Wednesday, June 29, 2011

We know what to do

"I just don't know what to do!"

"I don't understand what God wants from me, from us!"

"I wish He would spell it out for me."

Well short of actually getting an email saying exactly what to do God has, indeed, told us what He wants from us.  It isn't a huge laundry list of things to not do but simply this...

"He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." Micah 6:8

Here I am in the middle of a week of so much and this morning I read this.  I need this like I need water, sunlight, love and grace.  I ache for this.  I'm weeping for this.

He has showed you.  I'm almost through reading my Bible and you know what?  He has showed me!  God has showed me what is good.

What does God need from us?  He doesn't NEED anything from us.   He requires us, as His children, to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God.

As a Mama struggling with a plateful of life's stuff with a side order of chaos and stress this was fresh, cool water on my hot brow.  This was a promise already kept and an assurance.

Act justly - when being tried by a stubborn, brilliant and hurting little boy this can be so hard.  The easy way, the heavy hammer, isn't just.  But being just doesn't mean giving in either.  Act justly.

Love mercy.  Not anything else but love mercy.  Mercy can be easy on the surface and we can feel pretty smug too but to love mercy is to live it, to be it. That's a 24/7 gig.  That isn't a free pass or a pat on the head.

Walk humbly with our God.  Not running ahead shouting over our shoulders, "lead me Lord!" and not dragging behind like reluctant desert wanderers.  Walk humbly with our God.  With, together, side by side, holding hands and looking at each other.

Those three things, three things, are so simple sounding and yet I'm convinced I could spend my whole life working on them and still wouldn't get to success on my own.  Three things and the last one  is the key - walk humbly with our God. With your God.  Humble.  Not prideful for your mercy or justness.  Without Him there is no mercy or justness.  Without God we have nothing good.

Tonight, as we close another stressful day I'm humbled that God is so with us that we can pray together, love together and that being a just Mama and a Mama who loves mercy showed a little boy how we can walk humbly with our God.

Thank you Lord for your kindness, goodness and mercy!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Who are we reaching?

I was driving the other day to see my husband's family and I drove by one of the many local churches in this small city.  I was shocked to see them building on.  I joking call that particular church The Mall of God because when they were first building it, the resemblance was to a shopping centre rather than place of worship.

Now I know God doesn't care what our church looks like on the outside.  I do know that.  But when I think mall and not church it strikes a strange chord with me.  When I see them building on it strikes another.  This is a large church which is a satellite of another larger church with multiple services, many activities nightly, in-church coffee shop and more.  And there is nothing wrong with that but I have to wonder, how are we serving our brothers and sisters in need with a many hundreds of thousands of dollars building?

Then I was reading my morning prayer book, Quiet Moments with God by Lloyd John Ogilvie this was the verse for the next day.

"Whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?  My little children, let us not love in word or tongue, but in deed and in truth."  1 John 3:17-18

We can shout to the heavens, to the nightly news, to the faith based blog of our choice about our love.  We can share with our people how generous we are to them and how we are building a community together.  You can, I can, anyone can.  But where do we SEE the love?  Where do we see the deeds and truth?

It is hard to know how to help sometimes, at least I find it so, and often we seek to find direction from the church.  I'm not sure about you, but I'm not comfortable asking how can we help the street kids, the flooded off reserve families and the children in care to a church busy spending dollars building a bigger building.  It's like asking someone who is building a mansion about the value of micro housing.  

And yet I am not judging them because I do not know their reasons, motivations or plans but looking at that church as a believer I have the right to ask.  We all do.  You can ask it of your own church and you could ask it of someone else's church.  We can ask in love and with respect because we truly wish to know, we wish to understand.

We all, as a body of believers, are to care for each other. Brothers and sisters.  Love one another.  Love them as you love yourself.  Love your God with all your heart, mind, body and soul.  With it all. Every fibre, every nerve, every blood vessel carrying life.  Every breath.  Every tear.

If we are to follow the examples in the New Testament for starters, what do we see?  Jesus, the pure and blameless, hanging out with the worst of the worst. And not just anonymously handing them stuff or leaving a bag in a bin but actually living, loving, praying for and healing them.  He knew them and loved them.  Dirty rags, bleeding bodies, demon tormented and lust-filled, the greedy and the lost, the hope-filled and the hope stealing all were touched by Him.

I'm not going to list the passages for you, this time you go find them!  Open that Bible, and walk with Jesus and really look for the people He loved.   It is us!  He is loving us!  He is saving us!  Those who raised their fists to Him and those who shed their tears for Him.  God would have given Him anyone  and He choose to redeem us all!

Touch the dirty and wipe the tears.  Open your heart and share what you have.  God wants us to love as best we can in truth and deed, as well as in heart.  Does that mean opening your family to someone recently banished by their own?  Does that mean giving away those clothes you've been saving to cloth another?  Does that mean sharing your garden, your weekend or your love?  Yes! Yes! YES!

We all have something to share with someone who has nothing to give back.  That's love.  That is serving our brothers and sisters.  We may not be able to go on a mission to a far away place but we can mission right where we are.  God has us here for a reason.  I'm humbly and prayerfully asking Him to show us all that reason!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Backwards: sdrawkcaB (Five Minute Friday)

Lisa Jo over at The Gypsy Mama has some great bloggers responding to this Five Minute Friday prompt.  After you leave us here at Strawberry Roan I encourage you to go over and be blessed by their words...and be sure to leave some love in their comments.

Five Minute Friday: sdrawkcaB (Backwards)

Shirts on backwards.  Happy little faces playing happily in sand with toys beside them.  Dogs chasing barn swallows and not balls.  People who said they's always be close are working far apart.  Little boys showing Mama the way by their faith.  It's so very backwards.  He teaches me.  Isn't that my job?  His faith, his knowing the Fruits of the Spirit, his willingness to pray and live walking daily holding the hand of Jesus.  He teaches me.

We live we work we play we pray we do life backwards so often that we don't even notice.  We don't notice touch of God in the out of the way places and we see His mercy in the mess.  It's backwards this grace filled life.  The grace is in the mess.  God doesn't want us arriving home in perfect condition, He wants us worn at the knees, washed in the heart and arms perpetually bent to carry each other.  He wants us to do this backwards.  

(Times' up - thanks for coming by this Friday.  Please stop by the other blogs and be brightly blessed, always and in all ways!)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Bright idols?

I asked a few friends on my Facebook page about the idols they thought we encountered today and we found some in the world around us and then a few right at home.  The list included: Facebook, the internet, our phones, money, fame, celebrities, reality TV stars, materialism and I could add the love of anything that draws us away from God.

2 Kings 17:40-41 (NIV)  "They would not listen, however, but persisted in their former practices.  Even while these people were worshiping the LORD, they were serving their idols. To this day their children and grandchildren continue to do as their ancestors did."

Are we guilty of this?  Do we worship our idols while we are serving the Lord?  Are we checking that phone or looking for an update when we are doing our Bible study or praying?  Are we checking out of our faith when we check in to reality TV?

For me, I think the litmus test would be if someone could say anything about our faith based on what they see us doing while we are professing to be worshiping and living our lives in faith.  Could they tell from how we live and use the tools in our lives the dedication we have to our faith?  If they can then we are doing it right but if they cannot, perhaps some prayerful examination is needed.

Are we like that commercial  where the couple, and their dog, are at the sunset and she is saying this is great and he motions to her because he is tweeting or updating his FB or texting.  Only her dog is enjoying that one time showing of God's sunset.  The commercial ends with the narrator happily noting that at least someone gets it and you know it is her and the dog!

How much of life are we missing when we spend it checking out or updating without actually being in it?  Don't get me wrong, there are many useful tools, but when they come before our God and before our neighbors then do they become idols of our age?  

Are we more aware of the reality TV stars than the people in our family?  Sometimes the degree in which we make celebrities frightens me.  We put people up so high and then joyfully yank them back down just to prove they are all too human.  Using people for idols always leads to being let down they are, after all, people!

Let's put it a different way...if the story of the Good Samaritan (if you need a refresher on it click here) were to happen on your street or the road you take home or even on the sidewalk by your school would you notice?  Would we be a good neighbor and call for help with those tools or would we be so absorbed in serving them we would text, tweet and status update past without seeing a thing?  Would you stop at a cry for help or would you think it was a cool ring tone

It isn't just us or even this generation so don't feel all bad!  When the toys and tools distract us from relationships, era and age doesn't matter.  In Numbers they were distracted by their idols even while appearing to be worshiping the Lord.  The high places plagued the leaders of Israel and Judah.  The desire to play with the shiny idol things has always been in our nature.  We can conquer it through God.

The Bible is full of times when we are full of other stuff and we miss what God is showing us.  Baalam had to be reminded by his loyal donkey, which saved his life.  Jesus cured blindness of the soul and of the body, of the mind and the spirit.  He knew the teachers of the law were worshiping the Law and not understanding the spirit of the law, just as they were blind to the teachings of Jesus because their idols shone so brightly.  Their own view of themselves as important shone more brightly than their faith. 

What in our lives shines brightly and is made of things of man and distracts us from God?  It could be anything and often times are many things.  We are all guilty of it.  It would be hard to find anyone unable to be distracted by bright and shiny things.  Distracted we can pray through and work with it is when we become devoted to them, attached to them that the dangers of idol worship become real.  

No one is immune, but God gives us a wonderful antidote.  The shining promise of His Love through Jesus.  No treasure is greater than our salvation.  Nothing is more worthy of our undivided attention than redemption through grace.

So tweet, update, text and talk...but don't become a slave to the tools!  Don't forget that even things with a Christian label can be idol like in their distractions!  If talking about the latest episode or star comes before asking how are you, can I pray for you, are things okay then maybe the shiny things are getting too close to your eyes! 

Be grateful! Be joyful! Be bringers of the fruits of the spirit.  Be confident that we can enjoy life, as God has blessed us but don't forget the very things which draw our eyes from God can twinkle and shine to keep our eyes off of God and our tasks for Him.

I would love if you would share some of the ways you unplug and reconnect...some ways we do are being 'off-line' on weekends, setting aside days and times when we are not electronic dependent, talking about what we see when we go for a walk.  

Now, please, get off the computer and go hug your loved ones, say a prayer and enjoy the rich blessings of God's creation! 

(I have to share that I am so grateful for the brothers and sisters in Christ that I connect with on a regular basis online, without the blessings of technology we would not be able to connect, share with each other and pray together.  There are a great many tools we can use to make our lives and walks richer and more full, that allow us to encourage each other and find ways to serve regardless of miles.  That is a blessing from God, just as you are!)

Friday, June 3, 2011

Storms Raging

Psalm 55:8 "I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm.”

We've had some intense storms around Canada and the US lately.  Storms which batter us and destructive storms doing tremdendous and sometimes fatal damage.

Not all storms make the news but any storm can send us seeking shelter.  The past few nights I've awoken to thunder, lightning and strong winds. They buffet the house, rattle the windows and my son sleeps through it all.

Although it may be just him being a sound sleeper there is a teaching in there for me.  Part of the reason he sleeps so well is he knows he is safe.  He trusts me and knows I will keep him safe.  He knows with faith that God watches over us and he trusts our shelter, our home.

Luke 8:24  "The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm."

He trusts and therefore rests in his faith.  He can sleep soundly knowing he is cared for.  He doesn't imagine things like broken windows, downed trees and damage.  He doesn't notice the power going out or the ticking of nervous dog feet as they seek me as well.

The animals trust me too.  They either come in the house or come close to the house.  Their source of food and protection resides there.

Could God be any more clear about MY need for faith?  I don't think so! (you can smile here, I am!)

I need to trust Him.  I need to pray when I'm afraid.  I need to rest in His shelter.  I need to be able to sleep peacefully knowing He is ultimately in charge.  They are His winds and His storms and His elements! 

Psalm 135:7  "He makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth; he sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses."

The storms are controlled by God and no matter what He is in control.  He uses them, the real life storms and the storms in our lives of emotion, spirit, life and relationships for His good.  His grace brings us through.  He doesn't want us to panic and freeze up.  He wants us to turn to Him and trust Him!

We try to be prepared for storms.  We know what to do, where to go and have our emergency supplies in the shelter.  

How prepared are we for the storms of life?  Do we have faith in Him enough to trust Him and pray?  When we panic, when we freeze up, when we lose control we cannot pray.  We cannot trust.  We are lost.

So this morning, while the lives around me trusted I too trusted.  I prayed and praised God.  I tried to see the beauty in the storm and not be caught in the fear.  

How do you prepare for the storms that come into your life?