Monday, 31 March 2014

An Action Word

It's meal time, and one self professed chatterbox in our family prefers to talk instead of eat, half way through our meal, we notice he's not even touched his. Out comes a line from a song.  I'm not sure everyone does this in their families but I have from when the boys were very little. I like to live by the line Dave Dobbyn sings "the less said, the more sung.", so I sing an instruction to the chatterbox. "A little less conversation, a little more action." Thank you Elvis. The meal proceeds.

A little less conversation, a little more action. Psalm 40 has been my dwelling place over the past few weeks.  Definitely worth a read, so are any of the Psalms really, in fact the whole book is good.

When reading Psalm 40, I had a bit of a 'lightbulb' moment, when I realised David, who wrote this psalm, used words like 'put' and 'make' in front of the word trust.  Have you ever noticed that?  'Put' and 'make' are verbs, doing or action words.  Which in turn, makes trust the act.  Psalm 40 verse 3 says "He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD." Then verse 4 goes on to say "Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust".

Perhaps your assumption, like mine was that trust is something given, or conjured up, or grown over time. But these verses seem to come at trust from a different angle.

I'm going to get all 'Strong's Concordancey' on you for a moment. Because not only can we view trust as an action, but the Hebrew words used in each verse for trust is different. Bare with me, this is kind of interesting. We can see in verse 3 David uses the Hebrew word batach, meaning "confident , sure, bold or careless" Then in verse 4 he uses the word mibtach meaning "refuge, security, hope or assurance".

This stood out to me, let me paraphrase these verses and see if I can show you what I mean. I'll start part way through verse 3 and only the first part of verse 4.  Here goes;

Many will see and fear, and put their confidence and boldness in the LORD.
Blessed is the one who makes the LORD their refuge, security, hope and assurance.

Trust is a word we often use in our church lingo. Forgive me for saying, but I'm just not entirely sure we understand all that these church words mean half the time.  Trust isn't a celestial, spiritual word, it's actually practical. Trust is giving over to another, it's an act, it's actually nearly a physical action, taking something and putting it in a new place.  Or taking something and making, moulding it into another.

Our challenge as a church today is not to come up with more programs to try tempt people into our buildings, or to entertain them while they are here.  Our biggest challenge is total surrender of our trust.  As Simon Guillebaud says in his book  More Than Conquorers, "So the purpose of  total surrender is that our lives will honor him and point others to bring us to a position of such weakness that we are malleable and available to God to accomplish his purposes for his glory"  He then goes on to quote  John Wesley's "Covenant Prayer"

"I am no longer my own, but yours.
Put me to what you will,
Rank me with whoever you will.
Put me to suffering.
Let me be employed for you,
Or laid aside for you.
Exalted for you, or brought low for you.
Let me be full,
Let me be empty.
Let me have all things,
Let me have nothing!
And now, O Father,
You are mine and I am yours. So be it.
And the covenant I am making on earth,
Let it be ratified in heaven. Amen."

Total surrender is trust.  It's laying down our own agenda, putting our faith, what we actually depend upon, onto God.  Taking what is most important to us and laying it, putting it, offering it all to God, no matter what happens, knowing that God is in control.  That is trust.

Sometimes it's easier to speak about such things, rather than do the doing of such things.  I guess that is where we need to get our Elvis on, and sing to ourselves, "A little less conversation, a little more action."


Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Parental Understanding

When the day begins or proceeds exactly the opposite from what you had hoped or imagined.

Perfectionist suffers from the fatality of failure, 1 equation wrong wrote the epitaph, death and destruction of his will to try, his will to be taught, trained and moulded.

Perfection + mistake = the homicide of trying. Which in turn became a genocide of love, goodness, joy and peace in the home. Destruction of this kind can be contagious when all are weary and vulnerable.

How can I allow a small body to alter the atmosphere. My buttons get pushed when 9 year olds tell me how to parent with noted observations of how other mothers parent. The ugly comes out in me. He can not see the big picture of who he will become and how today makes a difference.

I hold my head in your hands and wonder how it became this mess.

Then when trying to calm my soul, it just happened to turn up in my inbox, today of all days this ... sometimes all it takes is understanding and a different perspective.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Friday 5 - UPDATED - The Shack, by William P Young

It's been ages since I've shared a favourite on a Friday.

We had the privileged of sharing a meal with two very interesting gentlemen on Wednesday night. Russell Thorp coordinates GC3, a New Zealand missions organisation as well as Ooi Chin Aik, known as Chin, an evangelist, itinerant speaker, theologian and author. What an interesting and inspiring evening with two very knowledgeable men. Russell, having connections with Laidlaw College in Auckland, noted we had the novel, The Shack on our bookshelf.  He suggested we listen to a link from the Laidlaw website from theologian Baxter Kruger and author of The Shack, Paul Young.

The Shack appears to be a very controversial book. I have read it probably 4 times, I try read it every year. not because it is particularly well written, but because it challenges my thinking. It is a novel, so fiction, yet for me, it opens  up the possibilities of who God is, removing the box I have placed God in, giving God the space to repossess the inviting, divine, mystery that He is.

I haven't had time to listen to this yet, so can not censor it for you, but from what Russell said about the evening, it tells the history of how the story of the The Shack came to be, if you have wondered about this book and have been hesitant to read it due to offered opinions, then this testimony may give you perspective you need to pick The Shack up and read it, or to stop wondering if you should read it and be content to walk away from it. You decide.

UPDATE: I have listened to these talks, they include very little about the book The Shack.  I would be cautious in recommending others listen to the link above, unless you have a good theological filter to sift the raised thoughts through.  I'm not saying don't listen. I could easily remove this link from my blog, but in the interests of challenging and thought provoking material these talks are up there.  They are just not for the faint hearted in their faith. I described to my husband, that my reaction was 'cautious intrigue'. Some of the question raised in these talks really tapped into a deep place of my own doubts in faith, this is a good thing, as I think sometimes we feel something is awry but at times we don't know exactly how to put it into words, or we push the feeling down, not knowing how to address it, so tend more towards ignoring the difficulty of it. This can look an awful lot like an ostrich hiding it's head in the sand, which does not equate to wisdom.  

I need to listen to it again, and probably again. I don't know if I agree with this theology since I've only listened once and can't say I understood all they were saying.  At times I liked what I heard but then struggled to accept it as it wasn't referenced to the Word of God enough to reassure me.  Other times I could see where they were coming from, and others I wasn't on the same page.  So if you like challenging theological discussion and have been discipled and equipped enough to work through some highly challenging and controversial theology, then I encourage you to listen, if not maybe avoid for now, or if you are really curious find a spiritual mentor to journey with you in this.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Growing up in joy.

I was talking with my 16 year old niece recently.  She is studying psychology at school, so we have another thing in common, she loves psychology and I'm a nutter, actually I love psychology too.

We were pondering yesterday; at what point do human beings loose that sense of carefree, joy, silly, fun-loving, excitable, crazy love for life that children have? Is there an exact time, or phase or cause for becoming more mature and socially appropriate?

This lead me to think on what I encourage my boys to tone down due to social appropriateness. Clearly there are some things children need to learn not to do, e.g playing chase in the Mall, picking their nose in public, or holding their private parts, no one wants to see that.  But do we curb personality too much in the name of character training.  Must all behave the same?  Are we not created uniquely, so shouldn't we retain that uniqueness?

I have one son, who is the fizz when you undo the lid on a soft drink bottle, he is bubbling, effervescent, bursting, and sometimes gets up your nose.  He requires as much if not more training than his peers. However I do not wish to squash his personality for the sake of his character.  Personality is God given, character is a learnt blessing.  Who am I, as a parent, to change or stifle what God has designed. I have no answers, only that we need to hold in tension the responsibility to train and the beauty in God's creatively designed little people.

Parental influence is not the only thing that robs us of our carefree joy of life. Life is hard, and as each day passes, children get closer to their first major disappointment, or hurt.  Parents can again make all the difference. We can teach our children to chose joy, while they know it naturally, it's intrinsic and primal, we can teach them to recognise it, and value it through thankfulness.

Most adults envy the joyful, carefree life of children.  Wouldn't you want to grow up retaining the joy of childhood? As parents we can foster this joy by guiding our children in their personalities, understanding God made them unique for a reason, yet also in community, so to respect other. Teaching our children to be thankful for what they have, rather than always wanting what they don't have.

Joyful, carefree living is not irresponsible or immature, it's understanding who we are in Christ, and giving Him thanks.

Sunday, 2 March 2014


This time last year Marcus and I had returned from a visit to Papua New Guinea with a clear call from God. We had just said yes to taking up a voluntary position over there. We expected it would be a matter of a few months and we would be packing up our home and saying goodbye to friends and family before moving countries to work. Becoming cross-cultural missionaries is a good thing, right, although it's never an easy thing leaving a comfortable culture and moving to a highly volatile one. We knew it would be hard but the call from God was clear.

For many the call to the overseas mission field is a call to sacrifice, often involving isolation and hardship. Some I know have prepared and waited years and years to go after they were called. Some wait endlessly on Government departments for visas. In our case only 12 months have elapsed but it feels like forever! December 2012, we were called. January 2013, we visited. February 2013, we were invited and said yes, and now it's February 2014, and we are still waiting.

We have lived in a state of limbo for the past 12 months. Drawn to a place we want to be and where we believe God wants us to be, makes the waiting all the more difficult. Our mission agency's policy is not to pay bribes, as they feel called to be counter cultural to the corruption that exists within the developing country of PNG. I totally agree, in theory, but in practise, I just want to get there! I really don’t want them to pay bribes either, but this waiting is hard!

As the journey started, we were so full of excitement at what 2013 would hold, but after months of not hearing anything and knowing this official 'tick' we are wanting from the government is only the first of many, the excitement started to wane. Our expectations went from 8 weeks to get there, to months and months of excruciating waiting. Our friends who have been there, smiled and told us this is good training for life in a developing country; learning patience, understanding corruption, knowing nothing happens in a hurry. The waiting was our training ground.

With our call still fresh and our excitement waning, I searched in my concordance to see what the Word of God said about ‘waiting’. What I unearthed was food for a hungry soul and hydration for drying lips.

Many of us have had times in our lives where we have had to wait, consoling ourselves with the truth that God's timing is perfect.  We grab hold of verses like Habakkuk 2:3 "For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end--it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay."  We trust that God's timing is neither early nor late. We can trust Him to answer, as Psalm 38:15 says "But for you, O LORD, do I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer." I guess we can just get a little impatient sometimes.

Why the waiting then? Surely it's a good thing to go to a developing country as missionaries? We are needed in this role, in fact they want us there yesterday. But still we wait.

There is that old adage that says 'good things take time'.  Just because something is of God doesn't mean it's going to happen tomorrow.  Just because God has called you, doesn't mean He's in a rush.

I can see how this year has been used by God to grow us spiritually. Isaiah 40:31 says "but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint."  

What are you waiting on? What have you waited on? Can you see the Lord working as you waited?  Maybe you are right bang in the middle of a call from God. You feel He has planted a dream or desire in your heart and you are in a rush to serve Him. That's not a bad thing. God loves it when we are obedient, but trust Him with the timing. It's hard to 'be still' or 'wait patiently' when we long to serve God with our lives.

You may have had a call to change jobs, yet the right one hasn't come along yet. You could have been called into ministry, yet the right opportunity hasn't come up. Maybe it's a matter of being called out of something, yet no one is there to replace you. Perhaps you have been called to pray for the salvation of someone ... 12 years ago, and still you wait to see the fruit of your hearts cry for that loved one.  It's not easy to wait, especially for the good stuff.

Psalm 37:7 says it so serenely "Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him".  If God has called and you have said yes, you can rest in knowing He's not twiddling His all powerful thumbs. It may seem like nothing is happening, but things are moving, because the One who created heaven and earth is working His will in your life.  Don't waste the waiting, by longing for what is to come. Keep that as your focus, but learn all you can while you wait. Psalm 27:14 says "Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!"

Our call is to obedience and as the Word says, we wait for the appointed time. We can trust Him, as the LORD is the author of time. The fact that we are told not to fret, but be patient and hope in Him, doesn’t make it easy, it only makes it do-able.

Psalm 62:5 says "For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him."