Hope in the Struggle

Struggles are real. They can be heart-wrenching and painful. They can steal our hope, rob our joy and put us into despair. They can make us question our purpose, seek after solace or not fully live. 

December seems to intensify  our struggles. Winter is upon us and things appear a bit darker. Efforts need to multiply to stay above ground. Busyness crowds out the peace in our hearts. Christmas is coming and things like family dysfunction, loneliness, financial issues, grief, addictions, loss all seem magnified during this season. 

This may not seem the type of story you expect to read going into Christmas week. It is a representation of the dichotomy of my heart and flesh, my spirit and soul as I feel the pain of these worldly things and sense that from people around me. Those longing to know the hope of Christmas but in their heart and flesh they fail. But this is exactly the reason that Jesus came. It is to get in the muck of all of this struggle and to meet your heart. He knows where you are at and yet He loves you.

He was born in a stable, have you been in one? Average temperatures in Bethlehem in December are around 14 degrees, so that would mean dung is not frozen! I know all the arguments that this may not have been the actual time of Jesus’ birth but just go with me here. He came in the middle of all of the crap and smelly animals in the most humble of beginnings so He could walk right into ours. “This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”‭‭Luke‬ ‭2:12‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Are our struggles real? Absolutely! Are they too hard for Jesus? Absolutely not. Max Lucado said,” God’s answer for the hurting heart is not a promise of the absence of pain but a promise of His Presence, to be with you, to offset the struggles. He has guaranteed to walk with us every step of our life. He just wants you to let Him love you.”

My heart wrestles with trusting Jesus and the inability to give enough to the needs around me. It fights with the commercialism of Christmas and the wanting to bless those I love. It tears apart for the desire for simplicity and peace and the draw to constantly be doing something, anything. Yet in these struggles I keep being drawn back to the manger, to the heart of a mother who had no idea really of where this privilege and honour of following God and being obedient would take her heart. How the blessing of her son would also squeeze her heart to brokenness and journey to eternal hope. 

So it is with us as we choose to behold the baby in a manger, as we step in the brokenness of this world, our hearts will be squeezed. We will be stretched,our struggles will be real, our God will step in. Despite the way we may ‘feel’ in the midst of all of this there is a purpose behind all that we face. Nothing is wasted in God’s economy. See who He is promised to be in the prophecy of Isaiah, Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace! 

In all of these things is an answer to what you need. He has not forsaken you, He deeply loves you. He has promised a Yes and Amen and provision to your need. Choose to keep your eyes on the promise of the baby, the hope of a Saviour, the ministering of a Counsellor, the power of the Almighty, the love of a Father, peace that surpasses understanding and Eternal Life. 

In it all as you keep your eyes on Him, do one thing lest you do nothing. Invite someone to church to hear of His hope in their struggles, pay for someone’s coffee, give generously of your money if you are able, listen to where God is directing your heart to give, spend time with someone who is lonely, hurting, addicted, incarcerated, elderly, family. Be His love and hope to those that need it especially if you are struggling yourself. There is no healing balm like giving of yourself. There is no greater thing than sharing the love of Jesus. 


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Come & Adore

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem  and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” Matthew 2:1,2

Adore – love and respect someone deeply, to worship, to express reverence and homage.

Adoration – the act of worshiping, a deep love and respect.

Who do you adore? God invites us in this season to come and adore His Son that He sent to this earth in the form of a baby. God is love. The adoration aspect of love could only be accomplished through the innocence of a baby. If Jesus had come originally as a man, this type of love may have been missed. God became tiny, wrinkled, crying flesh! Oh the wonder of it all.

He was announced with a star, imagine your very own shining star calling out your birth. A heavenly host was sent to terrified, astonished shepherds praising God and sending them to the manger. The shepherds were so moved that immediately they went to Bethlehem to see what had been told to them. Does this wonder move you? Are you glorifying and praising God for all that you have seen and heard?

Luke 2:9 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest,
    and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Imagine Mary, a mother’s adoration taken to the next level as her son, God’s son was adored and worshiped by so many unlikely characters. To ponder is to think about something carefully but the Greek definition means trying to put things together. So as Mary was observing all the things around her, she also was trying to figure out what does this mean for my son, for me, for God. She accepted in faith what was to come. We know the story but do we accept in faith what that means for us?

I have been paying particular attention to the words in Christmas carols this year, it has been the way God has highlighted for me to keep His story fresh. O Come All Ye Faithful was my inspiration about adoration.  Come and Behold Him Born the King of Angels O Come Let Us Adore Him Christ the Lord. Our King came, as a baby, so we can relate to Him, adore Him and share His story. God’s great love story. He wants your heart, so He can give you life. Does He have it? Come and adore Him.

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Aha with no Action

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:22-24

Do you live for the mountain top moments in your life? You know those Aha moments when your eyes are opened to new possibilities, new concepts and a different mindset? Then do you fall in love with the idea and not follow through with any action? Or drown in the space between the revelations?  Aha with no action just means Ha, jokes on you, nothing is different from awareness only.
What if…we saw all of life as pieces of our story

What if…we lived what we believed

What if…we really knew what being a new creation in Christ meant

What if…we lived the way we are loved by God

What if…we took God at His word

What if…we admitted our faults and weaknesses but didn’t live from that place

What if…we humbly acknowledged God’s way is best

What if…we loved ourselves so we could love others better

These are some questions God gave me while I listened to a Live Transformed podcast with Bob & Audrey Meisner & guest Dr. Jim Richards. This man revolutionized my walk with Christ when I was first a believer and he is redoing it now. He brings new perspective so wisely and biblically based it speaks right to my heart. He spoke about how God does not hold out on us, suggesting that revelation is when we are willing to surrender our opinion.

Willing to surrender my opinion, whoa whoa Dr. Richards, I have something to say about that…

Point taken?

He goes on to say when we read God’s word revelation happens. This removes some of the barrier so we can see God as He is. When we see Him clearer, we will fall more in love with Him. Often though, if we have religion around Jesus and not relationship with Him, we fall more in love with the revelation than Jesus. Trouble is, knowledge doesn’t bring life, Jesus does.

Education and religion have taught us to be perfect with no room for mistakes or learning. Another of my favourite teachers Graham Cooke says,”God doesn’t operate like this. He never expects us to be perfect on our own; He wants us to live in Jesus and love the process. The Lord is not double-minded about us. If we fall down learning how to put on our new man, God does not revert to seeing us as our old selves!”

He meant what He said in the word, the Old has died, the New has come. We are new creations and it is imperative for living victoriously that we find out what this truly means. 

So these operate together, when we lay down our opinions we can be open to revelation of God’s character and as we learn to walk in what that looks like, we put on our new selves.  This is the process of growing more and more in His likeness. 

This is my desire, especially in this season, to allow the truth of who Jesus is to continue to change me. As I behold majesty in the manger I don’t want this story and the significance of Jesus to be lost in my old behaviours. 

How do you believe God sees you? How do you see yourself? Ask Him how to align the difference and speak truth to your heart. Behold the Christ child, come and see what God has done. 

Love without Barriers

‘Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.’1 John 4:8

Every week I spend an hour and a half teaching a young, sweet Indian woman our complicated English language. For the record, I would not want to have to learn the nuances of our language if I didn’t know it. Who made all of these rules? Aside from this, it is an interesting journey trying to teach the basics of a language I have spoken and written all of my life.

 Last session Bella (I will call her this to protect her identity but chose it because it means beautiful) said to me, I not speak good but you understand me. She is so very grateful for something I take for granted. I feel like God has given me intuition to understand others well, whether it be accents, language barriers or about who someone is. I don’t want to take that for granted. 

The last time we met, Bella spoke about wanting a different job. She is getting braver and wants something that will help to take care of her family better. So for our session this week I picked her up and took her to this potential place of employment. She told me she was afraid to ask and so I coached her about what she needed to say and stepped back as she stepped up. It was a bold move for her and she did well. 

Unfortunately,  you could only apply online. So I told her I would take her for a hot drink and we could figure it out. She doesn’t like tea or coffee and I encouraged her that in our freezing winters she needs to find a hot drink she loves. I bought her hot chocolate and think we found a winner because she slurped it up, fascinated by the contrast of cold whipped cream and hot chocolate. It was fun watching her experience something new. 

She invited me into her apartment as I dropped her off. I had just a few minutes, but seeing her excitement, I agreed. She was so proud to show me her 1 bedroom apartment she shared with her husband and 2 children. It was sparsely furnished but it was theirs and dreams of a house lingered in their minds. Humble beginnings in a new country with meager belongings. 

In the corner was a tiny Christmas tree, evidence of our culture mixing with their traditions. We have different beliefs Bella and I, hers Hindu and mine Christian, but this little tree allows us to speak of the differences and similarities. God’s love is universal and He delights in our sharing. 

Bella’s home reminded me of Jesus. Humble beginnings in a new country with meager belongings. He came into our world a baby, born of a young virgin, in a barn. “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). Matthew 1:23

Majesty in a manger, the extraordinary story of how our God reached out to love us. And so because of this love, I continue to reach out and love others He puts in my path. He was no respecter of persons so neither should we be. As in Acts, Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism.”

Love God, love people is what we believe at Bloom church. It is a reflection of my heart and the heart of God. How can you show His love to others today? 

Father thank you that you took such extraordinary measures to extend your love to us. Thank you for baby Jesus. Thank you for your love. Thank you for Bella, will you bless her and her family and the many others who are new to our country. Will you provide for them Lord and encourage them in this season. Be close to their hearts as they miss their families.  As we go throughout our day, especially in this season, show us how to love others. Help us to be family to each other. Thank you that we are a part of your family. In Jesus’ precious name. Amen. 


I am Least

Matthew 25:34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

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Today I met a man I will call Joe. He was worn and leathered, a hard life written over his skin and in his eyes, like a well-read book. His nicotine stained moustache framed the mouth that spoke pleas of desperation. He was holding a sign, I did not read it, I just looked into his eyes and shook his hand as I introduced myself. He proceeded to tell me that he was having a bad day, a bad life really and mine was good because I did not have him in it.

 

 

At that moment, the store manager interrupted, possibly thinking she was ‘saving’ me from Joe and offered him coffee if he would put his sign away and come into the store. I pulled out what I thought God would have me give him and walked around the store praying He would give me the opportunity again. Funny thing, I never shop where I went today and I was shopping for friends whose family was down with the flu. God had an appointment for me. The opportunities He presents are endless, if we would only look.

Joe was back at the door when I was leaving. I stepped over extending my meager offering and talked with him a bit more. I blessed him and left and as the door was closing I thought I heard him say wanna give me a ride home. I unloaded my groceries in the -30 with wind temperatures and did the bargaining thing with Jesus, you know, like if he really said that Lord and you want me to drive him home, let him walk out of the store when I drive in front of it. Guess what? haha I rolled down my window, “Joe, do you want a ride?” His eyes lit up and he slowly limped around and slid in.

Turns out, his little shelter apartment was on the way to my friends’ home. Funny how even this unexpected appointment was ordered. Joe shared his life, his look was a true reflection of all he’s lived. 40 years ago an accident paralyzed half of his body and he has been unable to work. We talked about Jesus. He knew God saved his life and he has been searching for his purpose ever since. I told him I think it was to make people smile as he hadn’t stopped telling me how kind and beautiful I was and that my husband was very lucky.

As we pulled up to his building, he said he was going to fight the eviction notice they have given him, but he wasn’t fearful. He didn’t know where he would end up next. I asked if I could pray for him before he got out, oh yes a beautiful angel to pray for me he said. I asked God for the impossible which isn’t impossible for Him. For Joe’s healing and provision, for God to be his strength. As he got out of the truck, he said it was God’s will that he met me today and if I ever change my marital status to come looking for him. That made me laugh out loud and I assured him that it won’t but I pray he is blessed and it was a pleasure to meet him.

I share this story with you today not because I think Joe is the least of these but because I know that I am too. I know that I needed Jesus and He saved me and set me free from sin and death. So when I give of my heart and time to someone that may have less than me, I know they are not lesser than in the Kingdom of God. Compassionate actions are the central message of the gospel and though the least of these may not encompass only the poor and needy, God gives us compassion for those that are.

I don’t know if God intends our paths to cross again on earth but I do know I will see him again someday. In 1986 he said, I accepted Jesus as my Saviour and I went back and thanked the nurse that saved my life. Our encounter was just as much for my heart today as perhaps it was for his. It reminded me that God answers us when we ask Him for opportunities to love others with His love. It shows me that a smile and being noticed can bring light to someone’s eyes. I saw how life is not all about me and God wants to interrupt us so we can extend His hope. I saw Jesus in a broken, frail man who seemingly had nothing but really had all his heart required. And I can pray. Thanks Joe. Thanks Jesus.

hope-1804595_640How can you extend the hope of God to someone today? Pray that God will open your eyes for opportunities and to have a heart willing to be interrupted. You might be surprised.

Healing Offence

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Jeremiah 9:1,”Oh, that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears. I would weep day and night for the slain of my people.”

My heart is burdened. I asked God to break my heart for what breaks His and the first thing that keeps playing over in my mind is how people blame or have bitterness toward God, the church or others for pain in their lives. I have witnessed over and over the basis for this blame is often rooted in unresolved offences, judgment and unforgiveness. When we blame we can temporarily take our pain and lay it on something else instead of seeking after healing for it. Healing takes responsibility and action. It may be the hard thing but God longs for hearts to be reconciled to His. I am not saying there aren’t people who hurt us but what often hurts us the most is our responses to the hurt. Therein is where we sin.

Why is it so much easier to deflect than to deal with issues? Anytime you assume to know why someone did something, you are judging them. It is almost like second nature for us to try to determine Why something happened. Beth Moore said that she feels there are a lot Whiners because people have unresolved Whys! She said asking Why is not about getting the answer necessarily, its knowing you have the right to ask that of God. It hinders intimacy when you don’t express it, once you do, you can get on with it.

Why’s can come in all forms. It may be from a significant loss, from an event, in relationships, with God. The most dangerous form of why can be the assuming why. Someone walked right by you and you ‘assume’ it is because they don’t like you. You didn’t get a text or phone call back immediately and you ‘assume’ it is because they are mad at you. You didn’t get picked for a team or project, you ‘assume’ you aren’t good enough. In these places you pick up offence.

Dr. Jim Richards says, “Unresolved offences are emotional suicide.” You know I don’t throw that world around lightly but I agree with him that is the best descriptive for what happens in our hearts when we take up offence. He also taught, you can’t have mercy for someone you have a judgment against because judgment calls for a penalty. Judgment shuts our hearts down to mercy. When we numb our hearts to pain, joy and peace suffer.

I have been reading in Jeremiah this morning. The ‘Weeping Prophet’. When I see the call God has on these prophets lives in the bible, there is no doubt they would be weeping. God calls them to draw the people back to Him and often the response is the opposite. It was a difficult task. This is the burden I am sensing in these days, people’s hearts are far from Him and often this could be resolved as hearts heal. Jeremiah actually asked for tears for his people as we see in the verse above.

This was a good ask because if he kept all of this frustration and sorrow over the people bottled up, it may have exploded to judgment and offense and kept him from completing God’s task for him. 40 agonizing years he had to keep speaking to these hard-headed people. He even went on to write Lamentations, true to its namesake it’s a passionate expression of his grief and sorrow over his people. “My eyes fail from weeping, I am in torment within, my heart is poured out on the ground because my people are destroyed, because children and infants faint in the streets of the city.” Lamentations 2:11

I know that Jeremiah’s musings were regarding the destruction of Jerusalem but his message applies to us today. Disobeying God invites disaster and His heart suffers when His people suffer. We are still hard-headed, hard-hearted and suffering. He is the answer. I won’t apologize for saying that. We are to seek after true reconciliation, not just say I’m sorry, bury it and move on.

Stop assuming you know the answers. If God shows you something why don’t you stand in the gap for that person in prayer instead of filling in the gaps about them. If you have taken offence, seek God for healing and forgiveness and go back to that and say, I don’t know why they did what they did but God help me to be merciful. If you are assuming why in the midst of a conversation or exchange, ask immediately for clarity so judgment can be prevented.

You know the saying, don’t assume, or it makes an a.. out of you and me. This is pretty accurate because then it is just interpretation not the truth and it will create some kind of hurt or conflict. Jesus is the truth along with the way and the life and living from a place of judgment does not allow for the truth to penetrate. But, when we surrender judgment, it gives us the capacity to have mercy. Jeremiah knew that our God was one of mercy. He cried out and gave the people plenty of opportunity the chance to repent and turn back to God. It is really quite amazing how very merciful God is when I think of my sins alone and how He has forgiven me, now multiply that by the sins of 7 billion! That is His heart, that none should perish. NONE! For those that know Him already, He wants All of your heart.

What causes you to weep?  What offences have you taken up that God wants you to lay down? In what areas of your heart do you need Him to minister ? Are you far from Him? Turn around, He is standing right there.

Lord, I plead with you to heal the brokenhearted. Father to meet with people in their hurt and help them not to blame and be offended. We know the enemy would love nothing more than to block our intimacy with you. We trust your heart to heal and forgive in those painful places. We surrender our judgment so that we can be merciful. Father, help us in the things we weep for so that we can go and lift up others who experience the same things. We know our world is full of injustice, poverty, war, suffering, offences and rebellion against you Lord, help us to respond appropriately and do what we can and pray for the rest and trust you. Thank you Jesus! Amen.

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Shameless Restoration

“Finally brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.” 2 Corinthians 13:11

The biblical meaning of restoration is to receive back more than has been lost to the point where the final state is greater than the original condition. In the verse above, it tells us to strive for it. This is not a passive suggestion.

I have issues. I know you might be surprised after reading my blog for a month and thinking wow, has that girl ever got it together. Haha, not.  Today an issue was highlighted by a conversation I had which triggered a panic button in me that sent my thinking down the sewer. I know we are made of layers, even ogres know that, but sometimes I wonder how many rings this old tree has. Dr. Jim Richards says that when we are healed in an area, it doesn’t mean we won’t think about it but when we do there will be no emotion attached to it. Well I had a lot of emotional baggage get pulled on with this one.

I see the evidence around me more and more that when there is not full restoration or healing in relationships or circumstances, people can cruise around like the walking dead. Wounds are in plain sight and one push or rub the wrong way activates the old emotions connected to this cesspool of hurt. Oh we pretend. We smooth over. We act out. We avoid. We don’t discuss the big gray thing in the middle of the room. We move on…until God allows the trigger to be set off. Bing, Bing, Bing. And we want to pull back even more.

The funny thing is that God wants us to press in to this. You know, the turn the other cheek thing, I think He meant that. He has reconciled our hearts to Him and made us ministers of reconciliation. Reconcile – to compose or settle, to bring into agreement or harmony, to cause to accept to or submit to something unpleasant. Did you see that? Often when there is true reconciliation we need to submit to something unpleasant. Who truly loves conflict? I know some people seem to, but deep down I think most of us would like to avoid it.

My husband has taught me that conflict is not the end of the world though. I know, how dare he. I have felt like it was for most of my life. I did not have great skills to cope if it did happen so avoidance seemed the better path. But did you know it is ok to agree to disagree. God can also bring healing out of the unpleasant things. We need to be willing for him to get up in our business about it.

The ultimate restoration occurred when God sent Jesus for us. We are not the standard, Jesus is. These are some steps toward restoration:

  1. Talk to God about the problem.
  2. Take the initiative. Think of it as the one who makes the first move is the most mature.
  3. Repent. What part was yours?
  4. Address the problem, not the person.
  5. Forgive. As He has forgiven us.
  6. Stress reconciling, not necessarily resolution.

I know that restoration can be extremely uncomfortable and in some cases, maybe completely impossible. But we serve a God of the impossible and we are to keep the peace as far as it depends on us. So do your part. When there is one walking dead, the body of Christ is infected. And if we are to be ministers of reconciliation for the world, how are we to do that walking around like a bunch of zombies?

My heart breaks for those that have been hurt by imperfect people, but we are all that. The enemy’s perfect plan is that we will choose to pick up offense in our deceit and then he really doesn’t have to do much else does he? I can assure you through experience that the avoidance, unforgiveness and wounding is far more painful and long-lasting than pushing through to confrontation, forgiveness and healing. Talk about the gray thing with Jesus. See what happens.

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