I’ve been struggling with the cold-that-will-not-end for most of this new year. Being sick has wreaked havoc on my gym schedule. In the fall, I went 5 days a week, almost every week. But since the New Year, I have only had one 5-day week.

Today was the first day I made it to the gym in about two weeks time. Understandably, I’ve lost ground as far as my workout routine goes. It was harder to lift what I had been lifting before I got sick. As I worked out today, I sweated more, I was out of breath more, and I trembled more. One of the things that is often heard in the classes I take at the gym is the encouragement to keep going, even when your muscles are screaming for a break. That is the point where you’re really starting to sculpt your body – to make a real difference in the strength of your muscles. So often, our instructors tell us to mentally “power through the pain.” I did a lot of that today, more than I have had to do in a while.

But the thing is, when you do keep going despite screaming muscles, you discover that you CAN keep going despite screaming muscles. Your legs won’t actually fall off, just keep moving. Willpower can overcome the weariness.

But it is different if you are dealing with spiritual weariness. Willpower alone cannot overcome spiritual fatigue. This is why I look for ways to connect to God, daily. Whether it is a quiet moment of prayer, some time spent reading the Bible, conversations with those who share my faith, or a time of corporate worship. I need those moments to refresh my spirit, to renew my faith.

Paul wrote this to the church in Corinth:

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NLT

When I try to keep going once I am spiritually weary, I fail. Because the source of strength is outside of myself. The source of my strength is the Living God of the Universe – one who is outside of time, one who is all-present, all-knowing and all-powerful. To try to keep going on my own strength, means going somewhere other than the SOURCE.

In my gym example, if I tried to keep going based on the way my muscles feel in that making-a-difference zone, I would fail. The source of my strength in that moment is my mind, my willpower.

It is so important that we connect with the source of our strength. That we remember when we are weak, God is strong. That we rely on His strength and allow it to flow through us. Then we will not grow weak, and we will not stumble.

Encouraging…

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Sometimes when you are a church leader, you have a conversation with a congregant that makes what you do worth it. Sometimes that person lets you know the difference you’ve made to them, and it is great when that happens.

But what I find even more exciting and interesting and strengthening is when someone lets you know how they are living their faith. When, in the course of a normal conversation, the person mentions how God was faithful in the situation they are facing, or how a passage of scripture impacted their week, or how their prayers were answered.

When that happens, it truly is a holy moment. And as a leader, it is what keeps us going on the days when it feels like no one is really getting what we are trying to teach.

Jesus said:

“You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.
Matthew 5:13-16 NLT

That is what it is like when a congregant shares their faith journey with us, their leaders. It is like the salt that brings the flavour out in food, or like a light shining in the darkness.

These are good things to talk about, they are good thins to hear. So I encourage you to talk about your faith, to be salt and light, to honour Jesus as you do that and to be encouraging to those with whom you share these conversations.

Rest…

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Today I am tired. I had a terrible time getting to sleep last night. My brain just wouldn’t shut off and allow me the rest I needed. It was after just 3.5hrs of sleep that I got up to face the new day.

As a result, all day I have been moving a little slower and looking forward to bed a little more than normal. So this will not be a long blog entry, as I don’t want to delay my rest any longer.

Jesus said this about rest:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,   for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Matthew 11: 28, 29 NIV

Today I feel physically tired, but Jesus was talking about being spiritually tired: sad or worried or stressed to the point where you just don’t feel like you can keep going. I find it so reassuring that Jesus addresses this. That he says that his way of living is the treatment for that kind of soul-weary-ness.

My physical tiredness will be easily solved by a good night’s sleep, but the bigger problem of spiritual weariness is in the hands of my maker. And He knows just what to do with it.

If you are soul-weary, I hope you will find yourself turning to Jesus, learning from him and trusting Him to give you the rest you need.

PS – The picture at the top is my girl, Koski. And like all dogs she knows how to rest better than any human being!

Thankful…

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Tonite I find I just want I express gratitude. I know I touched on that last night as well, but there are several things I am deeply thankful for today.

One is some time spent with my parents (and the reminder once again that I am so very blessed to be their child and so very blessed to have the close relationship with both of them that I have). Another is some good news that a friend is cancer free after a battle that has lasted the better part of a year. These are pretty big blessings, and it is good to stop and give thanks for them.

But the big things have a way of reminding me about the small things. So I am also thankful for good conversations, nourishing food, Cadbury’s Creme Eggs and a hot shower first thing in the morning.

On days like this it is easy to be thankful. But I love what Paul writes to the church in Thessolonica:

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 NLT

I am convinced that the difference between those who make it through hard times and this who seem to thrive and grow in hard times is the ability to give thanks in all things. Seriously.

Try it next time you are having a bad day. Stop and find something to be thankful for. Turn to God with that thankfulness. And then just watch how your heart grows and your day improves. It is really hard to be cranky or upset when you are giving thanks. I promise. And that is probably why Paul encourages the church to give thanks – he know it is good for us!

So on this day in my Lenten journey I am thankful. And I can’t stop smiling.

Quiet…

be quiet

I found this on pinterest today, and it struck me. How much hurt would be saved if we all employed this rule? But then I got thinking even further about quietness. I believe that quiet is good for the soul.

We live in a busy, noisy, crazy world. When we go just about anywhere there is a soundtrack playing – at the mall, at the gym, the TV that is on at the doctor’s office or the radio that plays in the car. I sometimes think that we are afraid of silence, we have a fear of quiet.

I think we are afraid of it, because in the silence, in the quiet, our thoughts are revealed. There is no sound to distract ourselves with, and one either finds peace or runs into insanity.

Right now, as I sit writing in my livingroom, the only sound is the whoosh of air through the ducts as my furnace works to keep the house warm and the rhythmic swish of breath from the two dogs and a cat who are napping on their beds nearby. I am very pleased to say that it is not insanity that I am finding in this still, quiet moment. Instead, it is peace, I find here. And thankfulness for all the gifts God has given me.

If your days are busy and noisy and full of distraction, I encourage you to find some time to spend in silence. Whether it is a walk in the afternoon, turning off the radio as you drive, or finding half an hour to turn off all the noise-makers and simply sitting in quiet. As we draw ever closer to Easter, spend some time in the quiet. Hear what your soul says, listen to what the Holy Spirit might whisper to you, or just breathe and put your trust in God.

For God alone my soul waits in silence;
from him comes my salvation.
Psalm 62:1 NRSV

Prompted…

Sometimes God comes to us in big, bold ways. But I suspect more often, God comes to us in quiet ways, ways that might be overlooked if we are not careful. Often, I think God uses a simple conversation with a friend to speak His will to us.

This morning before worship I was chatting with James, a member of the congregation where I serve. He was telling me how he was participating in Lent this year. He said instead of giving anything up, he’d heard about a challenge to do 40 acts of kindness in the days leading up to the celebration of Easter. And then he asked me if I was doing anything to observe Lent.

The truth is, I wasn’t. Not at that point. But as we talked, I thought…what about a blog project? My friend Becky does one on her blog, meant to encourage people to make God a priority during this season. I am not thinking of doing anything quite so grand as Becky’s project…but I think it is high time I got back to blogging regularly, and I think Lent could be a good catalyst for it.

So starting today, and lasting at least until Easter, I will be publishing a blog entry six days of week (I still need my sabbath!). I encourage you to try Becky’s Lent project, read along on my blog as I journey through Lent, or find some other way of preparing for the celebration of Easter.

It is good to make God a priority. After all, God made us enough of a priority that Jesus came to be with us, came to teach us, and ultimately came to die that we might be made right with God.

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.
1 Peter 1:3-5 NLT