Sunday, January 30, 2011

Running The Race

This is the first of 10 articles Published in ConXion magazine 2011.

Happy New Year! Have you started the year running? I’m not talking about physical exercise, so breathe easy, grab a cuppa and read on!

I started the year running, but I feel like I am already behind as I attempt to complete things I didn’t finish last year and catch up on my list for this year which is getting longer by the day. As I think about what I want to accomplish this year my shoulders sag slightly, my head dips and my pace slows. This isn’t the way it’s meant to be!

So today I am going to stop.

I’m already late, already behind, already burdened by the weight of what has to be done. But when I think and pray about what it is that God would like to accomplish through me there is a gleam in my eye, a lifting of my chin and spring in my step.

The analogy of running a race is used many times in the New Testament to describe our journey as Christians so this year in ConXion I’d like to ‘run’ you through some of those likenesses and encourage you in the journey that God has for you this year.

Instead of prioritizing my time and energy to achieve all of my goals for the year, I remember Philippians 3 where Paul writes about the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus as Lord, with the goal that we may gain Christ, and be found in Him, having the righteousness not of ourselves but from God, through Christ. I love his quote: “Forgetting what is behind and straining to what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)

With the goal of truly knowing Jesus as our Lord and Saviour and having our strength, our security and our sanity in Him, we will accomplish what He has planned and will find that our feet and our hearts are lighter as we run the race he has marked out for us.

Are you ready to run?

my email

Thursday, January 20, 2011

On Hold

I know those of you who have mysteriously lost brain cells somewhere in the process of having children will sympathise with me. Today I forgot my best friend. She doesn’t mind, though. That’s one of the great things about BFF’s. But no matter which one of the myriad of excuses I tried, nothing made it OK. To make me feel better however, let me run you through the scenario.

Rinna rang while I was typing up an online form for mystery shopping. In this scenario, I order pizzas to be home delivered, answer questions online about the timing, service, product etc, and they pay me for my trouble and my takeout. Well, we chatted for a while but were interrupted when the pizza delivery man arrived 20 minutes early. Top marks for that by the way, but it caught me off guard and I asked if my friend would mind if I popped the phone down to get the pizza. I paid the driver and mentally took note of his name, car, greeting, change, farewell etc and as I stepped inside I realized I had forgotten to ask for the receipt so I ran back out, got the receipt and returned inside. By then my hungry family had opened the pizza boxes so I whipped out my camera to take photos of the pizzas before they were devoured. Then of course I sat down to enter those things I just noted before they too were gone forever.

I’m not sure what happened next, but somewhere between grace and eating pizza an interesting email caught my eye which I shared with everyone around, ate some more pizza, filled in some more of my mystery shopping form and chatted over the rest of the pizza. I missed the next email that came through which said “I’m still on the phone hon, should I call back later?” and didn’t realize until I had that strange feeling like I was meant to be doing something, that I had forgotten my friend and she was STILL waiting on the other end of the phone!

My friend sent a little reminder, which I was too busy to read, and so she waited patiently, listened to our conversation and laughed at our banter until I got around to noticing something wasn’t quite complete. Laugh if you will, but there is always a sting in the tail (or a silver lining depending on how you look at it ;)…

This morning my conversation with God was interrupted. I don’t even remember what it was that pulled my attention away, but I did feel all day like I had unfinished business. Interruptions occasionally come in the form of the voice of an early riser, sometimes a phonecall, sometimes a thought that ‘needs’ seeing to right away, sometimes my own mind wandering, but it happens way too often to laugh at.

God understands my fickle devotion and waits patiently for me to finish our conversation. He sends many reminders throughout the day, and occasionally we pick up where we left off, but many times all He hears is background noise.

My friendship with Corinne is far too important to let something like that happen again, and my relationship with God is far too important to keep allowing that to happen day by day. So next time I set aside time with my Friend I am going to do it more intentionally. If I am praying, I will write it down to keep my mind on track, I will read His word so I can concentrate and hear more clearly, and I will hold off on seeing to life’s distractions till we have finished our conversation.

Corinne and I found a way to chat while we did our housework… see picture above - and can I patent a handset sticky-taped to an elf hat??

But chatting to God is much easier (and looks way less weird). We can do it any time: while we are working, playing, sitting, driving, singing, laughing. Some times of deep conversation are essential, but chatting throughout the day and throughout the week is what doing life with God is all about.

Let me leave you with a song that you can carry into your day. Click here to listen on You Tube.

Gotta go now, have some unfinished business to attend to…

my email

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A New Flavour

I got a little bit excited when I saw the new slurpee flavour while on holidays.

But I had to smile when I read the words at the bottom of the poster -
"Fruit images shown are illustrative of flavour only and are not ingredients of the product."

So Lemon Lime Bitters Slurpee has no lemon, lime or bitters and Wild Berries Slurpee has no berries. I'm guessing the same goes for other flavours on offer: Raspberry, Citrus Kick, Berry Ice, Orange, Strawberry Citron, Orange Mango, Sour Apple, Apple Blackcurrant, Blackcurrant, Lemon Squash, Grape, Kiwi Lime and Lime!

Why advertise the real thing, yet only provide substitutes? Maybe because of the cost. Maybe the real thing wouldn't easily combine with the rest of the ingredients. Obviously the artificial stuff is easier to source, store, transport and package.

Unfortunately the same is true in our everyday lives, and sadly, even for Christians. Jesus said in John 14:4 that He came to give us life, and life to the full, but so many of us settle for artificial pursuits that look good from a distance but aren't the real thing. Many of our churches experience the same problem, even if we can do a schmick poster presentation of what people can expect when they come along on a Sunday morning.

Church is more than turning up on Sunday mornings, and being a Christian is more than believing in God. Being a Christian, a follower of Jesus, is about receiving the real life that He offers, and then living that life every day. And 'church' can happen when anywhere from 2 or 3, to 200, 2000 or 2 million, followers of Jesus gather together, share life, share a meal, share in worship, share in prayer, share in service and share in teaching from the Bible.

Why do we so easily settle for something less than this then? Something that appears to be the real thing but lacks life? Maybe the cost is too great. Maybe the artificial things are easier to manufacture, easier to store, make looking good easier. Maybe we don't really want to give up those artificial things which give us the sense of security and predictability we are used to.

Maybe ...
real joy through thankfulness rather than wealth,
real peace through trusting rather than control,
real belonging through submission rather than membership ...
...wouldn't gel with the other things we hold as important like providing for ourselves, having things our own way, and experiencing church the way we like it.

Examine your own life. Could there be an area in your life which is all appearance and no reality? Which is just a thin veneer of spiritual reality but isn’t the real thing? Which gives the appearance of certain ingredients, of spiritual life, of having a devoted love for Jesus, but isn’t there?
Jesus had this message to the church at Ephesus in Revelation chapter 2. "I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance...Yet this I hold against you: You have forsaken your first love." I know you are doing all these great things, but you have forsaken me. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do those things you did at first. Reality is the most important thing, not the appearance.

I don't want to go into another year being a Christian but not walking closely with Christ. I am going to put a stop to the production lines, examine each ingredient and start from scratch. What others see might look a bit different. It wont always be the same. They might not even like it! But it will be real. Real Life.

This is where I'm going to start. Here is a song by Sidewalk Prophets called "You Can Have Me" (photos by someone else on you tube). It starts like this...

"If I saw you on the street
And you said "Come and follow me"
But I had to give up everything
All I once held dear and all of my dreams
Would I love you enough to let go?
Or would my love run dry
When you asked for my life?"

When I heard that for the first time, I didn't know what my response would be.

Today, I do. I pray that you will too.

my email