Quiet Joy

Tonight I sat on the lake shore and watched as the colors of the sky shifted and melded and slowly turned to dusk. Venus rose in the sky and one by one the stars that marked the big dipper and Leo the lion and orion’s belt.

It was a good place to be. The lake shore rose steeply behind us. A small girl tossed pebbles into the lake one by one and girls chatted softly about life in general.

I watched quietly. I find it hard to find words for moments like this. I feel somehow like I need to concentrate. I need every ounce of energy I have to simply soak in the aura around me.

I realize more and more how much I need silence in my life. I used to argue with my mom about this. She likes verses like “In quiteness and confidence shall be your strength”

I was more into “the joy of the Lord is my strength”

But I’ve come to realize that the two are not contradictory.

There’s an unequaled strength in quiet joy.

The joy of the Lord is born out of times of silence before Him.

When we quietly wait on God He answers in ways that make our joy overflow.

Quietness leads to Joy.

That’s what I’m learning.

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Let’s Go!

I learned a lot at Soldiers of the Cross. I was reminded of a lot of things I had known but needed to hear again. I have a brand new stash of resources: books, podcasts, apps, and sermons. The flame in my heart is burning brighter.

I have a hard time writing about it. There are no words to adequately express the gauntlet of emotions I’ve run through in the last week.

Jerry’s “It get’s me all excited!” might come close.

“I’m not even sure if I want you to come home,” my sister said. “You’re going to crash so hard once you get here.”

Maybe. But I would rather experience coming down from the heights, than to miss the heights altogether.

This was my mountaintop. I placing my flag here. I claim this territory.

Like Much-Afraid in Hind’s Feet in High Places I know I’ll have to walk the valley some more before my final ascent into the high places but glimpsing the mountain top makes the valley a bit easier to walk through.

“Let your kingdom come,” we prayed this week. “On earth as it is in heaven.”

I understand better now what that means. “The kingdom is within you” Jesus said. I hold a tiny piece within my heart.

Thank you, Jesus!

Childish or Childlike?

Tonight, walking barefoot from the shower house to my cabin, I stopped for a moment to look up at the stars.

And I smiled, standing there. Smiled and whispered “Thank you God!”

Thank you for the stars.

Last week I looked up into the sky and cried because I couldn’t see the stars.

I don’t know why it was such a big deal but somehow it felt like a personal rejection from God. He should have known I needed to see stars. He should have taken away all those clouds for me.

So small, I know.

I feel foolish now. Thinking about it.

But I was angry then. Angry that he didn’t care.

But the thing is, He did care.

I knew even then, in the anger, that he cared. Knew that I was being ridiculous.

Childish.

It’s good to be childlike. Childish not so much.

Childlike is saying thank you for the stars. Childish is becoming angry when they are covered by clouds.

Because as an adult, I know that there are still stars behind those clouds. I also know that clouds are neccessary for life, for growth.

Both literally and figuratively.

I’m praying for grace to live life a little more childlike and a little less childish.

I Press Toward the Mark

I feel a bit like a child, eavesdropping on a conversation not exactly meant for me. Not always understanding, but dreaming of a day when I will be at the place my heroes are at now.

Because I am a child, spiritually speaking.

Probably intellectually as well.

Will I make it to the heights at last?

And if I do, will I be satisfied?

Because I don’t think that’s how life works.

Paul writes: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death…. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.

The apostle who penned the words of scripture for us was still striving, still learning.

I love to learn. I’m realizing that again this week. Teaching can be fun and fulfilling. Quite possibly I learn more as a teacher than as a student but I love to be the student.

It’s exciting.

Like the excitement of a child when he first realizes that sounds can be put together to make words.

Excited because it is a life-changing discovery.

Because that’s what it means to be a Christian. To embark upon a journey of life-changing discoveries.

We become the ship, always measuring, analyzing, and reestablishing our course to bring us to our final destination.

The Praise of His Glory

Glory to God, the Father of our master, King Jesus, for he has blessed is with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places with our King. He has chosen us in Him before the world was created so that we could be spotless before him in love: His great pleasure was to plan our adoption into his family through King Jesus.

To the praise of the glory of His grace, in which he gives us acceptance through the beloved.

We have redemption through His blood, forgiveness of sins.

According to the riches of his grace.

By grace, He has poured out to us His great wisdom and understanding. It is a pleasure to Him to make known to us the mystery of His will, which comes out of his character. So that at the perfect moment He can gather together everything that is in His kingdom, in heaven and in earth, to himself. Through Him we have an inheritance, arranged through the one who works all things according to His will.

That we who trust in our King, should be to the praise of His glory.

Because we trust in Him after we heard the word of truth and the good news of salvation. We believed in Him and were sealed with his promised Holy Spirit which is the the first deposit of our inheritance guiding us until we redeem the possession he purchased for us.

Unto the praise of His glory.

That’s Ephesians chapter one, verses three to fourteen, in my own limited understanding.

I am blessed. I am chosen. Adopted. Sealed by His Spirit.

To the praise of the glory of His grace.

The glory of His grace.

May we never lose the wonder.

Rest Awhile

Come ye apart, it is the Lord who calls us. And oh what tenderness is in his tone! He bids us leave the busy world behind us, and draw apart awhile with him alone.

Sometimes life gets heavy. Maybe there’s not big problems but the little things wear on you.

The hurts. The sadness. The constant struggle.

Sometimes life just seems too much.

The work is too hard.

The laborers too few.

And we need rest.

Jesus was wise enough to take times off of his busy schedule to rest and to reconnect with his father.

I am often too proud to admit that I need it.

But sometimes I do.

I’m spending the next ten days at Soldiers of the Cross. They have three objectives they say, (1) To give practical help on how to witness effectively (2) To deepen our personal walk with God and (3) to give us a chance to draw apart and rest awhile.

In my experience they so a great job at all three.

It’s a stretching time in some ways. There’s a lot if time spent actually witnessing. The small group of students makes it impossible to remain anonymous or uninvolved. However the days are structured to give you several hours throughout the day to simply be alone with Jesus.

I’m excited.

We may be tired and weary. We may long for Jesus’ return. But still we pray “wait a little longer, please Jesus, there’s so many still awandering out in sin, just a little longer, please Jesus, a few more days to get our loved ones in.”

We dare not quite. We dare not become discouraged. We dare not give up.

But we cannot give what we do not have. Sometimes we must be refilled before we can overflow.

So come apart if you need to.

Rest with Jesus.

He loves when we come.

Letting go

I struggled slowly up the mountain slope

And daily the burden grew upon my shoulders.

The road stretched long and gray before me,
Each day it seemed less likely I would ever reach the top.

I paused for just a bit to catch my breath,
The beating of my heart was slowly
quieted.

And suddenly I saw with eyes made clear by one brief rest.
This burden was not mine to carry!

Cautiously I reached up and loosed the straps
I held my breath as I felt it slide down off my shoulders.
I turned to watch it roll and tumble down the rocky slope
Up which I had carried it.

I heard a voice speak softly from beside me
“My child, why did you carry it so long?”
And I looked up as if into the eyes of a friend.
My answer came to me slowly.

“I thought I carried it for you” I stammered
And it grew so slowly.
I never knew it was so heavy until I watched
As it crashed into those rocks down yonder.

It was a good burden he answered gently
But it was never meant for you alone.
It will yet reach the heights.
We only waited for you to let go.

I paused a minute to consider.
It’s in a thousand pieces down below I said in sorrow

Why did I let it go so suddenly?
Perhaps my work would not have been in vain.

He shook his head and pointed downward
The pieces of your burden are what we need.
I’ll plant a thousand pieces in a thousand hearts.
A burden, once let go, will grow as seeds of joy.

That which it is my Duty to Do

“I’ve finally figured out what to say when someone gives me a compliment or thanks me for something,” my sister announced. “I’ll just say ‘I’m only doing that which it is my duty to do. That’s what the bible says to do, you know.”

It took me back to that verse in Luke 17. The verse that says “And when you have done all, say: We are unprofitable servants, We have done only that which it is our duty to do.

When you have done all.

All.

We don’t have to look far in scripture to see what the “all” is that Jesus is talking about.

We are to do all.

When we have cared for the orphans. When we have fed the hungry. When we have visited the sick and the ones in prison. When we have helped the widows. When we have taken care of the poor. When we have loved our brother and our neighbour and our enemy.

When we have kept His commandments.

When we have done all.

I don’t even do half of those things and I sometimes think I’m doing pretty good.

But even if we had done them all. Even if then, our attitude should be “I have only done my duty”.

Poor Matt has been subject to quite a few of my rants lately. But the thing about Matt is that he has so much wisdom. Matt is quite probably the most quiet person in our family. He may also be the most wise. That wouldn’t be surprising. I’ve learned already that the most quiet people are also usually the smartest.

So on Sunday I was going on this little rant about Christians who claim to be Christians but don’t do the basic things Jesus outlined for us such as caring for the orphans and helping the sick.

I ended my rant with a theory that we need to stop institutionalizing everything, and instead every Christian family should simply take in an orphan, a sick or elderly person, and a struggling young person and care for them in our homes. I have a feeling that Anabaptists would be considerably more successful if they tried that. However, I concluded, that would be a fairly stressful thing to do.

Matt simply listened quietly to the entire rant then he simply said “That’s true, it would be stressful for our generation, but if our children grew up with that as a normal thing, it then wouldn’t be stressful for them, at least not nearly as stressful. It only takes one generation to change that.”

That was incredibly exciting to me. It’s so true. We believe that the things we grow up with are normal. They are comfortable to us. Our generation can change this. We can do hard things. We can be the ones who take a stand and we can make the way just a bit easier for the ones behind us.

We can.

But will we?

We can’t wait on each other. We can’t make sure the others will follow. We can’t just be like everyone else. I can only change me. You can only change you. I must choose to do my part. You must choose for yourself.

Will you spend your life “comfortable”?

Or will you follow Jesus?

Will you do “that which is your duty to do”?

Following Jesus isn’t comfortable.

It is wonderful.

Exciting.

Beautiful.

But not comfortable.

Which do you choose?

The Marks on your Hand.

I never was one of those girls with carefully trimmed fingernails and picture perfect hands. My hands are scarred. And callused. And not very pretty.

But tonight my hands are covered with a different kind of mark. They are scribbled. Written over.

A little girl sat on my lap during church tonight. She’s 6 years old. She hasn’t been to church very much. She thought it incredibly fun to write on my hands.

The marks on our hands tell stories. Every scar we have is a story, every callous.

What do your hands tell about you? Do they tell the story of gentleness? of patience? Are they scarred by deeds of love?

“I love you” She wrote on my hands, in black ink.

It reminds me of another pair of hands. Hands that tell a story of love. Written in blood-red. Those hands were pierced, they knew pain. The also knew a love greater than I can imagine. Love ran red on Calvary. Ran from nail pierced hands. For you. For me.

The Ways He Loves Me.

It was a typical Rosehill prayer meeting. No one had even been assigned to take the prayer requests. The men looked at each other and each man pointed at someone else. Leon reached over and took Larry’s baby out of his arms and Larry got up and asked who has prayer requests.

We had the usual conglomeration. The sick neighbor, the unsaved brother, the kids from kids club, and then Larry suggested we pray that it wouldn’t rain on Saturday.

Saturday, Leon had planned a customer appreciation at the Dutch Treat. There was a 90% chance of rain. It seemed a bold prayer. Sort of. It also seemed a bit small. Maybe it wasn’t important to God for us to have a nice day on Saturday. Maybe God has more important things to do than worry about customer appreciation day. Maybe it is even selfish to pray for things that will benefit me.

Now I know that’s not my God, but sometimes that’s how I think.

But we did pray. Not only that evening but we prayer about it later too. Last night when we were discussing where to set up with Relish Barn samples we worridly discussed the rain. “But it won’t rain,” Bert said. “We prayed, remember?”

“Maybe it’ll be over by morning,” Leon said, checking the weather for the hundredth time.

When I got up at 6:30 this morning it was cloudy but the air was fresh with no hint of rain. We had a beautiful day. We also had a beautiful opportunity to be a witness of how much God cares about the little details of our lives. I was blessed as I heard, over and over today, someone telling a random stranger the story of how God held off the rain for us. I could see in their eyes, as they told the story, and I could see in the eyes of the stranger that the story was blessing more people than just me.

My 8 year old brother, on the way home tonight, said with amazement “God answered our prayer”

Yes buddy he did, in a way that you’ll remember for a long time. It was a way to show you again, that he loves us, he cares about our lives.

Why do we doubt him so often?

But sometimes he doesn’t answer the way we wish. Sometimes it seems like he doesn’t answer our prayers.

Like He doesn’t care.

I was making donuts today. Donuts and donuts and more donuts. It gets really hot in there and it gets a little monotonous sometimes so usually we listen to music.

But today we forgot the speaker so we just had to make our own music, I guess.

Dv decided to sing “One more miracle, Lord.”

I always liked that song, especially the one phrase “If the miracle you send, is to walk more close to thee, than I thank you for one more miracle, Lord.”

Sometimes God doesn’t give us the miracle we ask for because he wants to give us a better one. Sometimes we don’t know what we’re asking for, sometimes there’s just so much more.

So much.

So keep praying, my friend. Sometimes God gives us the miracle we pray for, sometimes He gives us one so much better.

My sister just said that Meg at music of the starlight wrote about the open house too. I haven’t read hers yet but I have a feeling she wrote about the same thing. Oh well.