Monday, June 28, 2010

Women Who Show Up... for Life (4)

Good Monday morning to you!  Life is good and I'm ready to muse, so I'm glad that you showed up!  I hope that you feel comfortable enough to go ahead and muse right back, I never know where these words are going to land on any given day, so my prayer is always that they will bless you in some way, and always point you to Jesus.

In Women Who Show Up... for Life (3) we looked at Jesus as being The True Bread of Life.  "Jesus said to them, 'I am the Bread of Life: he who comes to Me will not hunger...'". (John 6:35)
We discussed our daily need of Spiritual Food, comparing it to our daily need of physical food, and how as Jesus showed compassion towards those who were physically hungry by feeding them, He was actually pointing them to the deeper truth of their spiritual hunger - a hunger that only He could satisfy.  We also saw how the people missed the Bread of Life because they were too preoccupied in looking for... bread.  "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you."Matthew 6:33

This week, I am happily embarking on a Summer Bible Study in the book of Ruth - on so many levels, it really is a beautiful love story, and yet, at the outset, I find it also to be a story of a fascinating pilgrimage.  

After just reading through the first few verses of Chapter One, my musings before the Lord have already begun, for in the very first verse we see a family of four - a husband, his wife, and two sons - making a pilgrimage from their homeland of Judah to the land of Moab.  

"Now it came about in the days when the judges governed, that there was a famine in the land.  And a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the land of Moab with his wife and his two sons.  The name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife, Naomi; and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehem in Judah.  Now they entered the land of Moab and remained there."

In Hebrew, Bethlehem means 'House of Bread'.  And so, because of the famine, this man and his family left the House of Bread, the land of Judah (Israel) to go into the land of Moab; a land that the nation of Israel was in direct hostility with, at best. (Deuteronomy 23:3-6, Judges 3:12-14

A quick read of the account in Genesis refreshes us in the fact that God had, years earlier, freed the nation of Israel out of the captivity and bondage of Egypt and after their wanderings in the desert, brought them into the Promised Land.  It was an abundant land, a land flowing with milk and honey, a land that was to be their permanent home... they need not look anywhere else.  So, the question arises, why was there now a famine in the Promised Land - famine in the 'House of Bread'?

It was because the nation of Israel had turned from God and followed after, and served, the gods of the nations around them. (Judges 2:11-19)

So, now we see Elimelech and his family leave the 'House of Bread' and go to Moab to find... bread.  Sometime after their arrival in Moab, Elimelech dies.  Naomi is now left with her two sons; the two boys, as inevitably will happen, meet cute little Moabite girls, and eventually, marry them.  Within ten years of living in Moab, the two sons also die, which now leaves their mother Naomi, in a foreign land, destitute, without her husband or sons, only her two, widowed, daughters-in-law.  Naomi, in her grief, hears that "the LORD had visited His people (Israel) in giving them food".  In other words, the famine in the 'House of Bread' is now over.  So, Naomi decides to pack up and leave and to journey back home; her two daughters-in-law go with her.

And it is here, on the journey to the 'House of Bread' that we see something amazing happen.  At a certain point in the journey, Naomi tells the two girls to go back to their families, and their gods.  That being with her will hold no future for them.  One of the girls kisses Naomi and returns home to Moab - but the other girl, Ruth, clings to Naomi and says this... "Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I go, and where you lodge, I will lodge.  Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God."  Ruth had no way of knowing that this clinging would one day result in her name being forever entered into the royal messianic line - that she herself, a Moabite woman, would one day become the great-grandmother of King David! 

So what does this have to do with Women Who Show Up... for Life?

Well, I believe that in Ruth and Naomi we see a picture of two very different kinds of women, women that we may know today.  Ruth had not yet been to the 'House of Bread', but was intent on going, as she saw Naomi heading in that direction herself.  As a little girl, Ruth would have only known the hostility of her nation towards Israel and their God, never having had an opportunity to know God in her childhood.  And Naomi, well, she had once lived there, yet had left the 'House of Bread' and was now intent on returning.

Both of these women, whether they realized it or not, were preparing to make the journey... to Show Up for Life.

Whenever I study the Bible, I remind myself frequently that what was true physically regarding Israel, is true spiritually of us today, on this side of the cross.  The physical famine of Naomi's time can be correlated to the spiritual famine of our time.  

So often, circumstances can cause us to seek people, places, things, other than God, for our relief.  It was physical hunger that caused Naomi and her family to turn and leave the 'House of Bread', yet that physical hunger could have been the very thing that prompted them to seek out, to worship, to praise, the One Who Supplies All needs.  Turning to the things of this world may seem right at the time, particularly when our bellies are grumbling with physical hunger and the smell of freshly baked bread is wafting through the air from another direction!  But to seek after bread and miss the Bread of Life will more often than not, result in remoteness from God.  It can be so subtle at first, our need is met and we feel satisfied, but our souls begin to languish apart from Him.  It may take only hours or days to realize this languishing of the soul, although sometimes months or even years, and then, like Naomi, perhaps one day you hear of the provision of God among His people, you hear of the Bread of Life giving nourishment to not only the body, but the soul... and you find yourself with an undeniable hunger... and longing.

So here is what I am musing.  Any kind of need, whether physical or spiritual should be my springboard to Christ.  Either way, a time of need is not the time to be turning and seeking filling or fulfilling apart from Him.  Yet, where the body goes, the heart/mind has in all probability gone first.  If the hearts and minds of Naomi and her family had already turned from God in disobedience (which brought about the famine in the first place) it would have certainly paved the way to their actual physical leaving from the 'House of Bread'. 

Remember to, the children of Israel were in a place of blessing when their hearts began to wander from God, they had actually left the 'House of Bread' in their hearts long before the physical famine came upon them - the physical famine simply mirrored and pointed to the truth of the reality of the spiritual famine of their souls.  

Do you find yourself in a place of blessing or a place of need during this season of life?  Your need may not be the result of a wandering heart, just the plain, natural outworking of living here on planet earth.  Wherever you may find yourself, a good question to ask is this... does my place of blessing, or my place of need draw me closer to, or farther away from God?

Personally, I find myself in the season of both blessing and need!  Because of the hearts propensity to wander, both blessing and need have the potential to distract me from Him, yet, continually, my overwhelming desire is to draw even closer to Him in intimacy through prayer and His Word and in living this thing out... faithfully, joyfully, fruitfully!

Joining hands with others heading in the same direction, on the same path, intent on Showing Up... for Life!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Witness

I found this entry tucked away in my draft file, written a few months ago.  I had fully intended on posting it at the time and then hesitated - changing my mind - thinking that perhaps it might be a little too much musing if someone was just dropping in for some pretty pictures and a bit of a light read.  I had the choice whether to just delete it in order to clean out my file, or post it... I've decided to post.  So here it is, such as it is...

Today's Musings flow out of a conversation that I recently had with my friend Marnie, who works part-time at a transition house for women and their children leaving abusive relationships.  She shared with me the stats which indicate that children who witness abuse are more likely to become abusers themselves than those who actually experience the abuse.  This is profound to me, in that, there is something very powerful about 'the witness'.

There are basically two kinds of witnesses in the world - those who bear witness of the Light and those who bear witness of the darkness.  Paul's encounter with Jesus in Acts 26 resulted in his being appointed by Jesus to be a witness of the Light to others, that the eyes of those living in darkness would be opened that they might turn from darkness to the Light, receiving "forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those that have been sanctified (set apart) by faith in (Christ)".

To bear witness, or to testify, is to give voice to, or act out of, that which you have witnessed, observed, or had an encounter with.  

In John 1:7 we see John the Baptist coming as a witness of the Light, "to testify about The Light so all might believe...".  This Light, that John was a witness to, was Jesus, "the Light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness (does) not comprehend it."  Jesus said, "I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness."(John 12:46)  There is a purpose to the Light.

Proverbs 21:28 tells us that "A false witness will (ultimately) perish...".  A false witness is simply a witness that does not bear testimony of the Truth of the Light.  On the other hand, Proverbs 14:25 tells us that "A truthful witness saves lives."  And this is what Jesus is all about... saving lives. 

As people who presently occupy this planet, we are daily witnesses to an enormous bombardment of audiovisual stimulation.  TV and the internet are definitely major contributors in this, and have caused us to become a culture of voyeurs, who, while not really 'experiencing' the reality of what we are watching, have become occupational witnesses to shootings, rapes, psychotic episodes, vulgarities, abuse, terrorism and... 'reality TV'.

We are also subject to witnessing a wide array of behaviours, images and voices,  just by taking a trip to the local grocery store to run a few errands.  We are also witnesses to the beautiful and lovely as well.  We find this in nature, in others, in things.  Yet, how much of what we witness in a single day is representative of darkness and how much is representative of Light?  Is it always so easy to discern?   There are many who say that there are those 'grey' areas of life, where things are not that easily identified as being either Light or dark.

Revelation 3:14 and 1:5 tells us that Jesus is not only The Light, but He is also The True Witness and The Faithful Witness.  He also has a Voice, for He is The Word of God, so we can be assured that by listening to Him we can have a Faithful and True Witness of what is Light... and what is not.

And so here is where my musing took me - obviously, being a witness is a powerful thing, whether we are passive in our witness, or whether we give voice to our witness.  Whether that witness is of the Light or whether of the dark.  From my study in Scripture, I understand that Light overcomes darkness, so, as powerful as darkness is, Light will continue to be The Most Powerful in Overcoming, amen!  So,... as much as I may witness darkness in my daily living, I purposely choose to position myself in such a way as to be a witness to the Fullness of The Light... that The Light might then shine through me, that I might then become a witness, a testimony, a voice, of the Brilliant Light which Overcomes utter darkness. 

Light and darkness. True and false.
A Truthful Witness saves lives...

Yes, there is something very powerful about the testimony of... 'the witness'.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Women Who Show Up... for Life (3)

I don't know about you, but every so often I find myself in need of refreshment.  We frequently tend to think of refreshment in terms of beverages and food; Jesus fully understood this very physical way of thinking, and so He used it, so to speak, as a springboard, to point to a deeper spiritual truth - to point to Himself as being The True Bread and Water of Life... 

"Jesus said to them, 
'I am the Bread of Life: 
he who comes to Me will not hunger,
 and he who believes in Me will never thirst'".
John 6:35

"...Jesus stood and cried out, saying, 
'If anyone is thirsty, 
let him come to Me and drink.  
He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 
'From his innermost being will flow rivers of Living Water.'"
John 7:37-38

Just as our bodies are in daily need of food and water, so our souls are in daily need of spiritual Food and spiritual Water - and just as we daily show up for our physical food and water, we also need to daily Show Up for our spiritual Food and Water.

Though we may not be able to 'see' our souls, even the most well fed, health conscious person, someone who is diligent in meticulously taking care of their physical body, if they have neglected the care of their own souls, are spiritually emaciated and heading towards ultimate spiritual death.  If this sounds harsh or offensive to you, take a moment and ask yourself why.

In John 6, Jesus shows compassion for the physical needs of the people; they were hungry and, miraculously, He made sure that they were all fed.  The following day, these people showed up for breakfast, fully anticipating that Jesus, once again, would provide for their physical need - they had missed the Beauty of the 'sign', of the miracle of their feeding, from the day before.  They had all received the blessing, yet had not received the Source of Blessing.

Signs are meant to point to something.  The signs of Jesus, throughout the book of John, had a purpose too... they always pointed to Jesus.  In missing the sign which pointed to Jesus, the people missed Jesus, and in missing Jesus, their minds remained on the hunger of their physical appetites and not on the hunger of their own spiritual souls.  So, when they showed up for their early morning miracle breakfast, Jesus said to them,

"Truly, truly, I say to you, 
you seek Me, 
not because you saw signs, 
but because you ate the loaves and were filled."
John 6:26

How often do we come to Jesus for our physical needs, or someone else's physical needs?  We tend to think that our comfort, our security, our health, our happiness, our life, depend upon the things of this world.  It's like coming to Jesus to play the game, 'Do This, Do This, Do That'.  There are some people that have come to Jesus, thinking that by receiving His Invitation, they will automatically have all of their physical needs and appetites, met.  Yet if their eyes were never really on Jesus, their eyes will continue to remain on their own physical appetites.  Someone once said to me, "Listen Cathie, if God would fill my bank account and make me a millionaire, then sure, I'd get up on a Sunday morning and go to church and praise Him too!"

Somehow, I doubt it.

But listen, of course we can go to Jesus for our physical needs!  My goodness, that's a well worn path that I've trod myself, many, many times, over the years, and will continue to do so!  But here's the thing... there is comfort and there is The Comforter, there is security and there is The Saviour, there is health and there is The Healer, there is happiness and there is The Joy of the Lord, there is life and there is The Giver of Life, there are the things of this world and then there is The Creator of All Things.  To go to Jesus for Who He Is, leaves everything else in the dust and is peace beyond understanding, indeed!  He is your Comfort, He is your Strength.... He Is.

I don't know about you, but every so often I find myself in need of refreshment - and as my spiritual eyes look past the things of this world, my heart is set upon the pilgrimage of Showing Up, and partaking of, The Bread of Life and The Living Water!

See you at the Banquet Table!

"But seek first His kingdom 
and His righteousness, 
and all these things will be added to you."
Matthew 6:33

Monday, June 7, 2010

Women Who Show Up... for Life (2)

Showing up for something, when you are already tired, can be daunting.  Showing up for anything when you are exhausted is... well, you fill in the blank... because I can almost guarantee, that if you are at this moment, drawing breath into your lungs, you've been there.  Tiredness, exhaustion, weariness, you see it  everywhere, reflected back at you from the mirror in the morning and there to see you off to bed again at night.  It's reflected in our society, in our Blackberries... in our souls.

And then, an Invitation is given.  It is an Invitation like no other.  As the Invitation unfolds it reads:

"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find REST for your SOULS.  For My yoke is easy and my burden is light." 
(Matthew 11:28-30)

This invitation, with it's very first Word, is both inviting and commanding.  The Word says, "Come...".   If you are like me, whenever I receive an invitation to something, I always look for four specific things -   The Date, the Time, the Location and the Purpose.

As we look closer at this invitation we can see that, The Date is Today, the Time is Now, the Location is Jesus, The Purpose is Rest.  

Date: Today 
"Today if you hear His Voice" (Hebrews 3:7-13)
Time:  Now 
"Behold, now is the favourable time; behold, now is the day of Salvation." (2 Cor. 6:2) 
Location: Jesus 
"Come to Me" (Matthew 11:28)
Purpose: Rest 
"...I will give you rest."  
" will find rest for your your souls." (Matthew 11:29)

Look at who this Invitation has gone out to... the weary, the heavy-laden, to those who are in need of rest.  Why are we in such need of rest?  It's because of (drumroll), sin.  

I'll tell you something, nothing causes eyes to roll and heated discussions to rise up like throwing the word 'sin' into a conversation!  And something else I've noticed... nothing clears a room faster than mentioning the Name of Jesus... and I'm not talking about using it as an expletive either, no problem it seems, when you throw His Name around like that!

If the word 'sin' sets your teeth on edge or causes you to think of me as one of those 'extreme Christians', (you know, the type that don't remember to do their Christian thing on a Sunday behind the closed doors of the church, and leave it there) think about this...  'Sin' is simply an archery term.  Whenever the arrow misses the mark, it is called 'sin'.  

So, with that in mind, let's look at Matthew 15:7 taking out the word 'sinner' and replacing it with its definition... "I tell you that in the same way, there will be joy in heaven over one sinner who has missed the mark, who repents..."  Oh brother, there's another word that causes heads to spin - 'repent'.  OK, so here is the definition of 'repent'... it means 'to turn from'.  To turn from what?  To turn from missing the mark, turning towards the bulls-eye (so to speak).  But which way do you turn?  Where is the mark that we are to be aiming for?  It's not a where... it's Who.  The only way for an arrow (sinner) to not sin (miss the mark (Jesus)), is for the sinner to find herself hidden, deep within Jesus (Colossians 3:1-3)... Bulls-eye!

So, The Invitation requires that those who are already tired, already exhausted... Show Up.  Is this Invitation just another burden to weary already bent and depleted souls?  Not when the Invitation says, "Come to Me" and both the "Invitation" and the "Me" is Jesus!

Think of all the ways that you try and give your soul rest.  Go ahead, I'm serious, take a moment and list what you do, apart from Jesus, to give yourself rest.  I'll wait for you...

I'm almost sure that everything that you listed, apart from Jesus, was or is, temporary, at best.  "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being." (John 1:1-3) NOTHING!... and that includes True and Lasting Rest!  The Word is saying "Come", the Word is saying, "Come to Me", the Word is saying, "Come to Me all who are weary and heavy-laden", the Word is saying, "Come to Me all who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you Rest...for your souls."

Both the Word and the Invitation are Jesus, just as He is... The True Rest.  

Will you Show Up for The Life that the Invitation extends to you by turning and receiving Him, and finding The True Rest for your soul?  If you believe that this Invitation is for you, then you need to know that Jesus Himself is the Initiator of all things faith (Ephesians 2:8), ask Him for the faith to believe all that His Invitation, His Word has promised.  In other words, sweet thing, exhausted as you are, if you find a longing in your heart to Show Up, Jesus has promised that He Himself has already accomplished all that is required for you to, Show Up.  After all, He is the Author and Finisher of all things faith (Hebrews 12:2).


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