So tomorrow is the last day of the Tread on trafficking fundraiser.  I have been terrible about updating here, but faithful in getting out there and getting at least 3 hours of exercise a week.  It has really been sinking in for me, during all of this exercise time, as well as our days spent so largely outdoors at this time of year, how much freedom I have.  When exercising to raise money/awareness about sex trafficking, I couldn’t help but relish in the gift of having the health to exercise, the time to do so and the true privilege of safety for myself and my children.  These are all things I am so grateful for.  It is impossible to imagine the horror of a life in the sex trade, especially for children.   I am thankful for the opportunity to spend these past weeks having God soften my heart and increase my awareness towards children (and the families of the children) who are involved.  It is something that just won’t leave me alone and I am cannot help but pray that more and more awareness will continue to be raised and enough people will join together under the strength and love of God so that there will be no more children in the sex trade.

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We have had some great weather the past two weeks (mosquitoes aside) and have ben taking lots of time outside to walk and bike ride.  I can’t help but feel so thankful that I am able to have this luxury of being with my children and doing this together.

Here is my update:

Monday: 45 minutes yoga

Tuesday: 30 minute bike ride

Thursday: 30 minutes walk

Friday: 30 minutes hike

Saturday: 30 minutes yoga and lots of yard work

Sunday: 15 minutes yoga and lots of painting – for a total of 3 hours

Monday: 45 minutes yoga

Tuesday: 30 minute bike ride

Wednesday: 30 minute walk

Friday: 30 minutes yoga

Saturday: 60 minute hike (and about 4 hours planting the garden – lots of sweaty digging!) for a total of 3 hours 15 minutes

Although I keep planning to go running, it hasn’t been working out so far but I have been loving my David Swanson yoga DVD – 15, 30 and 45 minute options so hard to make an excuse that I don’t have time – a really great option for busy times.  Thanks to everyone who has donated so far 🙂

We had a beautiful week for our first week of the tread on trafficking fundraiser.  It felt so hopeful to be out and about exercising to help others in the beautiful spring weather.

One of the main ways I am planning on fitting in my exercise time in is by walking/bike riding to get the mail with my kiddos.  I live in the country so it is about 3/4 km to the mail box.  If we bike ride we complete our whole subdivision loop which is just under 3 km.   On Saturday we also participated in another fundraiser walk (2.5 km) and it made me think we should wrap up this tread on trafficking with a walk and picnic for whomever wants to come. 

So this was my time for week one:

Monday May 2 – walk with kids 20 minutes

Tuesday May 2 – 30 minutes of yoga

Thursday May 5 – bike ride with kids 30 minutes

Friday May 6 – family bike ride 30 minutes

Saturday May 7 – family and friends walk – 45 minutes

So 2 hours and 35 minutes only because I am not counting the fact that I raked lawn/dug new vegetable beds/hauled dirt for at least 16 hours on Saturday and Sunday as it would go too much over my 3 hours per week – but hey if you want to count that go ahead 🙂

Love.  This crazy love thing that is God that is.  And how little I understand about it.  So while I have known these verses since I was a little girl, these are the verses that are on my mind these days…

(Matthew 22:34-36  for context)

 34Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:  36“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

And these which I am trying to figure out just a little bit how one goes about doing this…

37Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[b] 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[c] 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

22You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

When reading these verses, sometimes I wonder if my ‘old self’ will ever be cast off, especially as easily as this verse can make it seem, like an outfit ready for the wash.  It can seem impossible to choose a different way when  I am struggling against some combination of genetics and upbringing that have totally entrenched a little but certainly unGodly ways of being. 

One thing God started speaking to me when studying the first section was to abide in him to put off my old self that can too often be just slightly critical towards how my husband does something (when he does it differently than me.)  I am not talking about a fight here or an outright nastiness, but something more about the tone of how I say or ask something (usually rhetorical) of him.  So when I read the following segment of Ephesians 4, this part immediately hit home.

29Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Always talking kindly to and only building my husband up is one area I am trying to give over to the spirit right now.  I say trying because having some pregnancy hormones, coupled with the slight stress of getting ready to move, my poor husband has been subject to more grumpiness from me lately than normal – so I keep trying to remember to bite my tongue and pray for kindness to build up this man I love so much.  To get out of old habits and do what I really want to do in Jesus anyway – have my words only be a benefit to him.

I have been thinking a lot about prayer the past year or so – it seems to be an area God has been growing me in.  I thought I would share a few of my favourite quotes on prayer from two books I have (re)read recently:  ‘Prayer Does It Make Any Difference’ by Philip Yancey and ‘Can You Hear Me? Tuning in to the God who speaks’ by Brad Jersak.  One of the things I enjoyed about both of these books (there were many things I enjoyed about both, these are just sticking out right now) is that prayer doesn’t have to be complicated and there isn’t a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way we can pray when our intention is bringing what is on our heart before God.  I am growing to see prayer as such a beautiful gift from God that brings us into greater relationship and I love how these quotes help illuminate that for me.

From ‘Prayer Does It Make Any Difference’:

‘I look first to Jesus for clues to the mysteries of faith, and regarding prayer he did not seem to share some of my biggest struggles.  He never wondered whether God exists, whether anyone is truly listening.  He never questioned the importance of prayer; indeed he would flee a crowd of needy people in order to spend time alone with God and sometimes devote all night to the task.  The way Jesus talked, prayer made everything possible.’

‘Newcomers to prayer often worry that they are not doing it right.  Perhaps they have heard eloquent prayers from the pulpit or read them in books.  They would never pray out loud in a group, and even shy away from private prayers for fear of saying the wrong thing, of offending a perfect God. ‘

Personally, I would say not just newcomers worry about doing it ‘right’.  Although I appreciate reading books and doing studies on prayer and how they can grow my faith, sometimes I think they make it seem as if there is a ‘right’ way to pray and a ‘less right’ way to pray or perhaps a ‘less spiritually mature way’ and a ‘more spiritually mature way’.  When I look at how Jesus taught the disciples when they asked him how to pray, what he taught was very simple.  The ‘Our Father’, which in essence is a list of requests.  There cannot be a more simple way to pray and even if we cannot find any words to pray, God reassures us that his spirit intercedes for us

26In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.   Romans 8:26-27

Yancey goes on to say

‘We all differ, by personality and by life circumstances, and some will find their best prayer times by commuting to work and others while feeding the baby….Prayer is not a comparison contest.  The least educated and least notable soul has as much opportunity – and sometimes more – to become a master prayer as do church professionals. Martin Luther, who averaged two hours a day in prayer, counseled others, “The fewer the words, the better the prayer.” Indeed, two of the Bible’s shortest prayers, from a tax collector and a crucified thief, proved most effective.  Luther reacted against the formal, showy prayers of his time, which tended to produce hypocrites.  Pray from the heart, he said.  Think of the God you are addressing, and not of others who may be listening.’

For this season of my life the following quote from ‘Can You Hear Me’ by Jersak,  just speaks so beautifully to me about one of the purposes of prayer I have not really considered before and that God wants not just obedience from me, but relationship also.

‘As we live by the Spirit, acting spiritually and listening daily, life unfolds naturally before us.  Even so, at times we still come to major crossroads.  In those times I ask God “What do you want?”  Over the last few years, his first response always seems to be “Well, what do YOU want?”  Part of the discernment process is learning what we want so that God can discuss with us why we want it, whether he wants it too, why we might differ on this, when we should have it and so on.  This sounds like a friendship to me.  When someone tells me “I just want what God wants,”  I appreciate the gesture of surrender.  Yet God’s desire is not to cripple our wills but to conform them to his.’

Finally my current favourite bible verse on prayer – I find this verse just so generous of God and reflective of how much he loves us and desires relationship with us – he is not only willing but happy to listen to everything and anything we have worry about – from little and trivial to gigantic.  Then he has grace enough to give us peace in return.  He takes our worries and gives us peace – all because of love.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4: 6-7

I have been repeating over and over all day the verses from John 15.  It is the memory passage I am pondering during this (past) season of my life.  I think of the words all day and at night start to really wonder at my incomplete understanding.  I wonder about bearing fruit.  Wonder about being pruned.  Wonder about where is this fruit I want to be bearing – how come I cannot see it at all and how can I get some?  Wonder why do so often I feel like I am doing the very nothing Jesus speaks of?  I don’t want to wither up and wonder what more I can do to be a fruit bearer for God.   For weeks and weeks I cannot let this go.  I think about it every day when reading these verses.

John 15

   “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. 3 You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.

 5 “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. 7 But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! 8 When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father.

Finally I let it go – I move on to new verses although I feel totally incomplete about my understanding on fruitfulness in my own life.  Months after this pondering has passed a bible study brings me back to these verses.  Even though they are memorized, I open my bible and turn to them, wanting to read them afresh, asking God for new understanding like I am reading them for the first time.  I am not wanting to be frustrated about these words from my savior again.

And God grants me the understanding I was missing.  I read it as if for the first time  ‘Anyone who remains in me and I in them will bear much fruit.’  It is there right before me, my saviour’s words this time have saved me from worry.  I need not wonder about who/what/where/when/why my fruit is coming.  All he has left me with is the easy/impossible task of abiding in him.  As I so often see played out in my own life, without him I can do nothing.  But joyfully I am freed of my past worry, I only need to make my home in Jesus.  I love the way the Message describes it:

 4“Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me. 5-8“I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant.

Today, on Ash Wednesday I plan on making the same committment I did last year.  To pray for (about) an hour a day during the season of lent.  Instead of giving something up I want my relationship with my saviour to grow more ‘intimate and organic’, as only the gift of time can transform it.  I look forward with nervous anticipation to God’s pruning and pray I will bring him glory by making my home in him. 

(If you want someone to pray for you for the next 40 days, leave me a comment and I would be honored to do so.)