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Monthly Archives: February 2011

Creation Calls

Our Pastor is taking us through the beginning of Genesis, the account of the six days when God created. To accompany the series, the worship band has introduced some new songs. The lyrics of these songs are so powerful, so wonderful. Here is a sampling:

How could I say there is no God
When all around creation calls?
A singing bird, a mighty tree;
The vast expanse of open sea.

I love to stand at ocean’s shore
And feel the thundering breakers roar;
To walk through golden fields of grain
‘Neath endless blue horizon’s frame.
I believe.
(“Creation Calls” by Brian Doerksen)

It’s falling from the clouds, a strange and lovely sound;
I hear it in the thunder and the rain.
It’s ringing in the skies, like cannons in the night,
As the music of the universe plays; it’s singing

You are Holy, great and mighty;
The moon and the stars, declare who You are.
I’m so unworthy, but still You love me.
Forever my heart, will sing of how great You are.
(“Cannons” by Phil Wickham)

Our Pastor made a great point this morning: God created everything for us. God said it was good. He wants us to discover and enjoy what He made so we can discover and enjoy Him. He wants us to know Him.

“Ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.” 

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Posted by on February 27, 2011 in Creation

 

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Not-So-Random Acts of Kindness

 The act of random kindness has gotten much press. There is even a “Random Acts of Kindness” foundation and Web site. But as I was thinking about this, I wondered if kindness should be so random. Wouldn’t it be better if kindness were purposeful and prevalent?

Long ago in a letter he wrote to a church in Rome, Paul said,If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.”

This kind of behavior isn’t random. It’s focused and determined. Like helping the woman in the grocery store checkout line who is trying to unload her cart with one arm in a sling; Or sitting and waiting with the elderly woman whose bus is running late. What about paying the bridge toll for the family behind you? Or taking the trash out for your husband even though it’s his job?

I’ve done these things and more and it’s not just satisfying, it is fulfilling. Something about getting outside yourself and helping others feels good and right. Maybe it’s because it makes us just a little more like Jesus, Who not only helped others, He gave His all. He sacrificed His very life.

Certainly the least we can do is be a little less selfish, a little more observant, and purposefully randomly kind.

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2011 in Purpose, Relationships

 

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A Well-Marked Trail

I love to hike and I love seeing cairns every so often, signaling that we are on the right path. Others, who have gone before, build these distinctive piles of rocks to keep hikers from going off course, taking the wrong fork, or missing an obscure turn. These cairns are especially helpful on narrow trails in the mountains or above tree line where sometimes the path is hard to see. Yet these small and winding trails, often up steep inclines and crossing rushing water, offer the best rewards. Compare a hike in the mountains with a walk around a school track. No comparison, though the latter might be easier.

Matthew records Jesus saying, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.”  The Message paraphrase says it well: “Don’t look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires total attention.”

Hundreds of years earlier, the Psalmist writes a prayer to God: “Make me walk along the path of your commands, for that is where my happiness is found.” Again, The Message provides a fresh view:

   “God, teach me lessons for living
      so I can stay the course.
   Give me insight so I can do what you tell me—
      my whole life one long, obedient response.
   Guide me down the road of your commandments;
      I love traveling this freeway!
   Give me a bent for your words of wisdom,
      and not for piling up loot.
   Divert my eyes from toys and trinkets,
      invigorate me on the pilgrim way.
   Affirm your promises to me—
      promises made to all who fear you.
   Deflect the harsh words of my critics—
      but what you say is always so good.
   See how hungry I am for your counsel;
      preserve my life through your righteous ways!”

My prayer is that we aren’t diverted from the path that leads to God or turn aside, distracted by “stuff” that isn’t important and doesn’t matter. May we be ever-vigilant to keep our eyes on the goal, always on the lookout for the cairns that keep us on the trail, and keenly aware of the need to make course corrections when we veer off the path.

Praise God for a Well-marked Trail

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2011 in Assurance, The Journey

 

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Test Them

“Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world.”  John, Jesus’s best friend in that day, said this 2000 years ago and it’s still true today.

Around this same time, Mark, a contemporary of John, records Jesus as saying, “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock.”

A couple of years ago Jay and I were hiking around Mt. Baker up in the Cascade mountains on the Canadian/Washington border. On a hike up to a glacier we crossed something like 12 streams at the foot of waterfalls. Some were quite wide, requiring a good deal of rock hopping. One was particular harrowing. Though I have long legs and carry hiking poles, the hop seemed nearly impossible and, the rock I was to land on, untested. I was, understandably, very anxious.

Jay, who has longer legs (and better poles 😉 went first. The rock held firm under his weight. Though the water raged around each large rock and was a few feet deep, I could trust that if I leapt and landed I, too, would be safe.

And so I was. (Also, I prayed the whole time. 🙂

A word to the wise: Test the rock in the middle of the stream before you ask it to hold your weight. 

 Also: PRAY.

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2011 in Assurance, Belief

 

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My Wicked Heart

This is one of my favorite “refresh” passages:

“Blessed are those who trust in the Lord
      and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.
 They are like trees planted along a riverbank,
      with roots that reach deep into the water.
 Such trees are not bothered by the heat
      or worried by long months of drought.
 Their leaves stay green,
      and they never stop producing fruit.”

Did you know that is immediately followed by this?

“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things,
      and desperately wicked.
      Who really knows how bad it is?
 But I, the Lord, search all hearts
      and examine secret motives.
   I give all people their due rewards,
      according to what their actions deserve.”

I posted the following comments a few years ago on Collect Yourself. I think it’s still true:

The more I study Christ, grow in my understanding of what it means to follow Him, look closely at those whose lives I would like to emulate, the more I become aware of my wicked heart.

Not that my heart is growing more wicked, I think it’s always been just about this degree of wicked. I think it is just that I am seeing into its depths more clearly, or perhaps more deeply. I am not really liking what I see. At all.

I know growing a relationship with Jesus is a process. And processes take time. And there are layers. Like onions. And sometimes smelly like onions, too. So just when I think I’ve gotten victory over one thing, here comes another. Or sometimes a deeper evaluation of the same thing. Groan.

I used to think this was God’s fault. And of course it is, but I mean I used to think He was doing this to show me how wicked I am, how unworthy, how depraved a heart I have. And of course “a good Christian girl” feels guilt. All the time. Right? So there I was going from glory-to-glory but feeling actually like going from guilt-to-deeper-guilt. Purification didn’t seem so pure. It seemed ugly. And I was a constant failure.

But now I think that it is simply God gently peeling away the rotten outer layers. Maybe carving off a bruised spot on the apple, chipping away the rust on the pot. So maybe it’s not painless, and maybe it’s not always fun, but I am starting to believe that it is what it is and I don’t need to feel any way about it at all, other than to know this is part of the process and, while on this earth, I can simply submit to the process, and let it be. I can extend grace to myself and not a guilt trip. I can trust in God’s love for me – that He does this to make me a better human being, more fit for His kingdom, more suited to carry out whatever it is He has for me to do here. I can turn off the voice, which is not His, that says I am a total screw-up.

I read this the other day, and I believe it’s true: “I will love God because He first loved me. I will obey God because I love God. But if I cannot accept God’s love, I cannot love Him in return, and I cannot obey Him. Self-discipline will never make us feel righteous or clean; accepting God’s love will. The ability to accept God’s unconditional grace and ferocious love is all the fuel we need to obey Him in return. Accepting God’s kindness and free love is something the devil does not want us to do. If we hear, in our inner ear, a voice saying we are failures, we are losers, we will never amount to anything, this is the voice of Satan trying to convince the bridge that the groom does not love her. This is not the voice of God. God woos us with kindness, He changes our character with His love.” 1

Accepting God’s love and loving Him in return is the cure for the curse of the ever-present wicked heart.

And who wouldn’t a life lived like one of those lovely trees mentioned above?

1 From Blue Like Jazz, by Donald Miller
 
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Posted by on February 22, 2011 in The Heart

 

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Keep No Record

This video is going around FaceBook. It is just over 4 minutes but carries a powerful message. Would you take a moment to watch it? It’s a great reminder to anyone who interacts with other human beings in the course of their day.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LfeXxkbgCVE

Doesn’t this change your perspective? When the guy cuts in front of you on the freeway, then slows down; When the woman in the checkout line behind you is muttering under her breath; When the suit on the commuter train is yelling into his cell phone; When the teller treats you like an inconvenience; When the coworker takes credit for your work; And when your spouse or kids come home a little grumpy.  

Through what lenses do you see them?

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2011 in Relationships

 

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Cultivating Contentment

My girlfriends and I just started a new Saturday morning study. It’s called, “Cultivating Contentment.” Now doesn’t that just sound incredibly inviting? When I first heard of this book, my blood pressure dropped. (That’s a good thing!)  Who couldn’t use a little more contentment in their day? In their life?

This group of women meets every other Saturday in my home. We call it “LINKgroup,” a name our local church gives to smaller groups of people who have varying interests and commonalities (moms, singles, women, men, couples, young adults and on and on) who get together and encourage one another, because we are “better together.” The significance of “link” is the carabiner used (along with other devices) to attach one climber to another in a challenging ascent. I love that.

I belong to three LINKgroups. Some climbs are steeper than others but all are good for the heart and soul. (If we had a LINKgroup that actually hiked while we studied, it would be good for the lungs and legs as well! Hmmmm… a new idea…)

The climb for this study, Cultivating Contentment, promises to be slow and steady, like a beautiful trail gently ascending through the woods, criss-crossing clear streams, and summiting at a lovely spot overlooking all that would attempt to pull us down into negativity and discontent. A pretty picture; a nice analogy. But one I believe will be spot on.

I promise to report our progress. But in the meantime, here is a little treat to treasure:

“Because we live in a fallen world, we will experience negatives in our lives. Heartache and disappointment will come our way. We experience ‘stuff’  we don’t deserve, don’t want, and can’t send back. It’s ours. But thanks be to God, nothing happens in this world that He doesn’t know about and that He can’t handle.”   ~ Thelma Wells

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2011 in Contentment

 

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