Saturday, October 30, 2010

Sabbath Rest

We’ve been having a series of teachings at church on the Anchors of Our Faith, one of which is Sabbath Rest. That particular message is still to come but I was recently chatting with the woman who will be teaching it and she was talking about how God has built a Sabbath into all of nature.

I look out my window and see evidence of that. The leaves have fallen from all the Maples in the yard. The last of the corn has been harvested and the fields lie dormant. Some of those fields will eventually be left to lie fallow for a season so that the soil has a chance to replenish itself. Animals designed to hibernate are doing their last fattening up before their long winter sleep.

God knew what we needed when He made it a commandment to remember the Sabbath. Unfortunately, many of us no longer make much of a distinction between one day of the week and another. People often have no choice but to work on Sundays and even for those blessed with having it a day off from regular work find themselves using that day to catch up on all the chores they were unable to get to during the week. I don’t find attending church particularly restful as Bev and I generally find ourselves serving in some capacity on most Sundays. There are those who do try to take what remains of the day for a bit of relaxation and I suppose that I fall into that category. We might use the time for visiting, or curling up with a good book, or perhaps going for a drive in the country. I’m not sure that is enough.

Over the course of my Christian life there have been seasons where I’ve felt like I have nothing left to give and I end up disengaging from just about everything, sometimes for a year or more. I know that I am by no means the only one to have experienced this. I somehow think we may be missing some of what God meant by Sabbath Rest and why it needs to happen on a weekly basis. Perhaps that’s why we end up feeling so weary and burnt out from time to time.

I am looking forward to hearing the message on this subject. I suspect I have something to learn

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Love Messages Gone Astray

My husband, Bev, and I celebrated our 30th anniversary this week. What a journey it has been! I think marriage is the wheel that God, the Master Potter, uses to build and shape us into the work of art He intends us to be. Merging two lives into one is never easy. We’ve had to learn a lot of lessons along the way, some of them more difficult than others.

We’d been married about 10 years and we were going through an unsettled time. We weren’t dealing with conflict but there was an ongoing sense of frustration, discontent and just plain unhappiness in our marriage. When we finally got around to talking about it we discovered that both of us were feeling like we were the only one putting any effort into the relationship. We felt unloved, unappreciated, and worst of all, that we were somehow a disappointment to one another. The initial conversation was extremely difficult. I am an emotional being and I reacted to the whole thing with a lot of fear, pain, and anger…not exactly productive. Bless Bev for being willing to try again after we’d had a chance to process things with God.

Someone loaned us a copy of “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman and it was a revelation. The premise is that every person is unique in how they give and receive love. They speak their own love language and it may or may not be the same language that you speak. He talks about five different ways that people express and recognize love. They are quality time, words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service, and physical touch.

A little self analysis began to bring some clarity into what we were experiencing. I was expressing love to my husband every day through acts of service and yet he was feeling unloved. The message was getting lost in translation. He was attempting to express love through physical touch and I was interpreting it as need. What I really wanted was for him to bring me a cup of coffee from time to time. We weren’t speaking the same language. We had to learn to recognize and value the expressions of love that we’d been completely overlooking up to that point. We also had to commit to learning to express ourselves in new ways, ways that would have maximum meaning to the one receiving.

We learned to see each other’s hearts in the everyday exchanges in our lives. We learned to deeply appreciate the many various ways our love reveals itself, both the natural and the learned. It’s made an unbelievable difference. The distance that had been developing between us through misunderstanding disappeared. It takes work to speak in a language that doesn’t come naturally but that’s what commitment is all about. It may not be easy or even comfortable but the results are truly worth the effort.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Giving Thanks

We celebrated Thanksgiving this past weekend with a great dinner shared with family and friends. It was a time to remember the many ways we’ve been blessed throughout the year and to focus on what is good in our lives. I’m glad we have a holiday that is dedicated to giving thanks. On the other hand, thankfulness is an attitude of the heart that I need to practice year round rather than just on one special weekend in October.

There have been times in my life when I have felt overwhelmed by problems, both my own and those of others. Many times my prayers seemed an exercise in futility. I’d rattle off my petitions to the Almighty with no real sense that they were actually going anywhere. I pictured them bouncing around the ceiling like the bubble that bounces endlessly around the television screen when the DVD player is in sleep mode. Either that or I imagined them accumulating like cobwebs in the corners up there until it would get so crowded that they’d begin to drift down to settle on the floor under my feet. I couldn’t understand why my prayer life was so lifeless when the needs all around me were so great.

I was forgetting something important. In Philippians 4:6 it says “Do not be anxious for anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, WITH THANKSGIVING, present your requests to God…” Thanksgiving was the missing ingredient. It was not only missing from my prayers but it was missing in my heart. I began to discover that a thankful spirit is something that needs cultivation. When I practice thanksgiving on a daily basis my perspective undergoes a transformation. Rather than focusing on problems, I find myself focusing on God, on His love and His faithfulness. My faith comes to life and the ceiling that once seemed like such an impermeable obstacle simply disappears leaving an open heaven above me.

The next verse goes on to say that if we present our requests with thanksgiving then the peace of God which is beyond understanding will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Prayer out of a thankful heart gets carried heavenward on wings of faith and the result is a peace like nothing this world can offer. It sounds like a good deal to me. I’d better pay attention to the words of an old chorus we used to sing in church years ago. It said to “Count your blessings, name them one by one. Count your many blessings, see what God has done.”

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A Light in Dark Places

Not so long ago I wrote about the heavens declaring the glory of God after viewing the starry night sky in Northern Ontario. The memory of that sight still lingers, an inspiration and a reminder of His presence in my life. This past Sunday during our worship service it occurred to me that not only do the heavens declare His glory. Because He dwells in the hearts of those who belong to Him, we carry that glory within us.

There is a scene in Lord of the Rings, a favourite movie of mine, where Galadriel gives a gift to Frodo, the ring-bearer. She hands him a crystal vial and tells him that contained within it is the light of the elves’ most beloved star. She expresses her hope that it will be a light to him in dark places. Indeed it proves to be just that when, later in the movie, Frodo finds himself alone in the dark facing a dreadful foe. At the last minute he remembers the gift and holds it high. The light flares to life in all its glory, pushing back the darkness and causing Frodo’s assailant to shrink away.

I am like that crystal vial, a vessel that contains the light of God’s glory. That light is meant to be displayed to the world just as the starry skies display His glory for all to see. It is meant to be a light to others in the dark places of the world. Am I transparent enough for others to see His hand at work in my life? Do I glow with the kind of peace and joy and strength that comes from knowing that He loves me? When others look at me, do they find their hearts inspired to worship the God who is the source of all that is good in me? I’d like to be as radiant as the stars adorning the night sky but all too often I think His glory in me is obscured, hidden by the hurts or fears or sorrows that remain undealt with in my life.

I find I very much want to be rid of the things that keep the light that is in me from shining out to a hurting world. It’s time to ask Him to show me those things He has been longing to heal and set me free from. It’s time to give Him permission to blow the clouds away. I want others to look at my life and know that there is hope. Like Galadriel’s gift to Frodo, I have the potential to be a light to those in dark places. Lord, let your glory shine in me.