Monthly Archives: July 2007

And I thought that blogging wasn’t addictive…

Once upon a time there was this amazing forum that I belonged to. It was the bestest homeschool forum in the whole world. It was my community, it was a place that affirmed me, and a place where I found the most precious friends. It was also a place where I learned that I really like to put my thoughts in writing and my friends put up with my blabbing mouth and often unsolicited advice with a whole lot of grace.

When the wonderful lady who owned the forum announced that it was time for her to close it down so that she could focus her attention on things that bear much more weight in life, we were sad but we understood all too well. I for one, knew that it was the end of a season, and a new season was dawning in my life. I too, wanted to spend more time focussing on my family and my God. I wanted to relish the time I have with my kids, learn to play video games, and beat them at Monopoly, Dominoes, Scrabble, Yatzee. ūüėČ I wanted to learn to be a good organiser of my home (yup, ambitious thought, but oh well) , get really comfortable playing the piano whilst singing at the same time (yes, multi-tasking is hard for us blondes), and get a really solid foundation in the Bible.

So I pulled away from the forums early, before it actually closed. The following weeks were interesting. I hadn’t realised how much time I had been spending on the computer connecting with friends but neglecting to connect with my own kiddos. It was a freeing thing.

Roll on a few months. I started blogging as a way to keep up with my forum friends, as well as to keep that outlet where I can express myself. There is no way blogging could be as addictive and time-consuming as forums right?

Wrong!

It is all too tempting to see what everyone else is up to, to find other like-minded bloggers, to research what people have to say about this or that or the other. There is a part of me that likes to be seen and affirmed and that part pushes me to keep writing, because if I don’t post for a while I might lose my readers. I have enjoyed seeing those blog stats creep up, and for weeks now they have been on a pretty decent level in my opinion. But what if I stop writing and…gasp!…people stop reading?

This brings home to me very succinctly that I am still way too preoccupied with me, myself and I, and that I am so needy of God’s grace to change my heart. For if there is one thing I know, it is that it is not about me…I am¬†aware that there is a world out there desperate for people who will show them the truth and grace of Jesus through his word. But I cannot hope to minister to those ‘out there’ if I cannot keep my own household straight.

In the end it all boils down to priorities. And this is my personal ‘wretched person that I am!’ moment, echoing the apostle Paul (Romans 7)…that despite my efforts to the contrary, I am bound to always find some kind of distraction that keep me from doing the things that really matters. Who shall save me from this tendency to lose myself in the trivial and neglect the important? Thanks be to God, through Jesus…

I read the first few chapters of 2nd Corinthians today and was so moved by Paul’s heart and his ministry. I told Jesus, I want a heart towards his people like that, and I want to be able to show his glory the way Paul did. Thing is, the Spirit of God was big and glorious in Paul because of what Paul suffered, and because he was willing to die to himself. Suffering and glory are inextricably tied to one another. When I suffer in my flesh, then the life of Jesus is so much more abundantly at work in me. Reading those chapters this morning gave me a fresh perspective of what I really want and what is really important to me.

The person whom I really want to affirm me and be pleased with me is Jesus. Even if it means shutting my computer down for a month. It would just about kill me, but that would be OK.

24 July 2007

Wow, just a few more days and it will be Jenna’s birthday. She is getting so big and grown up. She’s a little sweetie pie and so much fun! I haven’t really gone shopping for her bithday yet…

This has been an interesting week. On Saturday my cousin called me from Boston and we chatted for a long time. We discovered that we were both on Facebook so she emailed me with her details.¬†I started digging around in Facebook to see if any of my old high school friends were listed on there and found the daughter of my best friend from high school on there! It was uncanny…she looks just like my friend, only her hair is darker. I emailed her and she passed my email on to her mom. I hope she’ll write to me soon. ¬†

My other best friend from South Africa emailed me yesterday.¬†A very rare occurrence! It was just too precious to catch up with her a bit. Her email brought back lots of memories of good times. She might be reading this, so if she does, Hello Heather!!! Miracles never cease! ūüėÄ You know I love you to pieces, don’t you?

Of almonds and figs

  

A lady on a blog I read recently was ruminating about the passage in Matt 21:18 where Jesus saw a fig tree from some way off, and being hungry, approached it. He found no fruit on it however, only leaves, and he cursed the tree so that it was withered by the next morning.

A young friend of mine was stumped by the meaning of this passage a few years ago. How does it compare to the passage where Jesus asks for another year to tend to an unfruitful tree in the hopes of coaxing it into fruitfulness? Is it not a contradiction? She had just returned to Jesus after a ‘prodigal’ experience and was confused about it. About the same time that she asked me about this passage, I was doing a study on almonds in the bible and I thought of an interesting comparison between fig trees and almond trees.

What I learned about the almond tree: The Hebrew word for ‘almond tree’ means hasty, or the earliest in bloom, and comes from a root word that means: to be alert, sleepless, be on the lookout, hasten, wait, watch for. The almond tree is the first tree to blossom after the winter. It bares its blossoms on bare branches in mid to late winter, before the tree has even sprouted new leaves.

I found a very interesting tidbit about the almond tree in one of Barbara Richmond’s manuals a few years ago. She said that the jewish people traditionally believe that the tree of life in the garden of Eden was an almond tree. Now, I don’t know if it is true or not, but it still gave me some food for thought. If we were God, we might have chosen the most showy, splendid looking tree, like that fig tree that Jesus saw. It looked so promising from a distance, in full leaf. Yet because it had no fruit, it was cursed.

The almond tree in contrast to the fig tree appears to be in a dry, barren and unfruitful condition before it comes into bloom. It stands unadorned with leaves, yet it blossoms with the promise of fruit in the worst of seasons!

The bible mentions in Genesis that Adam and Eve covered themselves with fig leaves. So to me¬†the¬†story of the fig tree being in full leaf has¬†something to do with putting on a mask of being something you aren’t. It speaks of relying on the arm of the flesh to cover your sin and lack of fruit instead of¬†letting Jesus cover us by his grace.¬†Our tendency is to¬†adorn ourselves with fig leaves to hide our barrenness and weaknesses but God wants us to come to him like the almond tree,¬†stripped of everything. In spirit and truth. Only then can his life cause us to bud and sprout.

I love the principle that it is not always what we see that counts, so many situations in our lives seem hopeless, beyond repair, dead, and barren¬†yet if they have been given to Him in due time (often in mid-winter when it seems it can’t get any worse) God arises in his glory and we see that he has been at work all along.

Isn’t it interesting that Aaron’s rod lay in the presence of God, just a dry old stick, yet God caused it to sprout and blossom…with almonds?

I think that’s how Jesus wants us to come to him. Not trying to hide our barrenness and fruitlessness yet ready and alert like the almond tree, waiting for him to cause us to bud and sprout.

Pro 8:34 Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors. For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the LORD.

(The word ‘watching’ in this verse is the hebrew word ‘shaqad’ which is the¬†word from which the word almond, ‘shaqed,’ is derived. . ūüôā )

Malachi 4:6

This is a draft I wrote some time ago but never published: 

Mal 4: 5+6  Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

Lately I have been in contact with some people who have been deeply wounded by the church. The hurt primarily came from church leadership and in their brokenness and search for healing, my friends are questioning the whole thing we call church. They are disillusioned with the idea of sitting and listening to sermons preached by less-than-perfect pastors, they wonder if church couldn’t be less formal and more about relationships, and they have a distaste for anything that seems prescriptive and legalistic.

I often wonder how these friends of mine would respond when they read what I am about to say.¬†The only frame of reference they have to go by is their previous experience with churches that¬†perhaps in some respects have a ‘form of godliness but denies the power thereof’, and they might interpret what I say out of their experiences.¬†I am talking from my own experience here though,¬†and¬†I hope that somehow my friends will not summarily dismiss what I am saying but instead consider if there might be any truth in it.

The verse in Malachi has a companion verse in Luke 1:17 where the angel tells Zacharias that John the baptist was going to come in the spirit of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

Both verses mention the prophet Elijah, so I looked up the phrase ‘the spirit of Elijah’ in my trusty e-sword. The phrase is used twice in the Old Testament: once when Elisha asks Elijah for a double portion of his spirit (ie: his anointing and his ministry), and ¬†the second time when the other prophets¬†see Elisha after Elijah is taken to heaven and say that¬†the spirit of Elijah doth rest on Elisha.

If you read the whole chapter 2 of 2 Kings, you’ll see that just before Elijah was taken to heaven in a chariot of fire he travelled from Gilgal, to Bethel, to Jericho, and to Jordan. At each location he encouraged Elisha to¬†stay behind, for he had to move on to the next place. Yet Elisha refused, saying: ‘As long as you’re around, I will not leave you’ (Sumi paraphrase)…

Our pastor has taught on the meaning of the names in this passage before. Each is very significant. You can look up the names for yourself, but basically Elisha followed Elijah from a place of initial consecration to God (Gilgal), to a place of fellowship (Bethel), to a place of deep worship (Jericho), and finally to a place where he was required to ‘go down’, and die to himself (Jordan). At each place he was offered the opportunity to remain, but it was only after he followed Elijah all the way beyond the Jordan that he was given the opportunity to ask for the double portion.

There were other prophets that stayed behind at each place, yet they never received the double portion. Elisha got a double portion ministry because of his loyalty to Elijah, and his willingness to stick it out and go all the way, even to the point of choosing the low road (Jordan) instead of remaining in a fragrant, worshipful place (Jericho). The past few decades God has been restoring the church to a new place of worship, and worship has regained the important place it had lost in the church, yet we are not to remain in that place and make worship the end-all and be-all. We need to be like Elisha and press into everything God has for us, and for us, the road to go up higher in the things of God often takes us down. 

Elisha got a double portion because his heart was turned towards the heart of his ‘father’ in the Lord. He desired to go everywhere Elijah went and receive everything that Elijah had to give to him. Malachi 4:6 says that he will turn the hearts of the fathers and children towards each other, lest he come and strike the earth with a curse. What curse could he be talking about? I think he might just be talking about the curse of having a single portion ministry. Having a single portion means you only have enough for yourself. There is nothing left to share.

There are many christians, leaders even, who only have a single portion. They are an end to themselves and think they are self-sufficient, hence they are not sufficient in God. They are like the priest and levite who walked past the wounded man by the side of the road while the samaritan (who had the double portion) came and bound up his wounds, poured in the oil and the wine, took him to an inn, and paid for his care.

So where does this double portion come from? I believe that this is something God is going to restore in the church in these last days: He is going to raise up men and women who have a true Father’s heart (in the spirit there is no gender) and they¬†are going to minister to people who have the same kind of humble, hungry-for-truth-and-more-of-God spirit that Elisha had towards Elijah, Joshua had towards Moses, and Timothy had towards Paul.

This is when we will see ‘a people prepared’ for the¬†coming of the Lord (see Luke 1:17), a people who will inherit the double portion that Elisha got from Elijah. It is this group of people who will go on to do the greater works that Jesus promised the church it will do, which really sounds sooooooo incredibly far-fetched when you look at the church of today. But Jesus promised it, so it is going to happen sometime!

The masterpiece

So that was it. We were moving to the United States, and all we could take with us were our suitcases. Two per person. Thirty-something years of our lives condensed into 10 suitcases. I became a master packer, and my mother in law’s eyes spoke volumes as I unpacked at this side of the ocean. Not a single space was¬†wasted. Even the big spaces underneath the duplo blocks got stuffed with lego. ūüėÄ

But still, many things had to stay behind, to be picked up later…or never. My wedding dress. Favorite toys. Knick-knacks. My ceramics.

There was one piece I couldn’t bear to part with, however, and with the utmost of care it became the focal point in the¬†artful arrangement of¬†my suitcase’s contents. Everything was packed just so…with the goal of keeping my favorite ceramic bowl¬†safe and sound. I prayed fervently that the customs people wouldn’t get the notion in their heads to go and mess with¬†the perfection¬†that was my suitcase. ūüôā¬†

When we got here my bowl was honored with the best spot in the house, where I would often pass it and look on it with joy.

A year or two rolled by. I was still struggling to find my feet in a foreign land away from my friends and family. I had  come to know loneliness, but in it, I had found a Friend who was always with me. I deeply appreciated the people that He had brought into my life to make it easier. Among them, was a young girl who freely offered her babysitting services even though she knew I could hardly afford to pay her.

My heart was¬†sweet and tender before Jesus in those days, and when I felt him nudging me to give this young lady my bowl as a token of my appreciation, it wasn’t¬†too hard¬†to do. As time rolled by, however,¬†I began to second-guess my decision to do so. Did she really know what a sacrifice it had been to give her my precious bowl?¬†Will she treasure it like I would?

I felt worse about it when I unexpectedly dropped by at her house one day and saw my bowl in her room, cluttered with papers and what-nots. It was not a clutter-holder, it was a piece of art, my masterpiece, and it was meant to be displayed!

I must admit I had days when I¬†regretted giving my bowl away¬†after that. I wasn’t sure that I had done the right thing.

¬†The young lady eventually married and moved away, and I haven’t seen much of her since. A few years ago,¬†I ran into her at a wedding. As she hugged me, the first thing she whispered in my ear was: “I still have your bowl.” Her words¬†ministered to my heart and gave me peace. And through them, I thought I heard the Lord whispering something to my heart.

Our Father gave¬†me his masterpiece too. Do¬†I realise how much it cost him to give¬†his own son for me? Do¬†I really treasure and value this precious gift…Jesus? Do¬†I display¬†him to the world, or do¬†I tend to¬†clutter¬†him up with¬†my junk?

I’m honored!

I just wanted to thank Birdy for¬†nominating me for a ‘Thinking Bloggers’ Award”. Thank you for blessing me with this! I am responding a bit late to your nomination…to tell the truth I was too flabbergasted to respond to it! It is greatly appreciated and a real honor.¬†ūüôā

I am supposed to nominate a few bloggers of my own whose posts make me think:

Tressa, you always make me wish I had your way with words… Really!

Quiltinmommy,¬† oops, you changed your name…anyhow you know who you are… I love reading about your journey. It makes me see the grace of God in your life and mine.

Dana,¬†thanks for letting me see another side of you in your writings… and for being such a good friend.

¬†Lisa¬†¬†doesn’t know me but I love her blog.

And finally,¬†the blog of another friend, who hasn’t managed to post much lately but always blesses me with the graceful way she handles life… Lisa (school2)¬†.

The thief and the shepherd

I have made a point of reading through the entire book of John recently. I tend to jump around in my bible reading and don’t often read chronologically. Anyhow, it was interesting to see it in context, and reading it as though the chapters weren’t there…they were added later on and the original books weren’t broken up in that way.

I came to¬†the story of the man whose eyes were healed when Jesus put mud on them and the ensuing hullabaloo by the pharisees who were upset because¬†he had healed the man on the Sabbath day. ¬†They got so upset with the man’s testimony and defense of Jesus that they asked: “What, are you trying to teach us?”, and threw him out of the synagogue. Jesus¬†went after the outcast man¬†(don’t you just love that about him?), and revealed himself to him as the Son of God.¬†This led to a discussion between Jesus and the¬†pharisees where he told them that they pride themselves so much in being able to ‘see’ yet they are really blind. They cling to their know-it-all traditions, rejecting Him in the process, and they remain stuck in their sins because of it.

He goes straight from saying that, to saying:

John 10:1 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.

Jesus goes on to say that He is the door.

The preceding chapter puts this verse in a whole new context for me. Jesus was talking to the pharisees when he said this!  So, what is he saying?

I understand it to be that Jesus is telling them that they aren’t true shepherds, they rob the people of God because they are climbing up to get into the sheepfold some other way. Note the words ‘climbing up’…they bring to my mind another expression we have in the English language…’climbing up the corporate ladder’. It makes me think of people whose motivation is to be seen and honored,¬†to gain¬†fancy titles, wordly riches¬†and the praise of men.

Jesus says that he is the door… this means that anyone who wants to be a minister to God’s people can only enter into the sheepfold the right way…the way of Jesus. You can’t try to attain to it through your great understanding of the scriptures (like the pharisees did), or your own effort and good works. If you do, it will be a man-made, ineffectual ministry that really only ‘steals, kills, and destroys’ the people you are supposedly ‘ministering’ to. (How many times have we read the verse about the thief coming to steal, kill and destroy, and assumed that Jesus was talking about the devil? But he was talking about the pharisees!) It robs and destroys people because only Jesus can give the life and liberty that is needed in the church…man’s effort, however noble, just cannot do it.

What is the way of Jesus? How do you enter through this door? I think it is this:

Luk 9:23 And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.

The way of Jesus is to die to yourself. I really think that only people who are really dead to themselves can truly minister to God’s people. Their ministry is untainted by self-interest, self-absorption …self of any kind!¬†And therefore the Spirit of God is free to move unhindered by human, fleshly endeavours.

A little bit further on in the passage Jesus talks about the ‘hireling’ who abandons the sheep when the going gets tough, because of his motivation for being there.¬†A hireling is in the fold because of what he can get out of it for himself…it could be the accolades of men, or the honor bestowed on him, or¬†something as small as a selfish need to be ‘needed’ so that he can feel¬†he¬†is somebody of worth in this world.

Sadly, I think many people in the ministry today, are motivated by those things deep, deep down in their hearts. They are simply not secure enough in who they are in Jesus not to be.

Jesus, however, is a true picture of what a true shepherd looks like: He is there because he loves the sheep. He loves them so much that he will lay down his life for them!

In this day and age, people are so disillusioned with church and leaders in the church in particular. They have seen far too many ‘hirelings’ posing as true shepherds and have come to expect it as the status quo. They have seen hirelings ‘steal, kill, and destroy’ God’s people and they are ready to throw out the notion of leadership in the church and opt for a leaderless model of church instead.

This is my experience: I have a true shepherd. My pastor is a precious, humble man of God who¬†does lay down his life for his sheep. (He’s very human too but that is for another post!) I believe that my pastor has something of great value to impart to me, his awesome knowledge of the scriptures, his years of experience in the ministry, the great reservoir of spiritual gifts that flows from him. I would be a fool to walk away from that and to say that there is no more need for leaders in the church. I would lose out big time! There is so much to be gleaned from men and women of God who have walked the path ahead of us.

It is sad that so many of my friends haven’t had an example like that in their church experience. It makes me want to follow in my pastor’s footsteps and become like him! I want to have the kind of relationship with Jesus that leaves me passionately in love with him and broken, humble, and dead to my own agenda. So that when hubby and I are in the ministry, people will see Jesus and not us.