29 Oct 2014

today, my children's names remind me of greater things

There is this conversation Jesus had with a woman of questionable repute. As the man, Jesus starts the conversation off (because if he didn't, it would not happen because women back then were basically second class or even property).

If I may, this is sorta how it went:

J (very tired): Will you give me a drink?
W: What? Are you crazy? You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan*. We don't get along remember? How can you break the rules?  
J: If you can see past all that, you will know I can give you a drink that truly settles your life's thirst.
W (eyes J carefully): hey, how you plan to get water, you didn't bring a bucket. This well was dug centuries ago by Jacob. Our ancestors drank from it. Are you greater than them? 
J: this water relieves thirst but doesn't satisfy and overflow from your life.
W: sounds good, Give me some, coming here is really a lot of work. 
J: Go call your husband.
W: I have no husband! 
J (smiles gently): you are accurate here. You have had five husbands. The man you are with now is not a husband.
W: You can tell... some sort of prophet huh? Then answer me, who is right? Where is the right place to worship God? Did the Jews or the Samaritans get it right? 
J: The place is no longer the issue. Listen, salvation will come through the Jews as God planned; but it's for everyone. God the Father is Spirit so those who worship him must do so in spirit and in truth.

Fifteen years ago, we talked about having children. The hubs was not keen; but I was pretty set on the wonders of having children and very excited about being a mother. We agreed that he would take some time to pray about it. He came back with a rather nervous demeanour but conceded that children are accorded worth, purpose and glory in the Bible. Our baby girl was conceived the following month.

The point that Jesus made in that conversation captivated me. Many of us by then are pretty jaded about where the world is headed; and not a few friends have sworn off having children. But there is this: there is a group who seeks and responds to God - and they do so not depending on tradition but by being animated by spirit and truth.

I am a huge fan of tradition in many ways; and call people to return to a historic, tested faith. But there is also this: every generation will have challenges that must be confronted and it requires a move of the Spirit that emboldens and an anchorage in the Truth so they won't get swept off their feet.

My firstborn bears the middle name Spirit-of-God ~רוח אלוהים
Six years later, the son enters the world with theTruth enfolded in the middle of his name ~אמת
People name their children for many reasons:
popularity of the name
in honour of family members
expressing aspirations
a sense of the child's destiny

These middle names I felt inspired to include were more like a proclamation. I wanted to shout out: Spirit and Truth!

Interestingly, many days, these two Hebrew words shout back at me, holding me up against the Light~

are you guided by the Holy Spirit or relying on your own past experiences and success?
are you seriously seeking the truth or will you get lazy nd gloss over stuff?

I never get past these questions. Even now. I need to prepare talks and sermons. I mentor. I need to make decisions and respond to the decisions others make. Will it be in Spirit and Truth?

The thing about growing older is you lose confidence in the right places.

When I was younger, I said, "Lord, lead me in Spirit and Truth!" because I didn't know very much anyway, so I needed to be led; and honestly I did not see much of what was coming!

Now, I cry out, "Lord, blanket, build, bolster, barricade me..." for I know much more; and it's mostly about how easy it is to stray into Self and falsehood. 

I guess the real stuff becomes all the more precious when you see how frequently the counterfeits are traded around, when you have hurt and been hurt because the Spirit and the Truth were absent.

Perhaps lift a prayer for me please: I am feeling a great need to remain in, dig deeper, be defined - by Spirit and Truth.

You too? Share with me in the comments so I can pray for you too.

*the story is found in the Bible in John chapter 4. A Samaritan is part-Jew so rejcted by the pedigree Jews.

23 Oct 2014

What shape are you..and if there's a mould, how about a Cross?

{this is a post I shared over at The Brave Girl Community - an online group of gals loving Jesus and learning to live freely in His fierce freedom!}

We don't just have stereotypes (and these can be useful); but we also have stereo-shapes! That's right: aren't we being told all the time what shape things ought to be, whether it is the economy, the family..and of course, our bodies {and the men are not spared these days}. But who determines these shapes?

I remember thinking about the wondrous ideals of communism and mashing it with Acts 2 'they had all things in common' only to be challenged by my Theology professor about the good that capitialism has done. I see his point; but I am not fully convinced. After all, the principle behind captialism is this to capitalise -- which gets really out of hand quickly!

Who decides when something is maxmised or capitalised? Whose benefit are we thinking about? Who defines the shape of things?

What about our individual lives? Do they too have shapes?
Some people remind me of :
Arrows - always directed at something. I respect their missional sense and drive; but wow..it's does get rather one-dimensional at times just to speak of bottom lines.
Circles - they keep going around the same issues.
Loose shapes -these are ill-defined it seems and appear to go with the flow...

The Cross is a shape. If we could pout our lives into a mould; how about the shape of the Cross?

Loving God
Loving Others

This is a shape we should explore more. The Cross is the shape formed from the meeting of two lines.
A life in Cross-shaped seeks to live upward or Godward. It is a life that reaches, stretches, grows... and it happens not as the line goes up; but also as it goes downwards; plunging the depths and abyss:
where we dig deep into the why and wherefore of things, where we examine our motives, sense the movements within our bosoms and ask probing questions so that we don't go through life like a phantom or facade.

Then there is the other reaching where we aspire, dream, hope, work towards...that moves outwards. These are the horizontal lines that can stretch out a welcome, and reach around to embrace!

The cross-shaped life is a very dynamic life that cannot be fueled by seeking to capitalise, or asking 'what's in it for me?' because it will take us to places where those sorts of questions don't make sense at all.

The Cross is a symbol of ~

Love and Life
Forgiveness and Freedom
Grace and Goodness
Power and Peace

It is a shape we must in humility lie down and soften into.

Suppose you're not such a great witness..but ..today . is . a ..gift!

This being a Christian thing can be unnerving

biting nails !

I remember my daughter struggling with it, and each time as we sorted through the debris of doubts and questions, this one piece will appear persistent, almost like it can crawl back after we toss it out: but I'm not good enough!

Somewhere deep within her (no thanks to our imperfect parenting) lurks the notion of 'measuring up'.

In my latest book Shed Those Leaves, I come right out and say it: Forget it! You and I - we won't measure up!

But how we hate to hear it. We want to measure up. We want to be good enough. What kind of wimp lets someone save them? That sounds so much like... failure!

But suppose we come to our senses and cry out for salvation. What do we do next? Go right on trying to measure up again! Habits, especially such ingrained ones, die hard! So commonly I hear -

I'm not a very good / strong Christian
I am sure that wasn't a very good testimony
There goes my Christian witness!

and it goes along with the expression of helplessness and a taint of defeat; sometimes complete with an audible sigh!

To their disappointment I don't hug them and say, "I am sure you are trying your best" - because sometimes, honestly, we don't! We don't care that much about God's reputation. But my quiet presence is not meant to be rebuke; it is meant to be company. I know. I am right there with you at notch four.

You see, I used to beat myself up.
Then I would get sick of feeling beat up.
Then I may beat myself up for not being firm enough on myself...you get the crazy routine.. until - one day, I realised I was having this conversation all by myself. I was deciding whether I was good enough, and whether I right about my estimation, my feelings about it and so on...

So I did a weird thing. I asked God.

Did I really mess up?
Was it that bad?
What could I have said / done differently?

God swooped right in on me then.

What is in your heart for this person / situation?

We are so bent on making an Impression when our witness is meant to be our Expression of Him!

Huge difference there.

Now I was feeling true, real, guilt that will make a difference. I saw the paucity of my love. I saw my priorities in clear light. I saw my attempts to feel good about being good.

It was a good, necessary seeing, the kind described as thus
For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret...
~ 2 Corinthians7v10
I grieve often for my lack of love, a love that prays on knees, serves with hands, runs with feet, weeps with a broken heart and sacrifices that others may live better or stronger. This is a grief that empowers me. It doesn't in the end lead me to wallow in my lack; but to run to the Supply.

What about you? What helps you take the next step?

And one more thing God still says to me; which this video captures so well {you need a few minutes to enjoy this} -

Each day is a day for adventure, for receiving, for giving as we are being led to higher places or lower places -- and our witness happens in smile, speech or service as we express that bit of the Great God who mercifully works and weaves Grace and Truth, Life and Light into our days.