January 2010


Often I think about needing to go somewhere else to really love people like Jesus is calling me to.  Somewhere like Africa or Haiti or the inner city.  Sometimes this discrepancy between going somewhere else to love like Jesus calls me to  and my comfortable life seems so strong, it is as if I am not loving anyone where I am.  For when Jesus says (in Matthew 5)

43“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?

All of a sudden I feel uncomfortable.  Convicted.  As if this is something I cannot do right where I am.  Usually, I think about loving my neighbours and loving my enemies and it seems easier than what Jesus is talking about.  My neighbours, we ‘get along’.  We are polite and occasionally help each other out.  And like most women my age I can’t really say I have ‘enemies’.  People I avoid relationship with, sure, people that rub me the wrong way, of course, people who I just don’t understand – yes, yes and yes.  But since I don’t classify these as ‘enemies’ (and since we are not on outright hostile terms) I usually don’t think about how Jesus is asking me to love them.  I choose to just be polite when I have to and perhaps occasionally pray for them to have a relationship with Jesus if they don’t.

Then once in a while God shines a light for me  – and I see

(and oh how it hurts because it is usually under heart-wrenching circumstances that bring me to weeping on my knees)

but am I feeling convicted because I am failing to love those ‘enemies’ closest to me?  Does this have less to do with someone in Africa and everything to do with how ‘being polite’ has absolutely nothing in common with the love Jesus shows me?  The love Jesus is talking about in Matthew?  The love Jesus bled on the cross?  Does it have everything to do with the people God has placed right smack dab in the middle of my life for better or for worse?  The ones who might even share some of my DNA?  The ones who don’t know Jesus but do know me?  The ones I should be constantly begging to God for, but so often don’t.  Yes, I think it does.

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Giving you some options this week. You can go back to Galatians 5 and continue with Leah’s suggested passage, or meditate on the passage I posted in the post below ‘Haiti Hope’. I am going to make it my prayer this week as I lift up the people of Haiti and those working to help them. Would love to hear your specific prayers for Haiti if you care to share in the comments. OR maybe there’s a particular way you’d like to help, but cannot, leave your thought here, giving it to God in prayer.

 

We gathered to pray for a nation devastated by natural disaster.

We gathered to be reminded that God is a good. We worshipped our loving Lord, despite the ugly images in our mind.

We gathered to offer help, to give funds, to join with the moans and groans for Haiti.

Haiti is devastated. It is a nation that has been under political and perhaps spiritual oppression for years. Now, if you couldn’t tell from it’s physical state before, it lays in ruins.

Hope.

Isaiah 61:2-4 (New International Version)

 2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor
       and the day of vengeance of our God,
       to comfort all who mourn,

 3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
       to bestow on them a crown of beauty
       instead of ashes,
       the oil of gladness
       instead of mourning,
       and a garment of praise
       instead of a spirit of despair.
       They will be called oaks of righteousness,
       a planting of the LORD
       for the display of his splendor.

 4 They will rebuild the ancient ruins
       and restore the places long devastated;
       they will renew the ruined cities
       that have been devastated for generations.

 In Haiti there was already mourning, ashes, despair, and now devastation. Lord, renew Haiti. May LOVE shine through on this nation and bring glimpses of the complete restoration we will all one day rejoice in. Today Haiti has no choice but to receive graces from God and fellow humankind. God has brought me to this point many times. The grace becomes so real. God’s grace will abound.

I thought we could continue meditating on and memorizing the Galatians passage Leah began last week (with a bit of a skip) . New Year’s always feel so full… full of plans, full of hope, full of the unknown. As I have pondered these passages, I have thought how I would like to be full in the coming year… full of joy, full of grace, full of peace extended to others, full of God’s Spirit.

Galatians 5:22-25

 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

Neatly stacked in the basket they await to be used. It won’t be long before all that hard labour finds it’s way back in the bucket waiting to be prewashed, washed, dried, folded, stacked once more. The stack seems so satisfying, but the process in getting there sometimes feels tedious and I question my sanity and have to remind myself that yes this labour of love is worth it, I remember my convictions, my values, and the process becomes more meaningful.

At this moment there is a pile of clean diapers on the couch, they are not folded, they have been sat upon, and shuffled to make room for little bums. So today I write this post to motivate myself, to think of the process as part of the journey, to remind myself to love the process, and not long for the end. With diapers the end shall come quite quickly, probably my husband will fold them this afternoon when he is home, and the stack will again await to be used. That stack will look so pleasing to me.

For other things in life, this cycle, this process part is much longer. The end satisfaction is a long way ahead. We question our patience, our sanity, we lement, and dream of the end. Whether it’s a financial situation, a healing of some sort, a dream to come true…we all experience processes. I am in the midst of waiting. Lately I want to sleep it away. I long for the waiting to be over. For all the washing, folding, stacking to be completed. I want to see that end product. It’s hard to embrace the process when our sights are only on the end. How do we wait and labour in love when times are hard, and take lots of work? For diapering it’s simple, answering WHY?! Why are you labouring? For whom do you labour? Are there lessons and joy in the waiting? To whom do I look for peace, strength, and hope, in that process. Yesterday, in my particular journey, I was reminded that God provides. I am glad to be reminded of this truth. If nothing, then this is a great lesson and the journey is fruitful.

I have a few friends who are going through incredibly difficult times. I question, and my faith is weak. The end seems unfruitful and desperate. There is no light at the end. I am reminded again that it is the process. His light shines in the darkness, even when all seems hopeless.

May you too in all your processes, journeys, in simple things like diapering or laundry to difficult times, be able to embrace and grow in them, perhaps even dance! Here’s my dancing, cloth diapered little sweetheart, who has now journeyed through the diapering stage and uses the potty.

Happy New Year!  At the beginning of this year I am being drawn towards God’s word about His Holy Spirit and with that in mind am choosing Galatians 5:16-17 this week, with the hope of getting to the end of Galatians 5.  I feel that I can only appreciate these verses by reading Galatians 5:16-26 though (and even better with all of Galatians 5 from the beginning), so have included all of that here.  I also am including the Message version, as I really like some of that wording just for reading purposes.

Galatians 5: 16-17

 16 So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. 18 But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.

 19 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

 22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. 25 Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. 26 Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.

Galatians 5:16-26 (The Message)

16-18My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit. Then you won’t feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don’t you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?

 19-21It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.

   This isn’t the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God’s kingdom.

 22-23But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

 23-24Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified.

 25-26Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.