How’s Your Foundation?

Foundation

I remember the moment quite clearly when I was really trying to set the foundation for my faith and figure out what I believed and the reasons behind my beliefs.  I was going through a time of questioning what I thought I believed and one day during my time in prayer, I felt a response to my questions about whether this whole Christianity thing was the real deal – whether it was really worth spending my life and time following Jesus.

 

I had spent a considerable amount of time in study and completed hundreds of hours of reading through insurance related curriculum and insurance policy wordings in order to obtain a professional designation for my career. I don’t really know anyone who has completed that much studying on insurance who was over-the-top excited about all of the required reading in those courses.

 

The response I felt that day in prayer went something along the lines of, you’ve spent how much time and effort learning about insurance – what it is, how it works, about different types of policies and regulations? Through all of that, you gained a greater understanding of insurance and the insurance industry. Why are you asking if God is real, as if the answer will just be dropped into your mind? To really know the answers to your questions, you need to search them for yourself.  I have given you my word. If you want to know me, study my word, consider what I say, and understand the answers to your questions.

 

That was the beginning of the first time I read my way through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. I learned so much during that first trip through the whole Bible.

 

Even though I know each one of us has a different journey through life and faith, I have always thought that each of us gets to this place at some point early in our faith where we wrestle through our questions and decide what we believe, especially those who have spent decades in the church and live a life that is modeled by faith.

 

Earlier this year, I found what I have always thought challenged as I listened to someone I was in conversation with as they talked about trying to settle in at a new church they were attending.  This particular individual was someone who was raised in a Christian family, someone who has gone to church regularly for decades and has gone on missions trips.  This is someone who would appear to be mature in their faith.

 

I was surprised as they spoke with concern about an activity at the new church that they weren’t comfortable with. I wasn’t surprised by their concern.  I wasn’t surprised by the activity happening at that particular church. I was surprised at this person’s response. They were uncomfortable with something that was happening at this church because they didn’t ‘feel’ it was right. Their response was, “But as uncomfortable as it makes me, who am I to judge? If someone can show me a scripture that says this is okay, then who am I to complain?”

 

To me this response spoke volumes about where this person is at in their faith. They don’t have a clear understanding of what they think they believe and beyond that, there is no desire to find anything out about their faith themselves. And I realized that I was wrong. I was mistaken to think that everyone who has been around church and active in their churches for a long time has gone through a process of establishing their own foundation for their faith and beliefs.

 

Where am I going with this? If we profess to be Christians, and claim to try to be living our lives as Christians, it only makes sense that we have an understanding of what we believe and that we spend time getting to know what it means to be a Christian, what it looks like, how it plays out.

 

Can you imagine someone professing to be a pilot because they like to spend a lot of time at airports but not really having any idea about flying any type of aircraft?  Suppose the professed pilot is asked to fly an airplane from Montreal to Toronto.  It would likely be a good idea to read some navigation charts and file a flight plan.  Can you imagine the professed pilot not bothering to read the navigation charts and saying, “If someone wants to show me a path then I’ll consider looking at it. Otherwise, I’m content to just get up in the air make my own way to Toronto.” What if the professed pilot had never bothered to learn how to speak properly on the radio to the air traffic controllers or to understand the directions being given by the air traffic controllers?  Anyone want to be a passenger on that flight?

 

Where I ‘m trying to go with this is that it’s not enough for us to ‘say’ we’re Christians and show up to a church service once in a while.  It won’t work. Just like the pilot who won’t read flight navigation charts will run into trouble when they can’t find an airport or runway and fuel is running low, a Christian who doesn’t spend time reading and studying the Bible is going to get into trouble when they’re asked a question about their faith, or they have a crisis in their life and don’t know where to find answers.  If we don’t spend time in prayer and learn how to communicate (communication isn’t just a one way conversation) with God, learn how to hear His voice, how to seek His direction, you’re likely to say things like, “I just don’t feel that God hears my prayers and I don’t know if He answers my prayers”.

 

Just as it’s a matter of life and death for a pilot to be able to read navigation charts and communicate with air traffic controllers properly, for Christians it’s a matter of eternal life and death for us to know and understand what we believe, and to know why we believe the way we do.

 

Phillipians 2:12 says, “ Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed  – not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence – continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,”

 

And 1 Peter 3:15 says, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,”

 

Both of these scriptures direct us to know and understand what we believe.

 

If you’re a Christian and like I was, are looking for answers to what you believe, along with reading your Bible and praying, here are two sermons by a favourite pastor of mine that talk about what Christians believe and explains what being a Christian is about.

 

What’s It All About – Part 1

What’s It All About – Part 2 

Be blessed.

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Attitude Adjustments

Growing up, I hated hearing words like, “You need to change your attitude” or “watch your attitude”. I really didn’t like being told things like that.  What would sometimes make it worse, was when the realization would finally click with me that the person who said it had been right.

 

Sometimes it’s just downright hard to have a good attitude about something you don’t like, or don’t want to do.  It’s something I’ve personally had to spend a lot of time working at. Watching what I say, how I react, and I don’t pretend to think that I’ve got it all figured out and have the right attitude at all times in all situations.  There are still things that drive me crazy.

 

But I have learned a lot over the years and am continuing to learn as I continue to grow in Christ. As I’ve tried to make myself more open to the leading of the Holy Spirit and what He has for me to do, I’ve found myself in situations I would never have imagined for myself.

 

I have to admit that awhile ago, I almost messed up and missed a divine appointment because of my attitude.

 

Dan had this dinner that he was to attend and I was asked to go with him. It wasn’t a dinner I was really looking forward to.  Truth be told, I was kind of resentful for having to spend an evening away from my kids. I dragged my feet getting ready to leave and had a grumbling in my heart.  I walked out of our house, put on a smile and tried to put on a good attitude on the outside.

 

We ended up sitting at a table where we knew no one and we politely introduced ourselves to the others at our table.  I was seated with Dan to my left and another gentleman on my right.  It wasn’t long before the Holy Spirit started telling me to change my attitude.  As I talked with the gentleman beside me, I could sense a brokenness in him. He knew that Dan was a pastor, making me a pastor’s wife and he started telling me that he used to attend a couple of Pentecostal churches back in the day.  Then he switched to a couple of Baptist churches.  He went through 5 church splits within a few years before he threw in the towel on church and God out of frustration and the pain of going through so much garbage in the church splits. This was the reason we were to be at this dinner – a divine appointment.  I quickly prayed asking for forgiveness for my rotten attitude and asked for guidance as I continued talking to the man seated on my right.

 

The conversation continued with him telling me his daughter had been praying for him and wanted him to come back to church and God.  His response was to sit down and write a 20+ page letter to his daughter explaining to her all the reasons why he could no longer believe in God or go to church.  His plan was to give the letter to his daughter so she would stop praying for him. But something different happened.  Instead, he went outside of his own community and went to a service at a church he’d never set foot into before.  At the end of the service the pastor was greeting him and he felt that he should show the letter to that pastor.  So he did.  The pastor read the letter and then they talked for a long while.  He told me that since that time, he’s been reading his Bible regularly and praying too.  He’s not attending a church at the moment, because he’s not sure he’s ready for that yet.

 

He had heard the story of the river rescue and was asking me questions about the details of what had happened and what God had done that night.  As I told him the story, I could see a longing in his eyes. God is calling this man back to him and He was working through me that evening as one very small part in His plan to bring this lost sheep back into the pasture.

 

That man was so grateful to hear our story and as he said, “it’s encouraging to know that God is still real and still does miraculous things.” He said he needed our story and was so glad that we were seated at the same table for our divine appointment. I’m not sure which of us came away from that dinner more blessed, but I think it was me for waking up to why I was there and getting a better attitude in place just in the nick of time.

 

The reason for the dinner that night was of little consequence in the light of eternity, missing an evening with my kids was a small price to pay, getting to play a part in a soul in the process of returning to God – that’s what I want my life to be about.  Helping hurting people find God.  And so I found my attitude adjusted and more aligned with what He wants for me.  It was a painful lesson, one I almost messed up by putting a priority on my own selfish desires.  Thank God I went to that dinner, even if I was dragging my feet in the beginning. Thank God for attitude adjustments.

 

Back into the Trent River

We’ve lived in Frankford for over 4 years now and I’ve never felt a desire to go swimming in the Trent River even though there’s a beach within walking distance of our house.  I’m a strong swimmer, but I don’t like water with a current in it. My dislike increases with the strength of the current and the size of the obstacles in the water and this river has a pretty swift current with lots of large rocks everywhere. Yet, yesterday, July 13, 2013, marks the second time I’ve gone into the Trent River this year. I do not have any plans to make this a regular event.

 

So why did I choose, on purpose, to go back into the river?  This venture into the river was for no one other than me.  Last time, it was for someone else. This time it was in daylight so I could see what I was walking into and where I was going.  Last time it was very dark and there were moments when I couldn’t see anything. This time the water was cool but refreshing.  Last time it was frigid and deadly. This time I was relaxed and calm.  Last time I was frantic and desperate. This time it was at the beach where it’s pretty safe to be in the water.  Last time it was in a spot that was difficult to enter and exit the water and definitely not a spot to go for a swim.  Are you getting it yet?  It’s the same river, same water, same person, and yet, two completely opposite experiences.

 

I went in this time for myself, mostly symbolic, and a little just to physically show myself that being in a river can be a positive experience – know it mentally and get it mentally, it’s just something I needed to do. I love water and I love swimming, especially in water that’s not full of chlorine. 

 

This time I leisurely walked out into the river until it was just above my waist – the same depth as the last time when I wasn’t falling in the water.  As I stood there, I prayed a prayer of thanksgiving.  I thanked God for being with me the last time we were in the river together and for all that He accomplished. I thanked Him for my family and my friends and I once again told Him I was His. I thanked Him for the precious gift of life over and over again.

 

Yesterday’s venture into the river reinforced a few things for me.  As I very carefully picked  where I would step testing before putting my full weight down to make sure the rocks wouldn’t shift too much under my weight, I understood better why the bottoms of both my feet were so bruised back in February. I wore shoes this time, in February I was in sock feet. I couldn’t feel my feet in February because the water was so cold and I had no idea what I was stepping on because it was so dark. When you combine that with fighting against the water to remain standing, while moving as fast as possible to find Megan,  how the bruising happened becomes obvious.

 

What was the same was the feeling of the current against my body and the sound of the water moving around me. I listened closely as I heard two adults at the beach discussing their surprise at how strong the current is even in the beach area of the river and then calling to their children warning them not to go into the water very far and I shuddered. I remembered the first time I took a bath after the accident in February, lying in the bath with my eyes closed relaxing and then moving my arm – just the sound of the water moving shot my heart rate through the roof.  My eyes flew open and it took several minutes to calm down. The first shower, feeling the water running over my body, I had the same reaction – with my heart racing I grabbed the hand rail to steady myself. 

 

I didn’t experience fear the night of the accident in February. The only way I’ve been able to explain what happened is that God’s presence literally enveloped me as I was making my way to get into the river and it was like a fear numbing anesthesia was put into place.  Afterwards though, when that anesthesia wore off and the reality of the trauma that we’d been through set in, my fear levels were off the charts.

 

Truth be told, I’m still not over the terror or fear and I’m no longer sure that I will ever be. A few weeks ago now, Dan & I went to see a movie with some friends.  We saw Man of Steel.  The new Superman movie.  I really can’t tell you much about what happened in that movie past the point where the school bus full of children careens off of a highway bridge landing right side up in a river. Seeing the horror on the children’s faces as the bus filled up with water – way too realistic for my liking.  Don’t worry, nobody died. Superman, well actually in that scene he was still a child and not technically Superman yet, pulled the whole bus out of the river and saved everyone. Meanwhile, I began to physically shake – uncontrollably shaking. I spent the rest of the movie trying to look and act calm while trying to stop the shaking.  By the end of the movie, I was still shaking. As we were leaving the theatre, one of my friends asked me if I liked the movie and my response was to burst into tears. Nice, really nice. Inside I was rolling my eyes at myself, telling myself to get a grip it was just a movie. My wonderful husband held my hand through most of the movie and after the movie never left my side or let go of my hand until he knew I was alright.

 

This is what my life looks like right now. Fine one moment, maybe fine for the whole day, and then seemingly out of the blue something or nothing will trigger a reaction in me. I’m not the only one who was there the night of the accident in the river on February 6, 2013 and I’m also not the only one still struggling with the aftermath.

 

So the trip into the river yesterday was and is my way of saying that I’m not giving up and I’m not giving in to fear. God was with us that night in February and He did amazing things to spare three lives that night. Each day is a precious gift and I’m committed more than ever to making each one count for the Kingdom of God.  Am I walking perfectly, no, I’m walking wounded. Am I strong and brave, no I’m weak and terrified. But what I am and what I have, have been given to God for Him to use as He sees fit.

 

I hope this post helps someone today.

 

Be blessed.

 

(for those who don’t know about the accident in the river that I refer to in this post, please see the about page on this blog)

Where in the will are you?

If you hang out around Christian circles for any amount of time, you will inevitably overhear or be a part of a discussion about God’s will. As someone following Christ with their life, it’s important to be in God’s will – aka doing what God wants you to do with your life, where He wants you to be.

So what is God’s will for your life? There are a lot of people who think it’s a very complicated, mysterious thing that needs to be diligently searched out.  If we read the Bible, it’s mapped out for all of us. In Matthew 22:36-40 it says, 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” These are the greatest commandments – this is what we are supposed to be doing.

I struggle with the idea that some have embraced as God’s will being so finitely detailed so that it encompasses every miniscule detail of every day.  I cannot even begin to fathom how this would work out but can see all kinds of problems with this concept.  For instance, I know people who while in the process of purchasing a home have declared that it’s God’s will for them to live in a specific home. Ok, maybe, but what about when the deal doesn’t go through, so they end up living somewhere else.  Are they now outside of God’s will and what about the people that did buy that home that was God’s will for the other family to have, are they outside of God’s will as well?  How do you ever reconcile or rectify that? This is just one example of many I could give, and they all end with people being outside of God’s will. 

Recently, one of my cousins posted a status on Facebook about God’s will – she had no idea I was already working on writing about God’s will for my blog. But I think it goes along with what I’m writing here fairly well.

Here’s what Jenn thinks:  “When Christians talk of God’s will as a definitive step by step guide to my day I think, ‘sure if His will is defined as loving God & my neighbour well.’ But when it is presented as a road map to my every move & that God’s will is controlling all that occurs on this earth I must wonder what kind of pain they have lived through? I wonder if they, like me, have sat with rape survivors or wept at injustice in our churches, city, & world. Because I will not say to my friends, heck to myself, that God is controlling all that occurs on this earth & in our lives. In my experience God can heal, restore, even redeem the darkness but I will not see the darkness as God’s will.”

This idea of a finitely detailed will for our lives has the potential to do a lot of damage to a person’s faith in God.  It can confuse people, leave them paralyzed when facing a decision and feeling completely uncertain on how to move forward with life.  I don’t know about you, but I think this description sounds exactly like a plan from the enemy of our souls.

I do believe God has a plan for each of our lives.  Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” And Psalm 139:16 says, “Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” There are other scriptures as well that let us know that God has a plan and a purpose for every one of us.

What I’m trying to get across here is that while there is God’s plan and there are God’s commandments, His will is not for us to be confused or uncertain about Him.  Each of us has also been given the incredible gift of free choice.  How each of our choices impacts us and those around us also plays a part in how our lives unfold. If it helps you, perhaps try thinking of God’s will as more of a macro management plan for your life. He gives you the things you need to go through life and He is with you every step of the way to provide direction, comfort, strength, love and support. He also expects that you will use what He’s given you as you go through life.  He’s given you gifts of intelligence and reason, free will and choice, so use those as you follow His will to love Him and to love others.

 

P.S. Thanks Jenn for your comments on God’s will. I hope you don’t mind me using them here!

 

Be blessed.

Strawberries & Prayer

strawberries

We finally made it to the strawberry patch to pick ourselves some berries yesterday.  Great way to start our Canada Day!  It was warm but cloudy making it perfect picking weather in my opinion.

 

It took some convincing, but we managed to get both of our daughters along for the excursion and by the time they were picking and eating berries, they were both glad they came along.

strawberry jam

 

After we came home with our berries, we made some jam, and then we made some short cake to have for dessert with the strawberries of course, for after dinner.

I’ll admit to you that I like to watch people. And it was interesting watching people while picking strawberries yesterday.  There were quite a few people out in the field picking berries.  A couple of rows over from us there was this lady picking strawberries and talking up a storm to the guy in the row beside her.  It was obvious they didn’t know each other, but she seemed to find some things they had in common whether it was people they both knew or local places they’d both been to.  Their conversation was loud enough you couldn’t avoid hearing it.  As I listened without really hearing the words that were being spoken I began thinking about prayer.

 

I wondered if we sometimes sound to God a bit like that lady in the strawberry patch.  Non-stop talking without really pausing to hear responses from the other person she was talking to.

 

It made me think of Matthew 6:7-8 “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” Repetitious prayers, meaningless words said over and over again don’t accomplish anything.  I purposely included verse 8 here because I absolutely love it – Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.  He already knows what we need. He already knows!

 

Talking with God is important.  Prayer is talking with God. Notice I didn’t say talking TO God.  It’s a conversation that’s rooted in relationship.  If you think about it, seriously, what in the world could I possibly offer as wisdom or advice or help to the God of the universe? Why in the world would I monopolize the conversation and make it all about me? He knows what I need. He wants me to ask Him for the things I need, and I do that, but then I listen.

 

The beginning of the most famous Psalm says it so well – The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul – Psalm 23:1-3a.  He takes care of me, he leads me, he refreshes me.  These verses depict a relationship – a two way relationship.

 

It’s so critical that we understand that God wants us to be in relationship with Him. He wants to talk with us.  Like we do in our relationships with other people. Real conversations where we talk & listen and spend quality time together. With God we do that by reading the Bible, spending time reading or listening to His words and through prayer.

 

Have you ever had someone in your life that only talked about themselves and didn’t make much time if any time for you to talk?  I have. It’s pretty difficult to have a balanced, healthy relationship with people like that. I don’t want to be that type of person in my relationship with God and I would encourage you to avoid that too.

 

Being conscious of what we’re saying when we pray and making sure there is time to spend quietly to listen in prayer are keys to building a stronger relationship with God.

 

Be Blessed.

@PeacewithGod

Megan's Grade 8 Grad

And so a blog is born. The name @PeacewithGod was Dan’s idea. He didn’t want to change his email address when we were changing internet providers.  We kicked the name around for a while and decided that maybe someday we would use the name @PeacewithGod for something more than just an email address.

 

So here we are.  I’m not too sure what this will look like or how it will all come together, but thought that starting to record some of the things that we go through in life and in ministry might be a good thing.

 

Like last night. We went to a graduation party.  Not just any graduation party, but a very special one to us.  Haylee is a close friend of both our daughters and worked with me for one semester of school this year as a coop student.  She’s a joy to be around and we’re going to miss her dearly this fall as she heads off to college. So we celebrated Haylee graduating high school.  We also celebrated Megan graduating grade 8 and getting ready to head off to high school.  I’m still incredibly emotional when it comes to Megan.  Megan was in a very scary accident on February 6th this year where the vehicle she was in rolled through a fence and fell over 10 feet landing upside down in the icy rushing water of the Trent River.  By the hand of God she’s here today graduating from grade 8 with a big smile on her face. I love it! (Megan’s standing in the middle of our family in this picture)

 

It’s a bit of a crazy week in our household as we celebrate two graduations, Dan is preparing to officiate a wedding this weekend and is also in the midst of preparing for a memorial service.  Happiness and sorrow mixed together.  New beginnings mixed with endings.  We celebrate with those who celebrate and we mourn with those who mourn.

 

What better way to top that off than to start a blog in that same week?  It’s something that’s been on my heart for a while, but seeing as I’m not a professional writer or anything close to that, I’ve held back thinking that maybe a blog or a book will come at some point in the future.  Every journey starts with a step right?  Well, here’s baby step number one!

 

Be blessed.