Make me to know your ways, O Lord;
teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth and teach me,
for you are the God of my salvation;
for you I wait all the day long.
“… the Lord showed me the reason I didn’t think He answered my prayers. It was simply because I was not thankful when He did. Without an attitude of thanksgiving, those memories were lost to me.”
– Lara Merz in While He Lay Dying
Sitting on the shore of a little lake at the base of a mountain in the Rockies I count my blessings and thank God for answered prayers for this land. Such a wealth of beauty in its landscape and in its people!
Election day in Canada is almost here. You know, this one feels different from all the other elections I have voted in. It’s been downright nasty. I have seen more personal attacks on people running for office, and those who support them, than I can remember in previous elections. There seems to be more polarization, more angry people disagreeing on social media and in public places. I wonder how long it will take to heal after the signs come down.
As a response I would like to say this: THANK YOU!
Thank you to all you hard-working people who are brave enough to stand on a platform and smile while people interrupt or shout at you or ask questions that are not really questions.
Thank you to the workers who help with campaigns and who set up secure voting sites.
Thank you to all the people who have served faithfully in public office in this land, at all levels, no matter what their party affiliations.
Thank you for the hours spent in boring meetings, for making phone calls to help people caught in crisis, for negotiating both peace and prosperity with other nations, for protecting our rights to live by our conscience and beliefs, for being willing to live far from friends and families to represent your constituency, for being vulnerable in front of cameras, for working for the welfare and safety of all your constituents.
Thank you for honouring our heritage by encouraging us to maintain the best parts of our cultures.
Thank you for loving my country as much as I do.
And to all the people who will be elected to parliament next week I say God bless you. My prayers are for you, not against you, that you will have vision for a peaceful, caring, unified, prosperous nation that works together to build an even better country for generations to follow.
I thank you and honour you for your willingness to serve.
God keep our land glorious and free.
I’ve been watching brightly coloured leaves from the trees in my garden rain down in front of my window. As the breeze catches them and sends them sailing through the air it reminds me of pictures of the ticker tape parades in the streets of New York after a great victory. The flash of gold and orange and red leaves in the air suddenly reminded me of a dream I had.
In this dream a man who taught me how to be aware of the many ways God communicates joined me. He stood behind me, put his hands on my back by my waist, and started propelling me forward. I felt like I was a few inches above the ground traveling quite quickly. He pushed me toward a run-down drinking establishment on a downtown street. I assumed we were going there to minister to the people inside. That was fine with me. But we just popped in for a minute. He said hi and the people all waved and shouted back to him like he was a favourite in this place.
He kept pushing me. We left the bar and moved up a hill toward a large cathedral. This surprised me because I thought he was the sort of person who would reject religious trappings to do the kind of things Jesus did with the poor and marginalized.
“Where are we going?” I asked.
“I want to show you something,” he said.
We went into the cathedral through a side door. Light streamed down into the building from high clerestory windows. The scene amazed me. The air was full of glitter and gold streamers and sparkling jewels and even balloons. The people wore all sorts of clothing from every Christian expression from brocade robes to English white choirboy ruffles to modest plain clothing with head covering to jeans and t-shirts. I saw many shiny instruments: trumpets, a pipe organ, guitars, harps, tambourines…
They were all focused on praising God. There was a sense of overwhelming joy and they worshiped with everything they had. Some danced, some waved flags, some gazed upwards and quietly prayed, some marched in a procession, some waved incense, some knelt, some lay prostrate, but all were lost in wonder and praise. There was no self-consciousness. But they all sang one song.
My companion was very happy. He raised his hands and gave glory to the Father. Then I realized he was no longer just my friend. He was the Lord Jesus himself – and this was a temple of praise. Then the people there recognized him too and the cheers grew even louder. The very atoms in the atmosphere seemed more alive!
I woke up.
This week I read two great blogs. One by Sarah Bessey talked about regaining the freedom to worship in the style she had grown up with (Go ahead, wave your flag), and the other, by Adrian Warnock, was an older blog (I Don’t Want Balance; I Want It All) about not wanting to reject expressions and understandings in order to gain “balance,” but wanting it all. As I remembered this dream that’s the sense I had too. No single mode of worship is adequate, no single denomination’s doctrine can contain every facet of the immensity of God. No single institution is without human error as long as humans are trying to run it. All are in need of purification – some more than others, but we need not reject everything after we find something that misses the mark. We especially need to honour the the truths others before us have discovered, and especially the things others do better than ourselves.
I’ve been struggling with understanding what church is, what unity is. Division in the body of Christ breaks my heart. My problem is not so much settling on which local church to join as it is deciding which ones I will reject if I cling to only a single form of expression. Each “church,” even a home-based church, seems to be isolated from others by self-protective berms of forms or constitutions or habits. I’ve been pretty discouraged by how far the institutional church has strayed from the simple, beautiful words of Christ. I think the greatest mission field in North America is amongst those who have experienced manipulative spiritual abuse at the hands of personal power-seekers in “Christian” churches. “A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong tower.” I’ve been ready for God to toss the whole thing out and start entirely new. This dream shocked me and confronted my judgmental attitude.
I think this is what the dream was telling me: It’s not about doing church “right” or even doing the works we were created to do right. It’s not about how, or where, or when. It’s not about even about what. It’s about WHO.
Unity of the spirit is about losing ourselves in the wonder of Majesty. The Holy Spirit propels us to center our focus on Christ, and Christ ushers us into the presence of Father God. When the strings of our heart respond to the same frequency by singing the same song heaven is singing we come into alignment with his heart. We drop every thought of competition, every need to work to prove we are worthy of God’s approval – that Dad likes us best. We can each express our love and adoration in different ways. His Majesty charges the atoms that give us life.
When we lose ourselves in Him we are one in the Spirit.
We are one in the Lord.
Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above;
Join with all nature in manifold witness,
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!
(from Great is Thy Faithfulness by Thomas Chisholm)
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. (James 1:18, 19 )
Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
(Romans 12: 17, 18)
I did it again. I fretted. Loudly. Emotionally.
“We’ve got to do something!” I told my husband. He sat there calmly and said, “I am doing something. I am praying for a miracle and resting in the Lord.”
Now my problem is I can’t tell his resting in the Lord face from his avoiding a discussion by playing solitaire on the iPad face. All I want to know is if he is taking this crisis-de-jour seriously or am I going to have to do all the pre-trusting-in-the-Lord wet hen flap dancing all by myself?
Well, yes, I am. He doesn’t flap. He’s unflappable. He knows it’s pointless. So do I, but I do it anyway, not as often as I used to, but still often enough to have to apologize to the Lord later for my lack of faith. It’s my over-developed sense of responsibility again. I know I need to pray from a place of rest and trust in the Lord, believing that he has made a provision for every problem, but… but…but…
I also need to know that somebody cares. To me that means investing in some emotional expression. I want some compassionate tears or groans or something. A little sympathy pill. Failing that it means doing something, anything — making a list, googling for information, shopping for extra batteries — some indication of extending oneself. That’s how I show caring. But not everyone communicates the same way. I know that.
There’s another trap that I have fallen into far too often. In the absence of the proper person for the job I have the bad habit of rushing into somebody’s-got-to-do-it mode, jumping in without checking with the Lord whether this is helping or enabling or just plain meddling. It’s time to change that.
I have been reading in the book of Hebrews about the importance of rest. “…whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.” (Hebrews 4:10-11 ESV)
Now I have to tell you the instruction to “strive to enter God’s rest” has always seemed a little crazy-making to me. It feels like one of those damned if you do/damned if you don’t scenarios played out with frustrating bosses or elderly relatives who cannot be pleased. Are not “strive” and “rest” words carrying opposite meanings? What do you mean by that, Lord? Do you want me to strive or rest? Pick one. It’s another thing that has made me sputter in frustration. But this week I think I may be able to understand this passage and its importance a little better.
I was down at the Falls. I watched autumn leaves float down from the tall trees overhanging the water. Some fell into the water and were carried by the churning stream around and around the eddies then picked up by the torrents and whisked over a series of small waterfalls until they disappeared over the cliff with the big waterfall. Some of the pretty coloured foliage fell on rocks and rested there. Being inanimate objects they didn’t have the option of throwing themselves into the drama and chaos of the river and then, when they were emotionally spent, crawling back out to a resting place. They were still or they were not.
We, on the other hand, need to concentrate — strive — to remain in a place where God is our total sufficiency. It’s so easy to slide off the rock and join in the words of complaint or dismal predictions. It takes effort to stay in a place of rest.
I’m afraid I still get sucked into not only my own drama, but the drama of people around me. I think I’m showing compassion, but maybe I am just riding the currents of fear, swept away with emotion.
I asked some people who are father along on this journey than me what they do when they genuinely care, but want to remain in a place of rest where they can hear our heavenly Father’s heart for his children. Some said they just withdraw and refuse to respond to panic. Some said they explain that they do care, and they are praying, but they believe God is good so they don’t need to verbally rehearse how bad the situation looks. He knows. They want to hear how Jesus is interceding so they can join him, and for that they need to cease from offering their own solutions and reactions and seek the Lord.
As Graham Cooke said, “We need to learn to pray as brides and not as widows.” We are not alone or abandoned to our own devices to solve a problem. If we lack wisdom we can ask, simply because he loves us.
Rest is not passivity or fatalism. It’s connecting with God first, and trusting him. It’s realizing that we can quit relying on our own efforts to save ourselves or others, and let God be God. He has a plan, and it’s a good one.