Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Little Is Much

I loved every season as a little girl, but especially summer. My mom was a school teacher, and every summer, I looked forward to shadowing her as she went about her daily routine.

My mom was always up at the crack of dawn. To this day, she isn't capable of sleeping in. In order to make the best of the sunshine, she would set out to hang a load of clothes up on the clothesline early in the morning. The sun rose on the front side of the house, and as the clothes were hung one by one, the backyard seemed to stay suspended in shaded slumber, waiting for the second sunrise. The laundry would be ready and waiting when the sun peeked over the roof line and warmed up the world that stood waiting behind our house.

I'd wander outside with her, usually wearing my threadbare nightgown. If she was late getting the laundry out, you'd usually find me in my beloved blue jean overalls with the Pink Panther patch, and a pale butter cream yellow zip up hoodie. Barefoot, always. Sometimes, I'd tiptoe in the grass still heavy with dew, and crouch down to closely examine the patterns of the spiderwebs and the way the dew would highlight the silk threads with tiny dots. The rest of the time, I would perch myself on the deck and hand my mom the clothespins while she hung the clothes.

I remember the smell of the clean, wet laundry as it was lifted out of the basket and onto the clothesline. Tide. She always used Tide, and still does. I preferred the way it smelled once the sun had finished drying it au naturel... I can close my eyes right now and hear the sound of the crisp sheets flapping in the breeze and the rusty squeak of the clothesline reel as it bore the weight of the clothes. In my mind, I can still feel the stiffness of the clothes and towels as they were dropped back into the waiting basket. I loved that even though I was too small to carry the basket of wet laundry out to the clothesline, I could always help carry it back into the house once it was dry.

It always seemed neat to me that the original pile was heavier and smaller, but the final outcome was lighter and seemed to take up more room.

I used to imagine that it was the volume of the sunlight and love pouring into the laundry that made it expand that way.

Kind of like when the Son pours into us, we feel lighter, and life becomes more full.

Nothing from these memories compares to snuggling up to my mom on the clothesline deck and inhaling the scent of her flannel pajamas... the smell of fabric softener on her pajamas was intoxicating. I couldn't get enough, and I couldn't resist sinking my face into her pajamas as I hugged her for as long as I could. Sometimes, I'd just hug her leg as she hung laundry. I remember hugging her leg as she tried to walk around the house and do her chores. If I could have, I would have breathed her in so that I could carry her around within me all day long.

I don't think I could have possibly loved my mom more.

Although we don't use fabric softener now because I've grown an intolerance to scented products, I can perfectly describe the scent to you. It has a Hug scent to it. I'll never grow an intolerance to that. The hug scent is permanently engraved in the memory of my heart.

It might be the little things, but in the math of life, it's the little things that aren't so little.

A little is much.

It was my love for her that modeled my love for God. It is now my love for God that models my love for my mother.

My love for her even then, pales in comparison to my love for God today. In my childhood, she was the center of my world, even though I had an awareness of God. Now, He is the center of my world even though I have an awareness of her.

Let's rewind back to my childhood, and adapt that memory to how I feel today...

I loved every season as a little girl, but especially summer. God was always there, but in the summers, He would provided me with some of my favorite ways to spend time with Him. The sun would rise early, and He'd be there, waiting for me to shadow Him as He led me through my day.

God was always there to greet me every morning. Even though sometimes I didn't want to sleep for fear that I will miss some time with Him, He would stand guard at night and there was never a lapse of time without Him present. God never slept in order to make the best of every opportunity. Our faith should also never sleep.

As I followed my mother outside as she prepared to hang the laundry, I was greeted with another glorious sunrise that warmed my face as I wondered how He felt when He painted the skies with hues of pinks and blues in various intensities... never making the same morning sky twice. Every work of His was an original.

The backyard seemed to stay suspended in shaded slumber, slowly unfolding as the earth warmed up in worship to the Creator. I would look over the backyard and imagine it breaking out into praise as the Son rose to shine upon it.

I'd wander outside with my mother, eagerly anticipating to discover the world in a whole new way. My clothing would still be plain, familiar, well worn and threadbare, but it still wouldn't matter to me. Barefoot, always. I'd walk softly through the grass still heavy with dew, and I'd lean closer to examine the way God used His imagination to create a creature so small that could weave such masterpieces so intricately... each one unique and special. I would smile as I imagined God creating dew each night as jewels to decorate the webs with... each drop perched perfectly on the thinnest of silk threads. I would struggle to keep from exploring more of His creations, eventually perching myself on the deck and marveling with my mother that the same God who invented everything around us, loves us even more than a mother loves her child, or a child loves her mother.

I'd watch her hang clothes on the clothesline, remarking the differences between the wet, limp clothes, heavy with weight, smelling strongly of something man-made... and the end process, something so light, fresh, clean, full of joyful sounds and textures, the traces of man-made cleanliness replaced with something pure and natural to the senses... In my mind, I'd compare it to our Christian walk... heavy and clumsy at first, so full of our human thoughts and human nature... but as our journey progresses, the more we soak in the Son's Light, the better the harvest He reaps. Faith in Him carries our burdens so lightly, the entire world is seen through fresh eyes, sounds of prayer and worship to Him can be heard and felt, our hearts cleansed and purified by a process no man could ever have orchestrated, and our senses are overwhelmed by it all.

What I would have tried to carry at the beginning, I now give over to God and place it in His hands. "For my yoke is easy and my burden is light", says the Lord.

He has indeed increased my faith to where it can no longer be contained... faith, once stretched, can never return to it's original size.

It is in the process of emptying ourselves that we can let God pour Himself into our empty vessels that changes the weight and fullness of our lives.

Nothing I experienced that day, or any day, compares to spending time in His presence and inhaling Him deeply. It's an intoxicating love, a real, relentless and relevant love. I can't get enough of Him, and I can't resist spending time in His presence. If I could, I'd breathe Him in so that I could carry Him with me all day long, because although He is with me with every breath I take, I still want more of Him, want to know Him more, want to crawl into His lap and hang on to His every Word.

Just when I think I couldn't possibly love Him more... I do.

Although I still love my mom very much and always will, life around me has lost the feeling it had long ago. The things of the world are passing away in my heart, I am growing an intolerance to them over time as God becomes the center of the focus. I'll never grow an intolerance to Him. His presence is permanently etched into my heart.

It may not make sense, but it makes perfect sense just the same. We learn that human love can fade into an illusion of hate when compared to the ultimate Love (Luke 14:25-27)

A little is much, but God is so much more.

(journal, Feb 26, 2010)
Saturday, September 25, 2010

Spiritual Physics

I have a confession to make. Science just isn’t my “thing”.

Chemistry was not elective in 9th grade, and in hindsight, I think I had better chances of becoming fluent in Chinese in 10 months. Seriously. I'm also certain that speaking Chinese would have been more practical than being fluent in... "elements and things that go "oops" in the lab..." just saying..

I wasn't completely hopeless... I knew something. (Notice the singular quantity of that word?) Uh-huh. I knew that H2O meant water (even if I didn't understand why) but the question never came up on a test. When you also consider that they never gave me any credit for writing my name on each blank piece of paper I handed in... yeah, about that big fat 0 at the end of the term... oops. ComBUSTED?

I needed one science credit in high school to graduate (insert panic!), but God had mercy on me and made it possible for “Canadian Geography” to count as a science credit. Oh Canada!

Even when the children ask science related questions, I will often respond with an apologetic “I’m sorry, guys, that seems to fall under the science category... so, uhm, call Tia.”

I have another confession to make.

Theology seems just as daunting to me.

Both are such vast, complex subjects, it’s all too easy to get overwhelmed. My saving grace is that I have a passion for God and it keeps me motivated to learn more about Him. Science? Notsomuch.

I don't consider myself to be very intelligent. I learn by simply experiencing and seeing life through analogies, and then acting on what I learn through the power of choice. Teachers whose teaching methods match my learning style are rare. What I lack in intelligence I pray I can make up for in faith. And wisdom. And on a good day, maybe humor. Or something.

So imagine my excitement for a moment when I recently stumbled upon a stirring analogy that mixed physics and theology!

Jesus told the disciples just before his death that soon, He would no longer be among them, but that they would be better off with the gift of a counselor that He would give to them upon His death. (John 14:16)

What could possibly be better than having Jesus physically by your side, in the flesh? Isn't He the ultimate counselor? So could anything be better than walking side by side with Jesus?


Being filled with the Holy Spirit.

As Christians, the Holy Spirit is a gift we're all given, so why is it that not every life shows evidence of the Holy Spirit dwelling within?

It all points to Spiritual Physics.

The only thing I know about physics is that two things can’t occupy the same space at the same time. I think there is one exception, something to do with light or something – you’d have to ask someone much smarter than me about that... I vote for Tia. She qualifies for MENSA. I'm really not kidding. She's that smart, and somehow, she manages to put up with me!

It dawned on me that the same is true spiritually within our own bodies -- our lives --our spiritual lives. As Christians, we receive the Holy Spirit, but it only FILLS us in direct proportion to how EMPTY we are. We can not be filled with ourselves and also be full of the Holy Spirit. Spiritual physics!

The Holy Spirit is the ultimate gentleman, He has to be invited in, and won’t take full control unless our control is first surrendered.

Our kids have a game of holding their breath when we cross a bridge. Only one of the kids has made it across the Miramichi Bridge while holding their breath, and none have made it across the Confederation Bridge, thank the Lord! (The Confederation Bridge is over 8 miles long...) I know that they'll come up for air at some point, just the thought of them not breathing oxygen in grieves me. Even though I'm driving and can't see the kids while they're holding their breath, I can tell who gave up first because I hear them gasp for air as they become desperate for oxygen.

I imagine God feels the same way about us. He's waiting for us to breathe in the Holy Spirit and let it fill us and sustain us... but when we're refusing to breathe, it grieves Him deeply. He knows we'll eventually "come up for air", but every moment without the Holy Spirit is like a moment without vital oxygen -- it's detrimental.

If the Holy Spirit is as important to Christians as the air we breathe, why aren't we filling our lives with the Holy Spirit? What does it take for us to be desperate for the Holy Spirit? Where is our hunger, our thirst, our need to breathe the Holy Spirit in? Why aren't we breathing every breath for Him, and if we're not breathing for Him, are we really living?

The reason we aren't filled with Him can normally be summed up with a four letter word.


We only want to give the Holy Spirit control if we know what it will cost us, what it will require of us, what His plan or His will is for us... but why? What are we afraid of? Do we not trust His truths, do we not trust that He is Who He says He is? Do we not believe in Him and what He is capable of? Why not? Were we not there the 360+ times His Word told us "do not fear"?

We have every reason to trust Him, and absolutely NO reason not to.

And yet, so many of us are paralyzed by fear.

If there is one thing I understand about fear, it's that the author of fear is satan -- he holds us prisoner to fear when he wants to rob us of what God can do through us. He distracts us from our focus on God because as long as we're distracted by satan, we're not serving God -- that is exactly what satan hopes to achieve. We need to remember that we can not serve two masters. We can not serve ourselves and God, just as we can't serve satan and God.

By giving in to fear, by giving in to satan, we are robbing ourselves.

So instead of reaping a full harvest, we decide that perhaps we only want a tiny little bit of Holy Spirit -- "Just a little Holy Spirit appetizer, on the side, please? Hold the dressing... Fat free, calorie free, oh and risk free too while you're at it, eh?"

What are we trying to do, find a size zero Jesus?

By not giving Him all of us, we're telling Him that we don't want all of Him.

Do we realize at all that this also means that we're also not
benefiting from all He has to offer?

By avoiding what may require effort, faith, cost... we're missing out on supernatural blessings and gifts that can't even be measured...

Our unwillingness to surrender all to Him costs us an abundant harvest, a fruitful life. It has eternal consequences. Beyond that, without being filled with the Holy Spirit, an outsider could mistake us for a non-believer... the evidence that points to God just wouldn't shine through, since it is the Holy Spirit who is vital to producing genuine fruit of the spirit.

Fruit of the Spirit?










How do we know we're not filled with the Holy Spirit? Lack of spirit, lack of fruit. That's why The Word says "fruit of the spirit"! I know, it seems like such a basic, elementary thing to you all, but I'm just cluing in, so have mercy bear with me.

If I needed to determine whether or not my life was bearing fruit of the spirit, I would simply ask myself some questions such as:

  1. Do I love all others, even those who hurt me, with the love Christ extends to me?
  2. Does my life radiate intentional joy at all times rather than circumstantial joy?
  3. Do I have inner peace?
  4. Do I exude patience in all circumstances?
  5. Am I kind to others at all times in my thoughts, words, actions, even behind closed doors?
  6. Does my life reflect the goodness of God to others?
  7. Is my life ruled by faith or by fear?
  8. Am I gentle with my thoughts, words and actions, or am I angry, bitter, careless or indifferent?
  9. Do I have self-control over my flesh, or does it control me?

Remember my learning style? Analogy and more analogies and a few more analogies following through with the power of choice? Is it enough for the vine to know that it ought to produce grapes? What would happen if all it had was the knowledge, but that it didn't follow it through with action? We know what the fruit of the spirit is -- knowing that is just not enough. Do we have enough Holy Spirit to produce fruit of the spirit? Do we have enough Holy Spirit to produce ALL of them? Are we choosing to be empty enough so that we can be filled and fruitful?

The emptying isn't going to happen on it's own, it has to be our conscious, intentional, free will choice.

Like me, there are likely some things on the list of 9 questions that you can't say "yes" to confidently... I believe that my two biggest struggles are with patience and self-control. Although if you were to compare my patience to what it was 2 years ago, the contrast is so ridiculous, you could say that I'm doing well... but I know there is much room for improvement -- ask my kids about my patience when they get up from their beds for the 10th time, for example. I get a little sour -- hey, you could call it sour grapes :) Either way, lack of patience is either rotten fruit or no fruit at all, and it's an area that needs Holy Spirit intervention. As for the self-control, why don't I exert some self-control right now and NOT go there? Ahem.

So by some perspectives maybe I'm doing "ok"... but am I?

By whose standards do we measure our success? Is it good enough to be a "good person", to be popular, to have a great job or to be nice to others? Is it enough to throw some money at a good charity once in a while to ensure that we're "kind" in the eyes of others and that we've done our share? Is it good enough to show up for church on Sunday? Is it good enough to say all the right things? Is it good enough to have all the right excuses for not doing the right things?

Is it good enough to simply call ourselves believers or Christians? Even Adolph Hitler claimed to follow Christ... did his life bear fruit of the spirit? In the mirror of life, did he reflect Jesus? Do we?

We can all easily succeed in this world by the world's standards, believers and unbelievers alike... but is that the standards by which we, as Christians, are called to live? Doesn't Jesus require more of us than that? Shouldn't our life have an eternal impact by producing a fruitful harvest for His kingdom?

Anyone can be a "good" person... so what sets us apart? What does our life sing that says "I am Yours and You are mine!"?

It's our choice.

Spiritual Physics: Being completely empty of ourselves so as to give the Holy Spirit complete freedom to fill us and bear abundant Christ-like fruit through us, for Him.
Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Permission To Speak Freely

Permission To Speak Freely
Author: Anne Jackson

As a reader of Anne Jackson's blog,, I had heard of this book, but did not know much about it. I had expected it to be a collection of people's confessions based on her timeless post in which she asked her readers "What do you feel you can not say in church?"... I assumed it would be a book perhaps a la "Post Secrets" style, but it was so much more.

In true Anne Jackson style, this book combined a beautifully written, transparent and honest autobiography with the purpose of examining what went wrong, and what we, as a church, are called to be to one another. The truth spoken in the pages of this book, along with the impact of the colorful, poignant artwork sent in by contributors, remind us in a very real way that we're not alone in our struggles, that we all have a responsibility to love one another with Christian love, and that there is healing in shedding light into darkness by not only speaking up, but by allowing (and encouraging) others to do so. It helped illustrate how crucial confession and forgiveness is in life.

I appreciated that the author went outside the typical "autobiography box". This wasn't an "all about me" soapbox, it was written in a refreshingly unique and inspiring way, with the focus and purpose being knowledge, insight and wisdom. Quite fitting that a book about speaking up and speaking freely also thoughtfully and respectfully included the opportunity for others to speak up freely too.

As an abuse survivor, this book really resonated with me. I feel an even stronger calling to help His church become a safe haven for those outside the "slightly broken" category. After all, in Jesus' time on earth, who did He spend time with the most? Those who were perfect and unstained? How many times did He show us that He had a special place in His heart for the completely broken, the unloved, unwanted, the "least of these", and yet we're still missing His example. Where are we, His hands and feet, when it comes to reaching out to the lost and the broken, and loving them with His love?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

The Boy Who Changed The World

The Boy Who Changed The World
Author: Andy Andrews
Illustrator: Philip Hurst

The title of this book captured my attention, as did the illustrations. It's just the kind of children's book that I like to read with my three kids.

We loved the way the author weaved the story of the main character, a boy named Norman, together with the stories of other key people whose roles and influences affected the impact that Norman made on the world.

It's inspiring to think that one person can change the world, but even more so when that person is a child. It reminded me of my post from Honduras describing how it takes a child to raise a village.

Initially, I had thought that the book was simply about one person and the impact he made, but the surprise was the butterfly effect and the lesson on how we all have the potential to change the world by our impact on other people's lives. The children and I are still discussing this book weeks later, and is one we will re-read and discuss many times, not only for the story, but for the beautiful illustrations, the inspiration and the discussions.

I recommend this book for ages 4 & up (a little long for the younger readers).

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”