Sunday, March 29, 2015

Of Ostriches and Things

Last night I was sitting up in the booth doing projection at church unexpectedly.  It had been a somewhat rough week mentally for me and this marked 4 weeks of being at church that I was doing something and honestly, I'm a little too ADD to do projection. I freak myself about every 3-5 seconds because my mind wanders LOL...I had been looking forward to just being a person going to church but it wasn't meant to be....I don't tell you that to grumble, more so you understand my frame of mind when I was listening to the sermon. I'm actually incredibly thankful for how the evening ended up. I was meant to be right where I was.  
This last week I was really mentally struggling through some things.  I won't bore you with the details but the broader struggle had to do with my very worth.  I had finally sorted out that what I think I am valuable at doing and what I can offer as contribution...I am not doing. I also sorted out that, culturally speaking, my value is very low....I am not leading by title...which is a massive shift since this move. We as a culture, view being a leader as the best thing ever. Really,  I'm more at the bottom of the that a problem?  Yes, if you think that leading at the top of the heap is the end all and be all...which consciously I would have an all out fight with anyone who said that...but subconsciously...I think I must have believed it considering my mental state the last half of the week. It felt like a stronghold. Something that God needed to deal with in me...pride perhaps? The conscious side of me strongly believes that my life is in God's hands, my worth can only be found in Him, and wherever he puts me I will serve cheerfully, happily, and with all I've got. I prayed and fervently said, "wherever!" and meant it with all of me...but words are cheap...reality is much more expensive.  
By Friday afternoon I had landed back at "wherever" and meaning it, not flippantly but truly.  My will had put back in it's proper place but I must tell you that this time it was more of a wrestle and struggle than I have ever before experienced.  Why? I have many answers to that...but one of them is I think I'm still struggling through this move.  As I come across situations, each one seems to be a struggle.  And honestly, I am kind of tired of it.  This whole struggle it was like one side of me was on the outside of me going "Really?  Who cares! Get over it. This doesn't matter! Just serve and be content. STOP". The other side of me was "#$&%...NO! This is not good enough!  $%#^%&$@! WWWHHHYYY?"  
Not exactly the pretty side of me. I prayed. I wrestled.  I stressed. And you want to know the funny thing? It was all mental. There were some legit things to work through...but not requiring that much stress. I was literally stressing myself out. Talk about stupid. And to add on to this, I know that I cannot stress myself out from hard experience. My physical body takes the pounding for this mental stress. I make myself extremely ill when I do the doctor has warned me "no stress" ill.   I should have learned my lesson on this by now. So today I am home...pretty ill. Think I've learned my lesson yet?
In the midst of my struggling God graciously brought amazingly sweet moments into my week.  He has given me friendships in this short time here that are treasures.  He has allowed me to keep friendships, despite the distance, that spur me on and bring me great joy. He, as usual with me, used music to speak into the deepest parts of my soul (Right now the songs that are rocking my soul are Spirit of the Living God and Lamb of God , both by Vertical Church).  He has given me family who choose to celebrate me and love on me even when I'm not really worth celebrating...good thing we don't get what we deserve. 

As I was sitting in church, listening to Pastor Wade preach, God gently and and powerfully spoke to me.  Wade was wrapping up our series After Darkness, Light on the book of Job. Suffering. (if you want to hear the sermon it should be up by Tuesday) He was sort of going through God's response to Job in Job 38-42. He pointed out that in some ways God is talking through his creation. God begins by saying, 

Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you  understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?
On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstonewhile the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?" (Job 38:4-7)
He then came to this:
By the you know what Job's final response was to all his suffering and God's response to Him?  
He made a creation that shouted for joy. He enjoys His creation.  
The wings of the ostrich flap joyfully...when she spreads her feathers to run, she laughs at horse and rider. (Job 39:13,18)
Do you see any usefulness in an ostrich? God made her to enjoy her.  Seriously? 
Blew my mind. In all my struggling and fighting it was over not being useful..not being enough. There is a franticness in that. And He just calmed me with His voice, and said "But I made you to be you. Not to be "useful". I just enjoy you. Can you just let me enjoy you? Can that be enough?" Ummmmmmm. Hmmmmm. 
Now I'm not saying that being useful is bad.  I'm not saying don't give all you've got. I'm not saying don't work hard. I'm saying that when you are striving and struggling and frantic, like I have been this week, then perhaps it's not quite the right thing. It's more about the motive behind your action than the action itself. A posture. It goes back to that verse that I haven't quite wrapped my brain around... 
Be still and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10)
Do you know what Job's final response was in all of this?
My ears had heard of You but now my eyes have seen You (Job 42:5)
That's quite a response.  He started doing things differently from then on...Wade pointed out what is said about his daughters...I love what he pointed out.  

The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. And he also had seven sons and three daughters. The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah and the third Keren-Happuch. Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job’s daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers.(Job 42:12-15) 
Only his daughters are not done culturally in that day.  He gave them an not done culturally in that day.  Now listen to what his daughters' names mean...Jemimah (dove) Keziah (cinnamon) Keren-Happuch (make-up). In the Jewish culture (which Job was not Jewish, he was from the east of Israel...Iran?) names always have meaning...more serious meanings...character traits and the like.   These names are simply enjoyable. Job took great joy in his daughters. He was no longer taking cultural cues he was walking with God and becoming more like Him.  

I have written before about God's Extravagance.  He is an extravagant God.  He loves extravagantly. He creates extravagantly. He enjoys His extravagance and loves it when we do too.  

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Disruptive Mercy

We have staff chapel every other Wednesday. Sometimes someone from our staff speaks.  Sometimes, someone from somewhere else speaks.  Today we had Dr. David Williams.  He is the president of Taylor Seminary here in Edmonton. 
He spoke on Romans 12:1,2 which says,
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
His main point, after laying all of the ground work of his thought, was disruptive mercy. Often God's mercy is disruptive but it is mercy.  He then asked us to think about times we'd seen mercy extended to someone who completely did not deserve it.  I could immediately think about books I've read like Corrie ten Boom's story of her going back to a Nazi guard and telling him she forgave him. I could think of stories of parents who went to a prison to look their child's murderer in the eye and say "I forgive you".  But those are huge scenarios...mind blowing ones.  How have I seen God's disruptive mercy in my life? Be it bigger situations in my life or daily circumstances? 
I began to pray and ask God to bring them to my mind...and He literally flooded it with big and small examples.  I won't tell you all of them but I will tell you a few:
The most recent bigger one was this move.  My, it was disruptive! And hard.  And huge. I came into January broken from it.  It was like the last straw, for me, in a long line of hard things...years had built up on each other and this broke me...broken again.  In my soul, I felt like I was in the fetal position.  Unable to get up. Without strength to even move. That's very hard to admit for someone who has always needed to be emotionally strong.
But God.  I love those two words. They encompass hope and mercy and my very life's source. But God spoke life into me and in one week's time raised me up from the fetal position into a new and different strength.  His strength. Today he gave me a picture of when He raised me up He broke the mold of what I had formed myself to fit into. God used many people to prophetically speak life into me in that one week.  In all this I see disruptive mercy. I am being transformed day by day. I am being renewed. I feel life surging into me.  His life.  There is a difference. I am being made more like Christ. MERCY.  I could not see this move as mercy at the beginning of the journey. But God...
Another scenario in my life of an example of disruptive mercy is my step-dad.  I grew up with a man as my dad who was mentally ill. He was wonderful when he was wonderful and terribly abusive when he was terrible.  Most of growing up was hard. He was often angry, and by angry I mean he had terrible rage issues. And my mom and I walked on egg-shells every day. We never knew what would set him off. But not many people knew this.  My mom and I kept a smile on our faces and didn't talk about it...he was a pastor for some of my growing up.  Highly dysfunctional. Very scarring.  But God! He often would show me visions of my step-dad as a child and what he had experienced.  And HE would instill mercy into my soul for him. (I am in no way saying that my step-dad's treatment of me was alright with God.  That's a whole theology in and of itself better saved for another post. We live in a broken world where we use our free will to choose sin over God's ways). But I will say God used this life situation for my good.  He worked into me, in my brokenness, the ability to offer mercy and forgiveness to those who do not deserve it. Relentless mercy, that is the way of Jesus. Relentless love. Relentless hope.  It is by His disruptive mercy that He has worked into me His ways...and is continuing to do so.  In some ways, I believe that mercy insulated me from the worst of the scarring that could have happened to my heart, soul, and mind.  There is still scarring...but He is working it for my good and His glory.
The last scenario I will tell you about, has to do with my biological dad.  I did not know that my step-dad wasn't my real dad until I was 8. I had no face to face interaction with my bio dad (that I recall...I did up until 2 but have no memory of that) until I was 24 and that was at my grandparent's (his parent's) 50th wedding anniversary. Then I had no interaction until I was 30. By then I was a mom with 2 small children. We began to have a relationship at that point.  There are many circumstances around the why of not knowing him...but I truly believe that God knew I wasn't ready until then.  I remember my dad standing in my kitchen in BC and asking my forgiveness for not being in my life and me offering that forgiveness. He asked me how I was able to freely offer it? By God's grace...truly. He gave me the ability to offer it freely and wholeheartedly. My dad and I now have a sweet relationship that I cherish more than I could ever express. All of that was disruptive...BUT God worked it together for my good.  
I see His disruptive mercy all over the place. But those are some of the bigger circumstances that He brought to my mind.  :)