Friday, January 28, 2011

Thinking On Two Years....

What is most mind-boggling is that it has been two years since I saw Keren. Two years ago today she left us here. In some ways it seems like an eye-blink, and then it seems a lifetime. So much has happened since that has formed our lives now, and it's hard to know that she hasn't been here for them. It is hard to look at pictures of her, knowing that I will never see her older than she is in them, to know that her siblings will be older than her before I know it.... But there is so much joy, too, and thought Keren's not here in person, she is still very much a part of our lives, and for that I am thankful.

Recently I had some cds on, and when the final song of one cd transitioned into the first song of the next I knew I wanted to share them today, because they truly reflect the divided state of my heart. The first song is "More," by Andrew Peterson, on his album The Far Country. It's a song of longing for that inexplicable beauty and joy that I know is waiting for me in heaven. The second song is Fernando Ortega's "This Good Day," from his album Home. This song resounds with joy, praise and thanksgiving for each day and moment hear on earth.

Below are the songs. Apologies for the low image and sound quality, but it's clear enough to enjoy.

video

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Resting In Christ

I just read this post on one of my favorite blogs, www.therabbitroom.com. You can see it with a number of great comments here: http://www.rabbitroom.com/?p=11243. I couldn't resist reposting it, because it hits the nail on the head of a truth I've been slowly learning over the past few years. It also (at least in my mind) is related to my previous post about what unity in the Body means and how we can work it out. But I'll let Hudson Taylor speak for himself....

Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret

POSTED BY Ron Block
hudsontaylorFrom a letter written by Hudson Taylor, the great missionary to China, to his sister.
“…I felt assured that there was in Christ all I needed, but the practical question was - how to get it out. He was rich truly, but I was poor; He was strong, but I weak. I knew full well that there was in the root, the stem, abundant fatness, but how to get it into my puny little branch was the question. As gradually light dawned, I saw that faith was the only requisite - was the hand to lay hold on His fulness and make it mine. But I had not this faith.

I strove for faith, but it would not come; I tried to exercise it, but in vain. Seeing more and more the wondrous supply of grace laid up in Jesus, the fulness of our precious Saviour, my guilt and helplessness seemed to increase. Sins committed appeared but as trifles compared with the sin of unbelief which was their cause, which could not or would not take God at His word, but rather made Him a liar! Unbelief was I felt the damning sin of the world; yet I indulged in it. I prayed for faith, but it came not. What was I to do? When my agony of soul was at its height, a sentence in a letter…was used to remove the scales from my eyes, and the Spirit of God revealed to me the truth of our oneness with Jesus as I had never known it before. (I quote from memory):
 “But how to get faith strengthened? Not by striving after faith, but by resting on the Faithful One.” As I read I saw it all! “If we believe not, he abideth faithful.” I looked to Jesus and saw (and when I saw, oh, how joy flowed!) that He had said, “I will never leave thee.”
“Ah, there is rest!” I thought. “I have striven in vain to rest in Him. I’ll strive no more. For has not He promised to abide with me - never to leave me, never to fail me?” And…He never will.

Nor was this all He showed me, nor one half. As I thought of the Vine and the branches, what light the blessed Spirit poured direct into my soul! How great seemed my mistake in wishing to get the sap, the fulness out of Him! I saw not only that Jesus will never leave me, but that I am a member of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. The vine is not the root merely, but all-root, stem, branches, twigs, leaves, flowers, fruit. And Jesus is not that alone - He is soil and sunshine, air and showers, and ten thousand times more than we have ever dreamed, wished for, or needed. Oh the joy of seeing this truth! I do pray that the eyes of your understanding too may be enlightened, that you may know and enjoy the riches freely given us in Christ.

…it is a wonderful thing to be really one with a risen and exalted Saviour, to be a member of Christ! Think what it involves. Can Christ be rich and I poor? Can your right hand be rich and your left poor? or your head be well fed while your body starves? Again, think of its bearing on prayer. Could a bank clerk say to a customer, “It was only your hand, not you that wrote that check”; or “I cannot pay this some to your hand, but only to yourself”? No more can your prayers or mine be discredited if offered in the name of Jesus (i.e., not for the sake of Jesus merely, but on the ground that we are His, His members) so long as we keep within the limits of Christ’s credit - a tolerably wide limit!

The sweetest part…is the rest which full identification with Christ brings. I am no longer anxious about anything, as I realize this; 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 in the easiest position He must give me His grace, and in the most difficult His grace is sufficient. It little matters to my servant whether I send him to buy a few cash worth of things, or the most expensive articles. In either case he looks to me for the money and brings me his purchases. So if God should place me in serious perplexity, must He not give me much guidance; in places of great difficulty, much grace; in circumstances of great pressure and trial, much strength? No fear that HIs resources will prove unequal to the emergency! And His resources are mine, for He is mine, and is with me and dwells in me.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Unity vs. Uniformity

I have a blog post that I started a year ago, edited more last fall, and have still not completed. It says a lot, and I keep tinkering with it, but there's a lot in it that I'm not sure should be posted. There is much of it, however, that can be stated--should be said. And so I shall try.... I realize my perspective is limited, so I'm sure there are things I'm not seeing, but I will add my voice and see where it leads.

When I was in grad school, one of the educational terms that was popular was "multiple intelligences." I'm sure the concept still exists, but I've been out of the field for a while so it may go by a new name. The gist of it is that everyone learns in a different way. It's kind of along the lines of one of those personality tests: Find out what your personality is (strengths/weaknesses) and this will help you know this, that, and the other thing about your life and purpose. With multiple intelligences you take into account that your students will have different ways of processing and learning information. Some may be highly visual learners, others kinesthetic (get them moving and they'll get the concept), others need to hear things, etc. It's a pretty cool concept, and an idea that has stuck with me and become an important part of how I view individuals and situations.

So, to say the least, it frustrates the snot out of me when I am in a situation where there is no room for this diversity of learning styles. And it seems that a key place where this is true is in my local church, a place where one would hope that this truth would be most applied. After all, one of our greatest truths is that we are the body of Christ and "Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ" (1 Corinthians 12:12). All those who follow Christ in all walks of life are part of that body and he is the Head.

The passage goes on to talk about some of the parts:
 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. (vs. 15-18)
 I love the way this is put. But it seems that in our striving for church unity--a diverse body working together under the Head, Christ--we get confused and push for uniformity, with all the parts of the body trying to be the same part. We forget Paul's words, "If they were all one part, where would the body be?" (v. 19) We say, "Treat others better than yourself!" which is true enough, but seems to lead to one part assuming it is the wiser, better part, and other parts being forced into the same mold. Instead of seeking to listen to each other and seek Christ's leading in how to handle our diversity, we shove the undesired part away. We forget:
 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. (vs. 21-27, emphasis mine)
 Now, my church is not exactly diverse when it comes to ethnic backgrounds. Despite living in a vastly cross-cultural community, my church is still (though 75 years old) pretty much white middle-class. Sometimes I think that's a shame, but I don't regard it as a huge problem. We do have a larger ethnic variety in our children's ministries, school, moms' group, etc. It's just Sunday morning that doesn't fit that category.

What we do have, though, is a multi-generational church, and that's something that I think is vitally important to our strength as a body. And yet in our striving for uniformity (under the guise of unity) we are forgetting our elders and exalting our youth. Not exactly what Paul seems to be pointing out in 1 Corinthians 12. It breaks my heart to see older mature believers being shouldered out and ignored because they are too "traditional" or "critical of current trends." And already I see the effects of that treatment:
  • We are losing mature believers.
  • A number of our childrens' programs are suffering from a lack of qualified, willing teachers and caregivers. (And believe me, we have lots of kids...which means we need lots of teachers.)
  • Our church is suffering financially because those coming in lack a foundational understanding of stewardship and what it means to be committed to a local body; mature believers who were committed and could educate are leaving.
  • Our "worship" service is a bombardment of one style--there is no room for those who learn differently and are touched by God in different ways. There is no place for that still, quiet voice that can speak so very powerfully.
  • Our leadership is struggling to find qualified leaders within the church (goes back to my first point).
  • We have forgotten much of our heritage in the striving to reach the future state (whatever state that is.... Our vision is clouded).
I fear for our church's future, and more personally for my family's future if things continue down this path. There seems to be a great striving for fixing things (every member knows there's a problem; it's just defining it that seems to be the hard part).  Some think that if we evangelize more and all get organized doing that, we'll forget our internal differences and as a result thrive. But this neglects the core health of the body. If we truly unify internally, than we will blast Christ's love to the ends of the earth! We won't need special programs for reaching out to our community; it will be part of our very being. Last year our church participated in an analysis program...but the vision statement that was created by a cross-section of the church has been put aside in a new search for a vision, one created by only a few leaders. They are trying very hard to define our purpose and vision, but this can't succeed unless each part of the body is considered. Pride is a big problem.

I think there is a fear of submitting ourselves to God in prayer and seeing what He wants for us. If our body came together as a whole and we humbled ourselves to ask God for His plan and guidance, we'd find our answer and our unity. We probably would be blown away in shock and awe with the way He could answer. I long to see that!

And so, I'm making a proposal: PRAY! Please pray for my church, for your church. Pray for all who  call themselves followers of Christ that they will treasure the diversity of others in the Body. Pray for those who have not yet found him that they will see him in his followers' unity. Pray for true unity that sees the value of every diverse part and seeks, above all, to exalt the Head, Jesus himself.

Our Head isn't into disrupting the Body function. That's the Enemy's job and he's pretty good at it. Are we going to let him succeed?

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Hindrances

I've discovered a few hindrances to keeping a regular blog. Three of them are named Clare, Ev & Jon :) . I'm not upset that I have those three hindrances; I'm just saying that it's hard to finish a complete post when there are certain unavoidable interruptions! The biggest hindrance I've discovered, though, is the fact that a blog is public. Even if no one knows it's out there or bothers to read it, the fact is, it is on the internet which means that someone might just pay attention to it, and react, respond...perhaps even--gasp!--criticize what I've written. That, I think, is my biggest obstacle in writing.

I've been looking back over my posts of the past year and I have a number of unfinished posts. Some of them aren't finished because my inspiration dribbled away before I could get the whole thing written. Other times I'm just not sure whether I'm brave enough to put the words out there for all to see. And so the words remain in draft form to taunt me and remind me of my hesitance.

True, there are many times when discretion is the best way. As I wrote in my previous blog post (back in November!!!), there is a question of when it's the right time to speak, and whether one should speak. But I think that I'm more afraid of ruffling feathers and stirring up storms than anything else. Of course, that's a bit presumptuous of me--to think that my opinion could cause feather-ruffling and storms. But even if only one person responded negatively, I'd have the ramifications to deal with. It's that whole butterfly effect concept....

Why do I fear? What have I to fear when I know in my head that the One who saved me, who holds me, who conquered death, loves me more than anyone. And even if I make a complete fool of myself, He will love me and forgive me and gently set me back on my feet. It is His opinion which is the final, important one. I must do/say what I believe He wants me to say.

But then I doubt myself again, because I know I haven't spent as much time delving into Him and His word as I should. I fear my underlying attitude might be one that is deceived, or worse, prideful. As much as I believe my opinion is on the mark, am I actually right? Or am I blinded by my perspective?

Nothing like running around in circles, huh? I'm sure this blog is as clear as mud, and no one will find the least offense in it.

So. I guess I can post it.

...And if I were as cynical a person as that comes across, I'd hit the "publish post" button right after that last line. But I pray that I am not. This morning as I was wrangling through some of these things and my head was heavy with the pressure of these thoughts, two verses that have been a mainstay came to mind:
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." ~Romans 15:13
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus." ~Philippians 4:6&7
I won't say that I immediately felt that hope, joy, and peace. The fact that it's 10:50 p.m. and I'm writing this is probably an indication of that. But I do know that these words are true, and I've asked God to help me trust Him in them. I may not feel it yet, but that doesn't alter their truth.

And on that note, I can publish this post.