Saturday, February 28, 2009

Swimming in the shallow end

Ok, time for something not so deep, literally : ) Been spending a lot of time with my neices and nephew recently, we did our annual weekend at a hotel together so here are some pictures from the shallow end of the Canadinns pool.
Brooklynn, as always, took to the pool like a fish and couldn't get enough swimming.

"I wanna swim to that end Aunty Tami!"

We couldn't get her to leave until her lips were blue, and even then we had to bribe her with supper.
Avery took some more coaxing than Brooklynn, she was content to sit on the sidelines at first.

But eventually she let people take her around the bigger pool for awhile.

These two pictures say it all : )

And poor Landon was soooo sick, he spent his time on the sidelines or sleeping. But we had a blast as always, it was worth catching Landon's miserable cold : )

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Purpose Driven Life

A life that has purpose is driven to succeed in that purpose. I believe we are designed to know there is a reason for our existence and know that fulfillment lies in accomplishing it. Some people seem to be continually searching for it, some seem to be born knowing. I am a searcher. Not that I've lived aimlessly, but I haven't felt very driven. There has never been this one major thing I've worked passionately to accomplish. I think my only consistent desire has been to love and be loved. That's not to say I have never been driven, but in time I became aware these purposes were not from God, and so they failed or fizzled, leaving me hungry for a real purpose.

Over the last year or so I have pleaded with God to reveal my purpose to me, so that I can be driven, so that I can do something with passion and love every minute of it, regardless if it is what I thought I wanted, anything as long as I know it is MY 'something' to accomplish. He has fed me bread crumbs, leading me to the right path, to the right Church, to the right friendships, to the right motives, and while knowing I was being led I was still frustrated with a lack of anything concrete, no definitive revelations. Obviously timing is key, I have to be in the right place, at the right time, in the right frame of mind, or I may flounder in my purpose, and even though that is something I have easily told other people, it's so much harder to convince yourself to be satisfied with that answer.

The importance of truth has been one of those bread crumbs, starting in late 2006, and becoming more of a fixation at the beginning of 2009, with my declaration that I will be a steward of truth. To be a steward of truth I realized I needed to know my Bible better, so I began to turn there for the answers to my questions. One of my burning questions was of course my purpose, so I looked to the purpose of being a child of God. The first thing that came to mind was 'They will know we are Christians by our love", which struck a chord with me because, as I said earlier, my desire has always been to love and be loved. So, I dove deep into the most famous love passage, 1 Corinthians 13, and what I had never seen before were the descriptions of the fruits of the spirit, another guide for what I should look like if I am filled with God's Spirit. Every fruit is unpackaged in 1 Cor 13, and so for me it showed me I couldn't have the fruits of the spirit without love, the real definition of love.

And so my realizations started coming full circle, the bread crumbs are becoming loaves as I begin to find assurance in the confirmation of what I've been learning over the last few years. I guess repetition is the best way we learn.
Love is not self-seeking and I need more self-control, well guess what, I had that in my 2009 "stewardship" list. I've never related love to my self-control issues with food and exercise. I've never related love to my stewardship of money and my desire to have such a pretty home. How can I love others as much as I need to with so much focus on my own life? And even my seemingly not-so-selfish desire to fulfill my purpose has been very much self-seeking because I wanted it for my own satisfaction instead of to be obedient, instead of trying to be a contributor in God's ultimate purpose.
Love does not envy, which is another struggle I've been having. Not envying certain people per say, but envy in general of what I do not have, like a 'magazine' worthy home, and children, for example. But to really love I have to be joyful. Hmmm, another point from my 'stewardship' list. And it has to be an honest and complete joy in the life that I have, no matter what that life consists of. Love trusts, and I'll only be able to have complete joy and a real love for God by trusting He is providing me with the best life for ME.
And speaking of joy and honesty, Love rejoices in the truth. Back full circle to truth, which tells me something. I know I've been discovering more about this one, as I've already blogged about, but it's becoming more and more clear I can't just know the truth, I have to share the truth. The tough part about truth is it might either offend people, scare people, or make them think I'm crazy versus letting them be deceived. Letting people be deceived for fear of my own reputation or relationships is obviously not loving, nor is it obedient, it is actually quite self-seeking. What's scarier is I feel sharing the truth might not just be the honesty, integrity or the light we are to shine that He asks of all of us, I am fairly sure that sharing the truth, at ALL costs, might be the purpose I've been asking for. If that's the case, I have a lot of work to do.

So, this is part of my major discovery I've been unwrapping for you for a few weeks, my eyes are being opened to the truth and it's varying aspects. I've never seen the importance of truth so clearly and so integral to my purpose, and I've also never seen it so urgently needed. God has planted many truths in my heart that I now have a passion to talk about, especially here on my blog. I'm excited and nervous but I just have to pray the Holy Spirit gives me the words and the boldness to bare witness to the truth.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The truth will set you free

Deceive - v. To cause to believe what is not true.

If there is one thing I have come to loath and fear it is deception. Having spent years fooled by the deception of someone I thought I loved and who I thought loved me, I still guard myself against falling prey to this again. I have always been a trusting person, and still probably trust a little too easily, but I now have an edge of skeptisism. There is almost nothing worse than in hindsight finding out all the things that were right before your eyes, the words I heard, the signs, the evidence, that all went unnoticed because I was under a spell of deception. It's down right terrifying, hearing the recounting of my friends, explaining all the things they themselves witnessed yet I have no recollection of. Because I was caused to believe in what was not true.

With God's help I worry less about this on a personal scale, but now I am recently seeing it on a spiritual scale. So the question is, how to avoid being deceived? How can we be secure in what we know is the truth? Personally, there has only been one source of real truth in my life, I have never been decieved by God. Just the book of John alone confirms the truth about truth:
"Jesus told him, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life.' "
"But I will send you the Advocate—the Spirit of truth."
"Make them holy by your truth; teach them your Word, which is truth."
So that is where we find truth, how can we use it to protect against deception. Part of it is what I already mentioned in my fasting entry, which is nourishing our spirits with God's word. I find lately that I'm led to think of truth largely as protection, "put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil." The devil is where decption originates and so where does placing on God's armor start? "Stand firm, therefore, having fastened the belt of truth around your waist" - Ephesians 6:14

That's what I want, to be able to stand firm in truth, so what does it mean to wear a belt of truth? Studies in armor design say that the first piece of armour is a belt because it holds up and keeps in place all the other pieces of armor. Common knowlege is that a belt is used to hold things in place; spiritually the belt of truth holds together and makes effective all the other pieces of armour. How strong is our shield of faith if we are not immersed in the truth of God's protection, and how can we walk in shoes of peace if we are not resting in the truth of God's promises?

So, obviously to find truth I have to immerse myself in the Word, I have to seek the voice of Jesus and I have to listen to the whispers of the Spirit in my heart. Truth spoken into our heart opens us to God's view of the world, making us sincere, pure in motives, and teachable before God. Our heart becomes earnest and honest which God can use to continue to mold us into the people we were meant to be. And the truth of His Word absorbed in our mind (oft read scripture is often memorized) is clarity of sound doctrine, which helps to strengthen and exert our wills to serve the Lord, the courage to act on what we know is true.

Admittedly I have not been the most dedicated Bible or devotion reader, and although this makes so much sense, I have still not accomplished much Bible reading this last week. This last week the importance of truth has been made even more crucially important to me, and so I work harder at it but it is still a struggle. Especially since there are books in the Bible I just don't understand, and am not sure how to glean truth from them. I have previously relied on 'personal revelations' like when God uses a passage to speak to me even though that may not be the exact reason for that verse or chapter, however I realize that doesn't always cut it because I don't always get personal revelations. So I looked to the Word for some answers on how to make it easier.

"Be sincere in seeking the truth. Approach it with a sincere heart. This will make all the difference" - 1 Tim 1:5

"Receive the ministry of the Word from those God has equipped to serve it. God has given gifts to the body of Christ. A sincere heart will aid you in discerning the truth." - Eph 4: 11 - 12

I look forward to finding more ways to make the whole Bible more personal and submerging myself in the truth. And again, I am leaving you a little cliff hanger, I've mentioned my eyes have been opened, and now I've mentioned truth plays a crucial role in that revelation, but I'm saving the best for last and again, am needing some time to give the best voice to my thoughts that I can. All I'll say is, in North America we sometimes put our beliefs about God and what we think the Bible says in a box, we focus on the love of God and have blinders on to many subjects we'd rather ignore exist. We do assuredly have God's abiding, powerful, unconditional love but that doesn't change the fact that until Jesus returns "we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places." We are fighting deception experts.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Fasting - ironically not something quickly learned

I know my last entry left you hanging : ) and you probably weren't expecting something as exciting as a blog about fasting, lol. And if you don't think fasting is exciting then you are in the same shoes I was 33 days ago. Having said that, I hate to be even more of a tease, but fasting isn't what my eyes have been opened to, it has helped in opening my eyes. First things first, I wanted to share what led to my awakening, please continue to be patient, this is a long one, and then I'll get to what you are all so anxiously waiting for : )
My Church has some pretty fantastic leadership, and about 45 days ago they intended to have a weekend about prayer and fasting, but the Holy Spirit really nudged and prodded until they realized they needed to devote more time to unpackaging the mystery of fasting for their congregation, and so January became a MONTH of prayer and fasting. Now going into the first weekend of January, knowing we were going to be encouraged to fast was both daunting and something I yearned for. I have heard so many good things about prayer life from those I know who've fasted, and I've always struggled with praying like I think I should pray, so I wanted that for myself, yet fasting just seemed too spiritual for me to succeed at. But again, our amazing leaders spoke about it in a way that really flipped my perception of fasting.
First myth dispelled, fasting doesn't instantly make you a better pray-er (is that a word?). Fasting in of itself is not spiritual and therefore doesn't miraculously tranform how you communicate with God. Fasting is how we remove things from our life that we use to fulfill our emotional and spiritual needs that are not getting met, because we turn to food, t.v., internet, etc. before we turn to God. It is hard to be connected to God, to be filled by the Holy Spirit, when we fill ourselves with so many poor replacements that were not designed to fulfill any needs except for physical and intellectual. And so we purposefully remove those 'crutches' during fasting so that we can intentionally rely on God.
Second, fasting is a way to become disciplined, to learn how to deny the desires of our flesh that lead to using emotional and spiritual crutches. Our body and our soul (our will, personality, intellect), without connection to our spirit, which in turn is connected to God, are like a child without discipline and guidance. Imagine a willful, small child that has raised iteslf, no authority to guide it and teach it self-control, then placing a parent in that child's life after a few years of free reign, and that is a good picture of how our bodies and souls react to what God speaks into our spirits. Fasting will help our spirit be a better parent to our 'inner child'. Isn't that quite the image to contend with when I 'crave' a donut, you should hear the scolding I now give myself in my mental dialogue. And yet, I am much more aware of my weakness as a parent and a human when I still give in to my own whining.
Third, fasting's sole purpose isn't to suffer in hunger as a reminder to pray. I previously thought that hunger pains were a good reminder it was time to pray, since my time was not consumed with consuming. We still need to eat, but we need to feed on spiritual food, the only kind of food that will fullfill those emotional and spiritual holes. The Word was made flesh (Jesus), Jesus is the bread of life, the Word is the bread of life. We need to hunger for the Word, feed on the Word, fill ourselves with His Word. The only plan for spiritual sustanance is the Word. How can we connect to God if we are not listening to His primary way of communicating with us? One of our pastors had this analogy; if you are hungry, your stomach is growling and it is beginning to have pangs, you do not expect that licking a pot roast will satisfy that hunger do you? In the same way, we can not take a mear lick at Scriptures and expect our spiritual hunger will end. We need to chew, swallow, eat until we are nurished, and then REPEAT. One meal does not a life time last.
SO! Armed with this new information (and more, here is a link to our sermons should anyone want to hear first hand) I was gung-ho about fasting and immediately committed to fasting 2 days a week with the Daniel fast (one type recommended to newbies) as well as fasting those same days from all media (t.v., internet, video games, movies). I was ambitious and optomistic but I was seeking answers from God and willing to do anything for those answers. Something else I learned about fasting was there are many reasons to fast, secondary to growing close to our Father, such as; overcoming a struggle with temptation, answers to big questions, and preparing for Jesus' return. I have had huge questions about my purpose in life and whether that includes children or not and so I dove into my fasting days with passion and determination to seek God's voice.
Being my first real attempt I'd have to say I stuck to my fast better than I expected, but it was not without huge temptation and occasional succumbing to temptation. However, through my Bible studies and prayer, I received an inner peace from God like I've never felt. Just before Christmas I had just begun wading into the ocean of peace that comes with trusting God, but now I have dove in deep. Since trying to get pregnant I have admittedly been almost completely internally focused, but now, my eyes have shifted off of myself ('when will I be a mother', 'will I be a mother', 'if won't be a mother, what is my purpose') and focused on 'am I on God's path for my life?' The answer is YES : ) I received a vision of me with a lantern, and I can not see past my little circle of light, BUT, I am IN the light! And, I'm on His path! What joy that brought me! Joy that I thought would elude me should I ever face a future with no children, yet today I face that future (although not with 100% certainty), and God has transformed my perception of that future so that I still have tremendous joy.
He has done a lot of preparing of my heart, soul and mind for my future, it has been a very long journey and it seems like it is so very long in front of me as well (despite not being able to 'see' : ), but now I feel I have been brought to a crossroads. I feel like I have been equipped for something, that I am now ready to be given my direction, and because I fasted I am still in the light and on the right path. And now that I'm prepared, I believe my circle of light has just been widened and my eyes have been opened.
And that my friends is where I leave you hanging, again. I hope to have some coherent thoughts about my revelations soon so that I do not keep you waiting long. Thanks for hanging in there this long, I hope it was worth it!

Open Up Your Eyes

Open up your eyes
And see these warning signs
Breaking through your heart and all
the reason of your mind
Open up to find
Your action leaves behind
The very hope that's given for
the world to feel alive

Oh And the time has come to realize
And see the plan you've been designed for
So face the fear of all unknown
And see the heart inside
So open up your eyes
So open up your eyes

Throw yourself aside
And hear the gentle cry
Of the voice of peace that
gave up all to fill the
void inside
Give away the fight
Release your foolish pride
The very bond is broken down
you need to leave behind

Oh And the time has come to realize
And see the plan you've been designed for
So face the fear of all unknown
And see the heart inside
So open up your eyes
So open up your eyes

Open up your eyes
Can you sense the feeling
that there's more than whatyou know?
It's a fire that burns within
that only seems to grow
There's a price that's given and
which only love can pay
And the time is here and now
don't let it fade away

So open up your eyes, open up your eyes
So open up your eyes, open up your eyes
Oh And the time has come to realize
And see the plan you've been designed for
So face the fear of all unknown
And see the heart inside
So open up your eyes
So open up your eyes

by Jeremy Camp

My eyes have been opened, stay tuned cuz you know I gotta share!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Prayer Podium

~For my family who don't know God, or don't know Him well enough, that we can find ways to share God with them more, and for Richard to find his way back to God
~For the many women who are struggling with fertility (including myself), and for their willingness to let God be in control
~For my sister and BIL, for patience and success in their adoption from Ethiopia
~For my trust in my purpose, and the boldness and courage to fulfill it
~Thanks for the blessing of my Church and fellow believers, uniting in conviction
~Thanks for being able to hire my friend to be my co-worker, and take some of the stress off me at work
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