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Posts Tagged ‘trust’

When God Says No

2015-03-17 13.26.22

Today God said “No.”

For months, I felt him saying “Yes” and to trust and wait for him in regards to a particular job. The more I learned about the job, the more that I felt it was so very right for me. I went into the interview at peace knowing that God’s will will be done. I was pretty confident that this was it. This was the something else that I believed God was preparing for me. I felt surrounded by prayer. From my perspective, the interview went very well. I felt privileged to be able to share stories from the various places I’ve been able to share and to talk about things that I’m passionate about. I went home super excited as I had found out aspects of the job through the interview that excited me even more. I had been researching the area and thinking about the potential for missional work and the many things I could explore. I was told they would make a decision in a few weeks and so once again I had to wait. But this time, I was pretty convinced that this is where God wants me.

And then I got the call. It wasn’t what I expected. None of the candidates were a good match.

Instead of a job offer, God has said “No.”

I don’t really know what this means. Other than God closed the door that I was hoping to walk through in the coming days.

The words of John Michael Talbot’s Be Not Afraid speak to me today as I wrestle with God saying no and wondering where he will lead me.

You shall cross the barren desert, but you shall not die of thirst

You shall wander far in safety though you do not know the way

You shall speak your words in foreign lands, and all will understand

You shall see the face of God and live

Be not afraid. I go before you always. Come, follow me. And I will give you rest.

If you pass through raging waters in the sea, you shall not drown

If you walk amid the burning flames, you shall not be harmed

If you stand before the pow’r of hell and death is at your side, know that

I am with you through it all

Be not afraid. I go before you always. Come, follow me. And I will give you rest.

Blessed are the poor for the kingdom will be theirs

Blessed are you weep and mourn, for one day you shall laugh

And with wicked tongues insult and hate you all because of me

Blessed, blessed are you.

Be not afraid. I go before you always. Come, follow me. And I will give you rest.

Looking ahead, I don’t really know what things will look like. And truth be told, I am disappointed. I had begun to dream about exciting things that I could be part of. And while those dreams do not need to disappear, they are on hold until God provides a place for me.

I do know this though: the same God who has led me thus far, will continue leading me. As much as I’d love to be involved in something again and need the increased income, God has provided and I do know that he will continue to do so, even if it’s not in the ways that I expect and anticipate.

He went away grieving: A reflection on Mark 10:17-22

He was shocked and went away grieving for he had many possessions. The Gospel of Matthew tells us this man was rich and the Gospel of Luke tells us he was a young ruler and so this man has traditionally been referred to as the rich young ruler.

It was custom in those days to seek a teacher who is both educated in the scriptures and draws in a crowd by their teaching to ask them what they might do to inherit eternal life. This wasn’t so much a reference to the future as to the here and now. A typical teacher would answer by giving their take on the law and in particular the commandments and would invite the inquirer to follow their sect (NT Wright).

This young man didn’t quietly seek Jesus. Instead he ran to him and knelt in front of him. Here is a man who understands that this Jesus is someone special. The rich young ruler was there to ask Jesus what he thought of the law and what kind of movement he was leading.

I can imagine Jesus playing with the rich young ruler to see how much he really understands when he calls Jesus “good”. Jesus replies by asking, “Why do you call me good? Only one is good and that is God.” This is more than about words. It is about Jesus’ divinity. By claiming that Jesus is good, did the rich young ruler realize he was claiming that Jesus was God?

Jesus then answers his question – you know the commandments:

You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother

The rich young ruler says that he has been keeping these commandments since he was young.

Jesus loved him. There is something admirable about someone who is trying to keep the 10 commandments and is seeking the truth. Then Jesus gazes deeply into the young man’s eyes with a piercing love that sees right into the soul. “You lack one thing”

Notice which of the 10 commandments Jesus did not mention:

  • Putting God first
  • No idols before God
  • Not taking God’s name in vain
  • The sabbath
  • and covetousness

Once again, Jesus gets at the heart of the matter. The rich young ruler was so attached to his wealth that he couldn’t sell everything to put God first and follow Jesus.

So the rich young ruler went away deeply sad.

He relied on his own wealth too much to rely on God.

Afterwards, Jesus says to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!” and that it will be “easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God”

The problem here is not the wealth itself. I know many faithful and wealthy people who serve God and who use their wealth to generously fund God’s mission around the world. The problem is not what you have in your bank account.

The problem is the attachment to money. The problem may not even be related to money. The problem is relying on something other than God.

Probably searching their own hearts, the disciples ask Who can be saved then? If a rich young ruler who is following most of the commandments and seeking the Good teacher cannot be saved because of the wealth is there any hope for me?

Jesus replies: With people it is impossible, but not with God, for all things are possible with God.”

So what about us? For some of us, this is our second worship service we are attending today. We try to live a good life, though we admittedly do not live a perfect life. We seek God in prayer and His word. If you and I sat down with Jesus today and asked what we must do to inherit eternal life, what would he say as he lovingly peers into our souls? What would he say to you that you need to hear so that you could trust him more?

Perhaps because I have been a perpetual student, I’ve been protected from the attachment to wealth. But I am not protected from doing things on my own strength.

Often in ministry, I am tempted to think and act as if it all depends on me and that I must care for the person out of my strength instead of looking to the God who cares for the person more than I ever could. I rely on myself, my gifts, my strengths, my skills and sometimes forget all together that really it is only God who can transform, heal and change a person. As I imagine Jesus lovingly peering into my soul as I reflect on this passage, I imagine him saying to trust him, to lean on him, to forget myself.

I might walk away deeply grieved and saddened for this often seems impossible for me.

But I know this is not the end of the story. For God is in the business of making the impossible possible. All we need to do is trust and to follow Jesus. We need to take that next step. For the rich young ruler, it was to sell his belongings. For me, it might be to remember that God is the only one who saves.

The sad thing is that the rich young ruler walked away. He just couldn’t do it. He didn’t ask for help. He just walked away in grief.

May we let Christ peer lovingly into our souls and speak to what we lack. May we also turn towards Christ in response instead of walking away. May we see that God takes what is impossible for us and makes it possible in him. Amen.

Will you still love me?

Photo on 2015-08-25 at 6.17 PM

A few months ago I became the proud mom of twins – twin dwarf rabbits Aimee and Dietrich (named after theologians, of course). I’m really loving having rabbits – and they are so different from each other. Aimee is an explorer and loves to discover new parts of the apartment but as soon as there is a new sound she becomes scared and instantly runs back to her home in the cage. Dietrich, on the other hand, is cautious and loves to snuggle.

Last night, I discovered that Aimee is losing fur on her chest and abdomen. She doesn’t like to be held – or at least I thought she didn’t like to be held – so I hadn’t noticed this. She’s also been in a shedding mode so the extra fur was not so surprising at first. But there are bald patches. Poor little girl. Today I took a closer look and it doesn’t look like it’s sore – just she doesn’t like attention drawn to it. Today she gave me this worried look that I am totally anthropomorphizing but it was if she was saying, “Do you still love me?”

I drew her closer to me and held her tight. And she snuggled. Like really snuggled. Unlike her brother who gets bored after awhile and wants to go eat a carrot or chew something else. Her heart rate usually gives away her anxiety but it settled. Her breathing was at a normal rate. She even licked my face. She burrowed her head under my head and stayed there.

Ok, so maybe she wasn’t whispering to me, asking me if I’d love her if she went completely bald. But something happened in the interaction that hadn’t happened in previous times. Maybe it’s a simple result of her trusting me after daily holding her and brushing her. Or maybe she sensed that I now know that she is unwell and will try to help her.

I got thinking about how often we are like my wee rabbit. Anxious that others  or that God will see what we try to hide. A blemish. A scar. A weakness. A fault. We become skittish when anyone comes close.

It is something precious to be seen in all your mess and ugliness for who you are – who you really are and to be held. To be that vulnerable with God and to feel his love. Of course, God already sees who we really are and there is nothing that we can hide from him. But there is something about letting God see – in not trying to hide what he already knows.

And to rest – to rest knowing that God sees, knows, and still loves.

Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; Like a weaned child rests against his mother, my soul is like a weaned child within me. Psalm 131:2

The Work that is to Be

Supermoon 2013

Supermoon 2013

Some of my readers know that there has been a significant change in my life. On Sunday, I was commissioned and prayed for as I began a 3 month full time placement  – 2 credit internship at a church. The location hasn’t changed – I’m still worshiping at the same church and running a youth drop-in at another church building that is now part of the parish. I’m still doing many of the same tasks, thinking about the same things and filling my time as I usually do. There are extra things I need to do (like preaching and other churchy things). I’m actually working more or less the same hours too.

Yet this is a significant change for several reasons. First, I am moving forward and closer to what God has called me to be and do. In a couple of months, I will be two credits closer to a Masters of Divinity. Second, I am accountable to my supervisor, the church leadership, the congregation and my school in a different way. This doesn’t (hopefully!) impact how I conduct myself in terms of morality. But I am not used to having so many eyes – and scheduled conversations and evaluations – as I go about doing my work. I think this is ultimately healthier – but it’s different. Third (can you tell I’ve been writing academic papers lately???), I’m officially full time.

This last one has been on my mind a lot. I’m officially full time. Before May, I was unofficially full time by choice. But if I wanted to take a day or two or three off, I could and no one would care – or likely even notice. It meant that if I needed to attend to health, to rest longer, to hang out with the family upstairs I could. Now it’s a little different. Of course there are more than 40 hours in the week. But some of those hours are taken up with sleeping, housework and errands, commuting, teaching piano and other things. It’s not quite the same!

Today has been a full day. Admin work, meetings, piano student, another meeting. It was a day when I “switched hats” several times. I worked hard and diligently – with a small to do list left for the end of the day.

But I am tired. It is night time and I must sleep. That to do list must wait until tomorrow. The little voice that lives in my head tried to persuade me otherwise. And then I read compline from the Northumbria Community.

Father, bless the work that is done,
and the work that is to be.

The work is not done. But the day is done.

Now it is time for sleep – entrusting all that has – and has not been done in God’s hands.

Trust me

This time in my life is characterized by uncertainty.

I’m not sure where I will be living in the coming days. I know God will provide – he always has. But I’m not sure when or where or how. I don’t know if I will be living with the family I have come to love or if I will be branching out on my own after living in community for a significant period of my time in Toronto. I don’t know if God is calling me to the neighbourhood where I am working or if he is going to provide a place nearby the amenities I know and love.

I’m not sure what my finances are going to look like. Moving may impact how many students I have. Moving might increase my rent when I am already stretched.

I’m unsure what my summer will look like. I have a direction – but stuff needs to be put down on paper and it’s not yet. I need to decide on learning goals and think carefully about where God is calling me to not just now but in the future. And I don’t know.

I’m not sure about health. Things are stable at the moment and I’m grateful that I’m only really impacted by constant headaches that are usually manageable. But in the coming months I see the neurosurgeon again and decisions will be made.

I am unsure what I’ll be doing in the fall – like an internship, and courses. But this will be the first summer I do not earn a significant portion of my tuition.

I am unsure of what it’s like to live AND serve in a community. My identity is shifting to a more public and professional identity. This is new and this is scary. I haven’t figured it out.

As I pray through this uncertainty, I want answers. But God seems to just be saying “Trust me”.

It’s not the answer I want – I want answers and things to fall in place. But God is saying, “Trust me”

I want my life to be defined and outlined. But God is saying, “Trust me.”

I don’t want to live in this uncertainty. But God is saying, “Trust me.”

I want this anxiety of uncertainty to leave me magically. But God is saying, “Trust me.”

I want an easier answer – something that I can do without thinking about it. But God is saying, “Trust me”

I don’t know what this looks like. But God is saying, “Trust me”

So, here I am – in the place in-between, in the space of the unknown. I don’t know how to trust.

But I am reminded: Be still. And know that I am God.

so for a moment – even if it’s just a moment – I sit with my anxiety and I allow those words to flow over me like a waterfall. I stop what I am doing to try to be still. I am not still – but I am trying. I am trying to know that God is God. I don’t know – but I am trying.

And I hear the words of my Lord saying, “Trust me”

Good Friday Reflection

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This morning I had the privilege of preaching with the pastoral team this morning on Christ’s crucifixion. Each of us took a passage from Luke 23. I loved hearing the different voices – but was also interested in the strands that were held together in the reflections and music. I thought it was cool that God had orchestrated the many people involved in such a way that without sharing what we were focusing on, the reflections blended nicely. Anyways, here is mine!

Luke 23:44-49

44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, 45 for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”[a] When he had said this, he breathed his last.

47 The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.” 48 When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away. 49 But all those who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

Throughout this week, I have been thinking about the quiet trust of small children. I used to nanny a very young boy and often had the task of preparing him to sleep. As he would fall asleep in my arms, I would reflect on the privilege of having this child’s trust. He would surrender himself to sleep as I sang lullabies to him. Sometimes he would resist sleep, but eventually tiredness would win out and he would close his eyes.

The words of Jesus on the cross that Luke records make me think of the quiet trust of a child. Jesus says “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit ” and breathes his last breath. This trust and surrender to the Father’s will meant that Jesus was utterly obedient – even to death on a cross.

He was quoting Psalm 31 which in some Jewish circles would have been a bedtime lullaby of sorts, read each night as one surrenders his or her self to vulnerable sleep.

I wonder how many lines of this psalm Jesus had as He placed His spirit in God’s hands?

Keep me free from the trap that is set for me,

    for you are my refuge.

Jesus had performed a multitude of miracles, demonstrating that even raising the dead was within his power. At the beginning of his ministry, he was tempted by the devil to use his powers in order to gain glory on his own accord and not by humbly submitting to God’s will. Perhaps the final temptation Jesus faced was to escape death and what lay beyond death.

Instead, Jesus says “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”

Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress;

    my eyes grow weak with sorrow,

    my soul and body with grief.

10 My life is consumed by anguish

    and my years by groaning;

my strength fails because of my affliction,[b]

    and my bones grow weak.

I cannot even begin to fathom the amount of pain Jesus experienced in the journey to the cross let alone the cross itself. I imagine in those final moments on the cross his soul and body were consumed by distress, sorry, anguish and groaning.

And in the midst of such affliction, Jesus cries out: Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”

11 Because of all my enemies,

    I am the utter contempt of my neighbors

and an object of dread to my closest friends—

    those who see me on the street flee from me.

Besides excruciating physical pain, Jesus had been mocked and rejected by the very people He came to serve and to save. Even his closest friends abandoned him in his time of need. Luke tells us that even the women stood at a distance.

And as those who mock him and those who flee – Jesus says, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”

Like a sleeping baby, Jesus moves into the sleep of death trusting His father. Unlike the baby, Jesus gives up his spirit in obedience to God’s will – knowing what lies ahead. Jesus who has the power to change the events submits and gives up His own life – demonstrating ultimate trust in God the Father.

As we reflect on Christ’s work on the cross, may we each grow closer to being able to echo Jesus words with trust and obedience:

Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.

Amen.

Rest and Trust

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At the beginning of June, I was aware of my own need to take some time to rest but also believed that I simply could not. I am running a youth mentorship program at another location this summer. While I have much to build on, still a good portion of the work is from scratch. It is a new neighbourhood, with its own uniqueness, and different needs and hopes in the community. Sometimes I feel like I could easily split my job into multiple positions to cover the many facets that go with starting up a new program with primarily unchurched groups of people. In other words, there is no end to the work and not enough hours in the day.

I developed a serious infection called cellulitis in my non-dominant arm. It is a deep tissue infection that had spread to the tendons and I was put on a high dose of antibiotics in attempt to stop the infection from spreading. In addition, my arm was in a hard splint for a few days and then a soft splint for a week. I was under strict orders to rest. Stubborn is my middle name and so I tried to work still… and the pain got to be too much. I tried to do things on my own but it’s really hard without your non-dominant hand! The family I live with and the friends in my neighbourhood helped me with getting the various things done that needed to be.

And I rested.

I think one of the difficulties of resting is trusting God – trusting that He doesn’t rest, that He can operate without me. That might seem so basic to some people but it is something that I struggle with. Partly because I don’t have answers to why he didn’t stop the many things that I’ve endured – including times when I abandoned myself to sleep as a young teen. Can God really handle this if I take a leave of absence?

The infection sort of forced me to take a break. The consequences of not resting could be really problematic and result in time off. I’m happy to say that it is all under control and other than still tiring easily, I am back to normal. But a break was actually not a choice – whether I felt like I could afford to take time off from a work perspective, I knew I couldn’t afford it from a health perspective.

I’m not sure that I’ve grown in my trust through this experience. Especially the past 24 hours as I have felt panicky about the summer program and whether it is even possible. I’m not sure taking breaks will be an easier.

But I do know – I’m better off with the time to do nothing but rest. I was able to connect with people in ways I hadn’t. I had time to reflect and pray about life. I was forced to ask for help and in doing so gained a bit of perspective on life and work. And I do know, that if this is going to be sustainable, I need to take breaks.

Interesting, during some of that time off – connections were made with the public and in the church and people signed up for camp – and I really didn’t have much to do with it. God is faithful. Even when I can’t trust, can’t rest, or can’t do anything but rest.