Praise God, I’m lamenting

Sophia had a meltdown last night.  20+ minutes of straight-from-the-gut, banshee wailing.  She could not be consoled. She went to our bed to do it, throwing her whole body into her cry, her wet face smooshed into the pillow.  I was so glad she picked John-Mark’s side. Continue reading

Day 40 – God speaks

It’s early in the morning.  I got up specifically to write this post out of a mix of obligation and inspiration (oblispiration?).  Those are the times when you wake up and say to yourself, You should probably write this down.

Of course I had to check Twitter first and was encouraged to get off Twitter and back to the blog by Anne Lamott‘s 140-character plea to, Seize and steal time to write, however & wherever you can–it’s a debt of honor.

There is something about this compulsion to write.  It’s so strange how God places this fervor in you to observe the world around you  and then find words for what you see.  It’s a bit of a madness. For instance, while J-M and the girls were planning what is to be a fun-filled long weekend, complete with beach days, BBQs and baseball, I was thinking to myself, I sure hope I get time to write.  Where oh where was this drive in high school English?

And to those who checked in yesterday, I’m sorry I didn’t post on Day 40.  My excuse is that Day 40 had to happen first before I “reported back.”  But the truth is, my family hijacked my plans and took me out to have fun instead.  I’m not complaining, just redirecting the blame.

So allow to me recap. I’ve been praying for direction consistently for 40 days.  During those 40 days, I have not eaten after 2 p.m., except for Fridays and three cheats celebration dinners. An undefined, but persistent desire to go deeper in ministry is what drove me to this fast, hoping to hear exactly what the “deeper in ministry” part was to look like.

I am happy to say that God was faithful and answered my prayers.

I didn’t write that sentence easily. I want to be sure I’m not conjuring up a “happy ending” to this fast, something to please me and you that this was worth the effort.  Of course it was, in a kajillion ways, but  I would not say God sent lightning bolts from the sky or a great heavenly finger to write on my kitchen wall.  In any case, I don’t believe he speaks that way.  If he had sent the finger, I might, in my sinfulness, ask him why then he hasn’t spoken up more about my Dad’s MS or a friend’s heartache or poverty and all the injustice in the world?

I believe God does speak clearly, consistently and powerfully.  He speaks through scripture, his word, which is a plumb line for discerning his will in this life and the next.

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature…. (1 Peter 1:3-4)

I encourage you to read the rest of that, about how we can increase our participation in that divine nature. Amazing, spine-tingling stuff.

A word should also be said here about handling scripture with reverence, in the company of believers, guided by the Holy Spirit.  But in short, we have access to God’s answers for all our questions.

God also speaks through others and this has been my experience throughout this fast.  I have been given tons of advice and encouragement – some conflicting!  Again, I returned to scripture to measure the words I received.  If they line up with what scripture says,  I accept – and wholeheartedly.  And God bless you for saying so!

Throughout the fast, God spoke clearly, like portions of food, replacing what I wasn’t physically eating. I received his word in bits and pieces.  Every bite from him was full of spiritual nourishment established by the peace he gave me when I digested it.

For my questions, I received the answers either no/not yet or keep going.

Let me start with the no/not yet.

God has made it very clear to me that “deeper into ministry” does not mean bigger.  I’d had some suggestions from people, that perhaps my role was being broadened from just working within my congregation to ministering on a larger scale with an outreach to others beyond our church.   I don’t doubt that God can move in mysterious ways and use the things one does on a small scale to reach out to others in areas or ways you could never anticipate.  But to change my focus at this time is out of the question.

First of all, I am very green – I have spent just one year leading the women of our church – this ministry alone extends my abilities to the max.  Beyond this, is the focus of our ministry.  Over the past year we’ve been purposeful about getting away from the common trappings of women’s ministry (fundraisers and friendly gossip, to name a couple).  We’ve been diligent to make sure that our focus is to grow closer to Jesus and to each other.  For the upcoming year, I believe we are to add to that by reaching out to others in our community.  That means finding the lonely, the needy, the desperate who hide behind closed doors, in our own neighbourhood.  I think it’s all this growing closer to Jesus business.  We’ve found out that’s where he’s always heading and we want to go with him.  This call is clear and so my personal pursuits cannot be any different.  I’m staying local.

As for the keep going message:

I have received an overwhelming response to this blog in the past 40 days.  No one would say that I write well – and neither would I –  but what joy to hear from others that they have been moved, challenged, affected, or convicted by something I’ve written!  I am not deceived – I may have a specific demographic who doesn’t mind the frivolous chit-chat mixed in with an exhortation, and a couple of typos for good measure.  But the few who respond to it, who see Jesus in it? Well that means this madness isn’t for nothing.  It’s for something.

To be clear, I do not wish to “be published” other than to click that button on the blog, but just to be faithful to write it all down.

I have the additional blessing of being paid to write.  My position as Social Media Journalist (decoded: blogger) for the Free Methodist Church in Canada, although part-time, is a huge privilege.  I want to fill the parameters I’ve been given to full capacity, “Telling our Stories” about God’s faithfulness within our churches.

Another part of the keep going message is my being available.  I love that I have been able to offer my time for what would otherwise be considered interruptions.  What a gift to know that when someone wants to go for coffee to chat, I can say yes, how about today!  Or if someone wants to meet to pray, yes, how about right now!  I have able to volunteer at a friend’s store for a few days over the past two weeks because she really needed the help.  I have been able to do stand up for another friend’s impromptu wedding.  If God can use me during this time of unemployment, I will not say no to that.

I will write more about this 40-day experience. For one, what about this problem of bringing home a regular wage?  Just a quick preview on this – Mom’s wise words that if God calls you to something, he will certainly provide the means to fulfill your calling.  We’ve known that well in our lives before, and I claim it now.  You can be praying for J-M to be receptive to this also.  His suggestion?  To add a “Donate Now” button to this blog.  Also to my t-shirt.

There has been so much jam-packed into the last 40 days.  I’ve been looking through my journal, comments and e-mails from others received since May 22 when this all started.  The picture is clear.  God speaks through all of it.

Fasting and praying – second last day

I watched my family eat the perfect summer meal tonight: hot dogs, chips, and fresh veggies.  The smoky smell made my tummy rumble and I had a small temptation when Sophia enthusiastically enjoyed her first taste experience with snow peas from the Farmer’s Market… and Mallory didn’t want hers.  I normally would have snagged Mal’s up.  Yes! Mine! Called it!

Not this time.  No, I won’t play food sports tonight.  I’m a really good food athlete too, so that smarts.

Today’s the second last day of my fast. But really it’s my last day, since tomorrow’s Friday and I get to eat on Fridays, remember?  (Hey, they’re my rules to make!)  Strangely enough, as I wished to be eating with my family, I also thought, I’m going to miss this.

I’m going to miss this purposeful pursuit! I feel very blessed over these past few weeks because God has been so kind to give me insights into how he is working his will in my life.  He has given me peace that he is in control even if I can’t see this visibly yet.  Every time I open my Bible, he has entrusted me with new understanding about how His kingdom operates here on earth.  All powerful answers to my prayers on this 40-day fast.

More than anything else I have wanted wisdom from God. He promises it to those who ask!  In fact, this is a prayer I’ve been praying since I was a young girl and first read about King Solomon.

…the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”

I’ve played this game before!  I wish for a million more wishes!

Solomon answered, “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day. “Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties.Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”

When I read this, I knew, in my heart of hearts, that Solomon had asked for the right thing.  What would God say?

The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this.So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor —so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.

How wonderful!  Wisdom plus plus!  But I paused, thinking wisdom was way too easy to get!  What an awesome gift to have and all we have to do is ask?

In the book of James, it says, when facing trials and temptations, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

Yes! Mine! Called it!

I’m excited to share the specifics, but I just rested my eyes for a minute and 10 slipped by unnoticed.  I probably should go to bed instead of writing 1,000 more words.  That would be wise.

Till Day 40 then.

Happy you were born

Dear John-Mark,

Have you ever noticed that my Happy Birthday cards  turn into Thank You cards?  I go to give you a birthday blessing and I find myself thanking you for all you do for me.

Our relationship is very one-sided in many ways, I know.  I can’t believe all the things I get away with.  I can’t believe I NEVER cook.  And while a lot of friends say their husbands cook, it generally means they share the responsibility with their husband.  But when I show up at a potluck, of which we’ve attended several in the past little while, and people ask me either what I brought or how I made it, I just say, “Ask John-Mark.”

And they’re all, “Wow! Even church dinners!”

I might as well admit that I don’t ever do the laundry either.  I remember at one point you trying to unload that chore on me.  I would drag it out, maybe tackling a load when I had some free time.  When you ran out of undergarments consistently, you re-adopted the chore.  I just happen to believe that folding laundry is the excuse you need to watch Dukes of Hazard reruns – enjoy!

When my friends complain about their husbands never helping around the house, I can’t relate at all.  In fact, I will most likely take the husbands’ side and suggest that maybe their husbands have other ways of contributing to the homestead? Like facilitating good conversations around the dinner table?  Maintaining the family social calendar?  No?

You’re turning 38 today.  This came as a relief to all of us, after last year’s birthday, when my Mom sang you her favourite cheery birthday song:

A Happy Birthday to you!
A Happy Birthday to you!
May Jesus be near,
All of the year!
A Happy Birthday to you!
A Happy Birthday to you!
The best one you’ve ever had!

Except she accidentally inserted “last” instead of “best” in that final verse, which unnerved us.  Here you are one year older and her, not a bit of a prophet.

You’re slightly younger than me and you never hesitate to rub it in the other eight months of the year when we are separated by one number.  But you, my dear, have aged quite significantly in your own way this year.  You got yourself a sleep apnea machine.  I was getting worried listening to your halted breathing at night, with pauses up to several seconds at a time!  You went for a test at the sleep clinic to discover that your heart would pause consistently and dangerously in your sleep.  Scary stuff!  So they sent you home with a CPAP machine and our lives will never be the same.  I find it hard to believe that side effects of this machine are supposed to be a healthier, longer life simply by being transformed into an 80-year old robot every night.

But this year has been a great one, hasn’t it?  I’ve loved watching you embrace ministry with passion, getting excited about seeing people move closer to Jesus.  This is something on your brain all the time.  You even had a dream about it, getting uncharacteristically charismatic, running up and down the aisles of the church and yelling at the congregation, “Is Jesus engraved on your hearts?!  Well, is he?!”  Aren’t dreams reserved for unicorns and chance meetings with fav celebrities in space?  Anyway, I suggest you try your dream out next Sunday and shake things up a bit.

I love your strength of character.  You have really great, healthy boundaries.  You never hesitate to show love and respect to others, but are not taken in by manipulative behaviour or excessive demands.  You are steady and calm when emotions escalate and are always willing to engage in reasonable dialogue.  I just wish once in a while you’d let me buy a great pair of shoes even if it’s not in the budget.

Although you’ve earned the nicknames, Spock and Stoneface, in the past, it’s not that you’re without emotion.  Recently, on a family trip to Toronto, Sophia asked you questions from her Coke or Pepsi quiz book.  This is the ultimate pre-teen girly book with “tons of questions for you and your friends to answer!”  We were all interested to know that, given the choice, you’d go for a mountain ski resort vacation over an African safari.  We were delighted to learn that you’d choose flying instead of invisibility as your super power. When Sophia asked what makes you cry,” you said, “When people are honest and real about the pain in their life.”  There was a moment of silence and reflection in the car before Sophia carried on, “So rock and roll or country music?”

Know what else I appreciate?  How supportive you’ve been during this whole fast!  For the past 36 days, you haven’t complained at all about making dinner for the family minus one.  You’ve encouraged me to seek the Lord about this and listened as I babble on about what I’m learning or wishing I was learning.  You’ve prayed with me too.  I know it’s a huge inconvenience to you, since you believe so strongly in family dinner… but you’ve understood it’s importance to me and have been such a wonderful support, keeping me accountable and strong.  You are such a gift  to me.  And on your birthday.

Tonight we’ll go to your sister’s home to celebrate.  You share a birthday with her son, Edmund, who turns 4 today.  My biggest birthday wish for him is to turn into a Godly man… just like you.  I’m relieved it’s not a potluck, because I’d hate to make you prepare food on your birthday.

Happy Birthday, Honey, and THANK YOU.

Love, Me

Fasting and praying day-by-day

Day 6 – Our women’s ministry team hosted our last event of the ministry year on Saturday night, which included a clothing exchange, a potluck and a time of worship.  The evening was a success, but I am not here to talk about it, other than these two things:

  • I know I’ve told all of you by internet that I am fasting, but it’s quite another thing to tell people to their face.  I’d decided I wouldn’t, that I’d keep myself busy while the potluck was on and people wouldn’t figure it out.  Except they did figure it out because ours is a loving group of women who care that everyone gets fed, plus seconds.  When one woman insisted that I try the potato salad, I had to tell her why I, the carb-lover, wouldn’t.  With great empathy she told me of a time that he had fasted – an inopportune time, between Christmas and New Years – but that God had honoured that sacrifice.  She looked off in the distance that thanked me for reminding her about that very specific answer to prayer she received, which she didn’t feel necessary to disclose.  When people find out that I’m fasting, they often share their fasting stories which involves growing deeper in their walk with God and answers to prayer. I hope that I will remember this fast years from now and the way that God provides.
  • After the event, when our team was cleaning up and ready to leave, the prayer team carried on, interceding for those who would come to them with their problems and worries.  They were doing their own thing and I was happy to let them do it.  But the prayer team leader came outside to grab me before I left.  “We’d like you to come for prayer.  God laid it on my heart to pray for you with the team.”  While I believe entirely in the power of prayer and the prayer team made up of Godly woman, I will tell you that my first reaction was to put my guard up.  Do I need prayer?  I’m tired, it’s the end of a long day, can’t I just go home?  But they sat me down in the hot seat and eight beautiful ladies opened up to pray for me.  With hands laid on me, they asked aloud for my renewal and strength, direction and peace, wisdom and anticipation for the year ahead.  They prayed for me.  I don’t remember all their words, but their love made a huge impact.  I’ve never known this kind of prayer support before, but from now on I will seek it out.

Day 7 – On Sunday, all three pastors spoke on 1 Corinthians 4:20, a short little verse that packs a punch,  “For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power.”  I’ve been mulling over it after the pastors explained, respectively, the kingdom of God can only be entered through the cross, faith in Jesus Christ; it is an eternal kingdom that starts in now; the power is what happens when we put that faith into action.  I considered how when you dwell in this kingdom, when you claim full citizenship status, the cares of this world, while they still exist, also disappear.

Day 8 – On a mini road trip, I absent-mindedly asked one friend for a couple of the delicious grapes she had brought from home.   It was after 2 p.m.  Things got awkward for a moment when she reluctantly asked if I should.  When I got home, I made sure she was on my Close Friends list on Facebook.

Also, I received this brilliant word, by two-part Twitter feed no less:

Your prayer for your job is not merely that it be stable and prosperous, but that it truly serves the needs of society and that in all your labor and all your relationships your joy in Christ and your love for people would make a name for Jesus. (John Piper)