Faith

Holding on to What we Know

“Only, let us live up to what we have already attained.” Philippians 3:16

Forgetting the Past 

My grandmother was always very proud of her birthplace in Saskatchewan. Though many have mocked its flat and boring landscape, she used to say that it was one of the most beautiful places in the world because there was nothing to block her view of the sunrise. She grew up in a Low-German speaking home. When the children went to school, they learned some English, but still always spoke their native language among their family because it was the only language their mother could speak. Eventually, many of the children grew up and moved further away from home, spreading out to different provinces across Canada. Time went on and they began to have families of their own. My grandmother recalls that one of her sisters spoke only English after she moved away, and as the years went by, she forgot how to speak Low German. She couldn’t even call her own mother and have a conversation, because they couldn’t speak the same language!

“I couldn’t understand how that could be,” I remember my mom saying, “Her first and main language was German until adulthood!” 

When we don’t use the information we know, eventually the mind forgets.

This was both intriguing and shocking to me. I hadn’t even known that it was possible to forget information that you had used daily for so many years! Yet, the same is true for our spiritual walk, is it not? In the book of Philippians, Paul reminds believers to “live up to what you have already attained.” 

He’s saying: “You’ve already done the hard work of learning these lessons – now keep living them out! Don’t forget what you already know. Listen to God’s voice, and abide in him daily. Keep on being kind and generous; remember humility. When God teaches you to fast and pray, keep on doing it! If you don’t, you’ll forget – you’ll lose these precious teachings.”

A Most Important Lesson

As a young mother I still remember one of the most important pieces of advice that was given to me by an older woman. I admired this woman a lot, both for the way she managed her home and how she lived out her faith. I recall asking her where she ever found time to do devotions and have any extra “me-time” in her busy day. 

I’ll never forget her answer.

With a knowing smile, she looked at me and shared her secret, “Being with God, is my ‘me-time’.”

What a profound thought! Spending time with Jesus had become to her a much more rewarding “break” than any bubble bath, novel, or time spent mindlessly scrolling through her phone. It is a secret I’ve kept with me for many years and the more time I spend with Jesus, the more I’ve found it to be true. Spending time at the feet of Jesus is truly the greatest treasure.

Living up to what we Know

Through the many struggles we faced in 2020, so many times I let down my guard. It was so easy to do! All my usual support groups were shut down, online, or postponed. Churches were closed. There was no one to keep me accountable, no one to challenge my faith. Who would care if I missed my morning time with God, or if I skipped an online church service here and there? Who would notice if I read news articles and worried, instead of taking my thoughts to God in prayer?

No one.

And so, many times I found myself starting to let go. I would begin my morning devotions, only to pick up my phone and distract myself, forgetting the sweet feeling of peace in God’s presence. Instead of trying to grow in Jesus, I compared myself to others around me. I began blaming my shortcomings on stress, or the lack of encouragement I felt. The further I travelled down this road, the further discouraged I was becoming.

Finally, one morning, after spending an hour scrolling through depressing news articles and the comments about them, I opened my bible and cried out to God: “Father, I am feeling so lost and depressed. Why do you feel so far away from me in this dark time?” 

The Holy Spirit so gently reminded me that it was always thanksgiving and worship that had brought me into the joy of his presence before. 

Nothing had changed, except my approach.

I was coming into his presence complaining about my life and the problems around me, totally forgetting that I was entering the very throne room of God! Sometimes I hadn’t even tried to meet with him at all, instead, I embraced the distractions around me.

 I had forgotten what I had known to be true for years: Wisdom and peace is only found sitting at the feet of Jesus. God’s perspective is only gained by standing in his council.

How easy it is to tell ourselves: “I just need a break” and then we let ourselves slip into complacency. The soul does not need a rest from God’s council. In fact, sitting at the feet of Jesus is our rest. 

Be Still and Know

There are so many scriptures reminding us of these truths. God obviously knew we would need them spoken to us over and over again so we would not forget.

“Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted among the earth.”   Psalm 46:10

This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: Only in returning to me and Resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength. but you would have none of it.”  Isaiah 30:15 NLT

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”   Matthew 11:20-30

In this painful time of trouble, don’t forget the peace you’ve found in him when times were good. Remember the comfort you’ve received in his presence! Put down the distractions and come, for he is willing to meet you as you are. Let us bring our pain before him, and let him heal it. Where we’ve stumbled and fallen in the fog of these past months, let us return to him and allow him pick us up and lead us once again. The important thing isn’t to know all the answers. 

It’s to remember what you already know.

“A bruised reed he will not break, a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth.”    Isaiah 42:3-4

Autumn · Faith

Good News

Good news… An oxymoron you say?

COVID-19. First wave. Second wave. Masks. No masks. Crazy cons/republicans. Ridiculous libs/democrats. November Election… Social distancing, physical distancing. Donald Trump catches the virus he downplayed for months while the reporter sharks circle gleefully and mock. Conspiracy? Karma?

Blah. Blah. Blah.

Here’s some news: I. Am. So. Done.

…With the depressing world news that is.

But MY life is definitely full of good news. Which I will share, because we all need something good to read once in a while.

First of all, it’s AUTUMN! The most gorgeous, perfect season that ever existed!!

It’s warm.

It’s cool.

The air smells of sweet, dry leaves. The hot tub is used every evening. There have been many firesides with friends at my side and a cup of hot coffee in hand. I do not know how long this season will last, but I do not ask.

It is enough that I have today.

My son’s birthday is today. My daughter’s birthday is tomorrow. And I LOVE birthdays. We are definitely making them extra special this year.

Dallas is now 9 years old!
Tomorrow she’s 13… we now have TWO teens in the house.

Also our basement was just finished last week and I am positively THRILLED with everything from finally having a pantry, to the cozy rug and beautiful natural woodwork.

Also, in Canada we celebrate thanksgiving next weekend. I LOVE thanksgiving. It happens to be my favourite holiday. Not because of the food (though I love the food) or the gatherings (though I love those too, mainly because of the food 😆)… I simply love it because it is the one holiday we still celebrate just to be grateful for nothing in particular.

Or for everything that we usually take for granted. Like our families. Or our country. Like our homes and the food we have to eat. Or the friends we have. Or our beautiful planet and the God who created it all for us to experience and enjoy.

Gratefulness. Contentment. Thanksgiving.

These are the things that have saved me from spiraling into a very deep pit when times have been hard.

And times have been hard…

But I’ve been through worse. And sometimes we just have to remember what we still have and enjoy it before we become so overcome by the bad that we lose the ability to see the good at all.

The good:

The blessings:

The downright amazing, silly, joyful stuff:

Remember to feed your mind some good news once in a while.

Because life’s too short to get stuck in the bad.

COVID-19 · Faith

Living in a COVID Fog

I used to write with such clarity. I used to spill out my feelings alongside God’s truth on the page with ease. Now it’s a struggle. My brain is in a fog and I can not do it. I start, only to lose my train of thought and my ideas jump around like a bunch of crickets set loose.

What I know:

  1. Something really big is happening in the world right now – a testing of the church, a revealing of hearts. I wouldn’t call this the “end times” maybe more like a prelude. We got a pop quiz… and we flunked it. Big time. Instead of rising up to meet the needs, we’ve hidden away watching them from afar. People are getting shaken – yet life goes on (almost normal even!)
  2. Most people seem confused or in a fog. A result is that they argue petty things on social media and comment sections. They are consumed with the news, as if reading and discussing it will change the world. Or even worse, they hide behind humour and ignore the fact that anything is going on at all. Posting memes, endless jokes… while there is tragedy everywhere.

But, we are missing the main narrative of what is happening here. So that Christians even, seem to be paralyzed. Some are paralyzed with fear, others with apathy.

Trial is supposed to be the churches finest hour! Yet I have never before been so disappointed in it!

Disappointed how?

We are spending these desperate times watching Netflix and doing home improvement projects!

We feast away in luxury while others starve.

We are becoming lazy, discontent, disconnected grumblers who seem to have little to no concern for those outside our circle of familiar faces.

Yes! I’m disappointed with the church. For I have found few who truly want to respond to the call of the gospel: to take time for the helpless, to meet and listen to the Lord together. I have found few who have any desire to worship together. Invite people for a free meal or a day in the backyard by the pool and they come rushing by the dozen.

But invite them to worship and pray, and crickets are my only companions.

How long, Lord, until you wake up your church? Or am I just supposed to watch it die out, one member at a time?

Something is very wrong. We’ve adjusted to comfort during a shaking that was meant to wake us up! Oh, God, wake us up! Help us to stop and listen, to be alert and watchful. You ask us to watch and pray, yet your followers are sleeping in the garden again.

Must you be on your own a second time?

Remove my mind from the fog, Lord Jesus!

I know there are some who are reading this who are saying “Yes!” Who are saying, “You aren’t the only one, I feel it too!” God, I ask you to bring us together. Not for chitchat and coffee, but together, seeking you on our knees.

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am with them.” Matthew 18:20

Faith

On Failure and Getting Back Up

I often feel like a total dirtbag.

It usually is because I say/write/do something careless and then I realize it too late.

Once the words have been said.

Once the text has been sent.

Once the mistake has been made.

A few such things have happened this past week.

A week ago it was Father’s Day. I knew this, as we had already celebrated twice, but that particular morning it didn’t cross my mind at all. My husband was preparing food to BBQ, which he does quite well. I mean it tastes amazing... But it often lacks in the health department.

And without thinking twice I decide: This is the day that I am going to bring up my concerns about how unhealthy I feel and blame it on him.

Really, I am just stressed about my weight as I have gained 15 pounds since COVID-19 happened. And it’s easier to blame others than to look in the mirror.

Stupid.

On a good day, it is a stupid thing to say. But it wasn’t just a good day, it was Father’s Day. And not only was he making DELICIOUS food on Father’s Day, he was joyfully making food. No complaints, it is what he loves to do.

But I chose to tear him down and five minutes into my rant, it dawns on me: Just shut up already.

So I close my mouth. And then in the 10 seconds of awkward silence, I realize – with horror – that today is a day to celebrate the man I was just criticizing.

I apologize immediately. I call the kids to the table to bless him, and say what they love about the man I was just tearing down.

I tell him what I appreciate about him: He never criticizes me.

The rest of the morning I feel terrible. I want to crawl into a hole and stay there. I want to cover up my face and hide away. I consider having my tongue surgically removed. I wonder if there’s anyone out there who can be as two-faced as me.

Because friends, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened.

How does one move on from feeling low? How does one reconcile themselves to the fact that to the core of their being, they are not what they want to be, what they mean to be, what they claim to be?

I’ll tell you how I get back up: Jesus.

Jesus.

It’s why he needed to die on the cross. Because of me. Because of my hurtful words, my careless tongue.

This is what faith in Jesus is all about. Knowing our true state, that we are not good enough and running to a Father who loves us anyways. As we repent, as we turn to him, an incredible thing happens.

He covers us up. He covers our sin with his blood.

I can come out of my hole, because he entered that hole of shame for me! My life becomes “hidden” in Christ.

But in the same way, I must never claim anything good inside myself as “who I am”. For I know very well who I am apart from Christ: Just a shameful girl, hiding in a hole.

I am tired of messing up. Tired of sin. Tired of my words getting me into trouble.

“Who will rescue me from this body, that brings death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Romans 7:24-26

Faith · News

Tired of the News?

I can get so worked up about everything that’s happening in the world today. At times I still shake my head in wonder at how much change can happen in such a short amount of time.

Everyone homeschooling.

Social Distancing.

Elderly lockdowns.

Masks in public becoming mandatory.

The media trying to divide people more, and more, and MORE.

I had to shake my head yesterday when I watched a reporter try to get my Prime Minister to shame the President of the USA.

Seriously… why?!? Why is there a need for us to go searching for more reasons for offence? Aren’t people angry enough?

Isn’t it enough?

Sometimes I wish the news would be shut down. Just for a week. Watch people snap out of their obsession with current events and open their eyes to the events happening all around them. Wouldn’t that be a healthier way to live? We can’t help what’s happening in the world. We CAN help what’s going on around our homes and in our own neighbourhoods.

I can get angry at current events too.

Like the foolish doctor who lied and traveled without quarantining, resulting in a small outbreak amoung his patients… and then had the audacity to play the race card when people were upset.

Let me tell you, I didn’t know he wasn’t white and I was upset at him for being careless!

Don’t play the race card. Just don’t.

Prejudice is a real issue, racism is a REAL issue. But don’t do something careless and harmful and then blame it on your color of skin when people get rightly upset. That just makes a mockery of the actual racism going on around us every single day.

I’m also upset at the media.

Is COVID-19 a serious issue and social distancing a must? Or not? I’m tired of the double standards. Like why is this condemned:

And this not?

Why do we fine people for gathering in joy and support people for gathering in anger? (I’m not at ALL saying the people shouldn’t be upset at what happened… my point is rather that “social distancing” has been so strictly enforced that people coming too close to each other have been fined… but suddenly it doesn’t matter anymore?)

It’s a backwards world.

This morning, God reminded me of a scripture, which gentle rebuked my “News obsession” these past few weeks:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life… Can anyone of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? …So don’t worry saying, what shall we eat? Or what shall we drink? Or what shall we wear? For the pagans run after these things and your heavenly father knows your needs. But seek first his kingdom and righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 7:25-33

And I realized, all this worry can accomplish nothing in my life.

Nothing!

And yet we are so filled with worry and stress, with helplessness and fear. But if God cares for the creatures – and nature itself – won’t he care much, MUCH more for his own children?

He knows our needs! Our job is to put aside worry and seek him first. As we seek his will for our lives and commit to living a righteous life before him, he will give us our needs. Seeking God and living righteously are in our control. Changing the world is not.

We all know that things aren’t what they seem. The messages we are getting from both sides of the media don’t add up. It doesn’t make sense how the “online commenting mob” condemns churches peacefully gathering and adhering to the guidelines, while thousands who are burning, looting and destroying are shown understanding and grace.

It doesn’t add up! And although asking questions is so important, what isn’t important is getting involved in conspiracy theory’s and comment wars while neglecting to take care of those around you.

What can we do? We all fear these events which are out of our control! We fear the world that is rapidly changing into a hate filled, rage full place where hugs and worship are banned, but hate is glorified.

Scripture says: “Can any of you, by worrying, add a single hour to your life?”

No.

God is saying, “Do these thoughts, these worries change your situation? Then lay these worries down. I know the truth, I AM the truth. Seek me first, my kingdom and righteousness and I will care for your needs! In this world you will have trouble but take heart! I have overcome the world. You are not of this kingdom. Do not let your trust lie with the world’s government or healthcare system. Your trust is misplaced if you depend on the justice system or media for true justice.”

God is the ONLY just Judge.

May our prayer be, “Come Lord Jesus. Come and make everything right again. We wait for you. Creation groans for your return. We trust in you. Give us the right perspective for this season, and may we not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

COVID-19 · Faith

11 Sundays

11 Sundays of messages at home.

Of worship without people.

Of no church building.

11 weeks of struggling through alone.

Of feeling independent,

Unhurried – but ultimately unfulfilled.

11 Sundays of doing faith on my own.

Devotions becoming dry.

Prayers don’t change at all.

This isn’t a poem. This is my prayer.

“God, open up your church. To meet: in a special building, homes or outside. Makes no difference to me. In many small groups, in one spaced out large one. For if there’s one thing I learnt from all this, it’s that I never attended church for a sermon. I didn’t go for the coffee. I didn’t go to sing a few songs. I didn’t go for the child care or for the programs.

No.

I went for the people. Your people God. I went to meet with others you have touched and through them, got a little taste of heaven… what it may look like to someday meet all together.

God, open up your church. Faith was not meant to be lived out alone.”

Authenticity · Canada · Writing

Unrealistic Expectations

Is it really nearing the end of May? I feel like it’s passed me by in a blink.

I took a pause to write today.

Not because I really wanted to or because I had a lot to say, but mainly because I’ve been working non-stop on projects this past month and I need to just stop. Stop and remember that there are more important things than work.

“All work no play makes Jack a dull boy” …and it makes me a “grumpy, task focused, tired gal.”

My mind is drained. My body is weary. I work through the aching back and sore neck. I strain through the blisters, the cuts and the bruises. For what exactly?

To distract myself from an uncertain and unfamiliar world.

It’s easier to focus on things, rather than people when it’s people we’re told to avoid. It’s easier just to stay home and ignore the outside world while I work myself to the bone. It’s easier to watch “how-to” videos than the current news.

So I shut it all out and focus on one thing: Making home better.

It took a good sit down this afternoon to realize how hard I’ve been pushing myself and how ridiculous my expectations are. You wanna know what I expected to accomplish this month?

-Lead a weekly bible study on zoom.

– Homeschooling 5 kids.

-Finish our downstairs bathroom (from dingy, concrete floor bathroom to Pinterest post).

-Handtill and plant my garden.

– Repaint my front door.

-Sand down and paint my large back deck and veranda.

– Organize my closets, shed and garage.

– Plant 12 trees on my yard.

– Re-level our ground to set up the above ground pool. Also order a new cover, heater and filter system for it.

– Make front Garden Boxes and fill with soil/shrubs.

-Keep up with all the housework, meals, etc on top of everything else.

I seriously had it down to eight hours of work a day besides my cooking, housework and homeschooling. And it took three weeks of this before I realized that it’s just too much to expect. You think just reading through my “to-do” list would have snapped me back to reality, but in reality, it’s that very “to-do” list that keeps me going at sprinting speed from morning until night.

No time for texting, writing, social media, baking, running, personal care… just my list.

And so I stop, taking the time to write today because I need to. It reminds me of what’s important. God. Family. Laughter, relationships, rest.

And I delete. Check the boxes I’ve done. Let the accomplishments sink in. Cut the other goals in half. They will happen. It does not need to be this month.

Homeschool kids. Check.
Plant a dozen trees. Check.
Feed the family. Check.
Work on basement bathroom. Check.
Next To Do: Find time for joy

To Do:

Level ground and set up pool

Sand and stain deck & veranda

– Repaint front door.

Organize closets, shed & garage

Make front garden boxes and plant shrubs

See you later “to-do” list. I’m taking the rest of the day off.

…Ok. Maybe after I finish planting the garden 😉

Authenticity · Faith · Wisdom

My Wise Friend

It occurred to me recently that I’m really not that wise.

Profound. I know. But really, this isn’t just another grab at false humility. This is me fully admitting that I often can be quite foolish, as hasty people quite often are.

I like to speak my mind. Act quickly. Think later.

In fact, as I was pondering this this morning I realized that I don’t remember a single time I have had a wise thought on my own. Not once! Isn’t that incredible? I’m full of quick solutions, snap judgements and replies.

But you know what? I spend a lot of time with a very wise person. Why anyone so wise would hang around so constantly with one so foolish, I don’t know. All I know is that He sits patiently with me every morning. He listens carefully as I pour out all my complaints and judgements.

He nods.

He has compassion.

He understands.

And then he speaks. And oh! When he speaks, how he makes me see it all so differently. How he shows me true wisdom. HIS wisdom. And amazingly enough, even though my perception is more often than not wrong, he gently loves me through it all.

Never making me feel stupid.

Never discounting my feelings.

I have so much to learn from this friend of mine, this true friend, who cares AND speaks truth.

Sometimes, I spend enough time with him that I begin to hear his words coming out of my mouth. And I think to myself. “Wow. That sounded really wise!” But that’s the thing about having a wise friend.

The more you hang around with wisdom, the more wise you seem.

And then – of course, being the fool that I am, I begin to kid myself into thinking this wisdom is all actually mine, only to realize all to soon that I’m still just that silly, little presumptuous girl without him.

That happened this last weekend. A few times. I became overconfident in my own ability to read people and situations and I make many wrong assumptions. We so often do that don’t we?

We think: Oh, I know, this is why that person acts that way.

And we assume, mostly wrong things. Then we pass on our false ideas to others, who in turn slander and assume. It’s such a vicious cycle and once started, there’s only one way to stop it.

Spending time with my wise friend.

I dig myself into such enormous pits that you’d think by now, either I would have already learned how to stop digging them, or that my wise friend would’ve LONG given up on pulling me out of them by now.

But, alas, he comes. He stares down at me with a sweet smile on his face.

“Oh Heather. Are you stuck again?”

“Yes, Jesus.”

He chuckles, “This is quite the hole you’ve dug.”

Tears streak my face, my head hangs in shame, “I know Jesus. I’m so very sorry.” The tears spill over into the dust below.

He reaches out his hand. I take it immediately. I’ve been here before, and I know it’s the only way out. No use trying to beat myself up by trying to get out of this on my own. That just prolongs the shame and agony. Still, as I grab his hand, I can’t quite get myself to meet his eyes.

“Can we talk about it Heather?”

“Jesus. I was doing so well! Where did I go wrong?”

He gently lifts my chin with his hand, turning my face towards his. His eyes hold no judgement, only gentle love. “You stopped abiding, dear girl. You thought you knew, but you forgot to ask me.”

“You’re right! I’m so sorry.” I let myself fall into his forgiving arms.

“I know.”

Of course he does.

Faith · Peace

He Can Be Trusted

The little girl walks beside her Father, hand in his. The path is unfamiliar. The thought bothers her. As she ponders this, her face grows troubled.

“Daddy?” she asks. Her little chin quivers.

“Yes sweetie?” He smiles down at her warmly, his heart bursting with how precious she looks next to him.

“How do I know if I’m going the right way?” Her panicked eyes search his as the fear is uncovered.

“Just keep your hand in mine, princess. I know where we’re going.”

The worried expression melts into a trusting smile. Her grip tightens. Peace washes over her. Her Father can be trusted.

 

Oh, that I would just understand this picture.

Faith · Running

I’m so Glad I Ran

I didn’t want to run.

It was the first day in three weeks that I had a morning free. There was nothing on my schedule: Just me and my laptop, working on a book that has taken me far too long to edit.

But there it was… my reminder that rings three times a week, encouraging me to run.

So I did. I ran even though I would’ve rather done almost anything else. Give me five baskets full of laundry and I would’ve rather washed and neatly folded them today. I will scrub toilets. I will wipe snotty noses. Just don’t make me run.

Now before you wonder what is wrong with me, you must understand that I usually look forward to running, especially in summer when I can leave the confines of my treadmill and breathe the fresh air. I love to race down our gravel roads and see the world around me. Often, I see birds, deer or squirrels. I once saw a coyote from a distance in the field. I see sunsets and sunrises. I see golden fields and tall stalks of corn in perfectly straight rows. On those days, I love my home. I love my country. I love running.

But this time, I hated it.

I hated the way my knees hurt when I started moving. The stale basement air. The loud motor of the treadmill and the boring white wall that I stare at for minute after long minute.

But I need to run. I know all to well the depression that awaits when I begin to skip days. Running is a discipline and although it’s good for my body, it’s so much more than that. It reminds me of the other things that we often neglect because it’s just “too hard”. Devotions. Marriage. Parenting. Health. Church. Housework. Friendships.

So, I ran. But instead of focusing on the drywall in front of me, I put on music and I ended up weeping as I ran to these precious words by Hillsong Young & Free:

FIRST LOVE

VERSE 1
This is all I want
That the love I have for You
Doesn’t fade along with youth
Can You help with that

The reason that I ask
I’ve seen far too many friends
Walk away and not come back
I want more than that

PRE-CHORUS 1
I won’t wash away
Like branches in rain
I’d rather be kindling in the light

CHORUS 1
Set me on fire like I’ve never known
I want to love You more as life goes on
So all of my days I’ll place
My first love first again

VERSE 2
This is all I pray
Over everything I ask
That my friends one day come back
Can You help with that

God I know You can
‘Cause the fire won’t mean a thing
If it ends right here with me
You want more than that

PRE-CHORUS 2
The river runs fast
But You wait at the banks
And pull us like driftwood from the wild

CHORUS 2
So set me on fire like I’ve never known
I want to love You more as life goes on
So all of my days I’ll place
My first love first again

Amen Jesus. “I want to love you more as life goes on.” Father, this is my hearts desire for your people.

I’m so glad I ran. But what’s more, I’m so glad it turned into worship.