Conntecting the Dots

A Love Life Like No Other — part 3

No matter how busy our lives get, our obedience to God is of utmost importance. When He speaks, we must do what He says. The older I get, the more I realize how critical this is.

This morning I read the story of Abraham’s obedience — getting up and moving from the familiar into the unknown simply because God said so. I’ll bet that wasn’t easy. Actually, I know that wasn’t easy for him….you see, we’ve done it a couple or three times ourselves. Despite the angst that often accompanies such a move, there’s a strange sort of peace that goes with it when we recognize that God is the One giving the marching orders, and He’s in control of every detail.

Yes, there are certain times when God demands our obedience in the big things. But He also expects obedience in the little things — like telling the truth, being honest if the grocery clerk give us too much change, refusing to entertain lustful or critical thoughts, and so on. This kind of obedience is do-able no matter how busy our lives get. And it’s critical to our spiritual health.

Any insights out there? How has obedience (or lack thereof) impacted your relationship to God?

A Love Life Like No Other — part 2

Back to the question of how to keep relationship with the Lord as top priority in the midst of a busy life…

Yesterday I mentioned being sensitive to the Lord’s voice. In my case, I’ve been learning to listen to the message He’s giving me through the praise songs that are in my mind when I wake up. Without fail, the lyrics focus my thoughts on Him and one or more of His attributes.

This morning as I prayed, several songs entered my mind, one after the other. Each one focused on the name of Jesus: “Jesus is the sweetest name I know…,” “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus….there’s just something about that name…,” and “Jesus, name above all names, beautiful Savior, glorious Lord….” It was amazing, really, how one song ended and the next began without me consciously directing my thoughts.

It was such a sweet experience, and it reminded me that relationship with Jesus supersedes all else in importance. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus — there’s no other like Him. When that realtionship is in order, all else falls into place.

A Love Life Like No Other

I think I’ll stretch this topic over a few days because there’s so much to it.

My friend Oce commented yesterday about the need to proceed into ministry opportunities with peace. I so agree. It’s ‘way too easy to assume that we need to accept every op that comes along, when in reality, that’s not always the case. Also, we don’t have to accept invitations immediately — rather, we need to take time to listen to God’s voice before saying yes. If we can do so with peace, then great! Move ahead. If there’s an uneasiness, then say no. Sometimes “doing” ministry can actually get in the way of our relationship with the Lord, and proceeding without Him is a sure-fire way for that to happen.

Here’s something that I’ve found interesting in the past week. I often wake up with a praise song running through my head. It never dawned on me until a few days ago that this could be the Lord Himself speaking to me, using the song as His instrument. Maybe I’m a bit slow to catch on. You see, He’s ministered to me many times through music, but those times have always been when I’ve been awake. This is different – the songs are already playing in my head when I wake up.

This morning I woke to the Newsboys’ “Amazing Love” — aka “You are My King.” Rather than brushing it off as simply a nice song, I considered it God’s way of speaking to me. I made a cup of tea, took my Bible and journal to my favorite spot in my living room, and spent a few quiet moments savoring the message in the lyrics, “Amazing love, how can it be, that You my King should die for me?” What a great way to start my day, being reminded by God Himself that He loves me and wants relationship with me!

Now that I’m aware of Him speaking through these early morning songs, I make a point of being quiet so I can hear them and understand what He’s trying to tell me.

How about you? Have you had a similar experience with a song?

What Matters Most?

The beginning of a new year is a good time to ponder what really matters. Life gets so busy that it’s easy to be distracted and miss the mark. That’s not the way I want to live, and you probably feel the same way.

This morning I read about Enoch — the guy lived to be 365 years old. Genesis 5 gives him more attention than the other fellows listed before him, but still, it says only two things: he had a son named Methuselah when he was 65 years old, and he had a vibrant relationship with God.

It’s interesting that the last fact is mentioned not just once, but twice. Enoch had close fellowship with God (v.22) and he enjoyed a close relationship with God all his life (v. 24). Oh yeah, there’s one more thing: he suddenly disappeared because God took him.

The Bible could have listed Enoch’s accomplishments and adventures, but it doesn’t. It simply stresses the fact that he enjoyed a close walk with God.

As I look into the upcoming months, I must admit that I feel a little anxious at times. The life of a writer/speaker isn’t as glamorous as it may appear on the surface — there’s lots of behind-the-scenes hard work and sweat. And judging by what’s on my plate, I’ll be sweating more than a little. But the bottom line is this — the quality of my walk with God.

That relationship must come first. That means carving out time for Him when I’m fresh and alert, not giving Him the leftovers when I’m too tired to recognize His voice. It means saying no to some activities so I’m available for what He wants me to do. It means being willing to do whatever He asks even if it seems illogical or too time-consuming at the moment. If that relationship is in order, the rest of my life will be in order, too.

I’m not going to live to be 365 years old like Enoch. I’ll have 80 or 90 years on earth, maybe. What will people say about me when I’m gone? Will they say, “She had close fellowship with God?” I hope so.

Tomorrow I’ll blog about how I maintain fellowship with God in the midst of a very busy ministry. I’d love to hear your thoughts — struggles and secrets — on this topic.

A Cover-up

I read today in Genesis 3, where Adam and Eve sinned against God. Verse 7 stood out to me: “…they strung fig leaves together around their hips to cover themselves” after they’d eaten from the forbidden fruit.

Fig leaves around the hips, eh? I can almost see the couple cowering in an orchard, trying desperately to string the greenery before God shows up for their daily walk in the park. Their hands are shaking and sweat beads are forming on the foreheads. They know they’ve done wrong, and they know their actions have built a wall between themselves and God. And so they try to cover up, to pretend that everything’s okay. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work.

God walks onto the scene knowing full well what His kids had been up to. He speaks with them to make sure they understand the seriousness of disobeying Him, He levies the consequences for what they’ve done, and then…I love this part…He provides a cover-up for them.

Big difference between the first and second cover-ups!

The first is flimsy, inadequate, and manmade. The second is crafted by God’s hands and covers the nakedness completely. More importantly, it’s made from animal skins, which require a blood sacrifice. This cover-up is sufficient.

How many times do we sin, and then try to set things right on our own? We string fig leaves together — using flimsy excuses to cover our tracks — but our feeble attempts don’t work. God knows what we’ve done, and, because He loves us and wants nothing to interfere with our fellowship with Him, He has provided the perfect cover-up for us.

Like the animal skins that covered Adam and Eve, this one covers us. It, too, required a blood sacrifice — the blood of Jesus Christ. And it’s sufficient. Nothing else is needed — just our willingness to accept the gift of God’s cover-up for us.

What an amazing proof of God’s love for us!

The Secret to a Fruitful Life

Thursday, January 1

As the new year dawns, I’m filled with a sense of anticipation about what God wants to do in and through my life in 2009. While I don’t know the details, I’m confident that He wants me to enjoy a more intimate relationship with Him and to bear fruit that will last for eternity. And so, as I opened my Bible this morning, I asked God to bring this to pass.

Typically I use the One Year Bible in the New Living Translation for my devotions. This morning, I read Psalm 1, and its words seemed to leap off the page.

“Oh the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with scoffers. But they delight in doing everything the Lord wants; day and night they think about his law. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season without fail. Their leaves never wither, and in all they do, they prosper.” (vv. 2,3)

What’s the secret to having a fruitful life? One of the major keys is obedience. When God has a plan and asks me to participate, I need to say yes. And I need to do so with delight.

I think of a teenager being asked by his mom to take out the trash. He can respond in either of two ways. He could whine and moan and complain — “Aw, Mom, do I have to?” or he could say, “Sure, Mom. No problem. I’ll get right to it” and obey cheerfully. Which response brings greatest joy to his mother? The latter, of course.

And so it is with God’s children. When He gives us a task, we need to say yes with a cheerful heart — even if we don’t understand why He’s asking us to do a certain thing. By doing so, we show Him respect. We demonstrate our love for Him, and He is pleased.

The other key, I believe, is filling our minds with God’s Word. When we do that, we begin thinking His thoughts and valuing the same things He values. That will transform our behavior, and that will impact the world around us for Jesus Christ.

The natural result of living life with God’s values in mind is fruitful living. It’s not something we have strive for, it just happens when we’re walking in obedience to His will and thinking His thoughts.

That’s the kind of life I want! How about you?

“Lord, grant us hearts that take delight in obeying You even if Your directives seem difficult or hard to understand. Give us the strength to train our minds on You so that we will begin to think as You do. And give us the privilege of bearing fruit without fail. We love you. Amen.”

Welcome to my new blog

Here I sit on New Year’s Day. The snow is falling outside — it’s the kind of day that makes me want to hunker inside. And so, that’s what I’ll do!

A couple of months ago I felt as though the Lord was nudging me to start blogging regularly. Granted, I’ve done it for my travels, but this one would be for a different purpose. I sensed Him telling me to use it for journaling my spiritual journey. To share what I read in my devotions. To pass along inspirational quotes and nuggets from the books I read. To make it a tool for others to use for encouragement in their own spiritual journey. To use it to help others connect the dots between God’s Word and real life.

And so, I agreed. I’ll admit I feel a little anxious about blogging regularly. What if I have trouble keeping it up? But I go back to the fact that, if God is nudging me to do this, He’ll enable me to get it done.

Join me in this venture! I’ll share my heart with you, and I invite you to do the same by sending your comments. I look forward to hearing from you.

The blog will be located at this site for a short while as my website undergoes a facelift. When that task is complete, the blog will move there for easier access. I’ll let you know when that happens.

Happy New Year!

Friday, March 28

Up at 2:30 a.m., in a taxi by 4:00, on a plane by 4:45, and the 26-hour trip home was underway. From Kosice to Vienna was a little more than one hour. Easy. Then came a five hour layover. I found a plug-in behind a pay phone, sat myself down on the granite floor, pulled out my laptop, and wrote our family’s next newsletter. Oh my. Getting up two hours later was a challenge for this stiff old granny. But, hey! I got the newsletter done. Wahoo!!

The next leg of the journey was an 8 ½ hour jaunt across the Atlantic. The airline on which I traveled may as well be nicknamed “Sardine Airlines” for the amount (or lack thereof) of leg room. But guess what? I had no seat partner for this entire trip. That meant I could stretch out a little bit. When that happens on long trips like this, I consider it a real treat.

The plane landed in Toronto and suddenly I was surrounded by English speakers, English signs, English everything. After being away for a month, my brain had a wee bit of readjusting to do. Another three hours passed, but they were quick because I had to claim my suitcases and take them through customs before transferring to my next flight.

By this time, I was running on sheer adrenalin at the thought of getting home. My brain was starting to go into a fog so, when I found another plug-in, I did some work that took no thinking power. With about 9,000 emails in my “delete” box waiting to be permanently deleted, I figured this was a good time to start.

Have your legs ever felt crawly? That’s how mine felt for the 5-hour flight to Vancouver. They’d had enough sitting. They were now ready to get up and get moving, but that’s easier said than done while flying at 40,000 feet. Oh well – thank goodness for pressure socks and the ability to walk an aisle to the bathroom!

My son and his wife picked me up in Vancouver. The best part about coming home was seeing my grandbaby, Anna. She’d turned three months old and had changed a fair bit since I left. Poor little thing – while sitting in the car on the way home, she studied my face for a long time and then burst into tears and a pitiful, scared cry. Do I look that bad after traveling for so many hours? Or has Grandma been gone too long? I’m afraid it’s the latter. Well, maybe not. Maybe it’s the former, too.

“Thank You, Father, for the safe trip. Thank You for all the experiences You gave, and for Your wonderful presence over the past month. Continue the good work You began in women’s lives in Europe through the conferences there. And now, Lord, once again give me words to speak to women in North America. And may they capture the vision of how they can participate in building Your kingdom overseas, too. Amen.”

March 25-27

Early Tuesday morning we drove 40 minutes to Arad and boarded the train for a Hungarian destination. This would be a break – a welcome reprieve for us after a very busy month. Time to stop. Time to rest and be refreshed. Time to simply “be.”

We stayed at a hotel in the mountains. A quiet village lay below. Its cobblestone streets beckoned us to stroll and we accepted the invitation. The crisp air, spring songbirds, and gurgling stream tickled our senses. We drank cappuccino and Cokes in a tiny restaurant decorated with red-and-white checkered tablecloths. We ate dinner in another local restaurant and shook our heads when we realized that, as foreigners, we’d been ripped off when we paid the bill. Live and learn.

We stayed less than 48 hours, but we left feeling recharged and ready for the next month of ministry commitments. A cab delivered us to the train station, and off we went to Kosice.

Monday, March 24

Gene and I spent more time with Tresha and Andy today (The Joshua Project). They’re a tremendous couple loaded with passion about the work God has called them to do. It will be a privilege to raise awareness of their work when I return to Canada. Later in the day we met with Laura V., another IM coworker. She’s a Romanian gal whose passion is connecting with people through teaching English as a second language. The evening was spent with Doug and Roberta – the couple who founded River of Life. Wow – God has an amazing array of servants. Each one is so special and uniquely prepared for the work He’s given them.

Shortly after returning to River of Life, I was able to spend time with a couple of the women there. Donna had said very little to me during the previous days, but now she was the only woman in the room and took advantage of it. She motioned for me to sit on the couch beside her, and then, in very broken English, asked why I had to leave. Our conversation was interrupted repeatedly by children wanting one thing or another so it didn’t result in anything deep, but it was a good time of building a relationship with her. It reminded me of the importance of “being” rather than always “doing.”

Lavinia joined us a few minutes into the conversation. She, too, asked why I had to leave. I tried to explain that I have work to do in Canada, and both women accepted that with a slight nod. Before our time together ended, I told the women that I’d be praying for them. Lavinia’s eyes filled with tears and she said, “Pray I change.” She pointed towards her two-year-old daughter who was playing on the floor nearby. I knew what she meant. As a woman who grew up in the infamous orphanage setting, she didn’t receive proper nurturing. Now she’s finding it a huge challenge to parent her daughter in a healthy way. Tears rolled down her cheeks as I explained that God will help her change as she relies on Him for strength.

“Father, embrace these women and impress upon their hearts that You love them deeply. Change them from the inside out. Transform them into women who reflect the character of Jesus Christ and the fruit of the Spirit. In Your name, Amen.”