March 29, 2013

Are You Humble Enough to Be Care-Free?

I’m spending the week with the grandkids—doing a lot of Lego, swinging, reading, and a lot of being an appreciative audience… which leaves just a little time for reflecting, and most of those thoughts are on parenting.

It occurs to me that one profession bound to aid the disciple of Jesus along the path of humility is parenting!  Maybe not at first.  They are so cute, so clever, so perfect, so OURS… Then comes reality.  Of who we are, of who they are.  Yes, cute. Yes, clever. But no, not any more perfect than us.  And we pray, “Lead us not into temptation.  Deliver us from evil.” And HELP!!! we haven’t what it takes to do this job!  Rescue us from our messes! This starts in the toddler years but does it ever end?  this need for a  Saviour?   Not yet for me.  I only hope to learn to pray in the process.

I’ve been thinking a lot about prayer these days, wanting to get back to the simplicity of it and shake off tradition and formality. Ironically that brings me back to the prayer Jesus gave as a model:

"Our Father in heaven, Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven…" I haven’t really gotten past that yet.  Though this verse has been construed to mean strange unBiblical things, its essence is a request that God be glorified, that His will be done in every facet of our lives between birth and the grave…. It implies a relinquishment of my will in submission to His, not primarily for my benefit, but for His Kingdom’s sake.  I often find prayer stressful, coming as I do with my urgent desires (and sometimes my perceived solutions which I have no means of attaining on my own).  But though God welcomes our petitions, prayer is not a twisting of His arms or an asserting of my rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for me and mine (or any other good thing).

My best counselor and friend (my husband!) reminds me again and again that prayer is about aligning our wills to God's, not about asking, begging or demanding anything. It's not about getting everything in order in my sphere but rather reorienting my will to be His will, submitting my will to His.

I've been noticing this thing about 'wills' lately. Parents of toddlers have fresh object lessons ever before them but sometimes I forget how much my own will hates to be thwarted. When I insist that someone do something, anything, the way I see best, it's ME that is made miserable (or at the very least irritated) when that someone doesn't align their will with mine. Their 'obstinence' (really the exercise of their free will) thwarts my will. The result: conflict, agitation, unrest, (and maybe a spanking?!).

When I do this in prayer, the results are similar. 

But the instant I let go my insistence that the other person do what I want, there is relief. With a toddler of course a parent must win these wars. Between adults, and grown children,  and ultimately God,  the outcome is less predictable. Will I surrender or insist? With surrender comes relief. The mounting stress is gone! I don't have to be in control. Maybe I do know what's best for the other person, and then again, maybe I don't. My perspective is so limited, so short term. Either way, letting go the need to control is such a relief.

I’m wanting to find this relief in the way that I pray. When my greatest desires seem thwarted, the outcomes not my ideals, can I just cast them in God’s lap and let Him determine what’s best? What might He want in this situation?  Am I willing to hand my messes over to Him and trust Him with the long term possibilities to work in all things for His Kingdom purposes and His own greatest glory? I gravitate to Cinderella stories—with their happily-ever-after endings. Life seldom dishes such out, at least not till seen through the lens of eternity. 

But we are told to pray, to cast cares, to trust and to seek God’s Kingdom above any agendas of our own, His Kingdom and His righteousness.

There may be a lot of humble floor-scrubbing before the prince comes to redeem His own. But it will have been worth the wait.  In the meantime we pray: Thy will be done on earth, in our lives, in our families, in our communities, in our world.  And we present ourselves, His subjects to do His bidding, and to leave the results to Him. 

“Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God,  saying, “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign.” Rev.11:15-17


The title of this post comes from a  sermon transcript by John Piper that so ‘hit the spot’ for me—the concept that casting our cares on God is an act requiring and exhibiting humility, the prerequisite for being care-free.  Interesting premise drawn from I Peter 5.  Have a look and/or a listen here:

March 21, 2013

Peace in Process…

I am a homebody.  I am happy in my ‘pumpkin’.  I feel safe here, and useful, and competent.  I know the routine.  I’ve been making meals for us for nearly thirty years.  I make bread and cookies too.  I don’t iron but I do laundry, and I vacuum and once every few months I may even dust something or sweep a cobweb from a corner…It’s not the height of excitement being home, but life is meaningful and predictable, pretty much, and peaceful.

Intruding into that sameness come appointments:  Dentist visits.  Eye doctor check-ups…regularly scheduled commitments, the odd ‘occasion’ or event… and my routine is jostled.  My insides flutter. Peace gets flustery.  I’ve always been somewhat this way, easily put off kilter.  But I thought with the wisdom and perspective of age, I would out-grow such nervousness. It seems quite the opposite.  And I’ve been wondering why?

Could it be, I’ve  become confident in a realm I can handle most of the time on my own steam?  And have forgotten that all my competence comes from the Lord and  that for every breath and every day I am dependent in reality on Him?  Could it be that my ‘peace’ is more dependent on my feeling ‘in control’ than on any conscious dependence on God?

As March  rushes to a finish, this homebody too is changing pace.  Lord willing by week’s end we’ll be sitting on the old familiar ferry with bags in tow, heading out for the long drive to visit the grandkids for Easter week.  Wonderful prospect, but first the anticipation, the getting ready, the upheaval of change… Then comes an additional twist to our plans.  Tacked to the tail-end of this trip will be a flight on my own to Alaska for a last-minute ‘reunion’ with family while life and sanity remain.  My dad is failing.  My mom needs her kids to come and see him ‘one last time’ while he may still be mindful of us….

Why do my insides roil at the prospect?  Why does anxiety rise in the face of change?  My sense of being in control is threatened; is that it? Am I only at peace when I feel all the variables are under my control?!  That’s pretty delusive.  Since when is maturity about gaining competence that lets me think I’m ok on my own and no longer dependent on my Father? 

An array of fears that now seem so little  used to drive me to prayer and conscious God-dependence…getting behind the steering wheel, for instance.  I remember too the grace that carried me beyond the safety of my closed little community to a distant place with the strange sounding name of “Alberta” for my last year of high school.  Shy little me was the least likely of my childhood friends to have done such a thing—but for my adventurous mom, the mother with big dreams that had anchored her own to stay home and raise her kids…She had this vision for me and passed on the God-confidence to make it come true, even for me. Little did I know how life-changing it would be, or that one day visiting Alberta would be about visiting my grandbabies, who were all born there!

So as I book flights and make lists and take steps to avoid last-minute rushes, I’m consciously committing myself again to God’s care, asking HIs guidance in the details, and counting on Him to carry out His purposes in this too for His glory!


Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. II Cor.3:5

Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting. Ps.139:23,24

You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You. Is.26:3

March 15, 2013

In Good Hands

I enjoy a good biography, at least most of the time.  But there are times they get me in trouble.  Take this week for example.  There I was, actually sitting in the SUN out back (Imagine it!) hoping the rays would be warm enough to fend off the chill…and I was just starting an old biography of Hudson Taylor.1  I’ve read it before but wanted to refresh my memory after seeing a Taylor quote elsewhere that  I really liked (which will follow here shortly)…

So I was lounging in the sun hoping to snatch a few minutes of late afternoon Vitamin D, reading about this icon of evangelistic zeal. His “First Steps of Faith”, as the second chapter was titled, were to leave the comfort and refinement of his privileged upbringing to move into a squalid neighborhood on the edge of a sewage drain ditch so as to 1) have more money to give away, besides more opportunity! and 2) toughen himself up in preparation for going as a missionary to China.  All the while, he held down a job and used his evenings to evangelize in these slums. Wow.  Is this a case of ‘deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me’, or what?!  And suddenly I was feeling indulgent for relaxing in the sun while the world is going to Hell. 

I put that book aside and picked up the alternate biography I had brought along: Surprised by Laughter: The Comic World of C.S.Lewis.2 This oddly analytical study of Lewis’ jovial personality, being rife with quotes from Lewis’ life and works, breathes a welcome lightness into my natural sobriety.  Usually.  But the chapter at hand this particular afternoon was: “Joy and Suffering”.   Not exactly the permission to relax that I was anticipating.  And yet, it rings true and is not altogether morbid…The author speaks of a joy that is not void of pain but is made all the richer by it.  

“Darkness, suffering, and longing are part of the very definition of joy…the salt of joy is sorrow, a touch of tears…Joy is prepared for by suffering.  God accomplishes that preparation by interrupting our material and superficial happiness.  He shatters, through suffering, our illusions and pretenses that all is well.”3

As one who tends to think (mistakenly) there is more merit in denial of pleasure than enjoyment of it, I ate up these next words before heading back inside to get on with the duties at hand:

“The keenest pleasures and joys of life cannot be given us without interruption, simply because we tend to cling to them. Yet such toys are not meant to take the place of real treasures.  Joy comes only when the toys are put away.  However, we don’t want to put them away; and, more often than not, the toys must be taken from us.” 4

Hmm… I’ve always been suspicious of a good time.  I’m warped, I know.  My distrust comes, I suspect, of hating disappointment.  Hating the ‘toys’ to be taken away…But it does seem that whether by my own choice or another’s, life will have pain. It will disappoint. 

I reflected on these things later in the week… who of us naturally chooses hardship over pleasure?  deprivation over comfort? Should we? We have been raised in a culture of excess, of comfort, of self-orientation, yet as followers of Jesus we are called to deny ourselves, take up our respective crosses and be about His business. Where is the balance, the guiding principle? How do we keep from being lulled into a love of this world’s ‘good life’ and rendered ineffective for the Kingdom?  On the other hand, how do I freely enjoy what I’ve been given without clinging possessively or depending on it for my happiness?

I gave a little more attention to Hudson Taylor’s story as well.  There is more at play here than arbitrary pain, whether self-imposed, or regulated by factors outside our control. Hudson Taylor was not some ascetic hermit trying to gain merit. He was working toward the fulfillment of his life’s dream—to take the Gospel to the people of China. And where did that dream come from? Who was the Mover and Shaker behind his life story? Who inspired and enabled him to train for hardship yet to come? Who gave him the grace to live out a story I lack the grace to imagine myself living?! God did. In fact, the quotation that drew me into reading his story again underlines all this. It caught my attention because I needed to hear it:

“After months of agony and struggle to realize more life, holiness, and power in his soul, he [Taylor] came in final and utter self-despair to ‘rest upon the Faithful One’. In a letter to his sister he says in part:

The sweetest part, if one may speak of one part being more sweet than another, is the rest which full identification with Christ brings. I am no longer anxious about anything…for He, I know, is able to carry out His will and His will is mine. It makes no matter where He places me or how. That is rather for Him to consider than for me; for the easiest positions He must give me grace, and in the most difficult, His grace is sufficient. So, if God place me in great perplexity, must He not give me much guidance; in positions of great difficulty, much grace; in circumstances of great pressure and trial, much strength?”—Hudson Taylor5

This was Taylor’s ‘spiritual secret’ one I’m glad he has shared. It is very like Paul’s claim:

“I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Phil.4:11-13

The common denominator is Christ.  I can trust Him with the living out of both pain and pleasure.  I can trust Him to grant me joyful endurance in pain and gratitude in plenty.  I can rest content in what He allows, knowing He will use it for my good.  I can trust that He will instruct me in the use of what He entrusts to me, and will prepare me too for things to come…

I am reassured too by the parable Jesus told of the nobleman going into a far country to receive a Kingdom before returning.  He puts his various servants in charge of his holdings until he returns to set up his Kingdom, instructing them to “Occupy till I come". (Lk.19) Then upon his return he asks them what they gained by trading.  In other words, what did you do with my investments?  What’s reassuring about this?  Well, I haven’t always seen it this way but really all that he’s asking is that each servant make use of what he’s freely entrusted him with.  Each one of the servants had received something.  Each one was responsible to use that something, not to merely give it away because it was more than the other guy got.  Not to bury it and live in poverty.  Not to squander it on themselves.  But to be faithful in the use of it for their prince’s cause.

And if this is us.  If we are those servants, I must say, we have a distinct advantage in the form of the Counselor (Is.9:6; Jn.14:6) residing in us to direct our affairs!  Some stages of life and some necessary duties are more comfortable than others, but for each we have all that we need in knowing Christ.

And about the time I was wrestling with all these notions, Rachel came along to request help with her review of Never Give In,6 a biography of Winston Churchill, the prime minister that led Great Britain through the harrowing years of World War II.  Here was another life story—one of rising to greatness through multiple hurdles, of overcoming difficulties in order to be able to confidently lead others to victory.  And imbedded in his story was this piece of advice for me, with which I close:

"Let us reconcile ourselves to our destinies, such as they must be in this world of space and time. Let us treasure our joys but not bewail our sorrows. The glory of light cannot exist without its shadows. Life is a whole, and good and ill must be taken together." –Winston Churchill7

Good advice I think.  Our destinies are in Good Hands!


“But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which [was bestowed] upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” –Paul I Cor.15:10

“You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” I Cor.6:19,20


1Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret by Dr & Mrs Howard Taylor
2Surprised by Laughter by Terry Lindvall, Ph.D, Thomas Nelson Publ.,1996
3 Lindvall, p.65-67
4 Lindvall, p.66
5 Born Crucified by L.E. Maxwell, p.17-18
6 Never Give In by Stephen Mansfield, Cumberland House, 1995
7 Mansfield, p.145


March 7, 2013

He makes the bitter things sweet


I had forgotten, or maybe never even noticed…I sat transfixed one morning  this week by words in an old journal, a little book dedicated to recording moments in the life of my last-born child…

It was ten years ago this week that she had prayed after me a prayer asking that she might go to Heaven.  She had been frighteningly sick.  There had been nightmares.  Her big sister had prompted her to think of Hell—it’s real, and it’s not a nice place to end up.  And she had come to me days later to ask how she could be assured of Heaven…

Funny, I had not remembered the association of these events. (She had never told me of her big sister’s words until this very morning as we read ‘her’ book together.)  I had remembered the scary seizure, the slow coming back to us, the tangible relief in the household that night: “It’s so good to hear Rachel’s voice again!”.  I had resented this traumatic interlude in our lives.  That I did remember.  But now, reading that only days later she had come meekly to ask the way to Heaven; this connection I had not seen.

How gracious God is to take the bitter things and make them sweet—to use them for good, and to do so even when we are not grateful.  I had feared for this child. She was born a stubborn one—two weeks overdue and then despite being delivered in the comfort of our own home  bawling for all she was worth and not easily comforted. She was prone to fits of temper from a young age so that  I recognized long before she turned two that I had more than met my match.  This dogged will outstripped mine.  She was persistent. I easily cowed. 

But too, she was always the enthusiast shaker and mover among us.  She made things happen.  She insisted I try drawing an oversized Paddington bear so we could play “Pin the pocket on Paddington” for her birthday.  I had no idea I could recreate such a thing.  She brought it out of me and I marveled.

.PIC00016Pin the pocket on paddington

What was this child to become?  I used to wonder.  I read an entry tonight in her little book, where I was marveling at this one’s ability to bring herself under control—to determine a change of mind and carry it out by sheer will to do so.  “I’m being brave” she said and her demeanor in the face of pain was transformed from hysterical pain avoidance to a resolute calm.
“Wow”,  I had written, ‘this will of yours, directed toward doing God’s will, will be a great asset for you.  The difficult part is channeling it for good and not as an occasion for the flesh—yelling, protesting, fussing, complaining and such.” Then came a prayer: “May the Lord so mold your heart and strengthen us to be consistent and firm, so that you will grow to set your face as flint to do His will alone!”

And all the while, by His good Spirit, God was at work---molding that will, using the bitter things to bring sweetness. She’s just pulling into the driveway now; I better wrap this up. Where have the years flown?  My eye lights on this entry shortly before her 6th birthday and I quote: “Mom, after I grow up—and leave home—and organize my home—after a day or two I’m going to come over and visit you.” And there I had sat meditating on Psalm 90, reflecting on the remaining years I would have her, aware even then how short the years would be…

The entry ended with: “It won’t be long and you’ll be off and flying”. Ah, how true.  Today we filled out her application for Bible School. I’m grateful tonight for the years, for the grace and for the bitter things God makes sweet.

Rachel chick


“So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom…

Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children. And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.” Ps.90:12,16-17

PIC00024Rachel 6thbirthday


March 1, 2013

How Long?

OK, I am a slow reader and a slow writer and an even slower reviewer of books—takes me a while to put my thoughts in words (especially if they’re going to be read!) but I did want to put up a review of Joni’s memoir: The God I Love.  And at last it is done.  []

This memoir by Joni Eareckson Tada is a delightful read with a tender balance between portraying  inner thoughts and actions.  Joni was a lively kid with an enviable family life which makes for fun reading and now from the vantage point of maturity she follows the thread of God’s wooing her from the time she was little right up to the present. 

Some people aren’t comfortable with a story like Joni’s. How could God really allow such an ‘accident’ and leave such a talented, vivacious girl paralyzed?  They figure it should be hushed up, as though a Christian  quadriplegic were a contradiction in terms or a shame to the gospel.  As though she hadn’t enough faith to be healed and now she should just be quiet about her story rather than encouraging others to accept their weaknesses as God’s plan for them too.  Does a story like Joni’s really undermine faith? 

I don’t see it that way.  I love her explanation of the hard things, the evil things, the ‘wrong’ things that trouble our lives and our world.  She says God permits them, even though He hates them, because He has a greater purpose, something the love of which overrides the allowance of evil.  Well, she didn’t say it quite that way.  Her way of saying it was:

"God permits things he hates [ e.g. quadriplegia], really hates, to accomplish something he loves [e.g. my growing need of Him]." p218

Or, in other words:

"[God] permits what he hates so that his power can show up in people like you and me."p263

Her whole story is a triumphant affirmation of Romans 8—what shall separate us from the love of God?  And, ‘for those who love God all things work together for good (Rom.8:28) We sometimes stop there with our own definitions of ‘good’ in mind, and wonder What happened?!’  But the verse continues: '…for those who are called according to His purpose.’  And what exactly is that purpose? 

We, as believers, are destined ‘to be conformed to the image of His Son’By nook or by shepherd’s crook God has in mind to conform us to Jesus’ image, this Jesus who ‘learned obedience through what He suffered’ (Heb.5:8) who humbled Himself to the point of death, (Phil.2:8) bent on obeying the Father in everything, yielding His right to life itself to the Father’s good purpose.  (Or else where would we be?)

Joni’s suffering affirms the value of trusting God with our lives, for His eternal purposes. Through her suffering Joni has come to realize the deep compassion of God for her. God has suffered too. He knows. He suffers with us.  She actually came to love Him more than she had before her ‘accident’, thus the book’s title—The God I Love. This is not always the outcome for those who suffer, or who watch people they love suffer.  I guess that’s why I appreciate Joni’s story.  It shows me a faith that works, not in getting me everything I think I want, but in transforming me into the image of Jesus. Isn’t this what I really want?

I confess I’m wimpy when it comes to pain/sickness/suffering.  I quickly fixate on me, myself, and I and wonder ‘how long’ is this going to last? Have you noticed how sickness feels like ‘forever’ until it passes and then it is as quickly forgotten as a passing dream, a mere triviality—a light momentary affliction’which it really is compared to the eternal weight of glory’ it’s preparing us for.  II Cor.4:17 It’s all a matter of perspective…

So I got to looking at the ‘how long?’s of Scripture.  We are in good company.  Seems the human condition predisposes us to ask this question.  It tends to go something like this:  ‘How long do I have to suffer?’

Not unexpectedly, a string of them happen in Job:
“How long will you torment me with words…”  Job 19:2

And a whole slew of them in Psalms to this effect:
”My soul also is greatly troubled. But you, O LORD--how long?
Turn, O LORD, deliver my life; save me…”

We want relief. 

There is also another legitimate ‘how long’. It has to do with our inborn  sense of justice that remains unsatisfied as long as evil goes unpunished. We see it in the martyrs cry of Revelation: They cried out with a loud voice, "O Sovereign Lord, holy and true,how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?" Rev.6:10 

But here it is not a self-oriented cry. They are already dead!  The cry for justice here is a cry for God to be glorified as the rightful Judge of all the earth. We’re getting closer to the ‘How long?’s of God.  When I look at what God is waiting for I see a different sense of priorities.

'How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me? Let my people go, that they may serve me’  were words addressed to Pharaoh by God. Ex.10:3

Then there’s the incident of the Israelites on the verge of marching into the good land God had prepared for them. When the spies bring the report of its greatness, the people quail at the prospect and start whining that they never should have come on this trip. They should have stayed in Egypt! They simply don’t trust that God has their best interests at heart.  Or that He can bring them through the necessary battles.

And God says:
"How long will this people despise me? And how long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them? 

"How long shall this wicked congregation grumble against me? I have heard the grumblings of the people of Israel, which they grumble against me.” Num.14:11,27

We hear the echo of this unbelief in Elijah’s words generations down the line as the people dabble in idol worship: "How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him." I Kings 18:21

This bent to doubt can be traced to Jesus’ ministry years too: "O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here,” Jesus said of the demon-possessed boy no one seemed able to help. Lk.9:41

God’s ‘How long?’ s are so different than mine.

I say,  ‘How long….do I have to put up with this?’…How long…till this pain goes away?

How long…does my dad have to suffer the loneliness and confusion of Alzheimer’s disease?

How long…till ______________ comes (back) to the Lord?

How long… till revival comes? till the church reflects the glory of the Gospel in a way that compels the world to take notice?

How long…till I see what I’m hoping for?
How long…till there’s relief?

And God says:  How long till you stop grumbling, and fearing, and wavering in your loyalties and trust me with your life, as is?  How long till you follow me with your whole heart and leave what you think you most want in My Hands.  How long till you believe that I am in control, working in all things for my greatest glory, which is ultimately your greatest good?!

Man says: "Where is the promise of his coming?” (II Pet.3:4) …nothing has changed. Nothing’s happening.  But  God says, when I come will I find faith on the earth? Lk.18:8

Good question, when you put it that way.

Lord I believe, help my unbelief (and THANK YOU for these testimonies to true faith along the way!)


He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen. Rev.22:20,21

“We groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved…if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” Rom.8:23-25

Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Rom.5:2-5


For more on Joni’s book see my review at: