Patient In Tribulation

30 05 2012

I read today in Romans 12:12 “Be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” There was something about that “patient in tribulation” that caught me today.

It isn’t that we are to just hold our breath and endure a crisis. I think it is more strategic as we choose to be quiet and bide our time; observing developments unfold; walking along, not saying much (because what can one say in a tribulation?). Watching…watching…for those sometimes tiny clues that God is at work and where.

Patient one must be (that sounded like Yoda), because in my experience, God seldom moves quickly. I think if He did it would be like pressing an elevator button; once it is there and you ride to your floor, it all seems unremarkable. I think patiently watching God is more like watching someone do one of those puzzles, you know the kind that have like 10 squares and one corner missing and you slide a piece left and slide one up, and slide one right, and then move 2 down and…you know?  I am never good at those…but I think God is like that and when the picture is finally in place it is more of a wow…how did He work with all that disorder?

I am very impatient. I know everyone says that…but I have a problem with the disparity between God’s timing and mine; the lag time; the layovers.

Romans 12:12 reminds me that as I practice patience, it is the perfect time to fill the uncertain space with prayer. Patience requires that I get clear about who I am and who God is and to look up the definition of faith once more.

Tribulation comes with a thousand question-marks, most of which will remain until I have a face-to-face conversation; but, if I am patient, I see God’s power as an exclamation in the middle of it all.

For this I am thankful today: There is nothing that surprises my God. What I perceive as detours, never are (they were just roads that I wouldn’t have chosen). God is never late in the game and never misses His chance. Also (much to my chagrin) He never needs a single one of my ideas to save the day.

— Teresa Klassen

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I Am A Carrier

15 07 2010

Do you see anything different?

Look close…anything?

It’s just that Proverbs 13:9 says that the, “light of the righteous shines brightly.” And I wondered…

This Proverb seems so simple but I have really wrestled with it. I think it is these two words “righteous” and “the light” that have me sitting here thinking.

The Bible says, that no one is righteous, not even one person (Romans 3:10), so what is the point of this Proverb? No-one’s righteous.

Any earning if righteousness we think we are capable of, well, we should just know right now we can stop trying; that would be one less thing on our to-do list.  If I was good today, “Way to go,” I can tell myself, but should quickly add, “just so you know, you are about to screw up.” You and I just can’t get it right. For every person who declares themselves, “good,” there are two others snickering in the background because they know just how bad we can be.

We should sigh deeply at this point because it is a distressing truth. The “world” will say, “You’re fine. Why all the angst?” It is because we  aren’t  fooled by the “eat, drink and be merry” message; it’s not that merry. We know something is broken and can’t be mended. No one is righteous. Not even one. “Woe is me,” the prophet Isaiah said as he thought about this, “I am a man of unclean lips, living among people of unclean lips.” (Isaiah 6:5)

Thank God, the Bible goes on to say, “Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins” (Romans 3:24)!

This idea of being “freed” is something known as “redemption.” Redemption, in case you were wondering, is my favorite word.

  • Redemption, the idea that something otherwise discardable can be made new and usable, when applied to people, is a magnetic message.
  • Redemption, the idea that something can be changed for the better means that I have  something to live for.
  • Redemption, the idea that something is gained because something else was cashed in, both crushes me and motivates me when I realize what I gained because Jesus cashed His own life in for me.

This whole thing, by the way, is called the “Good News.” What else would you call it?

I just had to start with that, because understanding who is righteous and why is really important. We shouldn’t be all high on ourselves thinking we are better than anyone else. We can put all our self-righteousness away now, because our righteousness is the Good News of Jesus declaring, “got you covered.”

So, Jesus gave us the ability to be called righteous, which is awesome, and because it is truly “awesome” we don’t just go on as if nothing happened. As the saying goes, “to those who have been given much, much is required” (Luke 12:47-49). I have been given something (that’s the Good News) and that makes me a carrier.

So I am a carrier of a light and must move into all the dark shadows and bless the world because of how I have been blessed: “May your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven…” (Matthew 6:10)

I think we need to ask some questions about that. People who don’t follow Christ can “shine.” Good deeds stand out in a mostly selfish world no matter who does them; letting “your light” shine is not a concept reserved for Christ followers.  There are lots of people who do nice things, altruistic things! So, do Christians just have to be nicer still? Kind of a one-up idea?

I think being clear about “the light of the righteous” is pretty crucial:

  • “…the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. And for those who lived in the land where death casts its shadow, a light has shined.” (Matthew 4:16)
  • “So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying, “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised. I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people. He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!” (Luke 2:28-32)
  • Jesus said, “I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark .”(Luke 12:46)

The thing that is shining brightly is not “shiny-us.” It isn’t our goody-goodness. The light is Jesus and He saved our necks. Jesus’ Good News isn’t a “good perspective” message; it is upsetting! It means I have to acknowledge my sin; it means I have to follow a wildly upside-down message that will throw my whole life in another direction. But this light is fiercely loving, unafraid and undaunted, sacred,  supernatural, unquenchable, unstoppable. That kind of light has heat.

I am writing those words as I am sitting near a mirror, looking at myself and thinking about what big ideas those are for such a little person as I to carry; I am not really the Olympic Torch Bearer type. How can I do justice to a Light like that?

Bright is attractive, which means I better not be unapproachable or unrelatable or untranslatable. I better not be prudish or judgmental or spout off about stuff. I better not be driven by an agenda or abuse my relationships as if I am some network-marketer-for Jesus.

What had I better be?

I better be living in the light, for heaven’s sake. Sometimes I am just so catatonic and that is pretty lame, considering.

The only thing I carry, the only thing I have to offer anyone that is of any value is Jesus. But I can’t go out and just go on and on about Him; I have to go out and be a living example of Him living in me.

A pretty good description of  “how-to” is found in Galatians 5:22 (another book and verse in the Bible):

“The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, and self-control…those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another (5:22)

It can’t be faked.We can’t treat Galatians with a checklist and good acting. Notice how the verse says, “The Holy Spirit produces in us…” Similar to Jesus declaring us righteous. It is mostly Him and mostly not us.  Our part is one word: submission.

What ought to shine in me is my continual surrender to the Holy Spirit’s leading in my life (and in case you think I have this “continual surrender” thing down, I don’t). None of us are “shiny” in and of ourselves. It is what the Holy Spirit produces that shines and sometimes it is just astounding the tiny little things that end up being the brightest, because He makes it so.

I love this definition of light: that which makes seeing possible.

Hm. Someone else’s light helped me see The Light. Now I am a carrier and must do the same. See how that works?

— Teresa Klassen





How Many Ways Can I Be Bad?

24 06 2010

Aren’t there a lot of things you can do wrong?

This morning I read Proverbs 11:3,

“The integrity of the upright guides them,
but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.”

“Duplicity” caught my eye so I looked it up to get its exact meaning; it is: deception by pretending to feel and act one way while feeling and acting another (wordcentral.com). Who has not done this? Can you be a human being and not do this?

If one is awestruck by the beauty and complexity of life, one must also be astonished over the incredible webwork of “evil.” I mean, how many ways can we be bad? There is “bad” that is right out there, and then there is the Pandora’s Box of  back-room bad, such as this one called duplicity; I doubt it would make the top ten bad things but don’t be fooled, it is as lethal as murder.

Duplicity is acid (the kind that burns your eyes out, not the hallucinogenic). It is the thing that eats away and eventually annihilates trust. It is the “say one thing, think another” evil; it is “the fake”; it is what makes us juggle stories and habits; it is strategic deception. From the most innocent, “I’m fine” when you’re not to the “we’re fine” when you’re about to break something; duplicity misrepresents at every corner.

Little microscopic duplicity; you are a nasty one, aren’t you? You are a game at first — one that requires skill and word-power; and then you are a trip-wire. Why do I live with duplicity? “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do!!!” (Paul, in Romans 7:15). We know what duplicity feels like; it is the scab we keep picking at; the flaw that won’t let us off the hook.

How many things can I do wrong in the short amount of time I have been given? How many ways can I be bad?

Some people say, “I don’t care!” because God’s standard is too high, too impossible to meet. But “I don’t care” is just us giving up; it doesn’t fix anything; it doesn’t make it easier to live with ourselves.

The word that just came to my mind as I am writing this is “reconcile.” When I do my finances and two columns don’t agree with each other (a situation I face frequently), I need to reconcile my statement; I need to get them to agree.  Duplicity is when two things are not in agreement with each other; one side is one way, the other side is another.

Jesus, recognizing our duplicity, chose to use that word “reconcile” to describe what He did on the cross. He brought agreement between us and God (we were alienated from God because of our evil behavior) and “now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation…(Colossians 1:21-23). Because of our agreement with God He shows us how to have agreement in our own heart and in how we relate to others.

On our own, we are filled with duplicity, but in Christ we are reconciled.

— Teresa Klassen





When It Is No Trouble At All

27 04 2010

“Considering what I have done for you, is it really too much to ask?”

I have said this. It is usually directed towards one or more children who are complaining about some menial task I have asked them to do; usually their complaining takes longer than the task itself. The thing about being a mom is that you are always one up. If the child has cleaned up the dishes 3 days in a row, you have cleaned up the dishes 3,000 days in a row; things always lean in your favour. So then you pull out the big one:

“Considering what I have done for you, every single day while you have been alive on this earth, you’d think that you could clean out the dishwasher — which will take you under 7 minutes — without complaining. Really,  is that too much to ask?”

Everything is so crystal clear to me when it comes to correcting the attitudes and behaviours of my children, but when I am the child, there are things I spend more time complaining about than doing. I know I can’t support this Biblically, but I am pretty sure God rolls His eyes at me in those times when I am wearing Him out. He pleads, “…give your body to God. Let it be a living and holy sacrifice––the kind he will accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask?” (Romans 12:1).

It’s not too much to ask, it’s just that I lack in staying power. I keep crawling off the altar (especially if I get bored or mad or lonely or hungry or disgruntled or insulted or confused or tired or uncomfortable or distracted or embarrassed or tempted or…you get the idea). I am (not exaggerating) a short-term-project person. Ask anyone in my family. Anything that requires a lot of patience and I find finicky, tedious, or BORING gives me hives. I don’t bake things that are tiny and require icing. I don’t cook things that have 17 steps.  I don’t knit. I don’t scrapbook. I do not garden. And I nearly had to take Nitroglycerin tablets over our recent grouting project (kitchen backsplash – Liza Tough, Queen of Do-it-yourself projects, hats off to you).

Here’s the problem. In God’s wisdom and sense of humour He gives me things that go against my grain. He knows me and He knows my gifts and abilities (better than I know them) but it isn’t about me just becoming better at them, it’s about becoming better with Him.

Recently I have really, really been questioning some of the directions He has taken me in but it occurs to me that God has deliberately taken me to places that He knows I am going to complain about. He knows I will complain and be frustrated because here I cannot rely on what comes naturally. In my frustration, I am going to talk to Him way more than I might otherwise have. I am going to say, “God, I don’t know what I am doing. I don’t even know if I LIKE where you have me…”

“Yeah, well, will you stay on the altar or will you only love Me when you like where I have you? Will you give your best effort when actually it is effortless for you? Will you only be a living sacrifice, when it is no sacrifice at all?”

— Teresa Klassen





Romanz

22 04 2010

“She was nothing to look at; not the worst, not the best; just average. And she didn’t do anything outstanding, the kind to make headlines or break records; she did all right at the things she put her hand to. She was neither good nor horrible, but everyone has shame on account of things usually left unsaid, and she was no different. On a crowded side-walk she was a part of the crowd on the side-walk; most would not have noticed one way or another if she was there; but he did. She stopped him in his tracks! The moment she became a thought in his mind, there wasn’t anything else he could think of…”

Pause.

I know it is a little easier to read romance than it is to take in a history lesson, but bear with me. When the Conquering Romans mixed their latin with local dialects, another language known as romanz was formed; it became “the” language to tell stories of knights, dragons, ghosts and battles. Later, “romanz” became “romance” and became associated with “the love story.” In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, a group of poets, including Shelley, Byron, Keats, and Wordsworth, were labeled Romantic because they wrote poetry about the same kinds of things as were found in the old stories — noble love, courage…” (thanks wordcentral.com for the info).

Why do we want to write about such things? Do we actually believe in romance? We must; no matter how casual we get about it all, we are still drawn in by the idea. We want to hear that someone went to all lengths to win another; that they sacrificed on behalf of the one they loved; that they lived their whole life holding hands with their one sweetheart no matter the turns in the road or temptations they faced. True-life stories of such devotion get me every time.

Is the language of romance hard-wired in us? If so, why? We press our faces to the window looking for it and it is nowhere in sight.

We know the language of spurned love. We know about unreliable love. We know cheap love. We know disappointing love. We know selfish love. Relationships chug along without any “romanz” anywhere.

Some belief systems teach that one must rid themselves of desire, including the desire for romance. In some ways, that seems simpler. Like the movie “Equalibrium” we think being less emotionally attached to ideas, to be more flat and rational in our thinking would save ourselves and this planet a lot of pain.

The problem is, romance won’t go down without a fight. Romanz insists on reappearing here and there. When it does, we see all that it is. It is demonstrative; it is noble and courageous and sings in the streets.  Romanz stands out in sharp contrast to the cheap imitations and there isn’t a heart on earth that doesn’t want to experience the wonder of unquenchable romanz.

So is romanz in our DNA? I have to think, yes. I think there is a pull towards the ideal that someone out there would lay their life down for you. We want to matter that much.

Listen to this beautiful line and tell me if this isn’t poetry to the ears:

God shows and clearly proves His own love for us by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8)

Jesus, so full of romanz – nobility, courage, our Knight – see’s each person in distress and dire circumstances and saves the day, laying his very life down for the object of His love.

The way I see it, the original romanz is the mixture of languages — God’s with  mine — and is mostly used to tell a love story between He and the people He fashioned with His own hands. Whispering loving words to me all the time,  Jesus goes to all lengths to win me; for my whole life He has wanted to hold my hand no matter what turns in the road or temptations I face. He has never forsaken me or spurned me. There isn’t even the remote possibility that he will reject me.

So that is what enduring love looks like. I knew it was out there.

Back to my intro.

“She was nothing to look at; not the worst, not the best; just average. And she didn’t do anything outstanding, the kind to make headlines or break records; she did all right at the things she put her hand to. She was neither good nor horrible, but everyone has shame on account of things usually left unsaid, and she was no different. On a crowded side-walk she was a part of the crowd on the side-walk; most would not have noticed one way or another if she was there; but Jesus did. She stopped Him in his tracks! The moment she became a thought in His mind, there wasn’t anything else He could think of…”

Yay God for the Sacred Romance.

— Teresa Klassen

P.S. Thought the title on the picture was appropriate. Think about it.





The Second Journey

20 04 2010

(Quotes in this blog-post are all from Brennan Manning’s book “The Ragamuffin Gospel”)

Sometimes you walk through a series of events and at the end of them all, or sometimes in the middle of them,  you know you have changed, or that you are changing. I realize it could be argued that everything changes us, everything steers us in a direction, but I think there comes a time of significant change, when we are “dragged away from chosen and cherished patterns” to face a new reality.

Brennan Manning, in his EXCELLENT book “The Ragamuffin Gospel” says that this often occurs between the age of 30 and 60 but I think for some it happens younger — especially if that person has walked through some kind of fire. At whatever age this happens, suddenly life comes into focus and it is your life, only different. Manning calls this our Second Journey.

“Second journeys usually end quietly with a new wisdom and a coming to a true sense of self that releases great power. The wisdom is that of an adult who has regained equilibrium, stabilized, and found fresh purpose and new dreams. It is a wisdom that gives some things up, lets some things die, and accepts human limitations. It is a wisdom that realizes: I cannot expect anyone to understand me fully. It is wisdom that admits the inevitability of old age and death.” (158)

I really identify with and love how Manning has described this.  It is a different kind of enlightenment then you hear about on Oprah – which is all about self-awareness – because, for the Christ-follower, this understanding is “often accompanied by a second call from the Lord Jesus. The second call invites us to a serious reflection on the nature and quality of our faith in the gospel of grace, our hope in the new and not yet, and our love for God and people.” (159)

When the Bible says that God takes everything and works everything out for good (Romans 8:28), I think that we see this when we begin our Second Journey; we hear Jesus saying, “I am with you, I am for you, I am in you. I expect more failure from you than you expect from yourself,” (168) and we finally begin to understand that. We finally begin to see that God really does use all the “random” events of our lives for His good and our good and they do become tools in His hands to reach out to others and draw them in to His love.

It is during the Second Journey that I think we finally begin to move away from our illusions (see my last post on the “Adidas Bag”) and see our family, friends, coworkers, neighbours and “enemies” more realistically and are able to truly forgive them “acknowledging with unexpected compassion that these people are neither angels nor devils but only human.” (159)

I think we can stand in the way of a Second Journey, or we can open ourselves up to it. I am watching myself in this regard.  I feel like I feel when I swim laps. I am not that great of a swimmer so I really have to think about what I am doing. Am I fighting the water or am I using it to carry me? Am I thinking about what my arms are  doing? Am I thinking about whether I am at the surface of the water or am I drooping down into the depths where there is unnecessary resistance? It is all about form.

I think the same could be said for my own Second Journey which I am awkwardly “swimming” through and what I am letting Jesus teach me. Am I fighting Him or am I letting Him carry me? Am I thinking about what I am doing? Am I thinking about whether I am where He wants me or if I am sinking to places where I am facing unnecessary resistance? It is also all about form.

— Teresa Klassen