Friday, 29 April 2016

Soda crackers

Favourite salty soda crackers - melt in the mouth, crisp, delicious. Roll out as thinly as possible.

3 cups flour (white and wholemeal)
1 teaspoon salt
1 flat teaspoon soda
3 tablespoons margarine
1 cup sour milk/yogurt.

Cut into squares or rectangles, prick with a fork, sprinkle with salt.
Bake 375 degrees for 10 - 12 minutes until dry.
Cool on a wire rack.

Makes about 3 - 4 trays.

Monday, 28 March 2016

Struggles

I've not been posting much at all recently... for all kinds of reasons. Just recording a reference to the doldrums here: If Jesus loves me,why do I feel so does my coffee taste so BLAH?

Why, indeed?

The answer to the doldrums is, though, praise and positivity and prayer and perseverance in studying the words of God....

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Loss and recovery

I have to record this, as a way of processing emotions at a very happy time. I'm getting to some kind of resolution now, I think. Though it is, indeed, a process.

Our daughter had just married.  My heart was filled with sadness.

Don’t get me wrong. We are DELIGHTED for her, in every way. Her wedding day was completely wonderful. She has married a wonderful Christian man who shares her dreams, passions and vision, as well as many of her interests. He is intentional – as she is – about life, living for God, serving Him in everything they do. They have both lived, separately, lives where they work for charities which serve the poor and now work in an underdeveloped country among people who need help in meeting  the basis needs of life. Not only that, but our son-in-law is from a wonderful family. His parents have served as missionaries in Africa and know some of our dearest friends who are still there, even though we all live on different continents now.

Different continents. Part of the reason for my sadness.

Five years ago, my daughter left the UK to continue her work for a charity which helps people who are in desperate need because of debt. In New Zealand. Once there, she fell in love with the country, decided to stay, applied successfully for residency. So that was that: she was committed to living on the other side of the world and would not be returning to settle.

We were glad for her. New Zealand is indeed a wonderful to live. We visited. We still kept in contact through skype and email, maintaining closeness.  As always, we prayed for her: for her health and well being, her work, her friendships, a future partner...and were delighted when she met ‘Someone Special’.  Even more pleased and thrilled when he proposed during our second visit. Excited for them both, when they suggested that the wedding should be held in New Zealand in an idyllic location on the family farm. Travelling to the other side of the world from our home in the UK seemed a small sacrifice to make for their happiness.

It made sense. Many of her friends – for it was four years now since she left the UK – were in New Zealand. Her husband comes from a large family of siblings, uncles, aunts and cousins. So, a Kiwi wedding: why not? A marquee on the edge of a beautiful harbour in New Zealand’s summer: what’s not to like? Again, we booked our flights. Wedding planning happened remotely over the next few months until we flew out again a couple of weeks before the big day.

The reunion was wonderful: we spent a few days together at a beach cottage, discussing wedding plans, drawing up to-do lists and itineraries, preparing wedding favours, going for a final fitting of The Dress.

And then it was all go for the final week before the wedding. Our son and daughter-in-law and other friends arrived and we journeyed north, staying in a house a few doors away from our son-in-law-to-be’s family. Days were spent preparing: wine-tasting before purchasing the table wine; hosting a bridal tea; making decorations and wedding cakes; setting up the marquee; a wedding rehearsal.

It was busy.

In the busyness, we found ourselves delighting in the company of our son and daughter-in-law and other friends who worked tirelessly to make our daughter’s day happen. We laughed, a lot: but less often with our daughter. She was flying around with her fiancé, checking out locations for the wedding photography or up at his family’s house with all his relatives. It seemed that she spent less and less time with us, as if she was already drawing away from her own family even before she officially joined his.

This was difficult for us, not only because we felt isolated and bereft but also because we were – and are – genuinely very happy for her. Conflicting emotions are never easy to deal with. We swallowed down the stress we felt, trying to maintain a happy atmosphere. We recognised that she was leaving and joining with her husband, but we still wanted her to be our daughter, with the close relationship we had always had. We knew this would not – could not – be possible in exactly the same way as before, but we continued to feel torn apart. 

We acknowledged, too, how hard it was for her as she tried to build new relationships, organising her wedding so that her family could enjoy the day without having to stress to ensure that all happened as it should. She worked incredibly hard to include everyone and make sure they had fun. And, in all the excitement of her wedding, she knew that she would be entering a stressful life period of change of friends, home, job, country.... 

But, of us, one of the hardest things to do was to let go of our daughter.

We did not feel this with our son: indeed, we have become closer since his marriage. We love his wife as if she was our own daughter; we love her parents, who have become such dear friends that they do indeed seem like family, just the same. But even then, we had recognised that the son leaves the parents and cleaves to the wife and that truth, somehow, had taken residence in our hearts.  We were able to let him go and, in doing so, began a new, more independent, relationship which has continued to develop. sEven though we have no expectation that they live near us, we know that visits are possible, even probable.

But my daughter is living on the other side of the world. We know that we will see her only rarely.

In our modern world, this separation becomes more and more likely. It may not be a continental divide, but even a two hour car journey may mean that parents see far less of their children than they would like to.

I have shared this pain with other friends. One woman’s daughter cut her off after the wedding: the relationship had been unusually close.  Now they are best friends again, but at the time it was as if the daughter had to create her own, married, identity away from her mother.  Another friend has not seen her daughter for over four years, as they now live on different continents thousands of miles apart. Yet another feels that her son has become more part of the other family than of his own: she feels a stranger when she visits.  A close friend confesses to feelings of intense jealousy towards her son-in-law’s parents, who live only minutes away from the couple.

We have had many years of being empty-nesters. We encouraged our children’s independence, not demanding weekly phone calls or regular visits once they had left home to go to uni, and then on into work. We wanted them to grow and develop to be the people God wants them to be, still with advice and guidance when appropriate, but no longer children in an emotional sense. We knew they needed to become individuals in their own right apart from us: indeed, we have tried to foster and encourage their independence since they were toddlers. But we now recognise that our daughter’s marriage, especially as her wedding took place somewhere which was not our own home, has finally and categorically sealed her departure from childhood into an independent life.

There were several things we knew we had to do.

1.       Hope. We knew, deep down, that we would not always feel as forlorn as we did just before and after the wedding. We clung on to the hope that, once our daughter had settled into her marriage, we would be able to regain a good measure of closeness. We knew that God would work our relationship out for good and His glory. We held on to hope.

2.       Pray. God knows the pain of separation more acutely than we do. He delights in our love for one another and our sacrifice in letting go. He is our Comforter, in every way. As we grappled with our feelings, we reflected on the pain our father must have felt as his son went to live on earth, coupled with the joy that awaited.  We held on to the truth of Hebrews 12:2, fixing our eyes on Jesus, who endured the cross because of the joy awaiting him. We began to accept sacrifice more than living with the sadness of loss.

3.       Continue in relationship. We would write and email our news and be available for skype or facetime chats. Just as God continually calls us to relationship with him, keeping us in his thoughts and demonstrating his love for us over and over again, so we too are called to love selflessly, regardless of how we might feel. Although my mind acknowledged that my daughter was on honeymoon immediately following the wedding, my heart just felt sore at her departure.  It seemed hard not to be in the same easy contact as we had always been, but, when the time seemed right, I emailed a chatty catch up.

4.       Let go of expectations. Of course we would love regular conversations, but these might not be possible in busy lives. We would learn to be alert for opportunities but not grieve if contact was less frequent than it had been.

5.       Refocus. As if we were youngsters leaving home for the first time, we had to build our lives without an undue focus on our children. Now would be the time to pursue new hobbies and interests, take up voluntary work, become more involved in the local community.

6.       Be positive and thankful. We thanked God for our daughter, for her husband, for his family. We thanked him that both our daughter and son-in-law are so committed to loving and serving him. We thanked God for life and promise and love in abundance. We thanked God.

As we did all this, our emotions started to catch up with head knowledge as we waited to reconnect.

Intellectually, we knew that we would, once our daughter had settled into her marriage, with the additional challenges and demands of living in a new country and embarking on a new career, regain some of that closeness again.  (Indeed, that happened far more quickly than we had imagined: almost as soon as they had returned from honeymoon and arrived in their new place.)

There were unforeseen benefits from this time of waiting:

1.       As we exercised our hope, we found it increased. We trusted more that God would bring our relationship back into order. We found it easier to wait.

2.       Prayer brought us closer to God. Our understanding of the tremendous sacrifice he made in sending Jesus deepened in a new way, as we reflected on the act of ‘giving away’ our daughter.

3.       Deciding to wait until the honeymoon was over – yes, I know how ridiculous that sounds but I felt quite desperate after waving my daughter off on her wedding night, with no communication since then – was an act of self-denial and discipline.  She had always kept in touch during her previous adventures, but this new Adventure into Marriage had to begin with her new husband alone. In fact, our daughter messaged us first and we were soon chatting again, catching up with her adventures and hearing about the joys of settling into married life on a tropical island. She began skyping as regularly as before.

4.       Letting go of our expectations helped ease us into our new relationship. Where, before her marriage, we had chatted to her on her own – particularly as her fiancé did not live in the same city, anyway – now we talked to both of them together. The period of no contact had given us a break and we were glad to be in communication again. Indeed, talking to both of them was a richer experience, in some ways. They were so happy, relaxed after the busyness of the wedding and enjoying the adventure of life as a couple.

5.       Refocusing our lives was a wake-up call. We had ‘let go’ of our children when they left home, finding a different way of living Life Without Kids, but had then become accustomed to a close relationship with our adult daughter.  We realised anew that we had entered a time of life – particularly as we faced retirement – when WE needed to become more independent.

6.       Being thankful healed our spirits as we reflected on God’s goodness.


Of course, we still look forward to the next time we will see the happy couple.   Now, beginning our own adventures and without living overmuch in future expectations, we are excited to see what God has for us.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Notes about Joseph...

Notes on the life of Joseph... 'homework' for The Love church's Supernatural School.

Genesis 37
He was poorly parented – being the favourite made him precocious and perhaps big-headed? He was loved most by Jacob just because he was ‘born to him in his old age’ – not because he was particularly talented or marvellous. He was the youngest, yet told his brothers how important the dreams made him feel.
It was not wise of Joseph to relay his dream: it provoked enmity.  He was foolish- the brothers reacted badly to the first dream and yet Joseph STILL told them the second.  Arrogance?
Joseph’s brothers hated him and wanted him out of their sight – at least they relented from killing him.
Getting rid of Joseph didn’t make him less popular with Jacob – Jacob mourned Joseph for the rest of his life.

Genesis 38
The story of Judah’s hypocrisy and then his realisation. The birth of Perez – who shoved his brother Zerah aside to be born first – ancestor of David, so ancestor of Jesus. Perez like his grandfather Jacob in this respect. So Judah’s immorality (sleeping with a ‘prostitute’, his daughter-in-law Tamar in disguise) was used by God. (In fact Judah, who instigated Joseph being sold as a slave, is included in Jesus’ lineage whereas Joseph isn’t.)

Genesis 39
The Lord was with Joseph and made him successful. The Lord blessed the household because of Joseph. Potiphar left EVERYTHING, except the food he ate, in Joseph’s charge. Potiphar gave Joseph everything (for his use?) except his wife. To sleep with her would have been a sin ‘against God’ – and this was hundreds of years before the ten commandments were given.
Joseph did what was good and was unjustly punished for it.

Genesis 40
God gave Joseph supernatural wisdom to interpret dreams but this did not seem to benefit Joseph – he remained in prison even though the dreams came true. We do not always seem to prosper in spite of the gifts God gives us: perhaps it was not yet the right time?

Genesis 41
Joseph had to wait two more years in prison. Then he was made to look Egyptian again (he was shaved and given new clothes) and brought before Pharaoh to interpret the dream. He straight away said it was only God who could do this, then he gave such a clear interpretation and direction for action that Pharaoh decided Joseph was the best man for the job. Did Joseph now forget the hard time he has had now that he is installed as number 2 in the whole country? Just as the thin cows swallowed up the fat, did the fat time swallow up the thin time of slavery and imprisonment? Or did his past continue to inform his future?
I wondered that he had to save only one fifth of the harvest – why not more?  But there was so much that he stopped keeping records. With such a harvest, the Egyptians must have grown rich in the seven fat years, surely selling their grain to other countries as well? They themselves were not provident in storing grain for the future because they quickly ran out of food.
Joseph was thirty when he stood before Pharaoh – and Jesus was thirty when he started his ministry.

Genesis 42
As governor, Joseph personally sold the grain – all who came to buy would go through him.Joseph remembered his dreams – that his brothers would bow down to him – so he treated them as inferiors. Joseph put the brothers in custody for three days – three days in prison when they did not know if they would ever come out alive. Jesus spent three days in the grave...
Then he gave them a hard time – treating them as liars, demanding that they bring Benjamin – which would distress his father (as shown, in v38)  – to him. Joseph hears them – vv 21 onwards – saying that these bad things were happening to them because of what they did to him. Now they recognise the evil they did, Joseph is upset: why? Because his brothers seemed to repent and his heart melted? Or tears of anger, for all the years at home he had lost because of them?  And he had SIMEON bound (v 24). Why Simeon? Why not Judah, who had him sold into slavery?  The commentary suggests he had been the most violent of the brothers towards Joseph.

Genesis 43
Joseph did indeed have complete authority – not just over the Egyptians, but the brothers believed everything he said because Joseph had said he would refuse to sell them grain if Benjamin wasn’t there as well.
v19 the brothers again seemed to be changed men – fearful, worried, no longer so arrogant that they believed they would get away with murder.
Joseph is emotional – v30 – when he sees Benjamin, his younger brother, the only brother who had not been unkind to him.

Genesis 44
Joseph shows he has his father Jacob the Schemer’s talent (v15) – accusing the brothers of having stolen the cup when he himself had ordered it to be put there.

Genesis 45
Judah, who sold Joseph into slavery, shows his responsibility to his father by offering himself as a slave in place of Benjamin.
Joseph finally loses control of his emotions, unable to keep up the pretence any longer: because he has seen Judah’s change of heart and seen how his brothers have abased themselves before him?
He shows his spiritual maturity when he says, vv5, 7-8: “...do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you....But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance... So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God.” Then Joseph is reconciled with his brothers.  God must have been working in Joseph’s heart during the years of imprisonment and slavery for him to respond so quickly in this way.

Genesis 46
Joseph is overjoyed at seeing his father again: he “wept for a long time”.

Genesis 47
Joseph made sure that his family would be well settled on the best land in Egypt. Then he ‘saved’ the Egyptians from starvation by reducing them to servitude. The commentary suggests that the livestock was returned to their owners after the famine had ended?

Genesis 48
Joseph tried to correct his father when Jacob was blessing Joseph’s two sons. How much did he honour and respect Jacob? Or did his experience and status convince him that he knew better than his father? Perhaps he did.... 

Genesis 49
Joseph is praised and blessed by his father, especially for responding with strength when he was attacked. “Your father’s blessings are greater than the blessings of the ancient mountains,
    than[
n] the bounty of the age-old hills. Let all these rest on the head of Joseph, on the brow of the prince among[o] his brothers.” The commentary says: “The patriarch describes him as attacked by envy, revenge, temptation, ingratitude; yet still, by the grace of God, he triumphed over all opposition, so that he became the sustainer of Israel; and then he proceeds to shower blessings of every kind upon the head of this favorite son. The history of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh shows how fully these blessings were realized.”

Genesis 50
Jacob is given full honours in his burial, with Pharaoh’s agreement and support. The brothers then worry that Joseph, no longer needing to honour his father, will turn on them, but Joseph says: “But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.”

When Joseph himself died, he remembered and referred to the promise of the land that Abraham was given and insisted that his bones should be taken there, when the promise would eventually happen.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Fasting from lies...

Taking part in a 'negativity fast' and learning to fast from lies and speak truth.

Here is a lie, from Ann Voskamp:

"By Grace, today I fast from the lie that my calling
isn't great enough because God isn't calling
for people great in skills, schooling, or spotlight -
He's calling those simply great in community,
in confession, in communion, in courage, great in Christ.
Today I will do ordinary things with extraordinarily great love.
We repent of wanting to be great
*instead of loving greater.*

‪#‎Day12‬ ‪#‎PeopleofTheCross‬ ‪#‎LentRepentRefresh‬   [ Free Printable Devotionals for ‪#‎40Days‬:http://bit.ly/TakeBackLentFreeDevotional ]


Some lies, from Matthew 3: 
Lie: I am what I DO.       

Truth: I AM WHAT I AM: A MUCHLOVED CHILD OF GOD.

Lie: I am what I HAVE    

Truth: I AM ENOUGH. I CAN BE MYSELF, WHOLLY AND COMPLETELY.

Lie: I am what I PRETEND to be.

Truth: I AM WHO I AM.

Repent, recognise lies, in an accountable relationship with good friends. #can'tdowithoutthem   And, in doing so, a reminder from Bob Rasmussen: 

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

The way

Bob posts again: 'Not only is the Jesus way is a path of allegiance, it is a course of worship of Christ. Therefore you cannot bow your knee to another. It is a course of service for Christ. Therefore you cannot put your own needs first. And it is a course of giving all for Christ. Therefore you cannot keep or hold back anything for self.'

And from Michelle, about what is really important in life:

Staying - When we stay in the valley and become honest with God something remarkable happens

The last SATURDAYS post talked about God redeeming even the darkest parts of our story. I love that idea...God turning despair into hope, Night into day, dark into light. But often the idea is a lot easier than the execution. How do these dark-wait-days become redeemed? How can we practically find God in them? Have you asked these questions? I know I have!

Perhaps it begins when we stop trying to turn on the light ourselves. Of course it's only natural to look for light in dark places. When my dad got sick I wanted to find ways to alleviate the pain and shock of it all. No one with any appetite for life initially enters a difficult season by saying, "Oh yeah baby! Bring it on...the more desolate the better!" Nope... We initially want out! But skipping across the top of pain does not allow us to be present with it, which is what brings healing.

While I believe being present with pain is the best way through it, often I need to learn how to do that. In the case with my dad, the only thing I really knew was that I didn’t like it. I wanted things to go back to the way they were. I dreaded the journey ahead for him, my mom, for everybody. So, secretly in my heart, I tried to find a light switch to turn on. I wanted to illuminate this path and find something better, but there was no light switch. (Now, before anyone corrects me, don’t worry, I already know Jesus is the light of life...I don't need a reminder) Since I could not find a way to illuminate that path, I groped for a door and looked for a way out, but every door opened to the same reality. I was so frustrated and overwhelmed. But God had a plan, He still does. And one of the gifts of such sacred darkness is that there is no escape. 


To find the light of Christ we must be willing to journey the dark, solemn places of our soul that rise up and question the goodness of God. Job did that and he wasn't scolded, he was actually reminded of God. Perhaps some would say, we shouldn’t question God’s goodness, or that we should trust him more. Well, that’s a good idea and when you meet someone who has that figured out, let me know. I have tried bringing my “should” or “shouldn’t” self to God. It doesn’t work very well, because it isn’t my real-self. I don’t need God to love the person I should be, I need him to love the person I AM. Nothing discloses the real-me more than moments of desolation.

I suppose that’s why raw honesty works best...at least it does for me. In that hotel room near Stanford sometime around 3 am I could cry out, “God, I don’t like this! I’m overwhelmed with sadness and disappointment. I don’t trust you to be good right now because the pain and shock I feel eclipses much of what I’ve learned about you....or at least what I've come to believe. If you are who you say you are, please come and meet me here.” …And he did, and he brought his goodness with him. Like Job, I wasn't scolded in his presence, I was reminded.
So I asked God to open my eyes to what was real and to see His goodness in it. As I came across a garden at Stanford I was reminded there is a Gardener that grows beautiful things from dirt that holds seeds; and the soil bed of our hearts are being prepared, all the time, for sacred work and beauty. Walking through the many waiting areas God gave me eyes to see past the medicine and notice the sleepy sojourners in waiting rooms, unforgotten by the One who is high above it all. He's the one who remembers our waiting condition and keeps us present before the Father even when we can't do so ourselves (Rom 8, Isa 55:8-9). He collects our tears and carries our sorrows (Ph 56:8). He does it while we work out our disappointments with Him, with our story and with ourselves.

It takes time to make room for such soul-space. Silence and solitude are key. In them, the many screams from this crazy roller-coaster can be silenced. His still small voice finds an echo that carries its way to the canyons of our dismay. And while we wait in the basin of darkness, we learn to die. We loosen our grip on what we must have, who we must be, the things we must accomplish, and we simply begin to rest in who we are and what we’ve been given. We become present with ourselves and, if we invite him, Jesus shows up too. The sinner dines with Holiness and in the power of God’s loving presence, we are changed.

I am slowly learning to let the Light of Life love me in honest visitations. This, after all, is our inheritance. Let us receive it with…joy.

Become silent for a moment. Stay quiet long enough to notice what's rumbling in your heart and mind?
What honest plea might you have for God?
Practice trusting Him by voicing that plea before him. Set your 'should' and 'shouldn't' aside and dare to speak what rises up.
Let the Light of Life love you in the darkness and hold you present before Himself.

Hear Him say, "Oh beloved, show me your face, let me hear your voice. For your voice is sweet and your face is lovely. There's nothing in your story that I have not seen and remembered."

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Faith


I'm going through a little Bible plan by a (previously unknown to me) writer called Nicole Reyes.

Daring Faith.

Today, it was a reflection on Peter's Step

"Recently, I was speeding down a flight of stairs and had the brilliant idea of skipping over a couple steps for sake of time. Let's just say it wasn't my finest moment. Thankfully, my tumble down the stairs only left me with a bruised knee and a bruised ego. And I guess a funny story that still makes me laugh!

Beyond the laughter, there is a lesson: Each step to our destination is an important one. If we try to skip over necessary steps, it will only lead to unnecessary pain.

There’s no shortcut to becoming more like Jesus and fulfilling your God-given assignment. There’s no secret out there that will put you on a fast track to success. There’s no in-crowd that can get you out of simple faithfulness. There’s no magic pill to avoid daily taking up your cross in order to experience Christ’s resurrection power.

There’s just the next step. Jesus is always faithful to lead you to the next step. He illuminates your path through His Word, through the counsel of the Holy Spirit, and the wisdom of others.

It’s never a question of whether or not there’s a next step. The question is: will you take it?

The next step will most likely require courage, humility and discipline; and it will always require faith.

Peter's next step certainly required faith! In Matthew 14, Peter is sailing across storm-raging waters with the disciples when in the distance he spots Jesus walking on water! And when Jesus invites Peter to join him on the water, Peter has a choice to make. Will he stay in the comfort of the boat with his friends or will he take the audacious step out of the boat and onto the water to be with his Savior? Peter chose the way of daring faith: Peter not only stepped on the water, but he began to walk on it as well! With one simple step, Peter’s story took a dramatic and miraculous turn!

Your next step matters. Just like Peter, without it you will never experience God's power at work in your life! The next step is always worth taking. So take your next step. Don’t put it off. Go for it! Jesus is calling; He is beckoning you onward!
"

Reflections

Facebook is a bad, yet fascinating, habit. It's great for news of friends...or acquaintances, rather.  It's also GREAT for drawing my attention to topical items. Sometimes I cry. Often I pray. Usually, at some point, I smile or even giggle.

I pray for Syrian refugees when I see the work that our dear friends' daughter has done, rescuing people from the sea as they arrive on a tiny Greek island. Or when I see other friends posting about Europe's reluctance to take in the homeless and the stranger.

I ponder as I read many, many thoughtful posts from Christian writers. Thank you, Proverbs 31 Ministries. Thank you, Bob.

And it was today that Bob's words rang most true, among the encouragement to godly living, the inspiration to begin each day afresh in loving God and others.

Bob talks about the grieving he is going through after his wife, Lyn's, death from from cancer. He quotes a story from a missionary to India, Paul Hiebert: "Yellayya, a village elder who had come to faith in Jesus, came to Mr Hiebert to report that children were dying in his village from smallpox. The elder said that the other elders in desperation had sent for a diviner who told them that the goddess of smallpox was angry. To satisfy this goddess and stop the plague, the village would have to perform the water buffalo sacrifice. Further, every family in the village would need to contribute toward the purchase of the buffalo. The Christians refused to do this. After much pressure however, many Christians were about to concede, planning to tell God they did not mean it. But Yellayya refused to let them contribute. However, now one of the Christian girls had come down with smallpox. Yellayya came to Mr Hiebert to ask him to pray for healing of the girl.
The missionary wrestled with this because, being from the West where we do not really deal with this realm of spirits and healings very skillfully, he was not trained nor experienced in this kind of prayer. (btw, you may be able to find this article online, "The Flaw of the Excluded Middle." The article counsels a balance avoiding either extreme of secularism or Christian animism.)
Anyway, Mr. Hiebert joined in a prayer meeting for the sick child.
(Still with me?.....)
A week later, Yellayya returned to say that the child had died. Hiebert felt thoroughly defeated, "Who was I to be a missionary if I could not pray for healing and receive a positive answer?" But a few weeks later Yellayya came again with a sense of triumph. Hiebert asked how he could be so happy. The elder replied, "The village would have acknowledged the power of our God had he healed the child, but they knew in the end she would have to die. When they saw in the funeral our hope of resurrection and reunion in heaven, they saw an even greater victory--over death itself--and they have begun to ask about the Christian way."


Glory! For me the capstone is Hieberts comment: "I began to realize in a new way that true answers to prayer are those that bring the greatest glory to God, not those that satisfy my immediate desires. It is all too easy to make Christianity a new magic in which we as gods can make God do our bidding."


We prayed fervently for Lyn to be healed from acute leukemia in 2000, and God chose to overcome the power of that illness. To God be the glory! In 2015 we prayed fervently for Lyn to be healed from esophageal cancer, and God chose to display our victory through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God has loved Lyn so much -- and trusted you and me so much -- that He has chosen to display an even greater glory than healing. He has shown, through your faith and mine, that Jesus has defeated death through His resurrection. And that is the greater glory, and for that I am glad! Even as I weep now, I am profoundly joyful. Thank you for journeying with us. May your hope be renewed as you reflect on the powerful witness of Lyn Perrin Rasmussen."


True answers to prayer are those that bring the GREATEST glory to God. And, sometimes, that glory is to show our faith in Jesus.

I ponder these words as I negotiate the tricky minefield of relationships at work, as I seek to live humbly, love mercy and do justly. Often, in teaching, I err on the 'justly', seeking 'justice' for the children I teach, trying to show them the right way to behave. Often, I feel as if I am light on mercy and love. Often, I am tempted to first defend my corner when challenged, rather than taking the humble path and admit that I could be wrong.

So I will aim, again as I begin a new day, to focus on God's glory.


Sunday, 31 January 2016

Purpose and encouragement

Recently, I have the lost the discipline of writing. Life has overwhelmed me, somewhat: enough to distract me. I've found myself wandering in circles: occasionally, actually physically doing so.

Overwhelmingness came from inside. Facing a major life decision: where to live, what to do...work could have been coming to an end (it's not, as far as I know), we could have been moving (we are, but not far...)....

It was hard. But now, as I drift towards an outcome - I can't say I have MADE a decision, but feel as if the way is beginning to come clearer - I seem to be finding new purpose. And I now realise that, in some ways, I had become lacklustre about the most important purpose of all.

Seeking the most precious Pearl.

Jesus talks about the kingdom of heaven as a pearl of immense worth: so valuable that a merchant gave up everything he had to buy it. (Matthew 13:45 - 46) We read a devotional by Chris Tiegreen every day, where he talks about this and Paul's assertion that Christ is everything and anything else we might gain which benefits us is just rubbish. Paul says (Philippians 3:8 - 9) "Nothing is as wonderful as knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have given up everything else and count it all as garbage. All I want is Christ and to know that I belong to him."

I hadn't lost my focus on God - indeed, I sought God and His wisdom earnestly in prayer. But I had let the concern, even worry at times, about our decisions dominate my thinking and emotions. I had stopped searching for the most valuable thing, which was Jesus himself.

Being faithful to worship Jesus, to know him better, was the most important thing. More important than where I should live or what I should do.

I was helped to remember this in tiny, imperceptible ways. Ways in which there was such a subtle shift in my spiritual life that I could barely identify it. For a few months, beginning just after I had made a momentous decision about where I would live, I became part of a group which met to explore spirituality. We thoughts about how we could love God more and be better disciples, we practised different forms of evangelism and serving, but most of all we learned to worship in new and different ways. And as I worshipped, I found myself changing.

The decision I had made - to move - had not left me with peace. After making it, I wanted it to work, although I realised that I was always LOOKING for things which would confirm the decision. The new path promised adventure and excitement, uncertainty and the prospect of having to rely completely on God - but was it really where God wanted me to go? Were some of my motives selfish?

As Marilyn Gardner says in her blog Communicating Across Boundaries   "I think I may have been looking for the wrong things –my purpose, my calling, my sense of significance and belonging–surely Jesus’ tiny story taught me to search out the most important thing. I’m joining the jewel merchant.I’m looking for the Excellent Pearl, the Flawless One, the Pearl of Great Price. He is here and I know the hunt for Him will never disappoint."

I eventually realised that I needed to stay put. I had  become distracted from The Main Thing - knowing and worshipping Jesus. As Marilyn says: "I’ve felt my sense of self being swallowed again by the mundane, by the endless question of who I am and what am I doing here. I’ve wondered again at my purpose.

I know my life has meaning here. I firmly believe we are here on purpose. I just need to find it again.…I need to uncover it. Sometimes it seems to be more hidden for me than for others. And often it seems illusive. Just when I stop looking and settle into my routines I find it in between spiritual direction clients or under a pile of clean clothes. The moment, however, I go to grab it always seems to disappear."


 I needed to stay in my job, stay in the town I am living in, just stay. There was no clear call either way: sensing no sense of purpose in leaving, with no clear idea of what I would do if I moved...

...but then little joys started to come my way.

Relationships that had been a little difficult and tense were restored: difficulty and tension vanished overnight and they became a complete joy.

My job became more rewarding. I saw changes in the children I teach as they became more mature but also in the learning and knowledge they began to develop. I became ridiculously thrilled when I asked them to highlight boring connectives in their writing and an apprehensive little voice said: "I can't FIND any..."  I was delighted to deliver an almost perfect lesson for my yearly appraisal: something that had never happened before. I felt encouraged.

I began to appreciate my life here more. I realised that in my focus on moving, I had stopped opening my arms wide. I had pulled back on giving of myself.

My word(s) for this year to encourage myself are 'Be generous'. I am not a naturally generous person, except perhaps in befriending others, which I had neglected. I needed to learn more and more to open myself up and be generous with my life - with what God had so generously given me.

So, near the end of the first month of the year, I look back and am thankful for renewed energy, renewed direction, a renewed sense of purpose...as I keep my eyes on Jesus: "...who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!" Hebrews 12:2, The Message

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

New Year, New Year's Resolution

Well, I'm not too sure of the provenance of this, but I quite liked the advice....

"Short and Simple
To make a New Year's resolution I'll remember, it has to be short and simple. It has to be something meaningful that motivates me, while instantly reminding me of things I need to do to become a better Christian.
If you're like me, we need a resolution that's more like a concept, rather than resolving to change specific behaviors.
A Broad Motivational Concept
Love is a broad motivational concept that involves every aspect of life.
Jesus tells us that the great commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. And the second command is to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mk. 12:30-31).
Paul tells us, "Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law" (Rom. 13:10). "Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails" (1 Cor. 13:4-8).
If we love God more, we'll become a better Christian. As a better Christian, we'll improve in every relationship -- we'll become better people, in every way.
Every Christian Can Love God More
Have you thought about the fact that you can love God more today than yesterday?
In Paul's prayer for the Philippians, he revealed that they could love God more. He prayed that their love would "abound still more" (Phil. 1:9). Their love was abounding, but it could abound more and more and more. . . .
There is never a time we can't love God more. Therefore, there is never a time we can't become a better Christian.
Love God More: Increase in Knowledge and Discernment
In Paul's prayer for the Philippians, he reveals how we love God more. He prayed that their love would "abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment" (Phil. 1:9).
Our love for God grows when we increase in true knowledge. "True knowledge" in this verse isepignosis, which results in spiritual maturity as we grow through God's word.
Peter tells us to "long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation" (1 Pet. 2:2). Growing in the word of God, he says "in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Pet. 1:5-8).
To love God more, we must grow through His word. The more we grow through God's word, the more we love God as we're "rooted and grounded in love" (Eph. 3:17).
Love God More: Obedience with a Positive Attitude
"For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome" (1 Jn. 5:3).
If we love God more this year, we'll make fewer mistakes while also becoming a better Christian. And, we'll have a better attitude toward obeying God.
A Simple New Year's Resolution: Love God More
Have you thought about loving God more?
  • What can you do to improve your knowledge of God's word, and love Him more?
  • What would change, if you loved God more?
  • Is there anyone who doesn't need to love God more this year?
Whether you're thinking about making a New Year's resolution or setting a goal, think about loving God more through better knowledge of His word. You'll become a better Christian, if you do."

So, simples. Love God more by studying His word. The Bible. Read it. More. And more.

Simples.