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Posts Tagged ‘trusting God’

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.

Just plain hard to get

One of my assignments that I am working on is based on journal entries over the past few weeks and see what God is teaching me in terms of missional spirituality. It is fascinating to see themes throughout what at first seemed like random thoughts. There is one theme that speaks of my heart’s deepest questions at the moment. How do I trust God? This was a particularly poignant question as I sought to walk beside a dear friend who is hurting so much. The only answer to my constant worry and fear was to trust God. And I have struggled with this. Seems so basic – trust God. God is good, God is great, God is faithful – I know all these things. Or at least, I thought I did.

Let me explain.

I hear so often in church land “Trust God, and everything will be fine.” I believe that is a true statement. But not in the sense that it is so often offered. Trusting God is not a recipe for an easy life by any stretch of the imagination.

Here’s what trusting God has looked like in my life:

  • Praying as a young teen for safety, staying up reading Scripture hoping that God would protect me. And the abuse continued.
  • Telling a pastor couple that I need help which resulted in a phone call to children’s aid as there were young children in the home.
  • Trusting that I did the right thing and that God was at work- meanwhile my parents dump my belongings in the back parking lot of where I worked, long hurtful letters from my mom and other relatives, and a birthday present wrapped in a red plastic bag with the inscription “We won’t be needing this anymore”
  • attempting a reconciliation process that blew up in ways unimaginable and therefore put an end to a process that I thought God wanted me to pursue
  • after prayer and consulting many, I pressed charges. While I have wavered in whether this decision was right, I don’t have any doubt any more. One of my most intense experiences of God’s presence in my life was in testifying. After testifying for 3 full days, I needed a break and told my friends that I simply could not continue. Somehow (and I believe this was God) I got back up there and the defense closed the cross-examination when his last line of questioning proved to be based on an argument that was proved false. As I stood up there, I had a powerful experience that God was there with me. Doesn’t make sense unless you’ve experienced this sort of thing in impossible situations but God’s presence was unmistakeable.
  • decisions to keep pressing on and trust God through a lengthy appeal process. I wandered from God several times during this wait and faced many dark days. But when the decision came in and the lengthy account of the panel of judges’ account said everything I had hoped it would, I knew God’s hand was all over it.
  • believing that God would work a miracle of reconciliation and restoration and not being able to hug goodbye my Grandma and Grandpa

this is just a glimpse. God also allowed me to make my own bad choices and suffer the consequences. Some of these decisions were more severe than others. In hindsight, I see God never failing to leave me and staying by my side even when I told him to leave me alone. I can see that God answered my young cries in a way that I never asked – protecting the deepest part of me, the most precious aspect of life – my relationship with God and my soul. Sometimes people comment that it is amazing that I am following Christ after all I have been through. Perhaps, but I do believe that God would not let me go, even when I tried to escape him. Moreover, I see how God is using my experiences to help and bless others… and each time this happens, I find myself thankful for my painful experiences as I know how to sit with pain, I know what it is to hurt, and I know what it is like to have God hold on to you and not let you go. I am also realizing that my experiences shed light into what Christ experienced and somehow, there is a beautiful aspect in sharing in the wounds of Christ.

But in the words of singer/songwriter Rich Mullins, sometimes God is “just plain hard to get.” As I watched my friend suffer this semester, I knew that I needed to trust God. But if the God I entrust her to is anything like the God I have trusted in my own life, there is very little comfort. This God allows a whole gamut of things to happen. Trusting God seems to be more about pledging your life to the one who died on the cross and walking the way of the cross than about security and safety. The hope from trusting God is that God can use and redeem anything in this life for His glory. There is peace in knowing that God is here no matter what. But as I wrestle with fear for my friend – or my own life – I am bereft of comfort. For if Christ, the perfect son of God who trusted in God, was despised, rejected and suffered – how can I expect anything different?

Do you remember when You lived down here where we all scrape? […] Well, I memorized every word You said/ Still I’m so scared, I’m holding my breath/ While You’re up there plain hard to get.

Let’s face it – sometimes God is plain hard to get. And if that’s the God we need to trust, it’s no wonder I have trouble trusting.

But I do know one thing. In my suffering, I have met God. And here the conclusion of Rich Mullins’ song ring true:

You’ve led me here/ Where I’m lost enough to let myself be led/ And so You’ve been here all along I guess/ It’s just your ways and You are just plain hard to get.

Lyrics are from “Hard to Get” by Rich Mullins

letting go

ImageIt’s been awhile – but I have not dropped off the face of the earth. It just happens to be a very busy and intense time in my life. I haven’t had the energy or desire to write on here. I’ve always had a rule when it comes to writing – if it doesn’t come naturally, now is not the right time. Typically, my writings that get posted on here are effortless and when I feel forced in anyway, I try to put away the thoughts and wait for a time when they are clear. Sometimes time brings clarity, sometimes time puts those ideas in the trash bin. Today, on the subway, I was listening to a song and felt inspired to share one of the challenges that I am facing.

We are in week four of our nine week youth mentorship program that I have headed up. I am very grateful for the support, encouragement, coaching and help that I have received from so many people over the past 6 months. The task has been large – grant applications, fundraising, publicity, advertising, web designing, hiring staff, networking, program design and execution. The skills that I have learned/worked on through this program will be ones that I will use in so many ways in my life I am sure – but it has been a lot of work. I have put in long hours… and then some.

I have learned to take Sabbath. At first I thought this would be impossible – I mean there is so much work to do!!! How could I think to take a *whole* day off work? And then it became a necessity. By Saturday, I was so exhausted that I needed to sleep, rest, and not think about work or school. I began to take Sabbath not because I wanted to so much, but because my body wouldn’t let me do anything else! And now… I look forward to Saturday. I do not respond to emails, check phone, update facebook or the website, or even think about work. Well, sometimes I admit that I worry. But most times, I just enjoy the day. I do not usually go out and I am not available for anyone except my cat! Sounds selfish perhaps – but I need to recharge my batteries and the other six days of the week are jam-packed with being available.

Working late one night, a friend challenged me, asking why I am so intent on making this a success? I kept justifying. And his questions persisted and he challenged me to let go.

Let go? this program is my baby! I have put way more into this program than into anything else in my life. I have worked hard and the program is becoming known. There have been pressures in all directions and I *need* to be successful. Moreover, I love the youth and love God and ministry. How on earth can I let go?

My friend’s challenge is a hard one. As much as I would like to dress it up as a faithful response to God’s love for me and the world, there is sin and brokenness in my life that spill into my motives for this program. Oh how discouraging sin can drive one away from God and trusting His sovereignty, love and grace – even in ministry! It is humbling. Actually, this whole experience has been humbling on many levels. I think to lead is to be vulnerable. I have warts and rough edges and pain and insecurities. It’s a lot easier to hide all this when you sit quietly, and unknown in a group.

I don’t know. I don’t have an answer to this. But I cling on to this program to tightly. Somehow I need to let go. I need to trust that God is at work and – as much as he has been looking after me and providing for me – he will provide and care for the youth and the program that he has called me to lead.

On the subway, I was listening to a song by Robin Mark that reminded me that I need to perch myself at the foot of the cross. I need to let go of everything there and find my strength at the cross.

I’ll come to the wonderful cross-

And my whole life I lay down.

My whole life I lay down.

 

Our hearts are restless

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It’s about 9pm and I’m currently on a train from Vancouver to Edmonton. I’m listening to Martyn Joseph and wanted to put a few of my thoughts from this vacation together. I am not really sure where to begin. It’s been such a beautiful and wonderful journey – a good mix of laughter, beauty, rest, good conversations and good wine.

 

While waiting for the train to leave the station, I turned on a sermon that I had saved. The sermon engages with Moses’ encounter with YHWH at the burning bush. Moses is called by Yahweh – I am – the God of his father. And the pastor speaks of how it is in our blood to serve Yahweh and His people.

 

Interesting to listen to this at this point in my vacation. I had spent the day with one of my uncles and we were talking about my recent admission to Wycliffe for theological studies. I remarked that one of the signs for me that pointed in this direction was packing up my books. About 98% (an estimate of course… a low estimate most likely) of my books are theological in nature. I read and study Scripture, read about theology, love papers that deal with theological topics, very quickly move to issues of faith. And this is all in my spare time. This is me. This is what I am drawn to. This is what I am made for.

 

I’ve struggled with my faith over the years. How can a good God allow the suffering that I have endured? How could a good God ignore me – or worse, forget me – when I called out to him so many times to be rescued?

 

There was one dark night when I renounced God. I was angry. I was hurt. I had had enough of this ‘following and trusting God and everything will be ok thing’. Interestingly though, in that dark moment, I was still calling out to God. I told God that he didn’t exist. Darkness aside, I could not hide from my Maker – If I go to the depths of Hell, he is there. God allowed me to rail against him with every fibre of my being and did not leave me. In fact, he was strangely close. In the days that followed, I read several books. I’m not a fiction reader and my interest in non-fiction is limited pretty much to theology. And even in those days – when I was unsure if I wanted a relationship with God – I read Kierkegaard. And the message was that life without God was like sickness unto death except you don’t die. Even in my darkest moments, I couldn’t fully run from God.

 

I’ve resisted a calling to serve God. Veterinarian, doctor, psychologist, researcher, counsellor – just a few of the hats I tried on. None of them fit right. This time last year, I decided to go back to school with a new plan – to become a clinical psychologist. Now I don’t regret this plan at all. It forced me to work harder than I have ever worked before. The courses were fascinating – but in order to make my new plan happen, I needed to maintain grades that I had previously only hoped of achieving.

 

As December came, I knew that I needed to start thinking about potential research and volunteer positions that would increase my chances of getting into competitive programs. Yet, the things I wanted to do with my spare (and rare!) time were not clinical in nature in any way. My strongest desires were to start a Bible study or a young adult’s group or something within the church that would involve discipleship and the exchange of stories. I had aligned myself to succeed academically, but I knew my heart beat elsewhere.

 

I wrote for one of my classes – at it was a kind of homecoming for me. I wrote reflections on books and topics that had captured me. My final paper was really a response to the questions, thoughts, readings, and ponderings over my life. It came naturally. The words poured out of my life. Deep inside, I had found home. I ended last semester with the question ‘now what?’ My course in community engagement messed up my nice tidy plan of becoming a psychologist. This one particular course this semester helped answer that for me – ministry.

 

This is where my heart beats. Communing with God and serving his people is my heart’s strongest desire. It is who I am and who I am meant to be. My heart – once restless – has found its place.

 

And there is such freedom and joy that I cannot put into words. Yes, there are frustrations and struggles. I have hard days still and nightmares. While I am at the most peace I have been, I still miss my family and every once in awhile I think about reaching out with the hopes that they will receive me. It’s not constant as it once was though. And working for God has it’s challenges – there is resistance in expected and unexpected places and wounds within me that have me gasping for air at the slight squeeze of tension. But there is an undergirding freedom and joy that I have never known that is now constantly present. I am free to be who I really am. I am free to be who God made me. And as I rest in God and delight in His ways, I am filled with a joy and peace that passes all understandings.

 

O Lord, I have been restless until I’ve come to rest in you.