Monday, 14 May 2018

Gather Together

We have been blessed to have some friends of ours move back to town after almost a decade away.  Real friends.  It is such a huge gift in life to have real friends, isn't it?  The kind of friends who offer help and actually mean it.  Who truly care about you as a whole person.

These were actually friends of my husbands more so than mine.  They moved back to have a more stable, less frantic style of life for their family.  And it has worked.  

My husband grew up with his friend in the church, and then they both kind of wandered away.  Myself and his friends wife both had limited experience with the church growing up.  It never really fit.  I always felt a little bit less than all of the other people there, like I didn't quite fit in.

Then I met my soon to be husband, and it all changed.  We started going to bible studies, and did a marriage class at his family's church.  The church family began to adopt me.  And it fit.

Our friends never joined us at church, other than our wedding day.  And then they moved on to a totally different pace of life.

When they came back, she let me know that her youngest son was interested in going to church, and she had always told them that she would support them in whatever decision they made.  And that she was willing to go with them to church if they chose.  She was more of a spiritual person, believing as many do that doing no harm was really all that was needed.  A relationship with God wasn't really required.  

So they started to come to church with my and the kids.  I introduced her to study bibles, which I've always found much easier to understand.  We became the sounding board for her discoveries, which caused us to dig into the word more ourselves.  It caused us to discuss things that we hadn't before. 

She went from coming just to support her child, to encountering Jesus for the first time.

She was baptized recently, jumping in with both feet to this beautiful new relationship.  She has renewed my desire to dig into this relationship that all too easily falls to the wayside.  She has finally found where she fits.  And it has been so beautiful to watch.

Friends, I know that it is oh so easy to neglect spending time building our relationship with Jesus.  It feels like one of the balls that you can afford to drop.  That thinking is the result of living in a fallen world, where we are convinced that things will make is happy.  That the time spent working is time invested in acquiring all of the stuff that are supposed to fulfill us.

What would your life look like if you focussed on the people in our lives, and building relationships?  What if we purposefully gathered people together instead of gathering more items?  I think you would realize that the popular thinking isn't necessarily the right thinking.  That maybe an older, simpler lifestyle, if adopted, could be more fulfilling than you can imagine.  As the old saying states, people won't remember the colour of your couch at your passing, but they will remember the time you spent with them.  

I implore you to create a better, more caring world by refusing to participate in the hoarding of stuff.  To stop working yourself to the bone for the things that will never complete you in the way you hope they will. 

Let's spend our time gathering together to invest in memories.  We can enjoy simple, filling meals at the same time that we pour into each other. 

We can let go of the clutter that makes us feel like our houses are too messy to have guests.  We can spend less time shopping for stuff to fill our houses, and simplify.  Less time cleaning will also lead to more time spent gathering together.  And you can bless someone out of your overflow of possessions at the same time.  Isn't that a wonderful thought?

I truly believe that times like these are given to us to remind us that we have a truly loving Father who desires more for us than full closets.  He wants us to have full hearts, that can pour into others.  He wants us to have community.  He wants us to reach out to the broken, the people just like us, that need to experience the grace that we have already received.  

I don't know what your life looks like right now.  I don't know if you have an amazing group of people to share life with, or if you are desperately praying for just one person to do life with.  I do know that all of us would benefit from more time spent with our Heavenly Father.  And that having people to share our burdens and joys with are what we were designed for.  

Heavenly Father, I pray that you would open our eyes to the things we can let go of.  That you would give us opportunities to unclutter both our houses and our minds.  I pray that we would find meaningful relationships to build in to, and that we would maintain those relationships that we already have.  I pray that we would learn to give grace as freely as you do, and that you would fill our hearts to overflowing, so that we could share with others.  In faith I pray.  Amen.

Monday, 7 May 2018

In the Palm of His Hand

After last year, I was pretty shaken.  Weather events had been striking our little area for a few months, and they just weren't getting better.  It started off with winter heading straight in to summer, seeming to forget about spring altogether.

We had roads washing out.  We had creeks overflowing.  A city close to us lost their beloved fire chief to the rushing water.

Then the fires.  Oh be still my heart, the fires.  We didn't have any rain to accumulate, and so the forest floors were beyond dry.  And in came the thunder and lightning.  I have always loved a good thunderstorm.  When I was little, I would go outside and watch the storm build.  Then the lightning could no longer be held in and was unleashed over the lake.  And I'd sit there, counting the seconds until I heard the thunder. 

It kind of felt like the clouds just needed to let everything out so that they could start new.

I LOVED thunderstorms.  For 5 years in a row, when I was 12-17 years old, there was a thunderstorm on my birthday.  They had never caused any devastation in my area, so I had no reason to fear them.

Then the roads washed out.  And the fires struck and grew to unimaginable proportions.

This year is shaping up to be much the same so far.  We went straight from winter (it was still snowing a few weeks ago), straight into summer dryness and temperatures.  We haven't had a good rain since last October.

Roads are washing out.  Creeks and rivers are overflowing.  Peoples lives are being impacted in huge ways.  

And today, they are predicting storms.  I won't lie.  My heart and my head are expecting the worst.  My stress level is rising, imagining a repeat of last year.  My soul hurts to remember the devastation that began 10 short months ago.  I am already trying to prepare for the worst, even though it hasn't happened yet.

And I can feel God whispering, oh so quietly, in my ear, that He has me.  I am safe in the palm of his hand.  That I can see the beauty in the destruction.  I can choose to remember how our entire province, and a neighbouring province pulled together to help us through.  How people who had been affected by the fires in Fort McMurray 2 years ago remembered the pain they went through, and knew what we would need to get through.  How I made friends with some of these men when they answered our prayers.  And how He held all of us in the palm of His hand, both times disaster struck.

I can choose to think that these disasters did devastate, but they built at the same time.  They built our community relationships, they broke down walls.  They forced us to get to know people that we never would have otherwise.  And not just to get to know them, and the others who helped, but to remember what was truly important.  People.  Relationships.  Building memories.  

When I packed up my house last year, preparing to possibly say goodbye to my possessions, I was reminded that the people I share my house with are so much more important than the things I have packed in to it.  That the memory books we've created mean more to all of us, as I wasn't the only one storing away those precious moments.  

I don't know where you are today or what you are struggling with.  I don't know if you are preparing to possibly have your life turned upside down, or things are already all muddled up and confusing.  Maybe you have just climbed out of a pit and don't know which way to head next.  I don't know.  But what I do know is that every struggle has a blessing.  It may be hard to see at the time, but I promise you that it is there.  He is holding you in the palm of his Hand, with plans for your future that you can't even begin to fathom.

Heavenly Father, I thank you for all you have brought in to my life.  I thank you for the family and friends you have given me, and I know that those people are exactly the ones I need right now.  I thank you that I have the chance to prepare for the worst, because not everyone is given that time.  I do not want to take for granted anything that I have been given.  I lift up those who are struggling right now, that you would send them the help that they need.  That they would know that you are there, patiently waiting to show them unshakable love and peace.  In faith I pray.  Amen.