Whatever is Pure - October 2006
Getting On With Life
One definition of a coward is simply, someone who makes a lot of excuses. Most of us have enough excuses to last a lifetime. The sooner we let go of them and get on with living, the better off we are.
I said good-bye this weekend to a friend who I wrote about in the I Lift My Eyes Newsletter of October 2004 . To refresh your memory, Mary is Cree and was born in a remote impoverished area of our province to alcoholic parents. At the age of fourteen, she left her tiny hamlet in hopes of escaping horrible abuse and poverty. Having only a grade seven education, her resources were limited and she floundered as she travelled between relatives and friends until accepting Christ at the age of eighteen.
I first met Mary shortly after she accepted Christ. She was attending Adult education part-time in hopes of eventually earning a high school diploma. In the eighteen years since, I have not once heard her use her painful past as an excuse for refusing to go forward in obedience along the path the Lord set before her. When the ' demons' of her past would raise their ugly heads, she did not attempt to cover her pain but chose not to live in that pain forever. She sought out Christian counseling and pastoral helps. She developed strong Christian friendships and the Lord provided wonderful married couples to guide her in her walk, becoming very much her spiritual older brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers.
A course here, a course there, she finally gained her G.E.D and moved on to University and after five years of hard work, she graduated. All the while, she never forgot her family and was an active aunt in the lives of her nephews and nieces, providing a safe harbour as the cycle of abuse continued to spiral down in the lives of many of her siblings. Her heart broke as she despaired to see so many in her family remain in bondage to anger, drugs, alcohol and resentment but she did not allow her brokenness to ever become an obstacle in the course God set for her life. Upon graduation, she found work in a local woman's shelter.
In May of this year, she announced that she had been accepted for the Master's program at a prestigious Christian University. Her friends all rejoiced with her but were immediately saddened to hear that she'd be moving over 3500 miles away. The summer flew by much too quickly and on Friday about 20 of us gathered to pray with her and send her out with our blessings.
Although Mary is thirteen years younger than I, I have looked up to this courageous woman of God as long as I have known her. While transparent and vulnerable and often in deep emotional pain, Mary continues to remain faithful to her Deliverer and Redeemer, forgiving those who have abused her, having chosen obedience to God over remaining in bondage to her past. She truly has moved on to living the life God has given her.
My prayer is that I'll grow up some day to be just like my 'little sister in Christ'.
O God of Love, we come to praise your name!
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Where Theory Meets RealityIn August of 2006, I met with thousands of other believers from across the world. Over 23 nations were present and countless denominations worshipped freely together and sought the Lord in unified prayer. Conservative Mennonites in traditional garb serenely sat beside rowdy Pentecostals, Baptists and Catholics waved banners and worship flags and entered into fellowship. First peoples embraced the French, the French wooed the English with their passion for Christ. There was much talk of reconciliation and forgiveness as speaker after speaker came forward.
The Friday evening meeting began in a special way. We were blessed by our Israeli and Jewish -Christian brothers as they led us through a traditional Sabbat (Sabbath) ceremony. Candles were lit, prayer shawls were worn and ancient songs were sung as the huge crowd sat silent, utterly entranced. After a time of corporate worship, the leadership called forth the largest delegation of international visitors - who happened to be from Germany. Every one of the sixty-one delegates sacrificed much to be able to fly to Canada for this meeting.They shared briefly about what God was doing across their nation and the national leaders from across Canada were invited on stage to pray for them and thank them for coming.
Michael, a Jewish -Christian leader, stepped forward and was given the mic. As he walked across the stage toward the German delegates, you could feel the room hold its breath. His first words sent a chill down my spine. He stated simply that he needed to talk to these people and then went on to speak bluntly. He spoke of the fact that many in his flock were the children and grandchildren of . Jews that escaped from Nazi Germany. Most had lost their entire families. The raw honest pain of his own confusion was evident as he admitted his personal pain and the fact that this was the first time in his Christian walk that he had been confronted with the unforgiveness that he still had within his heart. He had not even been aware of depth of the bitterness until that very moment.
Yet in the midst of the evident pain, there was humbleness. He broke into uncontrollable anguished tears. The German's elder spokesman, about 70 years of age carefully embraced him, not asking for forgiveness but instead, apologizing on behalf of his nation. He too began to weep from the shame that many Germans still feel today, even though most had not even been born when the atrocities took place. The entire delegation became undone and other Christians from Jewish backgrounds streamed on stage in an act of reconciliation. Michael spoke words of forgiveness and went as far as to pray against the shame and guilt that blankets so many in Germany.
Michael was confronted with the harsh reality of his own brokenness. He chose to walk in transparent obedience, not hiding his pain behind nice "Christianese" terminology. He walked through that pain right into the arms of those he had carried a grudge against for most of his life. He 'walked the walk' and didn't just 'talk the talk'. On that Friday night, his Christianity was not only a theory but a living reality.
My earnest prayer is simple. "Lord, give me the grace to walk through the fiery furnace in transparency, humility and openness."
I AM ALRIGHT...
I Stand Amazed
"I stand amazed in the presence
This past week, I was reminded how undeserved is the love the Lord lavishes upon me - undeserved, unmerited and utterly unobtainable grace and yet a free gift offered me and paid for through His horrible death and proven in resurrection of Jesus Christ. I ran to the cross today, humble and broken and had a heart to heart with the Lord. I confessed my verbal reaction to a hurt done against me was sinful and the Lord forgave me and in his mercy, he pressed me deeper still, going to the root and asking me to address my inner resentments surrounding the offender. The Lord doesn't only deal with our surface behaviour, he mercifully goes to the root and when I allow him, he'll lay an axe to that root, so I no longer have to ineffectively tug at the 'top' of the weeds that threaten to choke my new growth in Him.
Any suburbanite who has a lawn will tell you.that snipping off the bright yellow flower and green leaves of a dandelion does nothing to solve the problem although for a day or two, the lawn might look nice and smooth, overnight, the hardy weeds will spread new growth unless drastic measures ar made. The only way to get rid of a weed is to kill it below the surface. The only way to get rid of reoccurring sin in our lives is to go to the root and to humbly accept God's gracious invitation and allow Him to bring to the surface that which we would rather not admit exists.
I praise God that his forgiveness is through and that his forgiveness is instant. How marvellous. How wonderful and how awe-inspiring that Jesus Christ would go to the cross for us, in order to walk us straight into His father's arms, clean and spotless. I pray I will never take that gift for granted.
I'm the Older Brother
When I shut my eyes, I can almost see her whisking around pulling her home into order when Jesus and his entourage suddenly drop in for supper, mentally saying a brief prayer of thanks that she'd swept the front room that morning and wondering just how hungry these men are. My mental portrait shows that she's a little round--just enough to make her waddle when she walks--with a broad, honest face, red, chapped hands, and her every move exuding the word "capable." I picture Mary as lithe and slender, gracefully reclining on the floor in a soft blue dress with an expression of perfect rapture on her face as she devours everything Jesus is saying. But Martha--well, the best I can do for her is "capable," which just goes to show how much I still buy into the society stereotype that virtue and beauty are practically synonymous. And of course, "everyone knows" that Mary is the virtuous one who listens to Jesus while Martha is bad, bad, bad and gets her hand figuratively slapped for demanding that the angelic, reclining Mary help prepare the meal for the Master and his followers.
Only problem is that more and more I find myself empathizing with Martha. And the elder brother of the prodigal son, for that matter.
So many times I've had to beat down thoughts like, "Lord, why don't I have as much anointing on my life as they do?" I try so hard to live a life pleasing to Him, and then feel condemned because I'm "trying too hard" and "depending on my good works." And then I counter that faith without works is meaningless, and thus begins one of the many seemingly endless arguments that bounce around in my head at random hours of the day.
It's never seemed fair to me that so many of the "mighty men of God" these days are those with the sordid pasts. Often I hear someone give a particularly moving testimony of how the Lord moved them from the dregs of society into a life of truth and find myself envious. Of course they are quick to clarify, "Now those of you who don't have a testimony like mine, remember, the best kind of testimony is a person who's lived for Jesus every moment of their life." Of course I smile and nod appreciatively. And of course part of me deep down doesn't believe it.
It doesn't help, either, when prophets/evangelists/people who "see" things in the spirit realm come to the church and immediately target everyone around you and pass you by. You find yourself wondering, "what's the point of being here at all? God doesn't see me and if He does, it doesn't look like He gives a rip."
I was in that position not too long ago, and having one of those mental "what's the point of it all" arguments with myself when the tide turned and a single thought came crashing through my defenses: Why are you still so dependent on someone else to explain your relationship with God?
The thought was so strong I was almost surprised at not careening off to the shoulder of the road. There it was again, the ugly truth that even after 22 years of service to Him, I was still so insecure our relationship that I felt the need to hear someone tell me there were angels watching over me. I still felt that compulsion to be somebody else, because I wanted the giftings and callings of that other person more than to try to find my own purpose. I admit, I had to apologize to God right then and give myself a good talking too, and the constriction around my heart popped like the snapping of a rotten rubber-band.
You see, my failing was similar to one of the aforementioned elder son's faults. When he complained to his father that it wasn't fair that his father favoured his prodigal brother, who squandered away his father's money in wild living, with the fattened calf, Jesus used the word "bios" to describe the father's money, which is a primary word for present state of existence or "the means of livelihood." Matthew Henry's commentary states that the older son was trying to put his younger brother into disfavour with his father by magnifying the mistakes made, implicating that the younger son had wasted away everything the father had. By virtue of the fact that the father still had a fattened calf, a robe, and a ring to give to the returning son, we know he was still considerably well-off and that his estate hadn't suffered from the young son's mistakes.
If I could pin-point one thing that God is teaching me now, it is that nothing involving anyone else will subtract from what He has in store for me. To think otherwise is merely a lack of faith in His plan for me, and of course, "without faith it is impossible to please God." I love the promise in Romans 3 that our lack of faith will not nullify God's faithfulness. God is God, and His storehouses are vast and infinite.
It's enough to put a smile on my lips before I fall asleep at night.
As of May 2012, "WHATEVER IS PURE" ARCHIVES will no longer be seeking submissions. As most authors and poets now have their own blogs, we noticed a significant drop in submissions over the past year and felt it was best to move on to other endeavors.
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