Majesty

Not many people know what majesty is all about.  In fact, the camp we are at at the moment (Lakeside Bible Camp) has the theme of Medieval Times, but the concept of kings and queens and  courtiers is really lost on most of us.  But every once in awhile, as part of the commonwealth of the United Kingdom, Canada gets a little glimpse into the royal life.  On occasion the royals visit us to perform their duty to this rather large part of the British Empire.  The Queen is our final authority, the commander in chief; her family, the ranking officers in our army and when she or her family comes, they come with all the pomp and circumstance that goes with royalty.

We happened to be discussing this during the May long weekend.  For it was Victoria Day in Canada, celebrating Queen Victoria’s birthday and as an added bonus this is Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee, her 60th year as Queen, so members of the royal family are making many trips to commemorate the year throughout the Commonwealth.  Prince Charles and his wife the Duchess Camila were here in Toronto.  As we went down to Center Island to enjoy an incredibly beautiful day, we laughed about hanging around to watch the fireworks with the man who is next in line for the throne.  The funny part was, that as we got in our car to leave in the evening we were stopped by the police.  All of a sudden, a dozen motorcycle officers cut off the street we were pulling on to, blocked the intersections, and made pedestrians stand still.   Then, moments later, a long motorcade came around the corner, one limousine had the British flag on it, and there, right in front of us was Prince Charles waving to us as we watched him drive by.  Just as quickly the police were gone.

Perhaps you think, what a waste, why do we need to have a royal family?  What’s the purpose?   Why do they have all this money and celebrity just because of their birth?  But I think we can learn so much more.  Earlier in the day, I had thought it funny that I am interested in the royal family and the ceremony that goes on with them.  I mean, I remember watching Prince Charles and Lady Di get married, then was up at 5am and watched some of Prince William and Kate’s wedding this past year.  It seems somewhat silly and girlish, but I think it makes me that much more excited to see the ceremony that comes with my King.

The King of kings!  Imagine Him riding to get His bride on that white horse?  The train of His robe fills the temple, imagine what His bride’s will be like (if anyone remembers Princess Diana’s!)  I can imagine the arch angels ahead of Him, stopping the powers of darkness, holding them back with a hand gesture as He makes His way through the heavenlies for us!

That is majesty.  That is royalty.  If we can watch humans and make such a presentation of their royal lineage, what sort of majesty will follow the God of the universe?  No wonder every knee will bow and every tongue confess.  This is one royal wedding that not only do I get to see, I get to be a part of!

~ Patti

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The Missing Peace

I learned a principle about a month ago that God has been using to change me and this ministry: When ANXIETY goes UP, BEHAVIOR and MOTIVATION go DOWN.

The instructor that taught this principle shared that the most motivated group of people he has ever met are grade one students.  Think about it, before the teacher even finishes asking the question, almost every hand in the room is up wanting to be the one chosen to answer or volunteer.  Due to this high motivation, a grade one teacher has to come up with a job for each and every student in her class.  Billy will take the chairs off the desks in the morning, Suzy will put the chairs back up on the desks at the end of the day.  Becca will be the line leader and Emily will be the door holder while Danny is responsible to bring up the rear and Amy turns off the light…

Now fast forward to Jr. High, where motivation was once incredibly high for Billy now his anxiety about what Suzy and Becca think keeps him from volunteering and he finds himself carving things into desks rather than taking the chairs down off them.  After changing schools twice Emily would rather stay outside the door of her seventh grade classroom and hide rather than hold the door and smile at everyone that comes through.

This principle is true for all of us at every stage of life.  When I am driving in a new city and am uncertain about where I am going my anxiety goes up and I am more likely to get annoyed with the other passengers in the car or the guy who can’t seem to find his indicator before he cuts me off in traffic.

Just last week I found myself overwhelmed with the size and weight of my ‘To Do List’ that needed to be accomplished before we left for 10 weeks.  I found myself struggling to find the motivation to get out of bed and loosing my temper with the people I live with and love deeply.

Q. Can you think of a specific example of when anxiety has gone up in your heart or mind and as a result your behavior or motivation has gone down?

Here is some very practical advise from the Apostle Paul, a man who could have been paralyzed by his ‘To Do List’ and who’s actions at times I’m sure reflected an anxious heart.

“do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”   Philippians 4:6-7

When you start to feel anxious here’s what you do…

  1. Stop – recognize that anxiety is controlling you and it doesn’t have to.

“do not be anxious about anything…”

2) Talk to God – recognize that He is with you and He is in control, not your circumstance or emotions.

but in everything by prayer…

3) Ask God for what you need – instead of giving into a feeling, this will help you think about a plan.  Maybe you don’t know what you need, ask God to show you.  Sit with a pen and paper and ask God to reveal to you why you are anxious.  Usually we feel anxious because of a perceived lack (of time, money, support, encouragement, knowledge, wisdom, people)

and supplication…

4) Thank God that in Christ we lack nothing – if you perceive a lack of resources, thank God for always providing in the past, that He knows what you need and can provide perfectly in your present.  If you perceive a lack of support, thank God for His Spirit within you who can accomplish more than you could ask or imagine.

with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God… 

5) Think about these things – do not allow yourself to give into destructive thought patterns, instead take them captive.  Ask God to help you expose the lie(s) you are believing and replace them with the truth of God’s word.

…whatever is TRUE,… Honorable,… Just,… Pure,… Lovely,… Commendable,…

Excellent,… Worthy of praise,… Think about these things… Philippians 4:8

6) Practice – don’t just take this as good information, do something with it.

…what you have learned and recieved and heard and seen in me – practice

     these things,… Philippians 4:9a

7) Desire God, not just what He gives

…and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:9b

Remember that the purpose of this life journey is for us to know God intimately, believe Him fearlessly and Glorify Him passionately.  Ultimately we want God, not His peace.

Q. When you are anxious ask God what He wants you to know or believe about Him and how He wants to get glory through you?  


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Humility

I’ve been thinking about humility a lot since we got back from the Christian Musician Summit in Buffalo, NY last week.  We went as a band (The Peculiar) to learn and grow and be inspired.  We had the opportunity to sit in on seminars led by some of the most talented musicians as they taught skills and gave ideas for practicing.  We were led in worship by some amazing worship bands, had the Word spoken to us by gifted teachers… it really was an unforgettable experience.  But the thing that kept standing out to me was these men and women’s humility.

I sat in on several bass guitar sessions with one man who has travelled all over the world and played with all sorts of leaders and bands.  He could play anything, he was incredibly talented and yet he spent so much of his time talking about how his job is to do exactly what the leader asks of him.  He could do all sorts of solos and make himself stand out, but his job is follow the leader, and draw people in to worship.  By making a show of himself, he draws all the attention to him, not God, not the words we are singing.  He emphasized over and over that as musicians leading worship, that is our role.

Perhaps this point was made even more obvious by his instrument.  Bass tends to be an instrument that fills out the band, isn’t the lead, rarely the solo, but has an important role in keeping the rhythm and stability of a song, along with the drums.  Watching him play, you might never particularly pick out the bass line, but you would miss it if it wasn’t there.

When I was teaching, I read a book by Canadian novelist Robertson Davies called “Fifth Business”.  The title comes from a specific role in a dramatic production.  Fifth business is the role in a play that isn’t the lead, the hero or the antagonist, but without this character the plot wouldn’t move and the other lead characters would never be developed.  I was always struck by the idea of humility that would have to go with the actor in that part.  To be pushing others to the forefront for the audience, knowing how important they are, but never being recognized themselves.   How like the call to us as Christians to walk in humility?  How like Christ, who brought divine strength to earth and yet chose humility to restrain all those omni-attributes for us?

We live in a world that says to take center stage.  Let everyone see how amazing and talented you are, don’t get pushed aside, fight for your rights.  Even our spirits rise up in us when we are overlooked or undervalued.  Yet, our role is to listen to the Master, to do what our Leader tells us, to point to Him, to play the background.

“Let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus…but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Phil 2:5-8)

~ Patti

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Connecting: How’s your follow through?

I’ve come to realize that connecting well with people requires good follow through.

How many times have you had a great gift idea for someone but found yourself picking up a gift card on the way to their party instead?  Have you ever been on the receiving end of that situation and had the person say something like, “What I really wanted to do for you was _______________ BUT…”

Who are the people who, without fail, remember your birthday and always send a card or call?  If others were asked that same question would your name be on their list?

Has anyone ever said, “I’ll call you.” and you knew, in that moment, that the next time you see them the first thing they will say is, “I’m so sorry I didn’t call…” and then share a ‘BUT’ with you?

Have you ever been in a store and seen the specific snack that your friend has often mentioned as their favorite, thought about getting it for them, but didn’t?  I’ve done this and then later found myself in a conversation with them when they’ve said something like, “I could so go for some ___________”.  In that moment I wish I had followed through on my thought, but instead of being able to bless them all I can say is, “I ALMOST got some for you the other day BUT,…”

Have you ever said to someone who went out of their way to bless you, “You’re so thoughtful”?  The truth is, yes, they are thoughtful, but the reason you’re mentioning it is because of their follow through.  If ideas only remain as thoughts and we don’t DO anything with them, the connection we desire to have with people will never become a reality.

Galatians 6:9,10     “And let us not grow weary of DOING good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us DO good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

Sounds a bit like Nike; “Just Do It”.

Don’t get overwhelmed with “…everyone,” just start with someone.

Challenge:

  1. Think of one person you have the opportunity to DO good to
  2. Think of what would bless them; pray and ask God for an idea
  3. DO it!

5 Ideas to get you started:

1. Borrow their car and fill the tank before you return it                                                          2. Offer to watch their kids so they can go out                                                                             3. Write them a hand written note and use good old fashion snail mail to send it                 4. Bring them a coffee at work (make sure you know what they like in it)                             5. Email them the ‘Top 10 Things About   ( Their name)”.   (Make sure at least 4 are serious)

We would love to hear your ideas, but even better we would love to hear what you DO with them.  Let us know.

~ Jodi

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Silence

It’s been months since I wrote that title.  That word is hard to follow with anything profound, or even just something worth saying.  I’ve found that a lot lately.  Often what I say isn’t worth saying, it’s just filling “air time” it seems.  So often we seem afraid of silence.  It becomes awkward, we feel we have to get rid of it somehow, that it is a negative thing to experience.  In fact, some people even use it as punishment for others, refusing to talk to them.  But what is it really?

The absence of noise?

Stillness?

Peace?

Looking at these words and phrases I would think I should look forward to silence.

Lately, I have been struggling with the Lord because I’ve felt that He’s been silent.  Questions that I have been asking Him have seemed to hang in the air.  I’m used to quick responses, not always what I want, but usually quick.  He’s allowed me some level of discernment to see Him work, hear Him speak.  But lately it’s just been all me.  And even then, I can’t seem to come up with any suggestions to give Him to answer my questions. (that in itself is highly unusual for me, I can almost always have a way to ‘fix’ a problem or give Him a solution while I pray)  But this season has been different and it’s caused me incredible stress.  I feel like I’ve done something terribly wrong, He’s done speaking to me, I’m abandoned, worthless, rejected.

I know, none of those things fit with scripture, but the silence is such a departure for me.  I’ve been struggling to hear Him when I read the Word, at church, Bible study.  Where is He?

But then I look at those synonyms again.  Absence of noise.  How I long for that.  Currently I live in a house that is so loud.  We are downtown, there is a busy coffee shop across the street, two parking lots on either side of the house, and a driveway to a grocery store where all the delivery trucks pull up in front of our house every morning.  I have heard more lover’s arguments, car’s bass amps, backup warning beeping on trucks and car alarms than I ever care to remember.  Some days I just long for when the Lord will allow us to move to somewhere quiet, without noise.  Silent.

Stillness.  Again, something I long for, even beg the Lord for sometimes.  I am so busy at times in the ministry He has called me to.  My job entails mostly interruptions.  The things I plan in a day are often done late at night because of what others that serve with me need during the day.  I feel that I am running from one thing to the next, one meeting to another, sometimes fire to fire, and when I’m not running my mind still is trying to solve or at least anticipate the next problem.  I long for stillness, to sit on the couch, to sleep in without a clock, to allow my mind to stop.  I have found that in this season, I was living for the next break, the next possible day off, or finally a retreat away from the busyness.  To be still.

Peace.  Last year I spent several weeks memorizing scriptures about peace.  I looked up the greek and hebrew words, all the times it occurs in the Bible.  It was something I knew I was lacking in my life.  I could, in the busyness and noise, allow myself to get spun around by the simplest of events.  A slight change in plans could send my heart racing, my emotions off the chart.  I begged the Lord for His peace that passes all understanding, I begged Him to guard my heart and mind.

But what did I receive as I cried out for these things?  For an absence of noise, stillness and peace?  SILENCE.

When I started to write this I was just starting to get it.  I was sitting in a sun room at a friend’s home in North Carolina.  It was about midnight and I was all alone, listening to the trees sway in the wind.  The crickets chirping all around the back yard.  A full moon was slipping in and out of the clouds.  I wasn’t moving, the silence sounded beautiful.  I closed my eyes and just listened.  Soaked in the sounds of God’s answer to my prayers.

It’s not that He allowed me to get 18 hours away from normal life, it’s not that He sent me on vacation as an answer to my prayer, it’s that He was letting me see that He’s been answering me the whole time.  All those months of struggle, He’d been answering me.  He’d been showing me what a lack of noise is, what stillness is, what peace is.

Just be-ing.

Psalm 46:10 says, “be still and know that I am God”.  or in the NASB “cease striving and know that I am God.”  Perhaps that is silence.  I don’t need to give Him the answers when I pray, I don’t need to know how He’s going to fix it, I don’t need to see Him at work, I just need to BE.  And to know that He is God, and He can do all things!  I can not.  But He can.

Will I ever truly be able to grasp that?  It’s not about me doing anything, praying more, serving more, reading my bible more, talking to others about Him more… I can’t do any of it, He doesn’t need me to.  I am just to “BE”. He’s God, He’ll take care of it.  If I can just rest in that and enjoy the moments of silence.  To know that He’s sitting beside me, like a close friend that I don’t have to fill the silence by talking, but I can just BE with and it’s enough.   Is it possible that the God of the universe just wants to be with me?  Not do anything, not even say anything… just be?

The greatest joy of vacations for me is just being with my best friends.  Other people would probably be terribly bored with us, we don’t do much.  Make meals, swim, lay on the beach.  That’s it. But the best part is who I am doing “nothing” with.  Could God the Father, Jesus, the Holy Spirit want to sit with me?  Why He would, I couldn’t tell you, I have a bit of a suspicion that it has to do with that scandalous love He seems to have for wretches like me.    Cease striving.  Be still. Silent.

Silent Night

The noise of it almost shatters the ear                                                                                       my chest aches from its vibrations                                                                                                   my breath catches                                                                                                                             and i can’t                                                                                                                                    breathe

it echos                                                                                                                                            and yet there is nothing                                                                                                                   to hear, nothing to listen to,      to act upon                                                                              Just an empty pit, leading to despair as the                                                                             silence seems to deafen me

I cry out but the sounds just                                                                                                       ring back in my ears                                                                                                                       the sobs that wrack my body are hollow                                                                                   they simply steal what peace i might have had

Exhaustion sets in                                                                                                                          and even the cries stop, tears are gone                                                                                shallow breathing is all     i      can      manage                                                                           and then I hear it.

Silence.

When i stop, i can finally hear                                                                                                        the trees, the wind                                                                                                                                 the birds                                                                                                                                                 life                                                                                                                                                    peace.

Was it just my noise that stopped my ears?                                                                               Was He speaking all of this – all the time?                                                                              Cease striving…                                                                                                                                then i can hear,                                                                                                                                once i am still                                                                                                                                   Its echos aren’t to be feared, but embraced                                                                           nothing to do                                                                                                                                    just be.                                                                                                                                             Silent.

~ Patti

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It’s all about Love!

There once was a girl who grew up in a wonderful family, in a home that was centered around God and who never lacked anything.  She was content and felt safe living in her ‘box’… but for some reason she had a feeling that something was missing. She sensed that there was something more to life.

One day she was asked to go with a team from her church to a small town in Mexico. This was something way outside her ‘box’!  She didn’t know where she would be sleeping, what she would be eating, let alone what kinds of bugs and creatures she would meet.  But what she did know was that she needed to go.

The trip was only two weeks, but the girl learned a lot.  There were fun times and there were hard times… but most of the times were stretching.  There was one particular day that really stood out to her.  She was all by herself on a rooftop patio watching the setting sun over the ocean and she heard a voice speak directly to her heart.  This was the Lord speaking right to her! He spoke to her about how she had been loved all her life…. but never really took it to heart.  The Lord clearly said, “I LOVE YOU!”  There was something different about this time.  The Lord was speaking so clearly and directly that she could not get away from the words.  She had to believe it to be true… that God loves her! From that day the girl was changed.

But this is not the end of the story….

As time passed the girl continued to change and grow in her love with God. She was not as shy as she used to be and the ‘box’ she used to live in was not so comfortable anymore.  She believed that the Lord had called her on a mission to love people and make sure that people knew that God loved them too.

Five years after her life changing moment, the girl was asked again to go to the same small town in Mexico with a team from her church.  At first she did not believe that she would have the opportunity to go again even though in her heart she wanted to do so.  She wanted to go to Mexico and bless the people and love on them!  The Lord opened all the doors for her to go, provided the support and even provided coverage for her job.  The Lord had his hand on even the small details.  The girl knew this trip was going to be different.

Even from the first person that the girl sat beside on the plane she knew that the Lord wanted her to love people. She was able to encourage two ladies on the planes as she shared about going down to Mexico to love and help people. She shared the story of God’s gift of Jesus to the kids in a children’s program.  She shared what she believed about Jesus to a complete stranger by the beach.  She worked hard making cement, hammering nails with rocks and cleaning up garbage around the town. These things may seem like little things but the smiles on peoples faces revealed that they were blessed.  Many of the people did not understand why a team of people would come and do these things for them.

After the girl arrived home she reflected on all the things that had happened.  She was sad that she did not directly hear the voice of God, but she knew in her heart that He revealed other things.  He revealed how much His love had changed her and He was the one working in and through her.  There was nothing the girl did that was in her own strength… it was the Lord. For the Lord had stretched her and brought her out of her comfortable life to a place where she had to fully rely on Him.

The Lord does not want us to stay the same… He wants us to grow, draw closer to Him and to completely trust in Him. For He has big plans for all of us and He gets glory when hearts change.  When we are living how God calls us to live, He gives us freedom!  He has called us to love. For it is not about what we do, or what we strive for, but it is God’s love and what He is doing through us.

Ephesians 3:16-21 states it clearly, “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.  Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

As the girl discovered in the story, there is more to life. God’s love can do more then we could ever imagine.  Sharing God’s love will change everything!  Are you willing to share God’ s love with the people you meet?  It is as simple as telling a story… a story of how God has worked in your life, or how God loved us all so much that he sent His ONLY Son to die for us. Everyone needs to know that they are loved.  For many people that is the missing piece in their lives.  God’s love changes everything!  It changes who people are and what they do but most importantly it changes hearts.

Love on people. Find ways to bless them and watch as the love of God changes their hearts and yours!

~Laura Swagerman

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Heart Pedicure

This time of year Patti, Kelsey and I start singing, “In my mind I’m goin to Carolina…” and don’t stop ’til we get there.  For the past 3 years, friends of ours have blessed us with a week in May at their summer home that sits 15 minutes from two beautiful beaches.  We use the week to get away from the ordinary of life and ministry in Bradford, to reconnect as friends and get ready for the summer of ministry ahead.

One of the most calming and focusing things for my heart and mind is walking on the beach and watching the ocean waves roll in and the sun go down.

It’s also great for our feet.

After spending a week naturally exfoliating our feet on the sand we then completely abuse them by hiking14 miles on rocky terrain to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back.  The most refreshing feeling after the 7 mile trek down is kicking our shoes off, peeling off our sweaty, dusty socks and plunging our weary feet into the river.  It instantly cools us right down.

The Bible actually connects our feet and the way we walk with our hearts and how callous they can become.  Take a look at these verses;

“Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer WALK as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become CALLOUS…”  Ephesians 4:17,18

“…you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do,…”   Did God require His people to walk differently, with a distinctive pep in their step, limp or other distinguishing characteristic?   How helpful would it be to simply be able to watch how someone crosses the street and know if they are a Christian or not?

As silly as this might sound, in a sense God does expect His people to walk differently.   We are no longer to walk according to the ways of this world like the ‘Gentiles’; those who choose not to listen to God.  We are called to walk, or conduct ourselves, according to what God says.

Look at the warning God gives us from the example of His people in the wilderness after they chose to disobey God and walk contrary to what He had said;

“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said,“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”  Hebrews 3:12-15

The more we choose to walk apart from the wisdom and will of God the harder and more callous our hearts will get.  But this can also happen simply by walking around in this world and getting covered in its dust and dirt.

We can go away on a time of refreshment and get a spiritual pedicure on our hearts and determine to never mess up our soft, clean feet (or heart) by staying safe inside but we would miss out on the Grand Canyon.

I love the example Christ gave us at the last Passover supper.  After hearing their conversation which revealed how the wisdom of the world was rubbing off on them Jesus got up and washed their feet and then said this to them;

“A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.”   Luke 22:24-26

After, Peter makes his classic refusal for his feet to be washed and then invites Jesus to wash all of him if that’s what it took to be with Him Jesus said to him,

“The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean…”  John 13:10

Jesus gave us the sweetest picture of the importance of being washed in the water of the Word.  Christ prayed that His Father would sanctify us by the truth and then said, “Your Word is Truth.”

We need to be allowing the Spirit to wash over our hearts and minds to renew them to what God says and to wash away the thinking of this world.  We need to be willing to put our shoes back on and keep walking.  God has commanded us to “Go into all the world…” and He knows better than anyone how filthy the world is.  That’s why we need to walk in the world and be washed of it continually.

Let’s purpose to listen to God’s voice and allow Him to wash us with His word to keep our hearts soft with a fresh pedicure.  We’ll be more sensitive to the things of this world which is always a more difficult way to walk rather than being hard and unaffected by the deceitfulness of sin.  But we walk differently after getting a pedicure and it sets us apart as the people of God.

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Life isn’t Fair!

Just compare the number of Easter eggs in their basket to mine and you’ll find they ALWAYS have more than I do… if they have three, then I will have two. And ok, fine, maybe it’s true that I ate a few… or nine…of them before counting, but who’s counting anyway?

And if you are, that just is not fair!!

Here, let me float this bayou in other words… just hand over your chocolate and no one gets hurt!

Now first, I’m fairly certain I am not a basket case going off the deep end but I’ll put all my eggs in one basket and dive on in for the sake of fair play… as long as I’m the star player. And for a small fare I’ll take you where you can wear MY jersey with MY name as MY fair weather friendship sails again and then when the sunshine ends, I’ll make you sway like a boat in a rain storm, bend your sails to my norm ‘cause normally I’m Here For You so return the favour, would you!

But life isn’t fair…

Like when I try, but they are still greater, or they get to stay up later or they work harder, it just isn’t fair that we don’t get the same grades!

But this candy-coated diatribe won’t tide me over nor amount to much ‘cause even if I had a mound of stuff my sense of fair ebbs and flows like the tide.

Needless to say, these are pictures of the shallow way we view fair trades. It is like a carnival game at a Viva Las Vegas kind of fair where no one wins and instead we spin like a Ferris wheel on steroids with a rotating ‘choice’ of being higher or lower, higher or lower, higher or lower than someone else, anyone else.

This need of and fear of comparison is deeply felt like the waves of a tsunami ‘cause defining fair by what’s fair to me won’t make a splash against the watery grave that crashes the shore of our existence, I mean in essence, is it fair that their lives should be taken while I am still livin’? No.

It shore is a given that no matter the water works, when the water first burst we burst from the womb into a world consumed by sin.

Since then, we ride the wave that things are fair and square if they happen MY way, then we fearfully pray that our dear Father would feast on our fodder of fearful fairness and choose followers based on their merits.

So inherently, it is a Mystery to puddle in. It is more than subtle and fairly odd that God would choose All the Poor and Powerless to portray God’s antithesis to quench our sense of fairness in pictures of God’s forgiveness not seven but seventy times seven in God’s timin’.

Take for instance, Simon, known as Peter, a real leader and fearer of man. He started as a mere fisherman when Jesus called him out of the water to be HIS follower and a fisher of men. Called him even though Peter was peppered with fear that wouldn’t peter out because it was like a water spout attached to the ocean itself; a fear that flowed out of and into the need to be approved, to be first in all things, to which end Peter nearly succeeded, kind of.

He was the first follower to walk on water, rock the boat, jump in with both feet even when ground gave way to ocean deep. And when he lost sight of the Christ and fearfully started to falter and sink in the sea, it wasn’t a fair drop like the rock he was named after but he sank rather slowly so he could see How Deep the Father’s Love was and he was never out of reach. Then Peter had a brain wave as he sought to seek and say to his saviour “You Alone Can Rescue me.” And the ripple effects of his step of faith still reach us today.

He was the first to recognize Christ’s Father and not water down the title of Christ, the Messiah and shortly thereafter was the first to be nicknamed the rock. He was a chip off the old block even though he was somewhat of a block head when he fearfully was the first to rebuke Jesus, Son of God for things HE said about HIS death that seemed unfair, unaware that Christ IS the rock that would rock the world when He rolled away the stone and rose so swimmingly but Peter was constantly drowning in a me-centred philosophy.

So it is no wonder than when Christ transformed gloriously, Peter was the first who went overboard and thundered that he would form a tent because he didn’t know what it meant to just listen and thought this statement meant he could state that “Here… I… Am To Worship”.

And even though he got to know the flow of the living water, he was the first to refuse the servitude of Christ, refused to let the Living Water wash his feet then in a feat to outshine his piers, Peter changed his mind and asked that same Living water to bathe all of his features, although he was already clean…and then insultingly, denied that he would deny him, even if the others did.

It was Peter Satan asked first to sift but Christ prayed in this that God would not drift from his plan but use this man in the foundation of the church throughout history. Now, that certainly isn’t fair according to me.

Peter was one of the first in the Garden when Jesus asked them to guard and instead they slept while Christ’s brow glistened with the water of sweat and droplets of blood asking not his will, but God’s be done.

And when the time had come, Peter was the first to come undone and be driven by fear to draw a sword and rid a servant of his ear and watch blood pool and flow only to have Christ return the servant to his original form.

Then Peter didn’t storm after Christ but rather dripped with washed up promises as he was the first to deny Jesus three times. And while Christ was tried unfairly to be crucified, Peter wept bitterly for the outflow of his failings and his own unfair treatment of the one who knew no sin and in that moment, Peter sank and hit rock bottom.

And you can bank on the fact that option is still open, the option to sink or swim in the face of tribulation. Personally, at times like these, I get caught in the undertow of people pleasing and my thoughts are flooded with how I can’t win ‘cause it just isn’t fair. At times like these, I need you to Lead Me To The Cross where thieves fearfully hung across from the Christ and Satan had the Son of God in his Cross hairs, going cross-eyed with the flood of disciples’ despair.

It is there that I will find the greatest antithesis to my sense of fairness in the ocean of forgiveness when Christ in His innocence hung on a tree and said over me “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” and “it is finished”. It. Is. Finished; even when they had just finished ripping a strip using tongues and lips to give the King of Kings a tongue lashing when he didn’t lash back but sat siliently. It. Is. Finished; even when they had just finished physically ripping a strip from Christ’s flesh, took skin from his back, ribs and chest…And that wasn’t fair. It was a gift packaged with strings from a whip with ribbons that ripped into him reaping rivers of blood that must have had Peter wonderin’ how this was a fair gift. Even then, Christ called out “Father, forgive them” with no amendment for only fair-favoured recipients, but an unfair gift of forgiveness offered to any who would receive it.

And see, it says that the rain falls graciously on both the unrighteous and those who act righteously so when the Romans soldiers and Pharisees stuck a spear to see blood and water flow mingled down they had no anticipation of the precipitation, how God’s Grace Like Rain poured out. How great is our God that He would flood the world with love from the blood of his Son, with unfair forgiveness falling down like Niagara cascading over a broken dam to save fallen man from the fairness of damnation because Christ has died and Christ has risen and Christ will come again.

It was in this forgiveness that Peter wasn’t the first and couldn’t earn fairly and though he returned to fishing in normal-sea, hooked by dependen-sea and approval of man, there was still no removal from God’s plan and the resurrected Christ forgave him, reinstated him called him again; because Jesus is Stronger and Christ’s power is perfected in the weakness of man.

So this season, it is clear that life isn’t fair, though I still dare to believe the washed out theory that I deserve every breath that I breathe when really, everything I have I receive as a gift, every blessing and rift and to drift from that reality is to do a disservice to Him who unfairly gives all that I need and much of what I want. But I can’t flaunt what I’ve got ‘cause what I deserve is a fate far worse than the worst thing on earth. Thankfully, I serve a God of mercy who reminds me daily that Life Is Not Fair. It is by grace I have been saved through faith, not of myself, not a FAIR trade but a gift from God. So this Easter, think of Peter and know it couldn’t be clearer, it is like the mirror of still water reflecting that Life Isn’t fair.

Praise God.

~ Jenna Wickens

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Sinus Infection

Have you ever been so sick that your head just doesn’t feel like it’s part of your body? Your sinuses are so blocked that not only can you not breath, you can’t even hear? Every part of your face aches, your teeth hurt, your jaw is sore, in fact, your whole body suffers from this one infection?  That’s how I feel at the moment, but it made me start thinking about this past fall.

I realized that I had felt like I had a spiritual sinus infection.  Everything was impacted by it, my physical health, my decisions, my judgment, my heart; all because something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on was wrong.  I tried every “medication” I could think of, but nothing seemed to relieve the aches and pains.

But then.  Jehovah Raphe.  The great physician got a hold of me.

In January, I attended Passion 2012, a conference put on by Louie Giglio and Passion268 every year for college aged youth in Atlanta, Georgia.  I was blessed to go with 2 friends and bring 8 girls that we had discipled together along with us…but it was me that God wanted sitting in that stadium with 45000 other people.  The first night’s message was on Luke 7, when Jesus interrupts a funeral procession and raises the dead boy back to life.  Louie talked about needing a resurrection in our lives, a divine interruption.  And oh, did I need an interruption, I needed my spirit revived and as I went to my small group that night, that was exactly what I asked them to pray for.  11 years of full time ministry had taken a toll on my heart; everything ached, my ears couldn’t hear and I longed for Him to interrupt.

Over the past, probably 6 months, I had sought the Lord.  I knew I needed to be in His word, to be praying, worshipping but I felt like I was surrounded by silence.  My soul hadn’t been excited about anything for so long.  It felt like disappointment after disappointment and leading a staff of 7 others, I felt that I had to be able to keep my head up for them, to encourage them but so desperately needed the encouragement myself.  I felt like I was being carried out of the city to my funeral…but God.

Right there, in the midst of thousands, God cleared me out.  He opened my ears and let me hear.  Luke 7:16 says that the people glorified God when Jesus raised the dead boy and said “God has come back”.  That’s how I feel, God has returned, although I know He never left me, He was quiet.  Why, I don’t know, He can show me if He wants, but the joy in my heart that has returned from hearing His voice is so incredibly overwhelming that “why” doesn’t really matter to me right now.

As I sat down to do my devotions this morning, like I do almost every morning, the Word seemed to be screaming at me.  The Lord was pointing out all sorts of things, teaching me His secrets, causing me to turn to this passage and that, connecting all sorts of ideas… I wanted to laugh out loud I was so thrilled with His voice!

Nothing else has changed, none of my circumstances, situations I need to deal with, ministry decisions to be made, people in my life, but He has opened my ears.  He interrupted.  And that has made all the difference.

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Going to the Bank

Last week I took a friend of mine to the bank so he could cash a cheque… for the first time in 23 years.  He was so anxious on the way there in the van asking questions like, “Are you sure I can use my bank card at that branch?” “Wouldn’t it be safer just to go to the cheque cashing place?”. I ensured him he could use his bank card here in town and it would save him money to use his account rather than pay a percentage off the top. I didn’t understand why he was so nervous.

I’ll never forget the picture of him holding onto his brand spanking new bank card, taking a deep breath, getting out of the van and walking into the bank while his girlfriend and I sat waiting in the van.  It was the coolest thing to see him come out about 10 minutes later, get in the van, close the door and collapse into the bucket seat with a wave of relief washing over him.

He asked, “What’s 41-18?” after a quick calculation I said, “23”.  Then he said, “It’s been 23 years since I’ve been able to cash a cheque and withdraw money from a bank account”.  His life story is a doozie and as a result of some poor choices he had been with out ID since the age of 18.  God has since been working miracles in his life and as part of this new chapter he acquired the proper identification to secure full time employment, allowing him and requiring him to get a bank account.

The confidence it supplied him that day actually changed his countenance and inspired him to continue to live in a way that allows him to make use of these privileges that you and I often take for granted.

After I dropped him off my mind went to this verse;  “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” Eph. 1:3

Imagine God’s throne room as the bank and having the privilege to enter confidently and make a withdraw on the spiritual blessings our heavenly Father has deposited into our account through the work Christ accomplished.

It’s crazy to think that according to Hebrew 4:16 we are encouraged to “…approach God’s throne of grace with confidence…”

BUT the only way we can and will do that is if we have the right ID.  That’s why the verses following Ephesians 1:3 are so important;

“For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight.  In love He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.” Eph. 1:4,5

If I know and believe that I am a child of God than I have full access to all He is and has.     In fact when we believe the Father gives us His Spirit as an initial deposit guaranteeing our inheritance;

“When you believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s own possession – to the praise of His glory.” Eph. 1:13,14

It’s those times when I doubt God’s love and question my identification in Christ that I become anxious about entering into His throne room.  I will simply avoid it altogether and become more willing to pay the high price to cash in on what I need.

BUT, when I allow the Spirit to further convince me that my account is secure and the deposit is HUGE, the peace that surpasses all understanding washes over my heart and mind freeing me up from fear and anxiety.

Need to go to the bank today?  Check your ID and enter His throne room confidently.

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